By Kimberly Noon
Special to The Dagger
There is a hip new wine brand in town. The label is easy to remember and takes the guesswork out of pairing wine with food. The wine comes in four basic flavors to enjoy, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Cabernet and Merlot. “Hello, my name is delicious, the lime in me goes great with guacamole and I’m oyster fancy and potato chip cool,” complete the packaging with bottle neck recipes attached to each wine flavor. Recipe cards for individual skillet meatloaves, roasted chicken, sauteed asparagus with gorgonzola and a trio of seasoned potato chips are also included with the purchase of this wine. The message is conveyed that wine and food are meant to ‘entwine.’
A branded Food Network wine brand, entwine, debuted nationwide in August and is scheduled to air on the Food Network this fall. Food Network selected a family winery with more than 128 years of wine making experience. The winery selected to produce and estate bottle the entwine brand for Food Network is Wente Vineyards and exists as the oldest continuosly operated family-owned winery in the United States. Wente produces more than a dozen wine varietals, including Riesling, Chardonnay, Sauvingnon Blanc, Merlot and Cabernet from Livermore Valley, San Francisco Bay and Arroyo Seco, Monterey appellations. In addition to Wente Vineyards, Wente also makes wine for Tamas Estates, Murrieta’s Well and now entwine, crafted in partnership with Food Network. Wente is known for fruit forward wines that do not overpower food, produced from 100% sustainably farmed estate grown grapes, and has achieved Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance. The concept of the wine name entwine Food Network created simplifies food and wine matching with entwine, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Cabernet and Merlot. Essentially, there are no set rules to the marriage and harmony of food and wine matching. If something tastes good to you, then it is a good decision to try the wine,” Fifth generation Winemaker Karl Wente recently told me. Wente continued, “I would be the first guy to sit down and drink a Sauvingnon Blanc with a filet.” It all depends on the weather, the time of year, and the people I am hanging out with tonight when I pick out a bottle of wine to enjoy.”
A day in the life, entwine with Karl Wente
Karl Wente likes to keep things simple. A fifth generation winemaker, Karl lives on the land his family has farmed since he was a kid. If you ask him if he could imagine doing anything else with his life, he replies, “I would make more wine for people to share with family and friends.” Karl is extremely proud of keeping family traditions alive, while working closely with his Uncle Phil, Aunt Carolyn and his sister Christine. They all grew up on the same land that was shared by four generations of Wente family ancestors before them. If you ask him if he would change anything about those 3,000 acres of vineyards, he candidly replies, “I would not change a thing.” “It is about taking traditions and values back to the foundation of the land I grew up on. Each day is different for me. I want to follow my family’s tradition of winemaking and continue making what they started out doing, to create fruit forward and food friendly wines, for everyone to enjoy. “We grew up in the same town, riding horses and hanging out with friends, this bond connecting the land and keeping our traditions alive, kept us committed to the same goals.”
After Karl Wente graduated from UC Davis, he traveled to New Orleans and started taking cooking classes to pair different wines and food together. He liked experimenting with flavors and liked to share his culinary finds. “I like to keep things balanced and interesting,” Karl says.
The launch of entwine seems to be at the heart and soul of Karl Wente’s mantra. He does not naturally talk about himself but rather draws you into his life. His philosophy is simple, yet meditative and entwines family together with friends, food, music and yoga to complete his inner life circle. Within this circle, Karl finds work and life balance. Each day is different for him, he says. “I am a late riser, an early meeting today is 7:30 a.m. Right now, I am focusing on the 2011 crop. I have made all of the 2010 white blends. The 09 Reds are being bottled right now and the 08 wines are reaching maturity.” “I am a musician at heart, I really love all music and it is yoga that keeps me in balance.” “If you take the time to breathe, your mind and your body will connect. On this land, I would have to say, I enjoy sunsets more than sunrises,” Wente added.
Today is Sept. 8, 2011 and Karl intends to be home and back on his porch by 7:30 tonight to go to a Tears for Fears concert and hang out with his closest friends and share some good wine with them. “I want people at the end of the day to pick up a glass of my wine and say, ‘yum,’ I really love this,” Karl toasted.