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Celebrating 100 Years of Chardonnay with Wente Vineyards

18 April, 2012

California’s First “Family of Chardonnay” commemorates this special centennial of Chardonnay on June 18, 2012

Livermore, CA - In honor of the 100th Anniversary of the Wente family’s historic connection to Chardonnay, Wente Vineyards will be hosting A Century of Chardonnay Symposium for trade and media on June 18th, 2012 at their Cresta Blanca Events Center in the Livermore Valley. For those that are unable to attend, one can view the symposium live on Wente Vineyards’ U-Stream channel here.[1] This event will explore all aspects of the Chardonnay grape varietal, including its history, the migration of the various Chardonnay clones, the diversity of the variety, its expression via different winemaking techniques and more.

Fourth Generation Winegrower Philip Wente, and Fifth Generation Winemaker Karl Wente will host the event, with Master Sommelier, Tim Gaiser serving as moderator. Several distinguished guests will be joining as panelists, including Nancy Sweet, Director of the Foundation Plant Services at University of California, Davis and Chuck Hayward, Wine Educator at JJ Buckley Fine Wines , in addition to two prominent winemakers.

The Wente family’s connection with Chardonnay began with second generation Winegrower Ernest Wente, while he was a student at the University of California at Davis. In 1912, with the help of UC Davis employee Leon Bonnet, Ernest persuaded his father and winery founder Carl Wente, to import cuttings from the vine nursery at the University of Montpellier in France. Around the same time, Ernest Wente also sourced budwood from the Gier Vineyard in Pleasanton. He planted the two sources in his family’s Livermore Valley vineyard and over the next 30-40 years, selected vines that showed favorable traits, and re-planted them to establish the Wente Clone of Chardonnay[2].

Starting in the 1940’s and throughout the 1950’s, the Wente clone began to spread across the state to other wineries, most notably Stony Hill, Louis Martini and Hanzell. The Martini family’s Stanly Lane vineyard became the source for UC Davis trials in the late 1950’s and 1960’s, where Dr. Harold Olmo identified several selections that produced better yields and a more even crop. These were eventually taken to Foundation Plant Services (FPS) at UC Davis and heat-treated, becoming known as “heat treated Wente clones,” which consisted of clones FPS 04, 05, 06 and 08.[3]

The Wente clone of Chardonnay lends its parentage to several other clones of Chardonnay that have been certified by FPS: FPS 09, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, 67, 72, 79, 80, 97 and Hyde. The most famous and widely distributed of all the clones that derived from the Wente plantings, FPS 04, eventually became the most widely planted Chardonnay selection in California.[4]

In 1976, the Judgment of Paris featured a 1973 Chardonnay from Chateau Montelena that was comprised largely of the Wente clone of Chardonnay. When that wine bested some of France’s most prestigious whites in a blind tasting, California Chardonnay plantings grew exponentially from 2700 acres in 1970 to 11,000 acres in 1980 to 45,000 acres in 1988.[5]

Currently, there are almost 100,000 acres of Chardonnay planted in California and it has become the number one selling wine varietal in the US. [6] With much of that Chardonnay originating from the original Wente clone, the family has certainly earned the title as “California’s First Family of Chardonnay™”.

Today, Fifth Generation Winemaker Karl Wente carries on the family tradition of crafting Chardonnay with four different styles of wine; the lush Riva Ranch Chardonnay from Arroyo Seco, Monterey, the bright and crisp Morning Fog Chardonnay, the decadent and elegant Nth Degree Chardonnay and the Chablis-like Small Lot Eric’s Chardonnay.

For more information on the Wente family Chardonnay history, please visit  For media inquiries, interviews or to find out more about the Chardonnay Symposium please contact Skye Morgan or Kimberly Charles at Charles Communications Associates 415|701-9463 or

About Wente Vineyards
Founded in 1883, Wente Vineyards is the oldest continuously-operated, family-owned winery in the country; owned and managed by the fourth and fifth generations of the Wente family. The winery draws from nearly 3,000 acres of Estate vineyards in the Livermore Valley, San Francisco Bay and Arroyo Seco, Monterey appellations to create an outstanding portfolio of fine wines. Wente Vineyards is distributed in all 50 states and in over 70 countries worldwide.  In 2010, Wente Vineyards was among the first wineries to receive the Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing designation, and one of the only wineries to certify every aspect of its business. In 2011, Wente Family Estates was named American Winery of the Year by Wine Enthusiast and a top 30 wine company by Wine Business Monthly. 2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the Wente family bringing Chardonnay cuttings to California. Today, the Wente clone of Chardonnay is the most widely planted in California.

Located just east of San Francisco in the historic Livermore Valley, Wente Vineyards is recognized as one of California’s premier wine country destinations. The property features wine tasting, world-class concerts, award-winning fine dining and championship golf. For more information, visit


Asher, G. 1990. Wine Journal: Chardonnay, Buds, Twigs, and Clones. Gourmet (May):62.

California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). 2011. Grape Acreage Report 2010 Crop.

Olmo, Harold P. 1971. Chardonnay. Wine Advisory Board, San Francisco, California.

Robinson, Jancis. 2006. The Oxford Companion to Wine. 3d ed. Oxford University Press. Oxford, England.

Sweet, Nancy L. 2007. Chardonnay History and Selections at FPS. FPS Grape Program Newsletter. (November)

Wolpert, J.A., A.N. Kasimatis, and E. Weber. 1994. Field Performance of Six Chardonnay Clones in the Napa Valley. Am.J. Enol.Vitic. 45(4): 393-399.

[1] Instructions to log on to U-stream and interact will be sent via invitation

[2] Philip Wente

[3] Nancy Sweet 2007

[4] Nancy Sweet 2007

[5] Wolpert et al. 1994; Robinson 2006

[6] CDFA 2011