25 July 2011

Wente Chardonnay Tasting #TTL

Just last week I mentioned a Twitter Taste Live event with Wente Vineyards representative Karl Wente, and this is about another one. While the writeups are a week apart, the actual events were held more than a month apart. This time we got a chance to look at a quartet of Chardonnays. I opened the first two a day early to give my friends Grace and Mars and Paul a chance to try them.

These kind of online tastings are great, because you can either invite some friends over to join you in the tasting, or save the leftovers to share with friends later. Lots of people don't get a chance to try the same grape from the same producer, expressed in four different ways in one setting.

2009 Wente Riva Ranch
$20, 13.5% abv.
Arroyo Seco, Monterey
This is a classic oaky California Chardonnay. People argue over this style, but sometimes I'm in the mood for it and sometimes I'm not. This one has big aromas of buttered popcorn and caramel--it reminds me so much of Crunch 'n Munch. Beyond that there are elements vanilla and peach on the palate, with an interesting finish of chalk and minerals.

2009 Wente Morning Fog
$15, 13.5% abv.
Livermore Valley, San Francisco Bay
Initial impression is crisp with a splash of tart acidity. The flavor profile is dominated by overripe peach, but the overall structure is mild and refreshing. This one was fermented half in oak and half in stainless steel, providing a lighter and brighter contrast to the darker and deeper Riva Ranch. The Morning Fog disappeared pretty quickly, as it was a favorite around the table. Terrific bargain here.

2010 Wente Eric's Chardonnay
$21, 13.4% abv.
Livermore Valley, San Francisco Bay
There's a light nose of apricot and flowers. On the tongue it's a little dark, with a slightly rough aftertaste that mellows with time. Trying it at various times, I think this one is much better at room temperature after some breathing rather than cool and fresh from the bottle. This one gave me the strangest craving for trout and green beans with almonds on both.

2009 The Nth Degree Chardonnay
$45, 14.2% abv.
Livermore Valley, San Francisco Bay
350 cases produced
I'd love to try this one in two or three years. It's great now, but it feels like it could develop beautifully with some more time. There's an initial whiff of buttered popcorn, but you quickly discover that there's a lot more going on here. I found it rich, rustic, and earthy. Not barnyard, but definitely farm-related. There's a rich flavor that reminds me of succotash (sweet corn and lima beans), and there's a long, mellow finish. Really quite nice, and highly recommended.

Note: These wines were received as samples.

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