Calera Pinot Noir Mount Harlan Mills Vineyard 2004
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The 14.4 acre Mills Vineyard isn’t among the first that Calera founder Josh Jensen planted, but the vines nevertheless are more than 20 years old. The vineyard was planted on its own roots, using cuttings from other Calera vineyards that were planted nine years earlier. The Mills Vineyard, like Calera’s other Mt. Harlan plots, has limestone soils, and the site is on a gentle, south-facing slope. The Mills Pinots usually have a characteristic spiciness. That’s certainly true of the 2004, which displays spicy raspberry, cherry and rhubarb flavors and plenty of bright acidity. It’s a well-structured wine that still retains its suppleness. Like most of the other Calera Pinots, this one underwent whole-cluster fermentation. It spent 16 months in French oak barrels, 30 percent of them new. The Mills is a fairly ripe wine, at 15 percent alcohol, but it carries that alcohol extremely well and isn’t at all “hot.” This is one of the most plentiful single-vineyard Pinots that Calera produces – more than 1,200 cases in the 2004 vintage. And the price, $45, while not cheap, is more modest than for some of the other Calera wines.
Calera founder Josh Jensen spent a couple of harvests in Burgundy and became convinced that limestone soils were necessary for growing great Pinot Noir. Limestone isn’t all that common in California, but Jensen found what he was looking for in the Gavilan Mountains between Monterey and San Benito counties. He named his vineyard and winery Calera, the Spanish word for limekiln; limestone had been quarried from the property a century earlier, and there was a well-preserved limekiln remaining on the property. (That kiln is depicted on the Calera labels.) The 4.8 acre Selleck Vineyard was one of the first that Jensen planted, in 1975. It’s a rocky south/southwest-facing slope and typically yields Calera’s most concentrated fruit. The 2004 is a magnificent example, brimming with ripe, spicy raspberry, cherry and strawberry fruit, accented by a very slight leafy note and some lovely spice. Calera uses whole-cluster fermentation, and the wines usually are fairly long-lived. Only a small amount of the Selleck is produced – in 2004, it was 324 cases – and the price is a lofty $75 a bottle. But for a true Pinot aficionado, it’s worth seeking out.
The 2004 Pinot Noir Mills Vineyard boasts a deep ruby/purple color along with seductive, sweet aromas of black raspberries, black cherries, spring flowers, and spice. It possesses beautiful red and black fruits, good acidity, full body, and more tannin, but less spice than the Reed cuvee. This complex, fruit-driven Pinot Noir will benefit from 1-3 years of cellaring, and should drink well for 10-15 years.
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