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Golden State of Mind

California is a land of innovation, where anything is possible. The Golden State of Mind has created endless opportunities and unimaginable possibilities.


Immigrants and dreamers intrigued by the potential of California arrived during the Gold Rush era. Since then, they continued to grow and evolve generations after generations. They were not bounded by traditions but inspired by it. The Post-Prohibition years saw fresh starts that revitalized the wine industry. Wente Vineyards was one of the wineries that made a major step for California wine when Ernest and his brother Herman Wente released the nation’s first varietally-labeled Chardonnay, a 1936 vintage. Their contribution also includes the 'Wente clone' that now accounts for over 75% of all California Chardonnay. What seems common today was great innovation back then that forged a new path for the future. Varietal-labeling helped California wines differentiate from the wines which were given more generic names after a wine type (usually borrowed from European place-names like Burgundy, Chablis etc.).


Appetite for experimentation brought winemaking advancements that encouraged wineries to make bold decisions that made a difference. In 1974, Joseph Phelps became the pioneer to give wine blend a proprietary name rather than a regional or varietal one - that was the birth of the legendary Insignia wine. By having a proprietary name, the winemaker has flexibility to make the best wine out of any varietal representing the character of the grape and terroir.

In the 1980s, more revolutionary events happened such as the American Viticultural Area (AVA) system that was taking shape. AVA is a system of permitted geographical designations that tells where the grapes are grown. Today, there are 144 AVAs in California that give California wines their own identities.

In 1986 a new biotype of phylloxera devastated entire regions of vineyards, and many of California’s vineyards had to be replanted and Cabernet Sauvignon proved to be a popular choice, with Chardonnay and Merlot just behind. By decade’s end, Cabernet would surpass Chardonnay as the state’s most widely planted grape. The decade also saw the rise of cult wines, primarily Cabernet Sauvignons and Cabernet blends produced in minuscule quantities and sold for high prices.

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John and Janet Trefethen, co-founders of the winery. Along with a handful of other early winemaking pioneers, they helped build Napa Valley into one of the greatest wine winemaking regions in the world through decades of passionate and phenomenal work. Photo courtesy of Trefethen Vineyards.

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Wente Bros. Chardonnay 1936, the first varietally labeled Chardonnay in the United States. The Chardonnay cuttings imported from France have initiated the most important lineage of grapevines in California wine - the Wente Clone. Today, over 75% of all California Chardonnay stems from the Wente Clone and the Wente Family property. Photo courtesy of Wente Vineyards.

加州是充滿創新及可能性的一片土,這Golden State of Mind創造了無限機會和難以想像的發展空間。 在淘金熱時期,加州的潛力吸引新移民與尋夢者移居。自此以後,他們不斷成長,世世代代沒有被傳統規限,反而因之得到啟發,繼續發展。禁酒時期過後的幾年見證了葡萄酒業的新開始和復甦。Wente Vineyards是其中一家引領加州葡萄酒走向新世代的酒莊,Ernest及Herman Wente兄弟於1936年出品了全國首度以葡萄品種命名的Chardonnay白酒,他們的貢獻還有名為「Wente clone」的葡萄種,時至今天,逾75%的加州Chardonnay均源自這原種。回看過去,現今我們習以為常的在當時可是具有重大意義的革新,為未來鋪路。以葡萄品種命名葡萄酒使加州酒跟當時以酒款命名的酒(一般借用歐洲的地名,如Burgundy或Chablis等)區分起來。 勇於嘗試則驅使釀酒技術進一步發展起來,這鼓勵不少酒莊作出大膽的決定,帶來改變。1974年,Joseph Phelps成為前驅者,為葡萄酒冠上商品名字,取替以地區或葡萄品種命名 – 這就是傳奇的Insignia之誕生。以商品名字推出葡萄酒給釀酒師無限空間,以展現葡萄及風土特色為目標,釀造最佳品質的美酒。 1980年代,更富革命性的事件陸續發生,例如美國國家認定葡萄園栽培區(American Viticultural Area AVA) 系統漸趨成熟,系統性地劃分指定的地區種植葡萄,今天在加州共有144個美國國家認定葡萄園栽培區,以保證各款加州酒富有葡萄原產地的個性。 1986年的根芽蟲禍幾乎摧毀了加州整個地區的葡萄園,很多葡萄園需要重新種植,而赤霞珠成為最受歡迎的品種,其次是Chardonnay和Merlot。到了這個年代末期,赤霞珠已超越Chardonnay成為加州最廣為種植的品種。膜拜酒(cult wine)亦在這段時期開始盛行,主要是赤霞珠或其混釀酒,是產量少而售價高的精品葡萄酒。

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Founder Joseph Phelps (1927-2015) and the winery in its early years (1970s). Photo courtesy of Joseph Phelps Vineyards.


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