Monday, March 3, 2014

'Big Brains In The Wine Business--the Wente Vineyard Story' by Philip S. Kampe

                    Wente Vineyard Wines range from Chardonnay to Pinot Noir

It is hard to argue with a hard working, since 1883, wine family of overly educated family members that have been running the Wente Vineyard since Chester A. Arthur was president.
Add degrees from UC-Davis and Stanford to the family resume plus marriages with investment bankers and you have a ‘solid, smart and focused’ wine family.
             Fifth-generation Winemaker Karl D.Wente and CEO Carolyn Wente

Meet Wente Vineyards, namesake in the Livermore Valley wine community since its inception one-hundred and thirty one years ago.
At a ‘Storytelling’ luncheon, CEO Carolyn and Fifth Generation Winemaker, Karl D. Wente shared stories over an exceptional wine pairing meal at possibly the ‘Best Little Known Restaurant’ in New York, Marcony, named after Marco Pipolo, a newly found relative of my wife’s Pipili family from the Isle of Capri.
It was easy to understand the mindset of the Wente family via Carolyn’s grandfather, who attended the first graduating class of the University of California--Davis in 1912. One of his professors said that he heard that the Wente family has a vineyard and that his relative works at a nursery in Montpelier (France). Would it be possible if he could send some clones of the Chardonnay plant to the Wente vineyard to experiment with?  He believes your terroir and location are perfect for the clone.
That was over a hundred years ago—today—the Chardonnay clone has turned this family operation into a winery that is the North American Chardonnay leader in the industry. Yes, they make Pinot Noir, Merlot, Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon, but the real backbone is the Chardonnay.
Winemaker Karl D. Wente went on to explain that the Wente clone has become the reference point for Chardonnay in the New World.
As the storytelling conversation deepened, we learned the relatively new and unchallenged philosophy of the Wente vineyard is that family members are not in a ‘club’ where they become of age and are grandfathered into a job at the vineyard.
That was the old philosophy.
CEO Carolyn outlined the new process for family members to apply for jobs. The rules are simple: Graduate from college. Work for no less than five years somewhere else. Then throw your hat in the ring and apply for a job the same way everyone else does.
No prejudice will be involved when the hiring procedure begins.
A colleague of mine, Bill Marsano, also at the storytelling session, congratulated Carolyn and Karl Wente and eagerly announced that their philosophy was unique and unheard of in the industry.
For me, that is the story line.
Yes, the wines are great, fairly priced and certainly should sell-out on all occasions. Yes, Karl D. Wente was acknowledged by the Wine Enthusiast as one of the ‘Top Forty Under Forty’ winemakers in the country. Yes, the Wente Vineyard winery restaurant was rated as a ‘Top TenVineyard Restaurant in the World’ by the Daily Meal. Yes, there are cattle ranches on the Wente estate. Yes, there is a Greg Norman designed golf course on the estate. Yes, the wines are certified sustainable. And yes, the Wente vineyard hosts world-class musical events.
The list goes on and on..
The bottom line—birthright is not the job ticket at the Wente Vineyard.
And that is a good thing.

                                                              Philip S. Kampe

To learn more about the Wente Vineyard and to Apply for Employment, visit: 

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