The Wente family believes very strongly that the quality of a wine originates in the vineyard and the terroir of that site is reflected in the aromas and taste of that wine. Their single vineyard wines are sourced exclusively from specific vineyard blocks named for the pioneers who relate to the history of Wente Vineyards.
One of those designated single vineyard sites is Riva Ranch in the Arroyo Seco area of Monterey County. Riva Ranch was Arroyo Seco’s first vineyard planting in 1963 and stands as a testament to the pioneering spirit of Karl L. Wente, a 3rd generation winemaker at Wente Vineyards. His search for a perfect place to grow grapes came to fruition when he discovered this rugged region with long cool growing periods. The short days, cool nights, and foggy mornings found in this area are ideal for grapes such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
At the time Wente was focusing mostly on white wines, in particular the Chardonnay grape that was so important to Wente history. Wente is recognized as “California’s First Family of Chardonnay” being the first to produce a varietally labeled Chardonnay made from the Wente clone. In 1960, over a decade before the famous Judgment of Paris tasting, the French wine and food magazine Guide Michelin printed a review that called Wente Chardonnay the finest white wine in America. Today many of the great Chardonnay vineyards in California are planted from the Wente clone.
Planting wine grapes in this new region of Monterey was a risk for the Wente family. Prior to that time their plantings were only in Livermore Valley. But in 1962 they purchased 300 acres of apricot orchards and row crops along the Arroyo Seco River from Alfred Riva, who continued to run the ranch following the purchase. Later his son Ralph took over running the vineyard following his graduation from Cal Poly, and continued to work the ranch until he retired in 2005.
Now, more than 50 years later Wente has their 5th generation family winemaker, Karl D. Wente and he continues to pay homage to this legacy in Arroyo Seco. Today Wente farms eight clones of Pinot Noir and six clones of Chardonnay at Riva Ranch, with each clone offering different flavors, textures, aromatics and quality to the wine.
The 2013 Wente Vineyard Riva Ranch Chardonnay from Arroyo Seco is fermented in stainless steel tanks and pumped over twice daily to increase extraction of the wonderful aromas and flavors. It is then aged sur lie for 8 months in French, American and Eastern European barrels of varying ages. It has a very nice acidity and aromas and flavors of tropical fruits with creamy notes. It finishes with a nice round mouthfeel and crisp finish. Winemaker Karl D. Wente states, “Our Riva Ranch Chardonnay is a beautifully rich, yet balanced style of Chardonnay that represents what the Arroyo Seco appellation has to give. This is distinctly a California style of Chardonnay, but is consistently well balanced with ample acidity.” The suggested price is $22.00.
Riva Ranch 2012 Pinot Noir from Wente Vineyards exhibits the earthiness and minerality that represents the Arroyo Seco area. This wine undergoes cold soaking process and fermented in stainless steel tanks at lower temperatures to maintain natural fruit flavors. It is aged for 20 months in 50% new French oak and 50% neutral. You will love the rich aromas of cherry and strawberry on the nose. These same qualities continue on to the palate where you will also detect a nice vanilla flavor and touches of toasted oak and earthiness and minerality. It has a bright long fruity finish. Karl D. Wente states, “Our Single Vineyard Riva Ranch Pinot Noir is a true and elegant expression of Monterey’s finest grapes. “ The suggested price is $30.
For more information: Wente Vineyards Single Vineyard Wines