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The famed Wente Clone.

even years before the 1919 start of Prohibition, a young Ernest Wente asked his family for permission to give to UC Davis, where he was a student, some of the plant material the Wente winery was growing.

Among the field selections that the young man gave to the Foundation Plant Services department at UC Davis was a clone called, for want of a better name, the Wente Clone.

FPS did a lot of work to clean up the clones to make them virus-free. Meanwhile work was done in vineyards from Stony Hill (Napa Valley) to Hanzell (Sonoma). Among the most notable work in Napa was done by Louis Martini at his Stanly Ranch in the Carneros.

So successful was this clone of Chardonnay that today the Wente Clone (and Nil its cousin, Clone 4) are considered the most widely used in California.

A spokesman for Trinchero Family Estates noted that the clone has some of the most reliable fruitfulness and distinctiveness of all Chardonnay clones. He said the exotic "terpene" aromas can be spicy, sort of Muscat-y.

"The Wente clone is sort of the grandfather of Clone 4, said Kendall-Jackson's Randy Ullom.

"True Wente Clone has smaller berries and there are these random spice notes, kind of more tropical. It gives you a richer aroma, compared with some of the Dijon clones, which are floral and less spicy."

He said the clone is reliable in producing a good crop, though it isn't immune to smaller crops, such as what happened in 2011 where all varieties suffered losses due to a long, cold season. Ullom said even Wente Clone Chardonnay suffered losses in many vineyards of 50%.

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Date:Jan 1, 2014
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