I heard some terribly upsetting news a couple of weeks ago. At first I questioned its source, thinking my informant confused by a malicious rumor possibly overheard from some misinformed third party; he couldn’t have all the facts I hoped. Yet, just last week I heard the same sad words again. I’ve had to come to terms with what I now know to be true: Calera’s El Niño Pinot Noir is being “retired” as soon as the current vintage sells through. I even remember where I was when I first heard those unsettling words. This is sad news for us all. I’ve tried not be spiteful or petty or bitter but it’s hard and I’m looking for someone to blame. Why would Josh Jensen de-list a wine that has stood as THE benchmark for inexpensive and reliable California pinot noir? Granted, I’ve never been invited to take a peek at Calera’s balance sheet but this is simply too hard for me to stomach. What pinot am I to drink now on the cheap, Echelon? Give me a break Josh Jensen.
Calera’s 2002 El Niño was brilliantly clear and a lightly fading raspberry-red color in the glass. While sweet red fruits like cherry and raspberry fill the nose here, this wine presents pinot fruit that’s fresh and pure in quality. It offers light leaf, orange rind and an aromatic purity that will maintain your interest and not overwhelm. Made with little oak, this pinot noir showcases delicate red fruit flavors in a lightly extracted style. El Niño is slightly sappy, light-to-medium in weight, and finishes with good length and enough acidity to carry you through dinner. El Niño has always been bright and focused, pure and simple California pinot noir. This bottle was no exception.
I’ve always enjoyed Calera’s pinots (as I sit and write these words more than a few good bottles lay close by), but I don’t really have the splash for the Mills, Selleck and Jensen single vineyards. While I will splurge on occasion and live a little large, it was the El Niño and Central Coast bottlings that most frequently received my monetary affections. That I found El Niño’s 2002 vintage to be one of its best makes this goodbye all the more tearful. You will be sorely missed. Highly recommended!