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Below is the August, 2006 Featured Wine for the Wines by Jennifer Cellar Club:

Calera 2003 Ryan Vineyard Pinot Noir Calera

2003 Ryan Vineyard

Mt. Harlan Pinot Noir

Calera was founded in 1975 by Josh Jensen, who worked two consecutive harvests in Burgundy - 1970 at the Domaine de la Romanee-Conti and 1971 at Domaine Dujac - and fell in love with Pinot Noir. For Jensen, who also worked the 1970 harvest at Chateau-Grillet in the northern Rhone Valley, Pinot Noir makes most of the world’s finest wines. "Greatness does not happen always or often, even with prized terroirs," says Jensen, "but when everything is right with Pinot Noir, when Pinot is in a good mood—well, then it’s as good as it gets."

Limestone abounds in Burgundy's Côte d’Or and, while Jensen didn’t think that he’d necessarily get great wines just by planting in it, he did think that doing so would increase his odds of success. So, after a two year search for limestone-derived soil in California, Jensen located and purchased a rugged, remote property that had once been a lime quarry on Mt. Harlan in the Gavilan Mountains of San Benito County. The kiln ("calera" in Spanish) which remained on the site gives the winery its name. It is 90 miles south of San Francisco, 12 miles south of the town of Hollister, and 25 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean.

In 1975, he planted the three original Pinot Noir vineyards on Mt. Harlan, which he named Selleck, Reed and Jensen, honoring some of the most influential people in his life. In addition to Pinot Noir, the Calera vineyards are also planted to Chardonnay and Viognier, similarly consistent with Jensen's Burgundy and northern Rhone Valley pedigree.

In 1990 the U.S. government approved the Mt. Harlan AVA (American Viticultural Area), which is high in the Gavilan Mountains (the lowest point is at 1,800 feet above sea level). While it is a large AVA which comprises 7,400 acres, Calera's are the only vineyards in the Mt. Harlan Viticultural Area.

This is just the second bottling from the new Ryan Vineyard, named after the vineyard manager, Jim Ryan. The moderate amount of fruit harvested in 2003 has again shown the phenomenal potential of this vineyard. Sweet varietal aromas are enhanced with the scent of strawberries and violets. The 2003 Ryan is an elegant wine with tantalizing flavors of cola, strawberry, plum, mineral, black tea and a hint of toasty oak. Its structure is firm yet refined with moderate tannin, round supple texture and well-balanced acidity.

Most good California Pinot Noirs need a few years of bottle age to begin to express the non-fruit, secondary flavors that can make this varietal so enticing. Calera’s Ryan Vineyard Pinot, however, tastes complete and complex virtually from the start. It ages very well, becoming ever more nuanced, but does not need much extra time to be delicious.

"I like to call Pinot Noir the 'especially' grape,” Jensen explains, “because almost any generalization you can make about grapes and wine is especially true with Pinot Noir.”

Map of Calera Winery and Environs



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