We weren’t completely surprised by this Chardonnay from Tenuta. Just weeks earlier we had enjoyed some of it, along with several other wines and some barrel tasting, up at the vineyard in Livermore Valley. The winery is run by founder Nancy Tenuta along with Rich Rollins, who Loni interviewed on a ‘Wine Tube’ episode, teaching the world all about the “bung hole”. Who said winemakers don’t have a sense of humor?

For those who don’t know about Tenuta, it’s wine worth hunting down. After Wente and Concannon they are the third largest producer of wine in the Livermore Valley with about 25,000 cases per year. Still a far cry from the big numbers you see from larger and more famous neighbors in Napa and Sonoma counties to the west, but that’s partially the point.

Livermore hearkens back to the old farming days. Tasting rooms are simple. Often you’ll run into the owner or winemaker. And the streets are not as crowded – at least not yet.And I know there is a lot of East Bay pride in this historic region (Spanish missionaries first planted grapes here in the 1760s), and locals enjoy seeing the success of their wineries, but never lose that down-to-earth friendliness despite the emergence of their destination.

  • Tenuta Vineyards Estate Chardonnay, Livermore Valley 2006
  • Rating
  • 88
  • Clint says:
  • “A great wine. Clean, refreshing Chardonnay with a nice balance of lemon and just enough oak to give it that classic California taste. Highly enjoyable.”
  • The Wine
  • $18, Chardonnay, 13.9%
  • Food Pairing
  • Pacific Halibut & Salmon
  • The Winery
  • Tenuta Vineyards, Livermore, California
  • Category

Nancy Tenuta offers customers a few unique programs that go above and beyond the usual winery fare. One is the custom crush facility that provides barrel storage and other amenities for aspiring winemakers. Another is the recent addition of “owning a row of grapes”. Now you can roll up your sleeves, and experience the vineyard life — vine tending, picking and all that goes with ensuring a fine yield. 5 varietals are being offered: Nebiollo, Malbec, Primitivo, Tempranillo and Pinot Gris. Only 30 rows are available.

Now about this wine, a 2006 Estate Chardonnay. We wondered if it would taste as good as we remembered up in the tasting room at Tenuta. You never know sometimes. But this one delivered, pleasantly. To me, this showcases the best of California-style Chardonnays without the negative over-oaky qualities you sometimes hear critics complain about.

We all agreed it had enjoyable flavors with a slight creamy oak; not too much, just enough. Just right. The finish was smooth, and overall nicely balanced. Some citrus such as lemon keeps things fresh and prevent this Chardonnay from becoming a creamy behemoth.

So well done, we enjoyed this bottle a lot. I just wish we had picked up a few more. Well, it’s an excuse for another trip up to Livermore which is always a good time.

Clinton shoots videos for Stark Insider. San Francisco Bay Area arts, Ingmar Bergman and French New Wave, and chasing the perfect home espresso shot 25 seconds at a time (and failing). Peloton: ClintTheMint. Camera: Video Gear