Calera de Villiers Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016
Once again, de Villiers has produced one of Calera’s most voluptuous and dark-fruited expressions of Pinot Noir, with alluring aromas of blackberry, cassis and cedary cigar box. On the palate, lush dark berry and black currant flavors are supported by a firm tannic backbone that frames the fruit and carries the wine to a long, energetic finish.
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There is impressive density to the bottling, starting with aromas of roasted black cherry and blackberry as well as cocoa and wood spice. It’s heavy on the palate with full flavors of blackberry, bay leaf and more dark chocolate.
At elevations reaching well over 2,000 feet, the Mt. Harlan AVA in the Gabilan Range is an anomaly among its surrounding Central Coast appellations. Recognizing the splendor of the area and its ideal limestone-rich soils, Josh Jensen chose Mt. Harlan as the home of his Calera Wine Company in the 1970s. Awarded his own AVA in 1990, Calera is the only commercial winery in the appellation.
One of the most finicky yet rewarding grapes to grow, Pinot Noir is a labor of love for many. However, the greatest red wines of Burgundy prove that it is unquestionably worth the effort. In fact, it is the only red variety permitted in Burgundy. Highly reflective of its terroir, Pinot Noir prefers calcareous soils and a cool climate, requires low yields to achieve high quality and demands a lot of attention in the vineyard and winery. It retains even more glory as an important component of Champagne as well as on its own in France’s Loire Valley and Alsace regions. This sensational grape enjoys immense international success, most notably growing in Oregon, California and New Zealand with smaller amounts in Chile, Germany (as Spätburgunder) and Italy (as Pinot Nero).
In the Glass
Pinot Noir is all about red fruit—strawberry, raspberry and cherry with some heftier styles delving into the red or purple plum and in the other direction, red or orange citrus. It is relatively pale in color with soft tannins and a lively acidity. With age (of which the best examples can handle an astounding amount) it can develop hauntingly alluring characteristics of fresh earth, savory spice, dried fruit and truffles.
Pinot’s healthy acidity cuts through the oiliness of pink-fleshed fish like salmon and tuna but its mild mannered tannins give it enough structure to pair with all sorts of poultry: chicken, quail and especially duck. As the namesake wine of Boeuf Bourguignon, Pinot noir has proven it isn’t afraid of beef. California examples work splendidly well with barbecue and Pinot Noir is also vegetarian-friendly—most notably with any dish that features mushrooms.
For administrative purposes, the region of Beaujolais is often included in Burgundy. But it is extremely different in terms of topography, soil and climate, and the important red grape here is ultimately Gamay, not Pinot noir. Truth be told, there is a tiny amount of Gamay sprinkled around the outlying parts of Burgundy (mainly in Maconnais) but it isn’t allowed with any great significance and certainly not in any Village or Cru level wines. So "red Burgundy" still necessarily refers to Pinot noir.