by Fred McMillin
for February 20, 1997

That Picky Pinot

The Pinot Noir grape evolved in cool Burgundy over 500 years ago. It never showed a liking for the warmer Rhone Valley to the south, or for other warmer regions, such as California's Livermore Valley. Then how does Wente make their Pinot from their large Livermore vineyards? Answer: they don't. Twenty years ago they planted Pinot in Monterey's cool Arroyo Seco district, southwest of the Livermore Valley. Their latest release is the '94 Reliz Creek Reserve Pinot Noir. It is full of wonderful fruit and spice flavors, yet gentle enough to enjoy with well-seasoned fowl or your favorite veal dish. Pinot may be picky, but it surely thinks its Reliz Creek home is cool.

1994 Reliz Creek Reserve Pinot Noir
Appellation: Arroyo Seco, Monterey County, CA
Wente (wen-tee) Vineyards, formerly Wente Brothers
Livermore Valley, CA
Contact: John Woolley, (510)447-3603


Postscript: THE BLACK SHEEP OF THE FAMILY. German-born Carl H. Wente and wife Barbara were blessed with three sons after the winery was founded in 1883. Sons Ernest and Herman took over day-to-day operations in the 1920's and the name was changed to Wente Bros. But what became of the third brother, Carl F. Wente? A black sheep, he preferred gold to grapes, and went on to become the president of the Bank of America!

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

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