Chardonnay's Champion: Wente

Review: Current Chardonnays from Wente Vineyards

When people think of California Chardonnay, names like Kendall Jackson, Kistler, and Chateau Montelena might come to mind.  But what few consumers know is that 80% of all Chardonnay planted in California is the 'Wente Clone'.  The what clone? 

Wente.  Ernest Wente who, in the 1880's, began to grow Chardonnay from grapevine cuttings imported from France, is who we have to thank for this popular strain of the king of California whites. 

Fast forward five generations and the Wente family is still at it.  Located out in the Livermore Valley (east of Oakland), they know how to do Chardonnay right - especially value-priced Chardonnay.  The following is a round up of their current releases which a) prove they really know Chardonnay, b) are all estate grown,  and c) are definitely worth picking up.

(Disclosure: These wines were received as press samples.)

2009 Morning Fog $13
This will end up in my shopping basket next time I'm at the store.  A comforting Chardonnay.  Soft, round, full, and smooth.  Cream, butter, and oak are all here with ample fruit in a well balanced package.  The long finish goes deep conjuring images of picnics on sun-filled afternoons.  A little goose to your salivary glands at the end keep you coming back for more.  Terrific California Chard.

2009 Riva Ranch $17
The Chardonnay that, several vintages ago, delivered a wake up call about Livermore Valley.  Consistently big and round with dollops of oak and butter, but balanced.  One of the most consistently likable Chardonnays out there.

2010 Eric's Chardonnay $20
Made in small quantities, this unusually light (in color) wine has a crisp nose that recall Chablis.  Lighter bodied, but with layers of nuance framed by delicate acids.  No bite here, just a long finish to an elegant, refined, lithe wine.  No oak or malo to clutter this up.

2009 Nth Degree $30 (Wine club members only)
Special looking package (winemaker's signature on the bottle).  Pale gold color, super rich nose; full, complex and inviting.  Creamy texture and  lush.  Full throttle Chard with spice from the oak.  A big wine.  Not as refined as you'd expect at this price point, but certainly delivers ample weight and pleasure.