Randy kicked off 2023 with a wine dinner featuring Wente Vineyards.
Louis Mel Sauvignon Blanc
Paired with Randy’s Hors D’ouvres
The wine tasted very green to start, with some butter and slightly juicy with a full body.
Truthfully, it was better when it warmed up. Then we got applesauce without cinnamon or my dining companions said – Asian Pear.
The body is even bolder the warmer it gets and it becomes slightly drier.
It went well with the steak kabobs and really highlighted the spice. But it was not good with the olives and my companions described the taste with the cheese as “interesting.” It was actually bland with the empanada. Overall, with this pairing we put the wine in the Tuesday category.
However, pair this wine with shrimp scampi (lots of garlic) and it becomes a date night wine. So, overall this Sauvignon Blanc is surprisingly versatile.
Morning Fog Chardonnay
Paired with Minnesota Wild Rice Soup with Dry Sack Sherry
The wine rep described this as a “Gateway Chardonnay.” It’s aged half of the time in oak and half of the time in stainless steel.
I’ll cut to the chase – I just couldn’t get into this wine. To me it had an acidic scent and a bitter taste. My husband said it smelled like baby powder. I disagreed – after reflection it reminded me of the only perfume my mother allowed me to wear for years – Jean Naté. Now if you aren’t familiar with this bright yellow perfume (which incidentally matches the color of the wine), you can read more about it on Fragrantica here (link).
Now, why provide a link to a ‘after bath splash” that has an interesting history (having begun in 1935 by Charles of the Ritz to finally being bought by Revon (via Yves Saint Laurent). (Link to history on Wikipedia) Other than the fact that the link to Fragrantica provides a pretty good breakdown of the fragrance which the wine mirrors in some ways. And upon my husband’s comment on baby powder I was transported back to Christmases long ago and the fragrance gifts from my grandmother that as I got older finally moved on from Jean Naté to Passion by Elizabeth Taylor (which my mother hated).
What did we decide on this wine? It would be great for Sangria. And while the rice soup tempered the “weird taste” of the wine, we would have preferred another glass of the sauvignon blanc. Overall we voted it as a Sunday dinner when you want to impress the family you don’t like.
Riva Ranch Pinot Noir
Paired with Honey Garlic Pork Tenderloin on Sweet Potato Puree
To me this wine smelled like flat cherry cola and Brownfield, Tx. If you’ve never been to the grape growing capital of Texas, you wouldn’t understand the smell – so we’ll just call it – terroir.
The wine had a good spice on the tongue but was a little light in the body. It finishes with a cherry cobbler taste. Ok, actually it finishes with the taste of the last little bits of cherry, apple and blackberry cobbler being scraped into one pan. Since I always got cobbler for my birthday (not cake), I got the privilege of enjoying the last bits scraped off the pans. Which is a good fruity taste – kind like the mixed fruit jelly you find at Waffle House.
My dining companions got tart cherry more than the fruity mix I did. It went really well with the pork as it brought out the spice. The wine gained a bit of a tang with the sweet potatoes, but it was one that made me want to keep drinking it. Which is why we gave it a Thursday rating, called a Date Night wine and added a new category – break up wine.
Yes, this is the wine you open after you’ve been broken up with and have a glass on Thursday to calm down 0r drink the whole bottle by yourself on Friday night since it went really well with the chocolate cake in dessert. (And don’t deny it girls – you know who are – and I can see you drinking this wine and eating chocolate while watching chic flicks. Just remember he didn’t deserve you – but you deserve this wine.)
Wetmore Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
Paired with Filet Mignon with Garlic Butter, Garlic Mash Potatoes and Sweet Sautéed Asparagus
This is a rich berry flavor with some spice, a great body and a dry finish. It went well with the steak – might have gone better if I’d actually gotten the garlic butter. It did not go with the asparagus and honestly it was completely forgettable with the potatoes. In fact despite being full bodied, we decided it wasn’t that flavorful – and thus forgettable altogether. We liked the pinot more with the steak.
However, we gave it a Wednesday rating as a pantry wine. Good staple wine to have on hand when you find yourself entertaining or you’re out of other bottles to go with your steak.
Dessert was Chocolate Melting Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream and Chocolate Martini
One of the points the wine rep wanted to make clear was that Wente was a family owned vineyard that had been in business for 140 years – the oldest continually owned and operated vineyard in the US. However, what most people miss in the history of Wente Vineyards is that Carl Heinrich Wente (the founder) moved to “Livermore, east of San Francisco, and acquired an interest in a local vineyard, soon expanding his holdings to 300 acres in cultivation.” (From the story of Wente Wines – 1954 – link.)
So Wente is founded off the vineyard of another. Which means that technically Val Verde Winery, which was established in 1883 (same year Wente claims) by “Italian immigrant Frank Qualia, who brought with him the family tradition of winemaking. When he arrived in Del Rio, he found Lenoir grapes flourishing under the warm Southwest Texas sun, and founded the winery.” (link)
So, I would argue that Val Verde Winery in Del Rio, Texas is truly the oldest continuously family owned and operated winery in the United States – not Wente. Now Wente did study under Charles Krug (the wine dinner in November, which I can see based on my like and dislike of Krug wines). What is interesting is that 75% of all Chardonnay in California is from what is called the Wente Clone. (link)