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A time for wine, a time for beer

Anyone who's known me for a long time, kids me about obsessing about wine's qualities these days. "What ever happened to your love of beer?" they ask. Still there, is my reply, especially when I want to slake a thirst from working outdoors in the garden. For a relaxing repast to engage in conversation, wine bumps into first place.

One of my favorite beers when I lived and worked in upstate New York, was Utica Club, brewed of course, in Utica, NY. They had an unforgettable motto that stays with me to this day: "At Utica Club, we brew beer because we like it, and we drink as much as we can ... the rest we sell to you." Unfortunately, it cannot be purchased in the Midwest. Anyone who likes beer would love this one, too.

Is there such a counterpart in the wine world? There is, and it is the Wente Vineyards. Like the Utica Club brewery in upstate NY, Wente Vineyards began with a German immigrant in the early 1880s and is still run by by fourth- and fifth-generation wine makers, Carolyn (fourth generation) and Karl (fifth generation).

Interestingly, Carolyn Wente has a quote that resonated with me when I read it in the May 2017 issue of the Wine Enthusiast: "We don't make wine because we have to; we do it because we love to."

Anyone who has sampled Wente wines can easily pick up the love that has been imparted into their wines. Karl D. Wente credits the wisdom of his great-great-grandfather in purchasing 47 acres in Livermore Valley, east of San Francisco. He recognized that the diversity, beauty, terroirs and climates would be perfect for growing quality wine grapes, and set about planting some chardonnay vines.

Today, the Wente Vineyards produces 100 percent estate-grown and certified sustainable vines from the Livermore Valley and Arroyo Seco in Monterey.

In addition to their fine wines, which are fortunately widely available around the country, they feature organic produce from their on-site gardens to their restaurant, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2016.

I've tasted the 2015 Wente Morning Fog chardonnay vintage and found that their unique techniques of fermentation and aging deliver the fruit intensity promised and the creamy texture to the aftertaste. Future vintages will have a permanent spot in my wine cellar.

Unique to their process in producing chardonnay is the technique of batonnage, a French term for the old-world practice of stirring the wine with the lees every month for 5 months. According to Karl D. Wente, this is what contributes to the creamy texture of the final product.

Ron Smith, a retired NDSU Extension horticulturist, writes weekly about his love of wine and its history. Readers can reach him at tuftruck1@gmail.com.

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