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Calera Wine Company - San Benito Valley


93 Points - Wine Enthusiast magazine

It is safe to say that the San Benito Valley’s Calera Winery can be categorized as the most European of California wineries. This statement is backed up by the following undisputable facts.

Calera took shape more than thirty years ago when its adventuresome young owner Josh Jensen finally decided on a parcel of land that fit his needs. The land was located high in the Gavilan Mountains of California’s San Benito County, some ten miles from the town of Hollister and almost equidistant from the cities of Salinas and Gilroy.

That particular site was attractive to Jensen due to the fact that his previous training in the wine business in Europe (mostly France) had shown him that France’s best wines were grown in limestone soil, a venue where the plants flourished and produced excellent fruit. Since his return to his native California two years earlier, Jensen had set out to locate a piece of property that compared favorably to the type of soil he had experienced in France.

“Since France is comprised of about 96% limestone,” Jensen recently related, “finding good vineyard locations there was quite easy. The soil was a given and the other salient factors in grape growing became more important. But the United States is quite a different matter. Only 3% of this country has a limestone base and is therefore a really good location for vines.”

Jensen enlisted the help of two geologists from the U.S. Bureau of Mines and after two years of searching settled on the property above Hollister. His first 500 Pinot Noir vines were planted in 1974, “mostly to see if they would live through the winter.”

Results the following year pointed to a successful growing environment and another 24 acres were immediately planted. In the meantime, Jensen bought some quality zinfandel and released the first Calera Wine Company wines in 1978.

Since that time, Calera’s wines have increased in statue and garnered practically every award possible. Production has grown to around 30,000 cases annually, and will remain there for the foreseeable future. The winery is located on a 100-acre parcel on Cienega Road, halfway between the vineyards location and Hollister itself. Its construction has occupied the better part of the past two and one-half decades. The finished complex is a truly state-of-the-art facility with a marvelous German grape press and an Italian bottling line that adds a further degree of European ambiance to Calera.

In 1982, Calera was honored with a pair of awards that Jensen feels “put us over the top and gave us a place on the national map.” Since that time, Calera has not looked back. Calera and Jensen have always been regarded as icons in the development of the Central Coast Region for locating in an area that was always considered too “hot” for producing really top caliber varietals.

Jensen points with pride to a study he commissioned that compared his location’s temperatures to those in the cities of Napa, Sonoma, St. Helena and Healdsburg. His property received the coldest daytime maxima and coolest nighttime minima of the five areas, thereby dispelling the aforementioned fears about the San Benito area.

“Most of the people who express concerns about our temperatures are those who have never been here,” he added. “Our vines average around 2200 feet above sea level, and that ranks us among the highest elevated vines in the entire country. Once the doubters are able to sit down and study the figures, they see what we are able to do regarding our vines.”

Calera’s wines are found in the finest shops and restaurants throughout the country and also in fifteen foreign countries, but not in Jensen’s favorite country, France. “Why would anyone want to waste their time trying to get their wines in France,” he explained. “France is one country that produces the best possible varietals. They make the best Pinot Noir (Burgundy), best Cabernet Sauvignon (Bordeaux), and best sparkling wine (Champagne). They can get by fine without a bottle from any other country. I’d rather utilize my time and efforts where it makes more sense.”

Calera is now and has always been a well-perceived and fully implemented concept that has proved wildly successful.


  1. Calera
    2002 Pinot Noir
    Calera
    Mount Harlan -Reed Vineyard
    San Benito Valley

    $50.00

    id: 82
    Special
    Diamond

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