Established in Livermore in 1883, Wente Bros. is the oldest continuously operated family-owned winery in California. They have begun their second century of operation with the total renovation of a state historic landmark, the Cresta Blanca winery, which they purchased several years ago for the production of their now highly acclaimed Arroyo Seco Brut Sparkling Wine. Today, those old storage tunnels harbor bottles of Brut undergoing time "on the yeasts" from methode champenoise classic styling.
On these beautifully landscaped grounds only 50 miles from San Francisco, the Wentes have also created a conference center for meetings and seminars, complete with tasting rooms for private luncheons and dinners. Just across the flower-edged lawns, with a view to the white crest that gave the 19th-Century winery its name, there is a charming restaurant with indoor and outdoor patio dining. For months ahead of the opening, chef Robert Baird and the Wente clan sampled menus featuring regional foods plus classic American and California dishes that would complement their wines.
It was to this facility that The Times jury of tasters was invited for the 1986 Tasting of Merlot and Gewurztraminer on June 25.