Wente Winery: The Birthplace of California Chardonnay
When it comes to wine, chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon are the go-to choices for many people in the United States. But did you know that the birthplace of these two delicious wine grapes is actually a region called the Livermore Valley in California? This hidden gem, as Forbes calls it, is just a short drive away from San Francisco and Silicon Valley, making it an easily accessible destination for wine lovers.
Founded in 1881, Wente Vineyards holds a prominent place in California wine history as the birthplace of chardonnay. In 1912, the founder of Wente Vineyards imported chardonnay vines from France, and over the years, they hand-picked vines that showed pronounced flavors. This selection process led to the development of the Wente chardonnay clone, which today accounts for over 75% of all California chardonnay.
But Wente Vineyards is not the only historic winery in the Livermore Valley. Concannon Vineyards, founded in 1883, is known for being the birthplace of California cabernet sauvignon. In 1893, their founder imported cabernet sauvignon vine cuttings from Chateau Margaux in France. UC-Davis took samples of these vines and renamed them clones 7, 8, and 11. Today, 80% of all California cabernet sauvignon comes from these vines.
During a recent legacy tasting on the grounds of Concannon Vineyards, representatives from these two historic wineries and others came together to discuss their history. James Foster, the Concannon Senior Director of Winemaking, shared that the original ‘mother vineyard’ can still be visited on the Concannon estate in Livermore.
While Wente and Concannon are the most well-known wineries in the Livermore Valley, there are many others that contribute to the region’s reputation as a wine destination. Fenestra, started in 1976 by chemistry professor Lanny Replogle, has gained recognition for its complex cabernets and GSM blends. Wood Family Vineyards, founded by retired airline pilot Rhonda Wood in 1996, specializes in merlot and red blends.
What sets the Livermore Valley wineries apart from others is their commitment to creating an experience for visitors. While during the week the tasting rooms may not be crowded, on the weekends, the wineries come alive with live bands, dancing, dinners, and of course, delicious wine and innovative wine cocktails. Almost Famous Wine Co., started by Darci and David Kent of Darci Kent winery, stands out as one of the most unique venues in the region. It was transformed from an old building into a night club, where people can dance the night away to live bands and enjoy their favorite wine.
Other wineries in the Livermore Valley, such as McGrail, Longevity, and Wood Family, also host weekend music and dance events late into the evening. This vibrant nightlife scene sets the Livermore Valley wineries apart from other wine regions, where tasting rooms typically close early in the evening.
If you’re a wine lover looking for a unique and vibrant wine destination, look no further than the Livermore Valley. With its rich history, commitment to quality, and lively atmosphere, it’s no wonder that Forbes calls it a hidden gem. So next time you’re in the San Francisco or Silicon Valley area, take a short drive to the Livermore Valley and experience the birthplace of California chardonnay at Wente Vineyards. Cheers!
A Pleasant Surprise in Livermore Valley, CA
When it comes to wine regions in California, Livermore Valley is undoubtedly one of the frontrunners. With its rich history and impressive winemaking traditions, it’s no wonder that Livermore Valley wines often come out on top at prestigious wine competitions. And the 2023 San Francisco Chronicle wine competition was no exception, as Livermore wineries proudly took home a staggering total of 174 medals, with 8 of them winning the coveted Best of Class title. Unsurprisingly, 3 of those winners fell under the highly competitive cabernet category.
But amidst all these expected victories, there was a surprising standout that caught my attention – a delightful non-oaked chardonnay produced by the up-and-coming Pruett Farms. Known for its bright and crisp flavors, this chardonnay boasted notes of refreshing golden apple, enchanting honeysuckle blossom, and a perfectly dry finish that left me wanting more.
Curiosity led me to seek out the owner of Pruett Farms, Bob Pruett, who shared an intriguing story behind his venture into winemaking. After retiring from the fast-paced world of Silicon Valley, Bob and his wife decided to purchase an old winery and farm house dating back to 1881 in Livermore Valley. What struck him the most about this tight-knit community was its genuine friendliness and collaborative spirit – a stark contrast to the cutthroat nature of the high-tech industry. Here, everyone readily lends a helping hand whenever it’s needed.
As a tribute to the free-range chickens that roam their vineyard, Bob proudly incorporates a chicken motif on the front label of his wines. These feathered friends not only add charm to the vineyard but also participate in the daily grape feast. Surprisingly, it seems that the hens take great pleasure in devouring grapes, with the roosters occasionally plucking grapes and offering them as gifts to their shorter companions. Who knew that roosters could be so chivalrous?
Livermore Valley continues to prove itself as a force to be reckoned with in the world of winemaking, consistently producing remarkable wines that earn rave reviews and high scores from critics. Wineries like Darci Kent, Cuda Ridge, Steven Kent, McGrail, and Wente have been particularly praised for consistently earning 90+ ratings. However, it’s refreshing to see a newcomer like Pruett Farms making waves and standing out for their unique creations.
So, the next time you find yourself in Livermore Valley, exploring its picturesque vineyards and indulging in its award-winning wines, make sure to keep an eye out for the non-oaked chardonnay from Pruett Farms. In this captivating valley, where camaraderie thrives alongside fierce competition, there’s always an unexpected gem waiting to be discovered.