Wente is one of the huge names in California wine, with dozens of bottlings of just about every wine under the sun. Today we tasted through four of Wente’s Chardonnays, from the supermarket blend to the more upscale bottlings, along with Karl Wente, the winery’s chief winemaker and a fifth generation member of the Wente family. Here’s what we thought about each of the four bottlings.
2009 Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay Livermore Valley (pictured) – A very typical, big and buttery Chardonnay, with creamy nut character overwhelming the apple and fig fruit below. This is what people think of when they think of Chardonnay, with all the connotations that implies. Half aged in oak, half in stainless steel — but you wouldn’t B / $14
2009 Wente Riva Ranch Chardonnay Arroyo Seco Monterey - More of a citrus tone here, but still a buttery, big wine. Likeable and relatively mild in flavor, approachable and easy-drinking. B+ / $18
2010 Wente Eric’s Chardonnay Small Lot Livermore - Very tropical on the nose, huge pineapple notes in the body. The body is restrained, as is the wood influence (which makes sense, because it’s unoaked). More acidity and minerals than most of this roundup — and other Cali Chars. Fun and surprising for a Chardonnay, a definite winner. A- / $22
2009 Wente The Nth Degree Chardonnay Livermore Estate Bottled - Back to the butter and cream, with an oaky powerhouse of a wine. Lots of herbs on the nose — ginger and mint — but the wood takes it away. A return of acidity on the finish is welcome. B+ / $34