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8 Things You Should Know About Wente Family Estates

VINEPAIR ARTICLE

BY, HANNAH STAAB | PUBLISHED: JUNE 16, 2023

Established in 1883, Wente Family Estates is a pillar of California wine. Founder Carl H. Wente, a German immigrant, started the winery when he purchased 48 acres of vineyard land in the Livermore Valley of California. Five generations later, the Wente family is still running the winery, which has expanded to include about 3,000 acres of estate vineyards as well as a sprawling property for visitors to come experience their wines.

Throughout the long history of the property, the winery has been committed to producing outstanding expressions of Chardonnay. The estate currently offers several different Chardonnays, including single-vineyard bottlings as well as varietal sparkling wines. Wente Family Estates also has a range of wines including Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, and rosé to explore. If you are looking to learn more about this essential piece of California wine history, here are eight things you should know about Wente Family Estates.

Wente Family Estates is the oldest continuously operating, family-owned winery in the U.S.

The estate has remained in the hands of the Wente family since its founding, never ceasing production or changing ownership. With almost 140 years of production, the winery is officially recognized as America’s oldest continuously operating, family-owned winery. One might wonder how the winery persisted through the 13 years of Prohibition from 1920 to 1933, since this caused many historic wineries to shutter, but the family was resourceful. The Wentes adapted to the new law, selling grapes to at-home winemakers, making sacramental wine in partnership with a church, farming cattle, and adding more crops to their repertoire including barley and red oat hay. Evolving as a brand has allowed the winery to continue to find success over the span of five generations.

 

Wente Family Estates is considered California’s “First Family of Chardonnay.”

There’s a reason why the Wente winery has such a large focus on making exemplary Chardonnay. It goes back to 1912, when second generation Ernest Wente persuaded his father C.H. Wente to import Chardonnay cuttings from F. Richter Nursery, a renowned source for vines in France. From these vines, Ernest hand-picked two outstanding examples that showcased the best health and flavor intensity and grafted them together into one vine that demonstrates the best of each individual vine. The resulting vine was called the “Wente Clone” of Chardonnay, which now makes up over 75 percent of all Chardonnay planted in California. Of course, Wente’s line of Chardonnays are all made with this specialty clone, with four different styles: Morning Fog Chardonnay, Single Vineyard Riva Ranch Chardonnay, Small Lot Eric’s Chardonnay, and Nth Degree Chardonnay.

 

They have vineyard sites in two unique California AVAs.

While other more well-known regions like Napa Valley might come to mind when thinking of historic estates, the Wente family started their winery in the lesser-known Livermore Valley, a few miles off of the California coast east of the San Francisco Bay. Specifically known as the Livermore Valley San Francisco Bay AVA, this area offers a Mediterranean-esque climate with great diurnal temperature variation that allows for even ripening of the grapes. The winery has expanded to the Arroyo Seco Monterey AVA, another interesting area with a favorable cool climate for grapes like Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Riesling.

 

Wente Family Estates owns several local wine brands.

In addition to its namesake “Wente Vineyards” line of wines, Wente Family Estates owns several other local brands, offering a great range of wines to explore. One of the other labels is Murrieta’s Well, an artfully crafted small lot of wines that showcases the best of the estate vineyards of Livermore Valley for each vintage. The Wente Family also works with Hayes Ranch, Entwine, and Double Decker wines.

 

The winery is a leader in sustainability.

Sustainability has always been at the forefront of the Wente family’s mission. Wente’s vineyards and winery are both certified sustainable from the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance — less than 10 percent of wineries hold both vineyard and winery certifications. Wente also focuses on the health of its land’s water and soil as well as mindful use of energy and packaging.

 

The winery just made some serious updates.

In 2022, the Wente estate installed its first entirely new bottling line since its founding. The state-of-the-art bottling line was designed with energy efficiency in mind, as well as the ability to accommodate the winery’s new lighter glass bottles. Wente recently implemented the more environmentally friendly glass bottles in spring 2022, which, at 410 grams, are now around 34 percent lighter than their 620-gram predecessors, significantly cutting down on carbon emissions.

 

There is more to experience at Wente Vineyards than just wine.

There are many enticing activities beyond wine tasting for visitors to explore at Wente Vineyards. The winery hosts musical events on its manicured lawn and it has a restaurant called The Grill that is open for guests to enjoy lunch paired with Wente wines on an expansive patio overlooking the vineyards. The estate even has an 18-hole golf course in the scenic Livermore Valley so guests can investigate the local terroir while sinking putts.

 

Wente Vineyards is offering a special experience for its 140th anniversary.

2023 marks the 140th anniversary of Wente Vineyards, and the family is celebrating with an event at the estate on Sept. 9. Guests can enjoy a farm-to-table pairing dinner under 100-year-old olive trees with the fourth and fifth generations of the Wente family for $275 a ticket. In addition to the dinner commemorating Wente’s milestone, they are also offering a sweepstakes to win a trip for two to their winery in the Livermore Valley. Wente Vineyards customers nationwide are able to enter the giveaway, which includes round-trip airfare, hotel accommodations, meals, tours, and exclusive behind-the-scenes experiences here.

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