The Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay 2020 is the “entry-level” Chardonnay from Wente Vineyards, the oldest continuously operated family-owned winery in America (founded in 1883). They survived World Wars, the Depression, and Prohibition, and their story is of great significance to the entire wine industry.
In 1912 Ernest Wente started working on grapevine cutting from a vine nursery in France. His work on perfecting the grapevine “clones” created healthy vines of particular characteristics and yields. Wente established not just one clone, but a whole selection of clones that can be planted based on growing conditions and the desired characteristics.
Wente says that over 75% of all Chardonnay grapes grown in California are Wente clones. At a tasting, I asked a Bordeaux winemaker about which Cabernet Sauvignon clones he used. He said the Wente Cabernet Sauvignon clone, he said it was originally from Bordeaux and that Wente perfected the vine. Wente grapevine clones have a worldwide reach.
The Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay 2020 is sourced from grapes farmed that their Livermore Valley AVA estate. They have over 3,000 acres of vines including their Arroyo Seco in Monterey. Livermore Valley is situated on the east side of the San Francisco Bay slightly southeast of San Francisco and northeast of San Jose. This is one of the older AVAs and was thriving in the late 1800s, though Napa and Sonoma have had more notoriety in recent years.
The Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay 2020 was fermented in 50% Stainless Steel vats and 50% neutral oak barrels. A neutral barrel has been used for aging wine so often that it no longer has any oak flavoring to impart into the wine. A stainless steel vat is airtight, an oak barrel is watertight but will allow a tiny amount of air to pass through. That tiny difference changes the wine.
This Chardonnay was then aged for 5 months, the oak barrel portion was aged “on-lees” (with the dead spent yeast) and stirred once a month. The stainless steel portion was divided into 2 parts, one aged “on-lees” and the other with the lees removed. The dead yeast provides a nutty/salty flavor and when stirred can give a creamy sensation.
The Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay 2020 uses a selection of Wente Chardonnay clones and 2% Gewürztraminer to give the wine a little “shine”. The various lots of Chardonnay clones were picked and produced separately and then blended into the finished wine. The alcohol content is 13.5%.
I have had several different vintages of the Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay 2020 before and this is the Chardonnay that I measure all other Chardonnays against. It is not Wente’s top Chardonnay they have wines that list for up to $70, but I feel that this is a reliable and exceptional Chardonnay regardless of the price (I found it for $12.99).
The Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay 2020 Tasting Notes
The color is a pale butter yellow. The nose is lemon, apple, followed by melon, peach, and Anjou pear, a hint of oak spice, and vanilla. The Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay 2020 has excellent length and balanced acidity, with just a little oak barrel influence.
This Chardonnay tastes like green apple, a little vanilla cream, lemon curd, peach, and pear. The mid-palate offers that nutty/salty “on-lees” thing, firm, fleshy melon, a splash of tangerine, and tart pink grapefruit. This is a chewy Chardonnay, it has a bit of body to it.
- The Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay 2020 is an excellent Chardonnay, it is a classic California Chardonnay, but the structure reminds me of Burgundy.
- The French have a wine word, Terroir, which is a little word with a big meaning. It referes to the conditions in the vineyard, the soil, the climate and how that evolves vintage after vintage. And how the winemaker who has a lifetime of experience with the vineyards adapts each year to make the best wine they can.
- Most modern wines do not have Terroir, they are too new or do not have the extensive experience with the vineyards. They can still make excellent wine without Terroir, but Wente has the history and experience to make excellent wine with Terroir.