The first time I met Karl Wente, I was impressed. This fifth-generation member of California’s renown Wente Vineyards winemaking family, was one of two hosts at a special sunset dinner for a group of wine bloggers last year in Livermore, California. Karl, ruggedly handsome, admitted to those attending how much he loves to sing the praises of delicious Wente Vineyards wines – he oversees the winemaking program there, the oldest, continuously operated, family-owned winery in the country. At some point during the evening, Karl shared that when he’s not tending to winery business, he can be found strumming his guitar in a band, Wolf Hamlin and the Front Porch Drifters. (And yes, Karl was referring to THAT Wolf Hamlin of American Idol fame.) I found myself wondering how Karl could make time to blend outstanding wine and help create music…


Wente Vineyards - #MTFM

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Make Time for Music

Imagine my surprise when I received an invitation to Chicago’s City Winery for a unique wine and music event, Wente Vineyards’ Make Time for Music (#MTFM) initiative that “explores the parallels between music and wine”, I was invited to enjoy appetizers, a glass (or two) of Wente Vineyards wines, and live music from Wolf Hamlin & the Front Porch Drifters. Asking me to make time for music with the band and sip wine for a couple of hours on a summer afternoon? Count me in!


Wente Vineyards - #MTFM

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At City Winery, Karl Wente made it clear that the connection between his music and the wine he produces has elevated his life experience; he’s noted parallels between blending wine and creating music with others. Wine is “about the tactile sensations, the aromas that come through. Music is about the texture (the bass and the drums) that is somewhat analogous to tannins and acidity.”

“When words fail, music speaks,” he noted during a break between sets.  “Music pulls elements together to make a song, blending pulls elements together to make a wine.” See and hear for yourself…


Make Time for Wine from Wente Vineyards

As I walked into the concert space at City Winery, I was offered a chilled glass of Wente Vineyards Brut 2014, a bubbly beginning and just what I was craving. More Wente Vineyards wines were poured throughout the afternoon: Riva Ranch Chardonnay 2013, Nth Degree Chardonnay 2015, Riva Ranch Pinot Noir 2014, and Charles Wetmore Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, all delightful. It appeared that the crowd of wine and music lovers appreciated each sip, too. Toes tapped, bodies swayed to the beat, and more than a few music and wine lovers shared their stylin’ moves on the dance floor while Wolf Hamlin and the Front Porch Drifters performed.

Wente Vineyards
As luck would have it, a few weeks earlier I had been sent three bottles of Wente Vineyards Chardonnay (samples). It was fitting that Karl Wente, winemaker and musician, discussed parallels between blending wine and creating music that afternoon at City Winery. Just like each song expresses a different style, each wine I received was a unique expression of Chardonnay.

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Rich, broad flavors in each sip of Wente Vineyards Riva Ranch Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2015 ($22) can be attributed, in part, to 90% of the grapes fermented in a combination of 60% and 40% second use French and American oak. The wine went through 100% malolactic fermentation, then was barrel aged sur lie for eight months. Notes of citrus, banana, and lemons were intense and bright on the nose while flavors of vanilla, butterscotch, lemon zest, and baked apples were exceptional. Truly balanced with just-right acidity, a round mouthfeel, and luscious finish, fill your glass and find your favorite dance partner…sip, twirl, savor.

Fresh and clean, Wente Vineyards Eric’s Chardonnay 2015 Small Lot ($25) is from carefully selected parcels of estate grown, certified sustainable grapes that were hand harvested. Ever so smooth and balanced, this unoaked Chardonnay burst with aromas of stone fruit, pears, pineapple, white peaches, and a hint or orange rind. The palate boasted more of the same elements, mouthwatering acidity, and a snappy finish. Simply pour a glass and taste…you’ll feel the urge to busta’ move on the dance floor!

The Wente Vineyards Morning Fog Estate Grown Chardonnay 2016 ($15) is one that I regularly recommend to winelovers who are interested in an affordable, versatile, and down-right delicious wine. This wine, named for the “morning coastal fog pushed by Pacific wind that streams into the bowl of the San Francisco Bay and is lured inland by Livermore Valley’s unique East-West orientation”, is fermented in 50% neutral American oak barrels and 50% stainless steel tanks. On the nose, refreshing citrus, lemon, and herbs can be found. Flavors of tropical fruit, pears, butter, oak, and touch of spice combined with zesty acidity and a lasting mineral-driven finish. Once you taste this wine, you’ll keep it on your play list.

Karl remarked, “As winegrowers, it’s critical that we have a deep understanding of our estate vineyards to ensure that the unique flavors and characteristics they offer are represented in the glass”; the blending studio at Wente Vineyards then helps winemakers produce expressive wines. Yet, as we enjoy a special song, we must remember that musicians, like winemakers, blend distinct elements, those that result in music that inspires. The parallel between wine and music is real.

A sip of wine from Wente Vineyards while I savor beautiful music? I’ll make time for both.

Cheers! ~ Cindy

NOTE: #MTFM is a movement led by Wente Vineyards to motivate musicians and music lovers to make time for music. Follow the movement on Instagram: @maketimeformusic.

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