Wente Vineyards Riva Ranch Chardonnay, Arroyo Seco, Monterey 2021

Pale gold color; lime, yellow apple, grapefruit, spearmint, vanilla, oak on the nose; pear, citrus, apple, melon, pineapple, oak spice, butter on the palate.

Wente Vineyards Riva Ranch Chardonnay, Arroyo Seco, Monterey 2021

Dry, approaching off-dry, or at least the illusion of sweet from fruit ripeness. Creamy, bold presentation of the famed Wente Clone of chardonnay. Viscous mouthfeel. Medium acidity (3.53 ph), appropriate for barrel fermented, full malolactic fermentation chard. Blend of 99% chardonnay, 1% gewürztraminer; 90% barrel fermented in combination of first and second-use French and American oak barrels; 10% fermented in stainless steel. No tannins. 13.5% ABV

The grapes are all Wente estate fruit. The winery notes: “Our Riva Ranch Vineyard Chardonnay is sourced exclusively from our Riva Ranch Vineyard in Arroyo Seco, Monterey. Arroyo Seco, where we have been growing grapes since the 1960’s, is widely regarded as one of the best places in California to grow Chardonnay. The long, cool growing season with the deep gravelly soil ripen the Chardonnay perfectly which gives natural balance of sugar and acidity.”

Wente chardonnay vineyard

Wente Vineyards is the oldest continuously-operated, family-owned winery in the United States. Charles Wente came to America in the 19th century. Upon arrival, he learned how to make wine from famed vintner Charles Krug. In 1883, he established a 47-acre estate and winery in the Livermore Valley, 45 miles east of San Francisco. In 2023, Wente celebrates its 140th year.

In 1908, Wente planted the first chardonnay vines in the valley. In 1912, Charles’s son, Ernest, a UC–Davis student, convinced his father to import chardonnay cuttings from a well-known vine nursery in France. Ernest picked vines that showed the best health and the best flavors, grafted them together, then continued to propagate and improve them.

Wente Vineyards—Ernest Wente, developer of Wente Clone chardonnay vines

Ernest propagated vines differently than others. While many selected for yields—the higher the better—Ernest focused on vines with very concentrated flavor and abundantly fruity berries. Flavor took precedence over yield. The decision paid off. Ultimately, Wente developed the “Wente Clone” variety of chardonnay vines. Chardonnay makes up more than half of white wine acres in California, and more than 75% of all California chardonnay comes from the Wente Clone.

The fourth generation of the Wente family, led by board chairman Carolyn Wente assisted by brothers Eric and Phil Wente, is passing management on to their fifth generation. With the exception of chief winemaker Karl Wente, they are all women—Christine, Jordan, Aly, and Niki.

Wente Vineyards Wente family

Wente takes pride in being a sustainability leader. They note: “Wente Vineyards has been farming sustainably since its founding in 1883. Throughout its history, Wente Vineyards has been a leader in sustainable practices helping implement the non-profit trade organization’s Code of Sustainable Winegrowing Practices.

Wente Vineyards board chairman Carolyn Wente
Women behind Wente Vineyards

“Wente Vineyards is proudly a certified sustainable vineyard and winery from the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance. Less than ten percent of wineries hold both the vineyard and winery certifications. The certification is verified annually by a third party on over sixty vineyards and forty-one winery prerequisites. Year after year, Wente Vineyards must demonstrate continuous improvements and implement action plans for the following year’s initiatives.”

Wente Vineyards chief winemaker Karl Wente

Wente Vineyards Riva Ranch Chardonnay, Arroyo Seco, Monterey 2021 is undisputedly a classic California chardonnay. Made with the chardonnay clone Wente developed that is the backbone of Cali chard today. Smooth and rich in the mouth. Excellent ripe, delicious fruit. Pair with pork; fatty fish—salmon, tuna; lobster; shrimp; shellfish; poultry—chicken baked, broiled, fried; vegetarian fare. Cheese—soft cheese; bleu cheese, brie, aged cheddar, raclette in fondue pot, gouda, ricotta. $17-21

Wente Vineyards website

Wente vineyard
Wente vineyard