I love this wine. Love love love it. It’s one of the wines that’s usually available at a local supermarket — so when I see it, I snag at least two bottles. You’ll want two bottles of this Chard in your cellar — one to drink casually now, on a random weekday, and one to save for a special date-night dinner. Because in all honesty, with it’s easy drinkability and complexity of flavor, the Wente Riva Ranch Chardonnay is perfect for either occasion.
About the Wine: Wente is most definitely a wine producer you’ll be reading about frequently on my site. They have such a large library of available — and reliable! — wines for the average consumer, that, in my house, anything Wente is worth a try.
The 2014 Wente Riva Ranch Chardonnay, comprised of 100% Chardonnay grapes, comes from the Arroyo Secco appellation in Monterey, California. This is a single vineyard Chardonnay, so all those grapes came from the Wente family’s Riva Ranch vineyard — where the family has kept a fruitful vineyard since the 1960s.
The 90% of the Chardonnay grapes were fermented in oak barrels — 60% new and 40% second use French and American oak. The remaining 10% is fermented in stainless steel. The wine is aged in the same French and American barrels with botannage conducted every two weeks.
Flavor Profile: This medium straw-yellow emits strong aromas of fresh baked, buttery brioche with pleasant undertones of ripe apples and pears and a hint of a fresh sea breeze. Take a big waft of this wine, breathe it all in — you’ll feel like you’re at a boutique bakery overlooking a seaside shore.
Then the fun part. Take a sip. Oh yes, those apples and pears are present, but it’s that buttery, oaky goodness that takes over. With a predominantly soft mouthfeel, the wine is almost sexy. There’s just a hint of acidity and minerality that breaks up that fruit and butter, so the wine is neither cloyingly sweet nor heavy. My favorite part is the finish — a toasty oakiness, reminiscent of a shoreside bonfire. It adds a sense of intrigue to the long lingering finish. You’ll be reaching for a second sip before your first one is completed.
Food Pairing: A very predictable recommendation would be a crustacean-based risotto. The natural saltiness (and sometime sandiness) of a lobster, prawn, scallop, muscle, or clam will certainly pull out that minerality and play with those maritime undertones. The buttery guilty pleasure that is any good risotto will amplify the wine’s creamy texture and essence ‘de’ brioche.
But what about that smoke? That toasty surprise at the finish? Certainly, as this is my favorite part to the wine, I would want to play this up. I recently paired this wine with a smoked swordfish (simply seasoned with salt, pepper, and olive oil) along with a coconut rice pilaf containing diced red onion, cilantro, and mango. This may seem odd, but it was perfect. Of course the creaminess in the coconut rice did well to enhance the creaminess of the wine, while the mango kept the fruit flavors abound; and the fresh cilantro and onion kept everything in check with the cilantro’s herbaceousness and the onion’s natural acidity. But it’s that smoked swordfish that did the heavy lifting — calling out the wine’s sea-faring minerality and amplifying that beautifully smokey-oaked, wood-burning finish.
It was a gut instinct that told me to pair this wine and meal — an instinct I’m happy I listened to.
More Info: Oh you’ll be hearing more about the wonders that is Wente wine from me. But for now, be sure to check out their full library of wines, including this one on the Wente website. I purchased the 2014 Wente Riva Ranch Chardonnay at Safeway (Sale Price: $15). Personally, I’m curious about the Wente wines not available in stores — specifically their small lot offerings — most specifically their Counois, which is a hard to find as a single varietal offering (it’s usually used as a blending agent), at least in my area. If I do find it or receive it, I’ll be sure to tell you about it. Cheers!
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