By Terry Sweeney
Earlier this year, at the San Francisco Chronicle’s 2012 Wine Competition, American wines competed for bronze, silver and gold medals. More than 300 wineries sent their best to this: the largest competition of American Wines in the world.
What interested me most, of course, were the medal winners under $20. I imagined these lesser-priced bottles arriving with their wine coaches in tow just like in the Olympics. “Make every sip count!” “Don’t pop your cork too soon!” “Remember, you’re in it to vin it!’” Hey, who says you can’t talk to a bottle of wine? I know I have. It’s perfectly normal. If you hear it talk back, however, then you’ve got a problem.
Anyway, one particular winery’s name among the celebrated winners jumped out at me: Wente!
Carolyn Wente lives right here, slightly west of Beaufort. The other part of the time, she’s oh-so-busy being the CEO of Wente Vineyards which was named in 2011 “The Winery of the Year “ by Wine Enthusiast Magazine.
Carolyn’s actually a fourth generation wine grower at Wente Vineyards (in Livermore, California) which by the way is the oldest continuously operated family-owned winery in America. What a pedigree! But that’s not all, this woman’s accolades have accolades — from being chosen one of the “World’s Leading Entrepreneurs” to being named one of the “Women Who Could be President” by the League of Women Voters. I wonder if I can get myself selected to be on the short list of “Winos Who Could be President” by the League of Women Drinkers. I better work on that. Heck, I better work on something — compared to Carolyn Wente I’m about as on-the-move as a Lipsitz Department Store mannequin.
As for Carolyn Wente, when she’s not overseeing the making of her fabulous award-winning wines then she’s overseeing her beautiful and elegant Livermore eatery. The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards, while at the same time planning the next concert in her concert series — the renowned “Concerts at Wente Vineyards” that have hosted the likes of John Fogerty and Sheryl Crow. Just writing about this woman is wearing me out. I need to sit down and catch my breath and pour myself a glass of one of her “Best in Class” award-winning chardonnays.
Back to the Vinolympics in ‘Frisco. In their categories, Wente Vineyards’ 2009 Riverbank Riesling ($12.99) won a bronze, and her 2009 Livermore Valley Sandstone Merlot ($14.99) won gold, while Wente Riva Ranch 2010 Chardonnay ($19.99) won silver.
Of course, Wente won gold, silvers and bronzes and other awards in the higher priced categories. For example, their Nth Degree wines — the Nth Degree Merlot ($59.99) won gold, and Nth Degree Syrah ($49.99) won Best of Class, and there were more. Every year their list of winners grows.
I move we make Carolyn Wente’s California town of Livermore the sister city of Beaufort; and I’m not just saying that to get a “family and friends” discount at The Wente’s Wine Club. (OK, maybe that’s exactly why I’m saying that, but may I remind you we are not put on this planet to judge others — i.e. ME.)
But if it’s too much of a stretch to make Livermore “Beaufort’s Sister City,” how ‘bout we anoint it “Beaufort’s Drinking Buddy.” That’s close enough. At the very least, let us offer our heartfelt congratulations to the wine Olympian who dwells among us … well done, Carolyn Wente. We proudly raise our glasses to you. Now how ‘bout pouring some of that Wente wine into ‘em?!
By Terry Sweeney