The StoryThe Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay 2017 is 98% Chardonnay and 2% Gewürztraminer sourced from Wente estate vineyards in the Livermore Valley AVA located across the Bay from San Fransico in the northern section of the Central Coast AVA. Wente Vineyards started in the 1880s and has been in continuous operation since then (they didn't close during Prohibition). Wente is one of the cornerstones of American winemaking, their work in the vineyards developing hardy disease-resistant grape clones is still the basis for most vineyards. The Wente Chardonnay clones (there are more than one) comprises 80% of all Chardonnay grown in California. I have had a Bordeaux winemaker tell me that they use the Wente Cabernet Sauvignon clone for their high-end Bordeaux blends. He said it was a healthier vine and Wente originally got their Cabernet vines from Bordeaux anyway. Livermore Valley AVA is located on the east side of the San Fransico Bay and is unique because the valley runs east-west, most valleys in the wine regions run north-south. Livermore Valley gets the full benefits of the cool breezes off the Bay and the cooling morning fog (so that's where the name comes from).Wente is the first California winery to sell wine with Chardonnay on the label (back in the 1930s). The Morning Fog uses several Wente Chardonnay clones and is fermented in 50% neutral American oak and 50% in stainless steel vats. The neutral oak portion of the Chardonnay was aged “on lees” for 5 months, the stainless steel parcel was also aged for 5 months. 50% of this portion aged “on lees” and the 50% with the lees removed. Lees are the dead, spent yeast and grape residue bits, “on lees” means those bits are left in with the aging wine. They add texture and a salty nutty flavor and when stirred can bring a creamy mouth-feel, the oak barrel Chardonnay was stirred. Neutral oak does not add much if any flavor to the wine, but brings a different character to the Chardonnay since wood barrels allow for a tiny bit of oxygen to get to the wine and stainless steel does not. There is a noticeable difference in wine aged in barrel, even neutral barrel than wine aged in stainless steel. This Chardonnay should not have a great deal of oak influence, but it went through a very precise and detailed winemaking technique. The alcohol content is 13.5% And if your interested James Suckling scored this Chardonnay 91 Points.The Tasting NotesThe color is a clean, clear, wheat yellow. The nose is elegant, it is not just a rush of ripe fruit and citrus, there is honey, brown butter, lemon curd, green apple, lime, Anjou pear, light spice, and French Vanilla, all with a floral edge. This is a bright, alive Chardonnay, crisp and lean, with a pleasing flavor. It starts with lemon cream, tart apple, vanilla, soft, and exotic spice. The mid-palate brings juicy peach mixed with pear, melon, and tart, unsweetened pineapple. The mouth-feel allows the flavors to engage your palate and the acidity is very well-balanced. The finish is full and long.The Summary I have long been a fan of the Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay, as a matter of fact, this is a Chardonnay that I compare all other Chardonnay. I think I found it for around $12 and it is rare that I find an expensive Chardonnay that I like better. It is really well-made and there is a lot of flavor happening in your glass. In France “terrior” is everything. That is the sense of place of the grapes in the vineyard and the winemakers' knowledge of these grapes that have been passed down over the generations. Wente Vineyards has “terroir” in spades, they created the grape clones and have winemaking knowledge passed down for 5 generations, all with 130 something years of knowing their vineyards and climate. Wente is legit and they have seriously good knowledge in producing Chardonnay (other grapes and wines, too).
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