Holiday Wine Tasting With Carolyn Wente

Our friend Dave joined us for a recent online tasting with Carolyn Wente, CEO of Wente Family Estates. She shared some of her favorite Holiday recipes with us as we tasted some of the Wente wines.

Wente Holiday Wine Tasting Image
Wente Vineyards describes itself as the oldest continuously operated family-owned winery. Established in 1883 by C.H. Wente with the purchase of 48 acres of land in the Livermore Valley, the winery has passed from generation to generation. Fourth generation family Eric, Philip and Carolyn and fifth generation family members Christine and Karl manage the winery today.

Wente Vineyards sustainably farms 3,000 acres of vineyards in the Livermore and Arroyo Seco AVAs. The Livermore Valley AVA, a sub-appellation of the San Francisco AVA, runs roughly east-west. It is approximately 50 miles southeast of San Francisco Bay. This allows the cool San Francisco Bay fog to blow into the Livermore Valley in the morning during the growing season. Day time temperatures warm considerably and then cool late in the day when the cool air from San Francisco bay once again blows into the Livermore Valley. This cooling affect lengthens the growing season and can produce wines with great acidity.

Wente Vineyards have been farming grapes in the Arroyo Seco area since 1962 when Karl L. Wente, grandson of C. H. Wente and grandfather of Karl D. Wente current winemaker, planted grapes in the area. The Arroyo Seco AVA is a cooler growing area within the Monterey AVA, though not uniformly chilly. It contains gravely soils that heat up during the day and radiate that heat at night. The AVA is cooled by Pacific Ocean breezes and is well suited for cool weather varietals. These winds, referred to as “the howlers” by Steven Mirassou, account for the most significant variation in climate within the AVA according to Steven. That said, certain areas of the AVA which are protected from “the howlers” and are therefore warmer, do Merlot, Tempranillo and Syrah nicely.

Carolyn held the tasting from her kitchen, which is where she prepared the Rosemary Roasted Pork Loin and Green Beans with Caramelized Shallots, Bacon and Hazel Nuts. You can view a video of her preparing the dishes in her kitchen and download the recipes.

She grew up in the wine business and her affection for the business is evident in her enthusiasm for each and every wine. Though, she admitted the Morning Fog Chardonnay is her personal favorite. She spoke in detail about each of the wines and answered all of our questions. The time flew by and it was a really fun tasting. Here is a bit about each of the wines we tasted.

2011 The Whip Livermore Valley – this white wine is a blend of Chardonnay, Semillon, Gewurztraminer, Orange Muscat, Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc. The grapes come from Murrieta’s Well vineyard where the soil is well drained and gravelly. The varietals were fermented in stainless steel and finished in stainless or neutral oak. The blend varies every year to produced the desired full-bodied aromas and flavors. This wine has good acidity, a floral nose and flavors of melon and orange blossom. It drinks well on its own and actually tasted really good with our turkey soup that night!

2011 Morning Fog Chardonnay – these grapes are grown in the Livermore AVA. The name gives recognition to the foggy mornings produced by the Pacific winds pushing fog into the Livermore Valley from San Francisco Bay. 50% of the wine is barrel fermented in neutral French, American and Eastern European oak, and 50% is stainless steel fermented. The goal of this wine is to preserve the natural fruit flavors of the Chardonnay grape with just an undercurrent of oak flavors. The characteristics of the chardonnay grape in this wine are evident in the nose and flavor. The oak is present in back notes of spice. It has a round mouth feel and is an excellent buy at $12.99.

2010 Double Decker Red Blend – these grapes were California sourced and all sustainably farmed. Fermentation is in stainless steel and aging in a combination of neutral oak and stainless steel tanks. This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Syrah and Barbera. This ruby colored wine looks young in the glass and has flavors of blackberries and raspberries. Tannins are moderate and the wine has a light mouth feel. Not overly complex, this wine is very similar to the 2009 vintage.

2009 the Nth Degree Merlot – the grapes are sourced from Livermore Valley, Napa and Arroyo Seco AVAs. The name, Nth Degree, describes the “ultra farming” and production methods of this wine. Grapes from selected blocks are hand-harvested early in the morning, hand-sorted and crushed in small fermenters. Fermentation is in stainless steel and aging in American, Eastern European and neutral oak for 16 months. This deep ruby wine has a big luscious nose with ripe, complex fruit and spice. Vanilla flavors and moderate tannins linger in the finish. If you like a riper style of red wine, you will like this wine.

So, as we move from one Holiday to the next this time of year, you might keep these wines and recipes in mind.


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