Calera is one of the great and historic wineries in California. They are a producer that epitomizes what Polaner Selections is all about – traditionally made wines (lots of stems and acidity) that have an amazing amount of soul, clarity and balance. And even more incredible: Who else besides Calera is making certified organic, super-traditional wines in an old world style, from 30+ year old estate vines grown in limestone, and has a clone and AVA named for them here in America? No one!
Calera was officially founded in 1975, when owner/winemaker Josh Jensen planted his first 24 acres of pinot noir in three separate parcels in Mt. Harlan. Having studied in Burgundy, Josh was determined to follow in his mentors' foot steps. He spent two years searching for limestone throughout California before finally purchasing a high-elevation parcel with a limestone subsoil in early 1974. (Limestone had even been commercially quarried here a 100 years earlier. To this day, there stands a magnificently well-preserved, 30-foot tall masonry limekiln, or "calera" in Spanish. It thus serves as the winery’s symbol and appears on every bottle of wine.)
Located 90 miles south of San Francisco and about 25 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean, Calera is near Mt. Harlan in San Benito County. Its elevation is 2,200 feet above sea level, making it one of the highest and coolest vineyard properties in California. All the vineyards are based on selected cuttings from Burgundy (“Calera Selection”), with new vineyards started from massale selections taken from older plots.
In the Burgundian tradition, Josh named each parcel individually to emphasize the fact that each would produce a distinct wine. The original plantings are the Selleck Vineyard (5 acres), Reed Vineyard (5 acres), and Jensen Vineyard (14 acres). These vineyards produced their initial tiny crop in 1978.
Josh made Calera's first wine in 1975: 1000 cases of zinfandel produced from purchased grapes. During his first two years as a winemaker, he made the Calera wines in a rented space in a larger nearby winery. He gradually purchased more vineyard land, as well as property upon which he built his winery. Over the span of 25 years he transformed a multi-level rock crushing facility into a gravity-flow winery where the wines are moved by the mere force of gravity, rather than by the use of pumps. This multi-layered hillside construction has allowed for the gentlest possible handling of the Calera wines.
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.
Calera's winemaking is steeped in non-interventionist practices, such as the use of native yeasts, hand-harvesting, whole cluster fermentations, minimal racking, and fining and/or filtration only when necessary, ensuring the bottled wines express all of the natural greatness of their vineyard origins.