Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Single Vineyard Wines from Wente Vineyards

Wente Vineyards, California's oldest family winery, uses their Single Vineyard series to showcase the winery's plots in the Livermore Valley AVA and Arroyo Seco, Monterey AVA regions.  "Both regions provide climate patterns that are beneficial to wine grapes, which need warmth for healthy growth, maturation, and development, and cool nights and mornings to retain delicate flavors".

The Livermore Valley is located twenty miles east of the San Francisco Bay, which along with Pacific marine climate, provides cool and foggy mornings (hence our favorite Morning Fog wine). The morning fog transitions to warm midday temperatures before early afternoon breezes and evening fog lower temperatures again -- preserving the fruit’s natural acidity.

In 1962, Karl L. Wente planted some of the first vines in cool climate Arroyo Seco with the eastern part, influenced by the Salinas Valley winds, providing excellent conditions for growing Burgundy grape varieties. The vineyards also contain river stones deposited over the years which retain and release heat as well as providing excellent drainage.

2015 Riva Ranch Chardonnay ($22, 14.5%). Wente is synonymous for Chardonnay after bottling the first varietally labeled Chardonnay in 1936 and creating a series of Wente clones that now account for 80% of all California Chardonnay.  The grapes are soured from the Riva Ranch Vineyard in Arroyo Seco, Monterey with 90% fermented in barrel with all undergoing 100% malolactic fermentation and is barrel-aged sur lie for 8 months with batonnage (stirring) occurring every two weeks. This process produces a well textured and creamy wine with noticeable vanilla and spices from the oak. Initially this creamy texture and vanilla seem to overwhelm the palate but quickly the grape's acidity brings the wine into balance.

2014 Riva Ranch Pinot Noir ($30, 14.50%). The Pommard and Martini Pinot Noir clones are soured from the Riva Ranch Vineyard in Arroyo Seco, Monterey.  Each clone provides a distinct character to the wine, the "Pommard is especially fruit-driven providing bright lusciousness while Martini is more subtle with layered complexity on the nose and silky texture on the palate". The wine is also aged for 16 months in French and neutral oak barrels. This aging process provides a rustic quality and doesn't overshadow the light cherry flavors. And like the Chardonnay, expect bright acids for a long and smooth finish.

2014 Charles Wetmore Cabernet Sauvignon ($30, 14.50%). The grapes are sourced from the Livermore Valley's Charles Wetmore Vineyard. This vineyard is named for "Livermore’s most prominent pioneers, California’s first Agricultural Commissioner, renowned for planting vine cuttings from many of Bordeaux’s top Chateaux in the Livermore Valley in the 1800s". The Charles Wetmore Vineyard contains gravelly loam soil similar to those in Bordeaux and the grapes for this wine are direct descendants from the vines first planted by Wetmore.  After fermentation the wind is aged for 20 months in 40% new French oak and 60% second and third use French oak barrels.The result is a fantastic wine, fresh fruit, smooth velvety tannins, and a long fresh finish. Simply fantastic. It can pass for a Napa Cab at twice that price.
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