SIP Wine: More Steals & Deals

 

“Free shipping anywhere in the US and 35% off retail.

Now that’s a headline that caught my attention. We all need to have something to look forward to during these sheltered in place weeks.

And to know we are helping small, independent wineries (the only ones I

focus on) stay in business during the closure adds to the enjoyment.

Turns out the headline was for the 2018 Greenwood Ridge Syrah, Mendocino. Heck of a deal on a case.

A longtime follower of Mendocino wines, I was thrilled to discover dozens of other Mendocino wineries had stepped up their game, suggesting while you stay at home they are offering “more steals and deals.”

Here is the website to explore….https://mendowine.com/taste-mendo-at-home

Many excellent offers but each is a little different. Some highlight low or no shipping; others push discounts. A few toss in an herb or plant. Pennyroyal offers a lovely Farm Box. Cakebread pitches a new Rose.

As an added bonus, the website’s photos are gorgeous. 

In Mendocino, because it is such a large county with so many micro-climates, you can find many, many super wines. Add in the fact that the winemakers tend to be rugged individualists “doing their thing,”  and you have lots of different wines in different styles.

For those seeking a little inside information, here’s my tip sheet:

Barra Family: one of the oldest and most highly regarded family vineyards. The Barra Petite Sirah is one of the best made anywhere.

Husch Vineyard: all about value, value, value. The Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc are of superior quality at everyday prices. The Pinot is a real steal.

Fathers & Daughters: Never heard of them? Well, the family’s vineyard is coveted by Williams Selyem and many others. So go with the Pinots but this vineyard makes super Sauvignon Blanc, and Gewurztraminer.

Graziano Family: Look for Monte Volpe and Enotria labels. An amazing roster of Italian wines from Greg Graziano who if he lived in Napa would be an icon. Dolcetto is my fav. But the whites are top notch as well.

Saracina: John Fetzer’s beautiful winery makes one of my favorite Sauvignon Blancs. The Malbec is a pleasant surprise.

Maggy Hawk: A relative newcomer to the Anderson Valley Pinot scene. One gorgeous Pinot is labeled “Unforgettable.” It is that and is included in the attractive 3-pack offering.

Scharffenberger: Still so underrated for its bubbly. Excellent value. Go with the Brut or Rose.  A case ships for $1.

Waits Mast Family Cellars: This Pinot specialist is my current exciting discovery. Now you too can explore this cult wine candidate with a 6 bottle pack or a 4-bottle vertical. Painless with a $5 shipping rate. 

Navarro Vineyard:  This is the family winery that pioneered direct shipping to consumers. It also makes terrific wines. It is offering Spring Samplers with savings up to 23% as well as One-Cent Ground Freight on all 12 bottle orders of wine or juice until May 31st. Pick any one sampler and you will be thrilled.

Goldeneye: Needs no introduction.  Just look at what is currently offered and go for it.

With such tiny, limited production wineries like Fathers & Daughters, Waits Mast and Maggy Hawk, this might be the time to join a club or two.

And yes, neither Goldeneye nor Scharffenberger are family owned. But they

are key players within the Anderson Valley family.

5 Ways Calera Wines Remain Exceptional

 

In August, 2017, after reading the daily wine news headline announcing that Calera, one my favorite wineries followed since day one, was bought by a big company, my gut feeling was, ‘“oh crap, another one bites the dust.” 

The all-too familiar and disturbing pattern is that invariably about a year after the acquisition of a small, quality-minded winery, production will be ramped up, key people depart, and what’s left is yet another brand. Only the name will be the same.

 It happened to St. Clement in Napa which is now home to Faust, and St.Clement is just another brand discounted at Trader Joe’s. Matanzas Creek, another favorite, is now stacked high with other Jackson Family brands at many Safeway Stores. I could list a dozen or more once proud family wineries than have been converted into big volume corporate brands. 

But to move on. There were two good reasons why Calera might not follow that pattern.

First, Josh Jensen who founded Calera in 1972 never went with the crowd, always took the road less travelled.  In 1972 he focused on Pinot Noir, not Cabernet, explored regions to the South, not Napa and Sonoma, and looked for vineyards with special soils, not cool climates.

Secondly, Calera’s new owners, TSG Consumer Partners, control the Duckhorn Wine Company and they quietly fine-tuned Goldeneye after taking it over. Today, as part of the Duckhorn portfolio, Goldeneye is a Pinot Noir superstar.

So in 2020, I’m happy to report Calera is another rare exception and appears to be in very good hands.

Tasting the 2007 Calera Jensen Vineyard Pinot Noir alongside the 2016 Calera Ryan Vineyard made a strong case even stronger.

For more, check out the wine club membership at http://www.calerawine.com

Brief Background

In 1972 Josh Jensen who worked a few harvests in Burgundy returned to locate a vineyard site in California that first and foremost had soils rich in limestone and chalk that distinguish the best Burgundy vineyards.

This was a time when Pinot fanatics were rare and those few looked for cooler sites in Sonoma, Carneros, Monterey and Oregon.  Trust me, soil types were only of passing interests to other newcomers to the wine scene throughout the 70s.  

Yes, after phylloxera hit in the 80s, soil considerations became a hot topic. But Jensen and his soil emphasis were way ahead of the times.

The search eventually led Jensen to Hollister where he developed 85 acres on what’s now known as Mt. Harlan. Where is Hollister? Wow, that would be a great question on Sommelier tests. And I’d bet most candidates would flunk.

Hint: it is south of San Jose, east of Gilroy in San Benito County. Hollister is the road to nowhere in the Central Coast. From another direction, Mt Harlan is located in the Gavilan Mountains 25 miles east of Monterey Bay. 

Or in other words: remote and in the middle of nowhere. You approach the area on Cienega Valley Road, so poor the potholes have potholes and you suspect your GPS is messing with you.

The barren, remote mountain site had just what Jensen wanted: limestone soils and ideal climate. A nearby quarry sells dolomite or limestone to many North Coast wineries.  Calera means limekiln in Spanish, and the winery is built into the hillside.

At an average elevation of 2,200 feet it is among the highest and coolest vineyard sites in California.  Cooler than the Carneros region by 5-6 degrees.

Three vineyards were developed in 1975. Today, Calera consists of 6 separate vineyard blocks, each with unique growing conditions and each bottled as a vineyard designated Pinot.  

Chardonnay also grows here and there is a 6-acre block planted to Viognier. Looking back, it was Calera’s early vintages of Viognier that made me hold out great hope for Viognier in California. Oh well!

Back to Calera Pinot Noir Tasted in February 2020:

The 2007 Calera Jensen, made from vines planted in 1975, was showing beautiful maturity and grace, not old age. Smooth, silky, and harmonious with subtle strawberry, lavender, earthy notes. At a peak, but can still be cellared. 

Side notes: this was one of the first vineyards planted, and 07 was the first vintage for Mike Waller at Calera.

The 2016 Calera Ryan Vineyard Pinot Noir gradually unfolds and changes in the glass. It begins with ripe fruit and spice, shows a little earthiness and leather, then round, fine grained tannins balanced by acidity, all leading to a long finish. Powerful, yet polished…hallmarks of classic Pinot. 

Sidenote: Ryan was planted in 1998 and enjoys the highest elevation at 2, 500 feet.

5 Reasons why Calera will remain a Rock

  1. The 6 Pinot vineyards are old, well established and cant be expanded.
  2. Mike Waller, who grew up in Hollister, is now the winemaker after serving as assistant winemaker with Josh Jensen.
  3. Mike’s brother, Cory is now the winemaker at Eden Rift, the up and coming Pinot Noir winery a mile away. The competition is healthy.
  4. The winery, a renovated rock crushing facility is built into the hillside and works by gravity flow.
  5. The vineyards and winery are very close to the San Andreas faultline. Yes, earthquakes. Nobody wants to shake things up there.