Earlier this year Calera Wine Company founder and owner Josh Jensen announced the sale of the company to Duckhorn Wine Co. I first visited Josh at Calera shortly after he released his first vintage which was 1978. And I have been following, buying, and drinking Calera wines since then. The wines are consistently first rate and seem to have gotten better over the years as the vines have matured. The Pinot Noirs age beautifully, and I still have some of the 1978s (bottled only in half-bottles because of the miniscule production).
In 2007 Mike Waller joined Josh and soon took over the wine making duties from Josh. Shortly after Mike arrived I made a visit and was very impressed. Calera has not missed a beat. Click below to read my earlier Calera articles.
So soon after the sale announcement I again drove up to Calera for a visit. And I am happy to report that it looks as if Calera will be following the same path in the future as it has in the past. I have known Dan Duckhorn since the 1970s when, under the Duckhorn label, he pioneered Napa Valley Merlot and Dan is first rate. Josh will be on the Duckhorn board. and Mike is continuing as winemaker. Calera looks to be in very strong hands. On this visit I tasted the 2017 Pinot Noirs from barrel and the 2015 Pinot Noirs from bottle. As usual, the wines are excellent, and my tasting notes follow later in the article. But Josh and Mike are always interested in tasting other wines. So I bring along some wines from my cellar. On an earlier visit I took a 1978 Chalone Pinot Noir and a 1978 Domaine Jacques Prieur Musigny for our dinner (to read about that visit click here ). For our dinner this time, I took a 1978 DRC Grands Echezeaux, a 2009 Pierre Yves Colin Corton Charlemagne, and an older bottle of Krug Grand Cuvée to start. The Krug was delicious and still youthful. The Corton Charlemagne was absolutely gorgeous and drinking beautifully (2009 is turning out to be a surprisingly good White Burgundy vintage, and I am really enjoying drinking a lot of mine now). Mike was thrilled to drink the wine as, like me, he is a big fan of Pierre Yves Colin. I told Mike and Josh that I visited Pierre Yves when he first left his father’s estate (Domaine Marc Colin) to branch out on his own. And since then his wines have continued to be spectacular earning him the reputation as one of the very best White Burgundy winemakers. As for the 1978 DRC Grands Echezeaux, it was off the charts and a stunning bottle of Burgundy in every respect. All of us were simply in awe.
But the real story behind my visit is the consistency of the Calera wines. The Pinot Noirs of course. But, over the years the Mount Harland Chardonnay just keeps getting better. And, the Aligoté and Viognier are also very special. Calera is indeed an icon of excellence thanks to the pioneering spirit of Josh who came to a then unknown wine area to begin his quest to make great Pinot Noir. And, as I said, with Mike at the helm and now supported by Duckhorn Wine Co., things are continuing their long established upward path. If you don’t know Calera you really should.
I tasted the 2017 Pinot Noirs from barrel and the 2015 Pinot Noirs from bottle. The 2017 production was 1 ton per acre and the wines show a lot of fruit. That compares with the 2016 vintage production was 1.1 tons per acre. Mike says the 2016s are like the 2017s except with more backbone. The 2015 production was the smallest production of record at 0.45 tons per acre average production. And just for something else to look forward to, here is what Mike has to say about the 2018 vintage: 18 is majestical….long long hang times…great acid and flavors all in one. I can hardly wait to taste them!
2017 Calera Pinot Noir Mt. Harlan Ryan Vineyard Vineyard
Dark in color this wine is brimming with fruit. Berries and cherries with lushness and a nice underlying crispness show great promise for the future – Outstanding Potential.
2017 Calera Pinot Noir Mt. Harlan Reed Vineyard
Dark in color with a lovely floral berry tinged perfume this Pinot Noir shows lots of red fruit flavors faint floral undertones and is rounded and supple with a crisp finish – Outstanding Potential.
2017 Calera Pinot Noir Mt. Harlan Selleck Vineyard
Dark in color with a gorgeous berry perfume showing a tinge of spice this wine is rounded with lots of flavor and great balance. Showing very well with impressive depth and richness this should be very special – Extraordinary Potential.
2017 Calera Pinot Noir Mt. Harlan Mills Vineyard
Very forward with a dark color and a gorgeous berry perfume this Pinot Noir is full of floral tinged fruit and is beautifully balanced with lots of flavor – Outstanding Plus Potential.
2017 Calera Pinot Noir Mt. Harlan De Villiers Vineyard
Dark in color this wine has an intense berry perfume with lots of rich fruit on the palate. Very harmonious and flavorful this should develop beautifully – Outstanding Plus Potential.
2017 Calera Pinot Noir Mt. Harlan Jensen Vineyard
Dark in color this wine has a great perfume showing lots of floral tinged fruit. With lots of lush fruit on the palate it is flavorful and balanced with a silkiness in evidence that is very special. Showing very impressively at this early stage this should be a classic – Extraordinary Potential.
2015 Calera Pinot Noir Mt. Harlan De Villiers Vineyard
Dark in color this De Villiers shows a lovely deep perfume of berry fruit with a floral tinge. With lots of fruit on the palate the wine is supple and rounded with lots of appeal – Outstanding Plus. $60
2015 Calera Pinot Noir Mt. Harlan Ryan Vineyard
Dark in color this wine shows lots of fruit from beginning to end. The berry fruit perfume carries onto the palate where beautifully balanced fruit is accented by a nice underlying crispness – Outstanding Plus. $65
2015 Calera Pinot Noir Mt. Harlan Mills Vineyard
Dark in color with a lovely berry fruit perfume this wine has lots of fruit and is balanced and very flavorful and harmonious. It should age beautifully – Outstanding Plus. $70
2015 Calera Pinot Noir Mt. Harlan Reed Vineyard
Dark in color with a lovely cherry tinged perfume this wine shows lots of fruit on the palate and is balanced, very harmonious, and delicious. And, as forward and attractive as the wine is today age will show further complexities and nuances – Outstanding Plus. $75
2015 Calera Pinot Noir Mt. Harlan Jensen Vineyard
Dark in color this wine shows a lovely floral tinged perfume. It is balanced and lush with lots of supple fruit and impressive depth and richness. It should evolve beautifully over many years – Outstanding Plus/Extraordinary Potential. $90
2015 Calera Pinot Noir Mt. Harlan Selleck Vineyard
This is a classic Selleck in the making. It is dark in color and has a great floral tinged berry perfume. Full, rich, and rounded with loads of fruit and great underlying structure this is a wine that will age and improve over a very long time into the future – Extraordinary. $95