It has been a long time since we last visited Wente Vineyards. So long in fact that it was then called Wente Bros. When fouth generation family member Carolyn Wente became the CEO, the winery’s name changed to reflect the fact the Wente woman were fully involved with winery operations. Wente boasts that they are the oldest continuously family-run winery in California, with a starting date of 1883. I will have to dig into that. I was under the impression that Gundlach Bundschu in Sonoma Valley (1868) had that distinction. Wente certainly has one important claim to distinction. They were the first to plant Chardonnay in California. In fact, the Wente Clone Chardonnay flourishes today in many California vineyards. Wente’s Website has a complete timeline of its history of introducing and working with Chardonnay.
Tasting at Wente Vineyards
If you head out to Livermore wine country and explore the area you will discover that Wente Vineyards has two tourist destinations. On Tesla Road is the winemaking facility, a very busy tasting room called the Estate Tasting Room, an outdoor area and garden, and a Bocce Court. Over on Arroyo Road is another tasting room called the Vineyard Tasting Room. In addition, this venue has a golf course, a wedding site, a gourmet restaurant and a concert center. We took a look at both places last Saturday afternoon and each venue was packed. A steady stream of wine country tourists was so large that we had to wait to get up to the tasting bar. The tastings are very reasonable, including a $5 tasting and a more elaborate $10 tasting.
We opted for the $5 tasting and found all the five wines we tasted to be very enjoyable. We tasted a Pinot Noir Rose that was absolutely delicious. Only 300 cases are made and within a few months of release the wine is sold out. We also enjoyed the Reliz Creek Pinot Noir, a very tasty Pinot Noir from Wente’s Arroyo Seco vineyard in Monterey County. We also recommend the Rivas Chardonnay from Arroyo Seco. It is a very popular Chardonnay, nice on the oak, but with enough fruit to be a moderate Chardonnay and very food friendly. 90,000 cases of the Rivas are made and the wine is distributed widely. It’s $22 at the winery, but Costco and Trader Joe’s carry the wine for much less. By the way, all the vineyards at Wente’s Livermore and Arroyo Seco locations are sustainably farmed.
At the Wente Tesla center, soon to open on May 15th, will be the Winemakers’ Studio. It will be a cooking school and a wine-blending center. The blending activity will be by appointment only and promises to be very enjoyable. Guests will have seven different red wines they can experiment with and make into their own blend. In other words, each guest can be a winemaker for the day.
There are many other wineries to visit in the area. The Spring and Fall are the best times to visit; the Valley is usually cool and comfortable during these seasons. Check our Livermore wine section for wine trails, lodging, restaurants, and things to do in the Livermore area.
The two Wente Vineyards tasting rooms are open daily 11 to 5 pm. The Estate Tasting room on Tesla has free tours at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. One can also arrange for a private cave tour. Check the Wente Website for compete visitor information.