The Wente family has been a mainstay of California winemaking for four generations; patriarch C.H. Wente learned the business from Charles Krug, one of the industry's pioneers, in the late 19th century. There is even a specific kind of chardonnay grape, the Wente clone, named for the family, developed about a century ago.
So why don't you hear more about Wente wines? For one thing, their winery is in Livermore, hardly as sexy as Napa or Sonoma. For another, their wines can be very traditional in style, which doesn't appeal to the mass of critics who follow California wine and think old fashioned is a cocktail. But the Wente wines are always well made and always offer value, particularly at the Wine Curmudgeon's price point.
The Louis Mel ($10, purchased) is an excellent example of that quality and value. This is a pleasant midweek wine that worked wonderfully with oven fried chicken and would go well with any grilled chicken or white fish. It's not overly complex — just some citrus and pear — but that's not a problem. It's actually nice to taste a sauvignon blanc that is more restrained than the grapefuit puckerers so often found at this price, even from California. All in all, a more than solid wine for the price.