caleraJosh Jensen doesn’t do anything the easy way.

The first “not easy” thing happened more than 35 years ago, when he returned from Burgundy, France and set out to find limestone in California just like in the Cote d’Or. He finally found a 100-year old limestone quarry on Mt. Harlan, way up at 2,200 feet elevation in the remote Gavilan Mountains in what is now known as the Central Coast.

When I say “remote,” I don’t mean that there’s no cable TV. On Mount Harlan, there was no paved road, no electricity and no telephone service — and there still isn’t!

To create Calera Wine Company, Josh Jensen planted several Pinot Noir (and other) vineyards over the years, and built a multi-level winery into a hillside that allowed him to produce super-premium wine the old-fashioned way. The wines get the gentlest of handling, because gravity does most of the work.josh

When I met Josh Jensen at Phoenix Wines of Scottsdale, he was pouring four of his single-vineyard Pinot Noirs from the 2006 and 2007 vintages. They couldn’t have been more unique: they were like the four kids in a family that are as different as night and day. My favorite was the Calera Mt. Harlan Pinot Noir Ryan Vineyard 2006. This vineyard is the coolest site on Jensen’s cool property, and the 2006 growing season started out cooler still. But warm temps in mid-summer allowed the grapes to ripen fully and produced an amazing intensity in the fruit.

The nose hit me with black cherries, plum and a hint of spice, and led to a palate that exploded in my mouth. I was amazed at the richness of the fruit, with more plush red berries and licorice. It showed the signature minerality that comes from the limestone soils, but the impression was still soft and velvety, right up to the nice hint of black pepper on the finish.

Did I say I was amazed? This five-year-old Pinot was still very youthful, and showed much more vibrancy than the other ’06 we tasted that day. I guess I’m just a sucker for big and rich…

But all of Calera’s wines are worth going out of your way for. If you can’t find the single-vineyard bottlings, go for the Central Coast Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. They’re just as well made, and great value for the money. Cheers!







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