Calera Ryan Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016
As the vines at Ryan Vineyard approach 20 years of age, they continue to yield an ever more complex Pinot Noir, offering alluring layers of red cherry and sassafras, along with hints of thyme and sage. The ripe cherry notes are echoed on the palate, where they are underscored by notes of cedar and vanilla from aging in French oak, and firm, fine-grained tannins that provide lovely weight and structure.
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Aromas of dried cherry, dark-red flower, smoked meat and black plum pudding come together in subtle ways on the nose of this bottling. The palate picks up more spice in the form of star anise and gingerbread, with lingering acidity driving cranberry and vanilla flavors into the finish.
The 2016 Pinot Noir Ryan Vineyard aged 17 months in 30% new French oak. It has a pale to medium ruby-purple color and a nose of crushed blackberries, black cherries, underbrush, potpourri and red fruit sparks. Medium-bodied with a good core of earthy fruit, it has a sturdy frame and juicy freshness, finishing long and nuanced.
Ryan, planted in 1998, is Calera’s highest elevation vineyard, at 2,500 feet. The 2016 vintage is dark and muted, with clove and mace scents adorning a dark core of plum fruit and tannins. It feels compelling but remains at arm’s length, needing time and air to emerge.
In 1975, legendary vintner and American wine pioneer Josh Jensen founded Calera (Spanish for “lime kiln”) high in the remote Gavilan Mountains of California’s windswept Central Coast. There, in Mt. Harlan’s low-yielding, limestone-rich soils and cool, arid climate, he began planting what would ultimately become six small estate vineyards. Today, these vineyards are recognized as some of the New World’s most revered Pinot Noir sites.
Calera is a vision, and Calera’s wines truly express the sense of place. Rather than follow the recommended path, Josh Jensen became a pioneer in American Pinot Noir. Taking his cue from the great domaines of Burgundy, which have grown grapes in limestone soil for centuries, he set out in search of the perfect spot in California to create wines unique to the world but in the style of the greatest wines of France. Site selection was vital as he ventured off the grid to plant on the site of an old limekiln in the Gavilan Mountains of California's Central Coast.
Under the stewardship of Winemaker Mike Waller, each vineyard is renowned for producing singular wines of uncommon purity, elegance and aging potential. In addition to its beloved single-vineyard wines, Calera partners with some of the top vineyards on California’s majestic Central Coast to make Calera’s beautiful Central Coast wines, including a Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
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.
Thin-skinned, finicky and temperamental, Pinot Noir is also one of the most rewarding grapes to grow and remains a labor of love for some of the greatest vignerons in Burgundy. Fairly adaptable but highly reflective of the environment in which it is grown, Pinot Noir prefers a cool climate and requires low yields to achieve high quality. Outside of France, outstanding examples come from in Oregon, California and throughout specific locations in wine-producing world. Somm Secret—André Tchelistcheff, California’s most influential post-Prohibition winemaker decidedly stayed away from the grape, claiming “God made Cabernet. The Devil made Pinot Noir.”