Fourth Generation Winegrower & Chairman of the Board
As a Fourth Generation Winegrower for California’s oldest, continuously operated winery, Eric Wente oversees his family’s operations that include, in addition to the winery, nearly 3,000 acres of vineyards, an award-winning restaurant, a Greg Norman-designed championship golf course, a land and vineyard development company, and a working cattle ranch.
Being frequently overseas in meetings with importers in Wente Vineyards’ international markets, he brings a truly global perspective to the family business. Consequently, Eric is responsible for Wente Vineyards’ dynamic expansion into worldwide export markets beginning in the early 1980s. Today, Wente Vineyards exports to more than 70 countries worldwide and is considered a leader in the export of ultra-premium wines.
During his tenure as CEO, Eric, with the support of the winery’s staff, updated Wente Vineyards winemaking practices by implementing innovative techniques and constructing state-of-the-art facilities. Under Eric’s leadership, night harvesting, wine presses situated in the vineyards, sophisticated, gentle dejuicing methods, and increased use of oak barrels for aging were all improvements incorporated into a winemaking system that combines the best of the traditional and the modern.
'My generation's contribution to the family business has been and still is to maintain the high quality and great value, which have earned us the reputation as one of the leading wineries of California, and at the same time keep developing our business within areas such as winegrowing, winemaking, sustainability, hospitality, sales and marketing', Eric says.
From 2005 to 2006, Eric served as Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Wine Institute, the public policy advocacy association of California wineries. Eric also served as Chairman of the Wine Institute’s International Policy Committee, a position, which he held for many years. He is also past Chairman of the Research and Education Committee.
'To me, the most important value of our family is to treat everyone in a reasonable and responsible manner - as if they were in fact members of our family. That's important both as one of the major employers in our local community and as a winery that takes a leading role in developing the California wine industry', Eric says.
Raised at the winery, Eric learned the art of winemaking from his father and grandfather. His interest in modern winemaking methods developed during his studies at Stanford University, where he majored in chemistry, and at the University of California at Davis, where he received a Masters of Science degree in food science, specializing in enology.
'The nature of a family business is that it impacts your day - every day. And I wouldn't want it any other way. But I do enjoy travelling, horseback riding, playing golf and spending time in Tahoe with my wife, children and grandchildren', Eric says.
Eric and his wife, Arel, have two children, Christine and Karl, both of whom are actively involved in the family business as Fifth Generation Winegrowers. Christine is a graduate of Princeton University and Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. She is an active spokesperson for the company and President of the Wente Foundation for Arts Education. Her brother Karl, a Stanford University alumnus and a graduate of the University of California at Davis’ enology and viticulture program, leads the winemaking team at Wente Family Estates.