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Calcareous Vineyard - Central Coast


Double Gold Medal Winner

In the late 1990s, Dana Brown was a successful wine distributor in Des Moines, Iowa when she learned an important fact of life. One of the giant companies she had helped to gain acceptance in Iowa suddenly pulled its brands in favor of a regional wholesaler. In addition to costing Dana a great deal of revenue, she felt the move signaled the possibility of similar moves by other companies in the future. Her father, Lloyd Messer, was in a similar position as owner of a beer and spirits company so the two decided to sell their companies while the selling was good.

Lloyd Messer became friendly with a winemaker in Paso Robles and the rest is history. The two, Lloyd and Dana, pooled their resources and bought some spectacular property and set about to start their own winery. The project soon became a labor of love due to the time element involved in establishing such a project, obtaining permits and even clearing and planting the land. With the help of the local winemaker, John Munch, the new winery named Calcareous Vineyard produced its first release of only 180 cases in 1999. Lloyd Messer had already moved to Paso Robles and Dana Brown was commuting all the way from Des Moines whenever possible.

Plans were made for a new winery and a spectacular tasting and event facility that would rank among the finest in the entire Central Coast. The winery’s production increased gradually until it reached near the 10,000 case level. Suddenly, in 2006, Lloyd Messer died and Dana Brown was forced to make some life-changing decisions.

She decided to continue with the plans for the new winery and enlisted her younger sister, Erika Messer, to become a part owner of the winery. Dana also decided to make the move permanent and brought her children to California earlier this year. By the way, the unusual name of the winery deserves some additional mention. Calcareous is derived from the Latin word calx, or lime, and has taken on the meaning for limestone, the substance that covers nearly the entire property.

“When we started removing stones, we found that there was a solid limestone layer about a foot or two below the surface,” Brown explained. “We learned that such a limestone presence beneficially affects both the mineral content and balance of the grapes and therefore the wines. The combination also tends to hold moisture better than other soil and rock formations and makes the vines stress more. We get smaller clusters but are favored with wonderful richness and complexity.” The term “twisted sisters” refers to both Dana and Erika, and was hung on them by Dana’s husband who often referred to the pair as “dirty little twisted sisters.” The pair liked the sound of the phrase and thus Calcareous Vineyard Twisted Sisters wines became a reality. This year Calcareous Vineyard will produce around 11,000 cases and is potentially eyeing 15,000 cases as a top off for the small winery. Another 40 acres of vines will be planted this year, bringing the winery’s total to sixty-five estate acres.

“We intend to increase our production and see how it goes,” Brown related. “We will add to production only if we can do it well, and by well I mean with extreme quality. That’s the way it is around Calcareous Vineyard, we do it right or we don’t do it.”

Another project near Dana and Erika’s heart is a spectacular overlook just off the tasting area that has been named Lloyd’s Lookout in honor of their late father. At 1600 feet, it commands a spectacular view that matches any along the Central Coast and should be considered a specific stop for any visitors. Along the way, Calcareous Vineyard has accumulated its fair share of medals and awards and has developed a very loyal following. But the winery is still a very family thing with Dana handling most of the daily chores and Erika serving as the events manager.

Another project dear to the family involves an estate bottled Cabernet Sauvignon that will be called Lloyd of Calcareous. The wine is nearing release and is an additional tribute to the lively father who started it all at the winery. A different word that describes an aspect of Lloyd Messer’s personality will be highlighted on each label and offers a rare insight into the colorful man’s persona. The first word used is “moose” and should be interesting to explain.


  1. Calcareous
    2005 Syrah
    Calcareous
    Twisted Sisters
    Central Coast

    $32.40

    $36.00
    Double Gold Medal
    id: 267
    Special
    Platinum

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