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Creating a Lasting Legacy with Wente Vineyards

Creating a Lasting Legacy with Wente Vineyards

Since its inception 140 years ago, Wente Vineyards has pioneered the wine industry. Today, this fifth-generation, family-owned estate is perched in California’s Livermore Valley. The winery continues to lead with new ideas and innovations, all while continuing to produce the high-quality, handcrafted wine it’s known for.

Establishing a Legacy

When Carl H. Wente purchased 48 acres of land in Livermore Valley in 1883, he didn’t know the impact he would have on California wine. Carl and his son Ernest propagated the Wente Clone in the 1910s, which became the parent of over 75% of all Chardonnay grown in California. The family weathered Prohibition by producing “sacramental wine,” and when Prohibition was repealed, they were the first in the country to varietally label their Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Semillon.

The family’s legacy doesn’t stop there. Third-generation vintner Karl L. Wente planted the first vines in Arroyo Seco, California in 1963, thus laying the groundwork for the region. In 1966, the family opened their Livermore Valley tasting room, one of the first in all of the state.

The fourth generation was the architect behind numerous petitions for some of today’s most prestigious AVAs. These include Central Coast, Monterey County, San Francisco Bay, Livermore and Arroyo Seco. They also “brought hospitality to life,” says fifth-generation Aly Wente, by welcoming guests to their fine-dining restaurant and Greg Norman-designed golf course. They helped turn Livermore Valley into a destination-worthy wine region.

Creating a Sustainable Future

Now, the fifth generation is ready to add to the Wente legacy. Sustainability has been a priority since the very beginning, but it is at the forefront of the youngest generation’s work.

Wente was one of the first estates to carry the rigorous annual certified sustainable seal, Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing (CCSW), for their vineyards and winery. Among their practices, they utilize no-till farming, hire a full-time falconer during harvest to help manage vineyard pests, employ electric tractors and more.

In 2022, Wente received the California Green Medal Leader Award, which is decided by eight sustainably-focused organizations throughout California. Given its holistic focus on all pillars of sustainability—environment, economy and social equity—Aly says this award truly represents the multifaceted approach her generation takes to being a sustainable winery. Along with addressing environmental issues, the fifth generation puts an emphasis on the ‘social good’ tenet of sustainability. They now offer fully paid parental leave for all employees, regardless of gender, as well as mental health benefits.

Their biggest achievement occurred last year, when they moved all their wines into lighter-weight bottles, greatly reducing carbon emissions. “The amount of emissions saved this first year is the equivalent of every person in California—over 40 million people—fully charging their iPhone,” says Aly.

When it comes to a wine like the Southern Hills Cabernet Sauvignon, a lightweight bottle has maximum impact. This sustainability-farmed classic Cabernet shows elegant fruit notes of juicy red berries and spice, and gentle yet firm tannins. As one of their flagship wines, it is distributed to 75 countries. They can reduce a major emission hotspot within the supply chain by easing the load of shipping and transportation.

Not Just a Business, But a Family Business

Authenticity has always been important to the family and they want wine lovers to know the people behind the bottle. Aly’s Pinot Noir was crafted to reflect Aly’s own tastes. Working with her sister and Director of Vineyard Operations, Niki, they select specific blocks from their Arroyo Seco vineyard to create a style of wine that Aly describes as “light and delicate, with bright acidity, plus a touch of new French oak for body and complexity.” It joins Eric’s Chardonnay (named after her uncle) and Niki’s Pinot Noir Rosé, all of which offer personal insights into the people behind the Wente name.

Aly says being a family business allows them to be nimble; new ideas can come to fruition faster than if they were corporately owned. But at the same time, every decision is made with the future in mind. “We don’t rush into a decision,” says Aly. “We want to make sure that we’re setting ourselves up properly for the long run.”

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