By K.L. Riley
Calera Winery is an extremely rare and unique winery that has redefined how Pinot Noir is made in North America. I had my first glass of Calera Pinot Noir about two years ago and my experience was so profound that when I was offered the opportunity to write for Swell City Guide Calera had to be my first Pinot.
Josh Jensen, the owner of Calera Winery, is a humble, intelligent, and mildly eccentric man who I had the pleasure to meet at a wine tasting recently. Mr. Jensen’s’ roots are in Burgundy where he studied the art of Pinot Noir at Domaine Dujac in 1971 and Romanee- Conti in 1970 ( two of the most renowned Wineries in Burgundy ). His thirst for education also brought him to Oxford and Yale where he received a degree in history and masters in anthropology. A native of San Francisco, he returned to California and began searching for land to plant grapes in 1971. He discovered a hidden jewel in the Central Coast on Mt Harlan AVA where he currently grows on five single vineyard sites, 83.6 acres at a 30,000 square foot winery. Growing wine on Mt Harlan is extremely important to Mr. Jensen because of is resemblance to Burgundy. The soil here is rich in limestone and the high altitude makes the vines search for water in the soil allowing for very concentrated fruit. There are also two very important attributes that define Calera; first, the glass corks. Calera Winery is among the first to implement the use of glass corks which is a milestone for several reasons, one of which being Mr. Jensen’s awareness of the shortage of corks and willingness to try different options. Secondly, Calera uses a natural gravity flow system. This system utilizes gravity to enable the juice to transfer from crushing to fermentation tanks to the holding tanks without using electricity. Very cool!! There is no question that Mr. Jensen represents a new approach to wine making and has set an example for all wine makers.
Calera Winery grows Viognier, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir that range from affordable to high end and they will all have you coming back for more. I would like to focus on the wine I consumed most recently, Calera Central Coast Pinot. This wine is made from grapes from about 5 different wineries and the percentages of which wineries grapes in the bottle is posted on the label. The color of this wine is what struck me first, a pure rose red with absolutely no cloudiness. The bouquet is very earthy and homely with cherry, minerality and a slight lemon zest. When drank you will receive an explosion of Calera’s signature palate. It is very warm on the tongue with tart tannins, minerality, bright fruit, and lemon zest. The balance of this wine is incredible, tannins, zest, and fruit working together to give the wine great ageability and drinkability.
I could taste the care and passion that went into making this wine and its unique style and flavors set it apart from any other Pinots in California. I am so happy to be able to share this fantastic wine and urge everyone to jump on the Calera train with me!
How simple and frugal a thing is happiness: a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea. . . . All that is required to feel that here and now is happiness is a simple, frugal heart.
Nikos Kazantzakis 1883 – 1957
Zorba the Greek , ch. 7
Special thanks to Dax Langford for being an awesome ambassador for Calera Winery