If you are Wente Vineyards this is what you would call a "back-handed" compliment. If you are Rombauer Vineyards you are probably not to comfortable with another wine being tagged with that moniker [so my apologies in advance]. Nonetheless, Wente Vineyards Riva Ranch Reserve Chardonnay, Monterey Arroyo Seco is exactly that, the poor man's Rombauer and is this phrase is bandied about as such in wine stores all over California and else where (like from the lips of wine rep's everywhere).
Let me be honest here Rombauer makes a great Chardonnay, a point to which [nearly] everyone agrees, however with a price point starting somewhere around $29.99 each, it's not going to be the QPR [quality price ration] champ or even a competitor in that arena. With the economy the way it is now, folks who love to drink wine on a regular basis are looking to cut corners. well here is your answer! I have been drinking vintages of Wente Vineyards Riva Ranch Chardonnay since 2004 and while each one differs a little, one thing which is not different is the overall consistent quality. Price ranges from 10.95 -17.96 a bottle and in the word's of Jennifer's Review that is "uber-fabulous".
With that said, now it's time for the review!
About the Winery: Their heritage block wines are grown in specific vineyard blocks named for the pioneers who relate to the history of Wente Vineyards’ winemaking tradition and premier Estate vineyards, which was founded more than 125 years ago, Wente Vineyards is the country’s oldest, continuously operated family-owned winery, which is located just east of San Francisco in the historic Livermore Valley, Wente Vineyards.
First Swirl: In the glass the wine a golden apple colored core and pale rim. Swirling about in my glass it reveals good structure and viscosity
First Sniff: From what I recall in my notes this wine had some enticing aromas of pear, apple and fig and other citrus notes effortlessly wafting up from the glass.
First Sip: The wine has a creaminess associated with having a bit of oak influence, complimented by generous tropical notes typical of Monterey fruit. This is an excellent wine to pair with food or as stand alone sipper.
Alcohol Content: The wine weighed in at 13.5% ABV, which is hardly noticed as this wine coats your palate with a suppleness normally associated with wines of a much higher caliber and price point.
Winemaking Style: Blending traditional and innovative winemaking practices, the winery draws fruit from approximately 3,000 acres of sustainably farmed Estate vineyards.
Vineyards and Composition: Arroyo Seco is widely regarded as one of the best places in California to grow Chardonnay. Riva Ranch is the name of the Wente family’s vineyard in the Arroyo-Seco AVA which is presently planted to three Dijon clones and two Wente clones. The cool growing season and the deep gravelly soil ripen the Chardonnay perfectly, creating a natural balance of sugar and acid. The varietal make-up of the current 2008 vintage is, 94% Chardonnay, 4% Pinot Blanc, 2% Gewurztraminer.
Where to find it and Price: Now about price and location, I found this wine at the San Diego Wine Company selling for $11.95. Most of you are already very familar with their location, but for the uninitiated they are centrally located on Miramar Road which can accessed from from the 805 or the 15 freeways.
Pairing Suggestions: Pairs wonderfully and easily with many food items, but it especially cries out to be sautéed scallops and clams on a bed of angel hair pasta drizzled with a dreamy Alfredo sauce and some sautéed fresh broccoli crowns, carrots and onions, but maybe that's just me.
San Diego Wine Shopping Examiner Score: Hey point seekers here's my score if your interested: This wine scored 92 points on the Cuvee Corner 100 point scale, which to some may seem a bit high, however you enter the QPR into this wines score and add wide availbility a much higher score is achieved.
My Recommendation: So there you have it San Diego wine shopping fans, another true bargain is uncovered by the Cuvée Corner Wine Blog and this is how I would characterize this wine: This is a drink-often wine, meaning it's as easy the wallet [or pocket-book] as it is on the palate. Ordering this by the case is a great choice and can really be considered as an everyday drinker and a great value for very little money.
Other Voices: Just incase my words and opinions didn't sway you one bit, here's a bloke with much better credentials than I have speaking about this great bargain "A rich, creamy style, with complex fig, honeydew melon, spice and light toast oak. The fruit has a sweet edge, but this is a very complex and appealing style" – James Laube from Wine Spectator who gave this wine 89 points on their 100 point scale.