My Latest in Somm TV Magazine:
The Cienega Valley Soil Secret offers Affordable Bourgogne-Style Wines
by L.M. Archer
As Bourgogne wine prices continue to skyrocket, consumers search for more affordable options elsewhere. Unfortunately, few wine regions contain Bourgogne’s trademark limestone soils.
But one wine region in California’s San Benito County does. Nestled in the shadow of the Gabilan Mountain range near Monterey Bay, Cienega Valley sits along the limestone and granite-rich San Andreas Fault. It’s this secret seam of limestone that Bourgogne-lovers covet, and why so many winemakers flock here to make premium Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Josh Jensen started the migration in 1975 when he founded Calera on Mount Harlan. Inspired by a trip to Bourgogne, Jensen scoured stateside for two years before finding suitable limestone soils on this high altitude Central Coast site.
“Calera” means ‘lime kiln’ in Spanish and nods to an abandoned limekiln on the site. In addition to planting vineyards, Jensen repurposed an existing structure into a gravity-fed winery, revolutionary at the time.
“Mount Harlan is showcased by being around limestone,” says Mike Waller, winemaker at Calera since 2009. “There are pockets that have decomposed granite and other soil types that probably don’t have as much limestone deposit. But what characterizes our wines is the limestone itself.”
Calera constitutes the only vineyard within Mount Harlan AVA. Designated in 1990, the appellation comprises 7,400 acres, with minimum elevations of 1,800 feet above sea level. “So we are basically a monopole,” says Waller. Jensen’s success with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay eventually piqued the interest of major players; Duckhorn Wine Company purchased Calera in 2017.
“Limestone is a thread that runs through the history of great Pinot and Chardonnay,” says San Francisco native Christian Pillsbury, who founded Eden Rift in 2017. “Eden Rift is a really special place that has been identified with California wine growing and Pinot Noir since the late 19th century,” he says. “As a student of America’s wine story, I was looking for the authenticity that only a long story can provide. When the opportunity to invest in Cienega Valley and stewardship of Eden Rift presented itself, it was a no brainer. This estate is the ultimate love letter to an uninterrupted legacy of California viticulture.” READ MORE HERE.