California's First Family of Chardonnay
I am incredibly proud of my family's legacy with Chardonnay over the past 100 years; I look forward to continuing that tradition for generations to come.
- Karl D. Wente, Fifth Generation Winemaker
In 1912 Ernest Wente persuaded his father and winery founder, C.H. Wente, to import Chardonnay cuttings from the vine nursery at the University of Montpellier. Around the same time, he obtained Chardonnay budwood from the Gier vineyard in Pleasanton and planted them in the Livermore Valley.
Over the next 30-40 years, Ernest selected vines that showed favorable traits, and re-planted them to establish the Wente Clone of Chardonnay.
Herman and Ernest Wente released the nation’s first varietally labeled Chardonnay, a 1936 vintage.
Wente Chardonnay achieved international acclaim when the 1959 vintage was reviewed by Robert Balzer of the Los Angeles Times and reprinted in 1960 by the prestigious Michelin Guide, declaring Wente Chardonnay the finest white wine in America, equal to the great white wines of France.
Chardonnay has become the #1 selling wine varietal in the US with almost 100,000 acres planted in California. With much of that Chardonnay originating from the original Wente clone, the family has certainly earned the title as “California’s First Family of Chardonnay™”.
Today, Fifth Generation Winemaker Karl D. Wente continues the family’s legacy of Chardonnay with four different styles; Morning Fog Chardonnay, Riva Ranch Chardonnay, The Nth Degree Chardonnay and Small Lot Eric’s Chardonnay.
What is a clone?
In viticulture, a "clone" refers to vines descended from a single plant by taking a cutting or bud; in theory, each vine grown on a clone is genetically identical to the original vine. Clones are important and selected for favorable attributes, such as resistance to certain diseases or desired cluster size, taste, smell, etc. All clones are assigned a number or given a name to distinguish them from other clones. For example, Clone 2A is The Old Wente Clone, Clone 4 is the Wente Clone (also known as The Heat Treated Wente Clone).