C.H. Wente came to America in the late 1800s from Hamburg Germany, learned to make wine from a German by the name of Charles Krug in the Napa Valley, and in 1883 established his first 47-acre Estate and Winery. He chose the Livermore Valley as it was famed for its excellent soils and climate. In 1908, C.H. planted the first Chardonnay vines in the Livermore Valley.
In 1912, second generation and a UC Davis student, Ernest Wente, persuaded his father and founder, C.H. Wente, to import Chardonnay cuttings from a well-known vine nursery, F. Richter Nursery n Montpellier, France, to the Livermore Valley.
Ernest hand-picked vines that showed the best health and pronounced flavors, grafted the two together, and propagated those characteristics forward. Ultimately creating what is known as the ‘Wente Clone.’ Today, over 75% of all California Chardonnay stems from the Wente Clone and the Wente Family property.
Wente produced sacramental wines throughout prohibition to keep the winery and vineyards in production. After the repeal of the National Prohibition Act (Volstead Act) in 1933, Ernest and his brother Herman Wente released the nation’s first varietally-labeled Chardonnay, a 1936 vintage.
Ernest and his son Karl L. Wente pioneered new vineyard plantings in 1964 in the Arroyo Seco region of Monterey County. Here they plant Pinot Noir, Riesling, and Chardonnay. In 1966, Wente Vineyards Tasting Room opens in Livermore Valley, and is one of the first tasting rooms in California.
Throughout the late 1970s and till today, the fourth generation Winegrowers Eric, Philip, and Carolyn Wente head operations of the winery, continuing expanding vineyards, winery, and related visitor facilities. In 1986, The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards opened California’s third winery restaurant. In addition, the Wente Vineyards annual series launched the Concerts, attracting top entertainers and thousands of guests annually. In 1998, The Course at Wente Vineyards, an 18-hole championship golf course designed by Greg Norman, was opened, enhancing the wine country lifestyle of the Livermore Valley. At the same time, Wente Vineyards has become one of California’s most extensive wine exporters to over 75 countries.
In 2010, Wente Vineyards received one of the first certifications for a California Certified Vineyard and Winery, and The Course at Wente Vineyards received Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary status
Today, fifth generation winegrowers Karl, Christine, Jordan, Aly, and Niki Wente are actively working in various roles in the winery from operations, viticulture, and marketing. Their legacy is yet to be determined, but they are very passionate about continuing the family tradition of sustainable farming and producing the best-quality wines.