I am excited to be partnering with Wente Vineyards to explore not only their wine, their two properties, and the Wente families’ passion for wine-making, but my own passion as well, which is photography.
While I am far from a professional photographer, taking photos is a hobby I enjoy immensely and engage in daily. I especially like photographing vineyards, wineries, wine and anything having to do with Wine Country!
When I was invited to visit Wente Vineyards in Livermore Valley, about a 90-minute drive from Sonoma, I jumped at the chance to explore a new-to-me Wine Country. I was even more intrigued after watching this entertaining video showing how Karl Wente, 5th generation winemaker, blends his two passions of making music and making wonderful wine.
Wente Vineyards is the oldest, continuously operated family-owned winery in the country. Established in 1883, the fourth and fifth generations of Wente family members own and manage today’s Wente Vineyards. You may already be familiar with this internationally recognized brand and the famous Wente clone, a chardonnay budwood created from cuttings from France in 1915 that are the source of 80% of American Chardonnay today.
I invited my friend Michelle to accompany me to Wente Vineyards. I packed up my trusty camera, picked up Michelle and off we went! We arrived at their tasting room and wine making facility just in time for our scheduled tour with Bob Palechek.
Bob started us off by telling us a bit about Wente Vineyards. He told us that were were visiting an estate winery, meaning Wente grows all the grapes that go into their wines on property they own. They don’t buy grapes from other growers. The Wente’s own 3000 acres of vineyards and ranch land – 2000 in Livermore Valley and 1000 in Monterey County. Additionally, Wente Family Estates – the vineyards, winery and company – is certified sustainable.
Near the front entrance of the Estate Winery & Tasting Room, where we began our tour, there is large patio with comfortable seating for guests. The building adjacent to the patio is the Winemakers Studio where Bob took us for our first stop.
Inside the Winemakers Studio is a large class room with tables and chairs, and a bar with a periodic table of wine behind it. Now that’s the kind of chemistry I can get excited about!
The Studio offers aroma identification classes, wine and cheese pairing classes and other hands-on seminars.
You can also take a “Blending Sessions” class at The Winemakers Studio and learn how to blend estate blocks of wine together to create a wine that suits your palate.
This would be such an interesting and interactive way to learn about winemaking and tasting. And you get to take your bottle of wine home with you. I want to return to take to this class. I would have a blast photographing the experience!
Next, Bob took us outside to the production area and told us Wente Vineyards distributes their wine all over the world. While visiting Russia with his wife, he found Wente wine on the menu at a restaurant where they dined.
Along with their internationally distributed wines, they also do small lot winemaking. They produces only 600 or 700 cases of each fine, handcrafted wines that are only available in the tasting room, through their wine club and at select restaurants.
We happened to visit during the tail end of harvest season when wineries are quite active and the smell the wine fermenting is in the air. We went into the barrel room and saw two long rows of wooden vats filled with grapes.
These Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are monitored, stirred, punched down regularly to extract juices from the skins and flesh of the grape.
These four brand new oak barrels will soon be filled with wine. Do you know that some oak barrels can cost upwards of $1500?
Once we left the barrel room and fermenting area, we headed out to the wine club members’ patio. I can easily imagine a lively and fun-filled atmosphere during wine club events and on weekends.
With our tour concluded, we headed back to the tasting room to taste wine!
Wente is often filled with visitors tasting wine, taking tours and enjoying wood-fired pizza and a glass of wine on the patio in front of their kitchen on wheels.
Michelle and I had such a great time learning about Wente wines and took away some interesting wine trivia from Bob that we look forward to sharing at cocktail parties to impress our friends!
Here are a couple of tidbits from Bob you can use to impress your friends too:
Bob showed us the proper way to open a bottle of bubbles. 1) Cover the top with a towel or napkin 2) Then twist the wire cage six times to the left, but don’t take it off. Leave the cage on the cork 3) Once the cage is loosened, twist the bottle – NOT the cork – until the cork pops out gently into the napkin. Ta da!
He also told us that Cabernet Sauvignon was discovered when Sauvignon Blanc grapevines were cloned with Cabernet Franc hundreds of years ago in France. I feel like I should have already known that after going on countless wine tours and even working in a winery years ago. You learn something new everyday!
We tasted several wines with the Wente Vineyards label, then tasted a Pinot Noir from their Nth Degree label which are the small lot, handcrafted, limited production wines. What a treat and a fantastic Pinot! The grapes for this wine came from Wente’s Arroyo Seco vineyards in Monterey.
After our tasting we knew we wanted to take some wine back to Sonoma with us. We each bought six bottles. I chose two bottles of brut sparkling wine, two bottles of Viognier (their Viognier is fantastic!) and two bottles of Pinot Noir Rosé.
Our day at Wente Vineyards was not over yet. Off we went to their companion property which has an 18-hole championship golf course designed by Greg Norman, two restaurants, a culinary garden, wine caves, a concert venue and another tasting room!
About a 10-minute drive from the Estate Winery & Tasting Room, this property is covered in mature trees and is dotted with stately white stucco buildings.
The Vineyard Tasting Room offers wines by the glass as well as tastings.
Michelle and I were treated to lunch at The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards, just across from the tasting room. We sat on the spacious patio under large shady trees.
It was a lovely warm day and we wanted to drink something cold so we ordered a bottle of Wente Vineyards Brut. Our server, Jamie, opened the bottle the way Bob had shown us earlier.
Michelle had the beet salad and the ahi poke while I ordered a Caesar salad and steak tartare. For dessert we shared a cheese plate with creamy cheese from Oregon.
Every bite of our lunch was tasty and fresh. The Restaurant uses the best sustainable and organically grown local ingredients, much of which comes from the 1/2 acre culinary garden behind the restaurant.
After our lunch we decided to walk around the property and take some photos. We saw the two entrances to the wine cave which were not open on the day we visited but cave tours are available to visitors.
And we stopped by the culinary garden.
We saw lots of vegetables and these happy little sunflowers. One of my favorite things to photograph is flowers.
A green house keeps starter plants shaded and moist.
As we were about to leave to head home to Sonoma, we stopped off at the giant chair. I have never met a giant chair I didn’t want to sit in!
It was a pleasure to visit Wente Vineyards and indulge in my passion for photography – and wine!
Be sure to take advantage of the free shipping offer for Wente wines by using code JRNYSHIP1. And if you live in the Bay Area, plan a trip to Wente Vineyards and spend the day. Take a winemaking class, go on a seasonal vineyard tour, play a round of golf, see a concert or have a date night dinner at the restaurant. There is so much to do at Wente!
Make it a rich – and passionate – day!
Disclosure: The tour, tasting and lunch for two at Wente Vineyards were complimentary. All opinions expressed here are my own, as always.