For our gala family Christmas dinner, to accompany the baked ham that Linda prepared, I pulled from the cellar this aged Calera Pinot Noir. Readers of these pages know we don't do a lot of Pinot Noir except for special occasions or circumstances. For the gala family holiday dinner, I selected a label bearing #1 Son Ryan's name from a producer with a storied history in US and California Pinot Noir. I've written about the history of Calera Vineyards and the beginning of Pinot Noir as it was chronicled in the book, Heartbreak Grape.
As I have written in these pages, any lover of Pinot Noir would benefit from reading The Heartbreak Grape, A California Winemakers Search for the Perfect Pinot Noir by Marc de Villiers, 1994, Harper Collins. This is a wonderful true story that starts when Devillers becomes captivated by a wine served at a holiday party. The story evolves as his journalistic curiosity leads to researching the wine and its origins - the story of Josh Jensen and Calera winery. He tells of the challenges and travails of developing the Pinot Noir grape in California, and then turning it into a business, an industry, and pursuing a dream. The name Heartbreak Grape speaks to the challenge of pioneering bringing the Pinot Noir grape varietal to America - finding the right terrior, climate, terrain, soil, drainage - all the elements required to produce this wine. It then follows the story of an entrepreneur following his dream to build a business and a brand.
The book talks about the difficulties associated with this particular grape varietal. I've contended that, as written by Devillers, Pinot Noir is the most finicky of grapes and one of the hardest to find a high QPR - (Quality to Price) ratio value - a moderate priced pleasant drinking label. The book talks about the challenges and difficulty of growing this grape and producing great wine. My experience with this wine is further evidence to this truth. Being a wine aficionado and frequent taster of fine wines, I find this challenge is exacerbated by the characteristics of Pinot Noir - its sutble fine nuances and subtle delicate nature. Its harder to discriminate between the subtleties of one fine Pinot to another. As my wine palate has matured and become more sophisticated, I've come to appreciate the delicate refinements of Pinot, but I must admit, I find a truly great Pinot harder find than a Cabernet or a Shiraz, but I am partial to the bigger more expressive forward fruit of these other varietals. In the end its all about price and for enough money its easy to find a great wine. The search for a great one at a modest price is the fun of tasting and collecting wine.
Calera produce several single vineyard designated labels of their Estate Pinot Noir. Each vineyard has a story and is named for a founder, partner, a key figure in the history of, or a key contributor to the brand. The Ryan Vineyard is named after Jim Ryan, who has been Calera’s vineyard manager since 1979. Ryan Vineyard is the highest vineyard on Mt. Harlan, reaching elevations of 2,500 feet. With annual yields under 2 tons per acre, the 13.1-acre site delivers vibrant and inviting Pinot Noir, with expressive red berry layers and sophisticated minerality.
At fifteen years, this is probably nearing the end of its prime drinking window and should be consumed in the next year or so.
The Calera Pinot Noir rear or secondary labels are exceptionally informative with substantial information on the vineyard and the vintage of the contents (see left).
Dark garnet colored, medium bodied, predominant red berry tones with notes of black cherry and pomegranate, dusty rose and black fruits with hints of rhubarb, pepper, herb and mineral flavors accented by a earthy fine-grained tannic grip.
RM 88 points.