Fourth Generation Winegrower and Chief Executive Officer
Carolyn Wente is one of the driving forces behind the expansion and growth of Wente Family Estates’ portfolio of wines. She was also instrumental in the development of the Wente family's lifestyle business, which has brought Wente Vineyards worldwide renown and attracted visitors from all over the world. Today, Carolyn works with fourth and fifth generation family members and company executives to continue the growth of Wente Family Estates and their portfolio of wines. So far reaching are Carolyn’s accomplishments that she was chosen as one of the honorees for the Leading Women Entrepreneurs of the World in 2002 in an event sponsored by J.P. Morgan Private Banking, Bacarrat, Hermes, among other leading luxury brands, receiving her award in Paris in April of that year.
“There are very few family businesses that survive past the third generation. I am proud to be a member of the fourth generation in a successful and growing family business in a very competitive global environment. Through my nearly 30 years in the business, I have built relationships with employees, customers and consumers. We are still a relationship-based business, so having visible family leaders who are in it for the long run is extremely important,” says Carolyn.
When Carolyn joined the business in the early 1980s, the family made wine, grew grapes and raised cattle. Carolyn and her brothers envisioned a place where visitors could learn about wine; enjoy the pleasures of the table, and retreat to the scenic surroundings of the vineyard. The opening of the Wente Vineyards Restaurant and Visitors Center in 1986 was the first step in the realization of their dream. Under Carolyn's direction, The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards has become a culinary destination continuously rated among the top ten restaurants in the East Bay by a number of leading publications including the popular Zagat restaurant survey and the Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence. In the summer of 1986, The Concerts at the Vineyard entertainment series followed featuring world-renowned artists such as James Taylor, Elvis Costello, Sheryl Crow and Diana Krall, Now each summer, over 10,000 of San Francisco Bay Area concertgoers come to Wente Vineyards in the Livermore Valley to enjoy spectacular evenings of wine, food and world-class entertainment.
On July 15, 1998, Carolyn hit the ceremonial first golf ball at the opening of The Course at Wente Vineyards, an 18-hole championship golf course designed by Australian golfing great, Greg Norman. The Wente family created a course, which is beautifully located in the midst of the vineyards and offers exciting challenges to both male and female golfers, a destination to enjoy wine country. In 2006 through 2008,The Course at Wente Vineyards has hosted the Wine Country Championship, the 5th stop on the PGA’s Nationwide Tour.
“As a family, we are always pushing the quality envelope for our wines. With our lifestyle businesses, the same holds true – providing a quality experience that exceeds our guests' expectations,” says Carolyn.
In 1999, Carolyn co-authored Sharing the Vineyard Table: A Celebration of Wine and Food from the Wente Vineyards Restaurant with Kimball Jones. Through her direction of The Restaurant and this book, Carolyn expresses her wide-ranging culinary knowledge. A second book, The Casual Vineyard Table, a less formal take on meal preparation and wine and food pairing, was published in May 2003.
As CEO, Carolyn is now heading the effort to meet the family's goals for Wente Family Estates: growing the business, strengthening the company's brand promise, and developing an enabled, high performing organization. An important part of this effort is to secure an efficient transition, where the fifth and future generations take over a healthy and profitable business with seasoned, trained and passionate leaders - both family and non-family members.
Carolyn was born and raised in the Livermore Valley, California. She earned a degree in history at Stanford University. She also studied in Europe and was a student intern on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. To broaden her experience in the business world, Carolyn spent three years working for Crocker Bank as a financial analyst before returning to the family winery. Carolyn makes her home in the scenic Livermore Valley with her husband, Buck Layton, and their son Buck IV.
- “20 Most Admired People in the North American Wine Industry” 2013- Vineyard & Winery Management
- Girl Scouts’ of America – Women Leadership Award, 2012
- Wine Enthusiast American Winery of the Year Award, 2011
- Women Who Could be President, League of Women Voters 2009
- World’s Leading Women Entrepreneurs – April 2002
- Women in Leadership Awards 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 – San Francisco Business Times
- Woman of the Year Award, 2000 – California State Assembly
- Outstanding Service Member Award 2000, 2006 – Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association
- Sales and Marketing Entrepreneur of the Year 2000 – Sales and Marketing Executives, San Francisco
- Stanford Athletic Advisory Board, Director, 2011 – present
- United States State Department Fine Arts Committee, 2009 – present
- Wine Institute, Director 2007 – present, Vice Chairman, 2012
- Livermore Valley Winegrowers Foundation: Founder and first Boar President (president 3 more times during 12 years on the Board) 1994 – 2004
- Les Dames d’Escoffier, San Francisco Chapter, Founder and Board Member 1985; Treasurer (for 12 years, 1987-1999); President, 2008
- Les Dames d’Escoffier International: Treasurer, 1995-1997
- Livermore Chamber of Commerce, Director, 1983-86
- Society of Wine Educators, Director, 1984-86
- Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association Board of Directors and President (4 times), 1980 – 2009
- Alameda County Agricultural Advisory Board, 1982-1984
- ValleyCare Hospital Foundation, 1983-1985