Visit to Calera – A true legend and part of Pinot Noir history in California

Introduction to Calera

In april I visited the Calera winery. During the visit I also had an opportunity to meet with Josh Jensen who is very friendly but also has strong and firm opinions. We had an interesting discussion about his search for the perfect region for Pinot Noir in California. He tells me that after discussions with friends in Burgundy they agreed that limestone was essential for producing top level Pinot Noir.

Eventually he found some land with a huge limestone deposit, close to Mt. Harlan in the San Benito district and in 1974 he purchased the land. The elevation is 2200 feet, making it one of the highest elevation vineyards in California. When he found the land he immediately knew this was the right place and there was not really any runners-up or other areas he considered before acquiring the property. Still it was a gamble to buy land where no one had planted vines before. The first three vineyards were planted in 1975 and then in 1982 he acquired further land close by which was planted the following years.

Tasting notes for the wines from Calera

2014 Calera Chardonnay Central Coast

Zesty expression with an abundance of citrus but also pineapple notes. There are some notes of flint and oak on the nose but it does not get dominant. Nice, juicy and well made Chardonnay.

2014 Calera Viognier Mt Harlan

For their Viognier they use the older barrels to ensure no oak notes reach the wine.

Layers of fruit notes from lychee, orange, lime and apricot on both nose and palate in this opulent but still balanced wine. For a Viognier the acidity is fresh and mouthwatering and stays in the finish of the wine, where there also is a slight bitterness.

2016 Calera Pinot Noir Vin Gris

An abundance of red fruit where raspberries dominate the palate but where we also get some grapefruit and lime. On the palate there is an explosion of fresh berries and a fresh lemon acidity.

2014 Calera Pinot Noir

This is a nice “basic Pinot Noir” with both red and black fruit and some herbal notes both on nose and palate. The acidity is rather careful but still enough to give some energy to the wine.

2013 Calera Pinot Noir Selleck

Beautiful nose with ripe raspberries, blueberries and some ethereal notes. A dense but not powerful expression on the fruit. The acidity is mouthwatering and the tannins are rather chewy for a Pinot Noir, especially in the finish. This is a masculine Pinot Noir with some attitude and complexity.

2014 Calera Pinot Noir Reed Vineyard

Even though the fruit is rather dense this is a fresh and energetic Pinot Noir. The palate is intense with blackberries, blueberries and some hints of raspberries and some notes of minerals. This is a rather fruit-forward wine with a pure expression.

2014 Calera Pinot Noir Jensen Vineyard

Very intense nose with mainly red fruit and with a dominance of raspberries, but underneath there are some soft dark fruit notes. There is a tannic bite in the finish and a hint of alcohol notes come through. Still this wine gets a precise and energetic expression because of the fresh acidity. A great Pinot Noir that will have a long life ahead.

Summary of impressions from Calera

Calera is truly a legendary winery in California and they have some amazing vineyards, resulting in an impressive line-up of single vineyard wines, especially for Pinot Noir.

Their Pinot Noirs have a rather masculine expression with layers of mainly dark fruit but also a fresh, cool acidity. These are wines truly showing a sense of place in their transparency to the terroir. The fruit notes were denser and darker than I expected but always with a good balance.

The white and the rosé all show an energetic acidity and some young fresh fruit notes. I also like the fresh citric acidity.

My favorites were the 2014 Pinot Noir Jensen Vineyard and the 2013 Pinot Noir Selleck.


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