It has now been almost 50 years since the Judgment of Paris brought the quality of California wines to international attention in the best way possible. Yet, people under 50 have never known a time when Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Paso Robles, and Santa Barbara County were not producers of great, collectible wines.
There are still families making wine who were there at the beginning, in different locations and with different business plans – the most prominent of which are the Gallos and the Mondavis. But there were others, such as the Wente family of Livermore Valley across the bay from San Francisco. It is also interesting to note that the Livermore area was, for a while, as highly regarded as Napa, but much of the land has since been turned into housing.
But the Wentes are still there in force, and the younger generation – the fifth – is again drawing attention to Wente, especially its value-priced wines from grapes from Livermore and, increasingly, the Central Coast. They are also big into tourism, and golfers should note that the Wentes also own a course in addition to vineyards.
This issue of The Dozen features a half-dozen of Wente wines that might pique your interests.
2021 Wente “Riverbank” Central Coast Riesling ($12). Very fruity – rich and ripe with some baking spices, but with a crisp finish.
2021 Wente “Morning Fog” Central Coast Chardonnay ($13). Nice minerality, with ripe apple fruitiness.
2020 Wente “Louis Mel” Central Coast Sauvignon Blanc ($14). Light and green with flavors of white table grapes and limes – fresh and simple.
2020 Chalk Hill Estate Chalk Hill Sauvignon Blanc ($22). Very floral with lots of green fruits – limes, green apples, kiwi – but could be a little crisper in the finish.
2019 Ram’s Gate “Hyde Vineyard” Carneros Chardonnay ($70). Very nice, almost ethereal in aromas and flavors with a combination of green apple fruitiness and a hint of cream – somewhere between Burgundy and Sonoma Coast. Light, dusty tannins in the finish.
2020 Lail Vineyards “Blueprint” Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($43). A very tangy wine in the best sense (just as fresh citrus is tangy), with green fruitiness of kiwi and a touch of creaminess – rich and complex.
2021 Wente “Angels Ink” Central Coast Rosé ($25). Very light in body – a little spicy with faint strawberry flavors.
2021 Wente “Nicki’s” Arroyo Seco Pinot Noir Rosé ($30). Orange flavors with fresh grapiness, chalky finish, and some raspy acidity.
2020 Wente “Sandstone” Central Coast Merlot ($14). Very good Merlot varietal flavors of dark and savory fruits, mainly plums and cherries.
2019 Ram’s Gate Carneros Pinot Noir ($40). Full-bodied with ripe black and red fruits, a bit “bright.”
2018 Crossbarn Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($50). Very flavorful, with nice, tart blackberries, yet both lean and rich with a tangy finish.
2020 Lail Vineyards “Blueprint” Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($91). Delicious. With grapes blended from several valley sub-appellations, it has lots of cassis, blackberries, and ripe plums with a lean structure, integrated tannins, and a bit of a bite in the finish.
Prices listed are generally SRP or from wine-searcher.com. As more wineries are now shipping direct-to-consumer, check the winery website if you can’t find a bottle in your retail store.
Feature photo is courtesy of Wente Vineyards.