Pleasanton Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - April 9, 2010

Nose to glass

2008 Wente Riva Ranch Chardonnay

By Don Colman

It was not all that long ago when I was a red-wine-only kind of guy. I refused to even try the whites. I found them boring, unsophisticated and uninspired. No matter what the occasion, I could find a red wine to match.

Then one day, I was shopping at Costco and I stopped to talk to the "wine guy" to see what he'd suggest. He must have caught me at a moment of weakness, because I allowed him to convince me to try the Wente Riva Ranch Chardonnay. Skeptical as I was, I decided to crack open the bottle one Friday night and I haven't been the same since.

What I discovered is a world of chardonnays. It is appropriate that this wine should be the one to convert me as it really is the granddaddy of chardonnays. Its lineage can be found all over California as 80 percent of all chardonnay grapes grown in California trace their roots back to the Wente chardonnay vine.

The wine is truly perfect. It is flawless in color and loaded with scents dominated by honeydew melon and roasted oak. There are plenty of other secondary scents that will keep even the pickiest wine drinkers busy. The most impressive part is that it is a mouth-filling wine that is silky smooth and buttery sweet. All in all, an outstanding white wine that will appeal to most discriminating wine drinker but also, at about $15 per bottle, it pleases the wallet.

Located right in our backyard (Livermore), Wente is one of California's oldest wineries. It is still a family affair, being managed by fourth and fifth generations of the Wente family. Not too long ago, I had a chance to sit down with Karl Wente, the winemaker, who went over the impressive Wente winemaking process that allows them to combine the science with the art of winemaking. The end result is a family of wines that are crafted with precision yet with an artisan flair still evident.

Without the Wente Riva Ranch Chardonnay, I assure you I would still be reluctant to drink white wine. It has opened a whole new world of wine for me to drink. The running joke in the family is that if you want to find me at Costco, there is only spot you need to look: loading the cart with Wente Riva Ranch Chardonnay.

Until next time, cheers!

Don Colman lives in the East Bay and writes a wine blog at www.nosetoglass.com.

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