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 Filed as : Winemakers

One Hundred Years Of Chardonnay

Feb 22, 2012
One Hundred Years Of Chardonnay
Wente Vineyards celebrates a milestone in California chardonnay

wentevineyardsSteely and crisp as apples, or rich like butter, chardonnay is the most popular wine in the country. It is also the most widely planted grape in California. But a century ago, there were fewer than 100 acres of chardonnay grapes in the state.

A man named Ernest Wente changed that — setting the stage for a national love affair with white wine.

In 1912, Ernest, son of Wente Family Estates founder Carl Wente, brought cuttings from France’s University of Montpellier viticultural nursery to California’s Livermore Valley just east of San Francisco. As a result, 75 percent of the chardonnay planted in California today is derived from the so-called Wente clone.

But the Wentes didn’t just pave the way for chardonnay. Wente Family Estates is also thought to be the longest continually operating family-owned winery in the country. It’s easy to understand why Wine Enthusiast Magazine named them 2011 American Winery of the Year.

These days, fifth-generation winemaker Karl Wente continues his family’s legacy with six different Wente chardonnays, from the balanced, 2010 “Morning Fog” Chardonnay ($13) with its tropical fruit and cinnamon notes, to the rich, honey-flavored 2010 “Riva Ranch” Chardonnay ($20).

So much chardonnay, so little time.

What is your favorite California chardonnay? Share it below.


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