In my life, the greatest pleasure of wine lies in cooking, experimentation, and pairing. The greatest wines in the world have so much to offer, but the height of intellectual and gustatory enjoyment for me is in fusion rather than adulation. The less typical the food and wine pairing, the more enjoyment.
Recently, I made my first black mole sauce, with a bone-in pork rib chop over rice with cabbage. Thinking through the possibilities led me specifically to Calera. Calera has been making high-acid Pinot Noir from California’s Monterey County for decades and its founder Josh Jensen is one of the pioneers of California Pinot Noir. The wines are distinctive in that they are both medium-bodied (for California) while also presenting as rich and unctuous. They derive that intensity from both fruit and umami, and never lack for acidity. These Pinots age remarkably well and, given the long history of owner and winemaker Josh Jensen’s efforts, there are many back vintages to try. With the sale of Calera to Duckhorn in 2017, the back vintages are particularly special time capsules of California’s wine history.
The 2009 Mills Vineyard’s tannic softness, plush dark fruits and refreshing acidity allowed the mole sauce to speak fully while also resisting collapse from the bevy of spices and flavours. Jensen planted Mills in 1984 on a high elevation site at about 2,200 feet, within what is now known as the Mount Harlan AVA. Like all of Calera’s vineyards, Mills is stunning, with long views of the rolling hills surrounding it.
Calera’s single vineyard Pinots are great wines, represent the best of California heritage, and offer tremendous flexibility with food. Seek them out.
$117.30 + tax at Marquis Wine Cellars