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The Importance of Mount Harlan Wine History

When he returned to California in 1971, he searched all over the state with one thing in mind: limestone. It is difficult to put into words the enormity of this insight. Suffice to say that it was rare in California during the 1970s. But Jenson has always had few peers in his pursuit of Burgundian excellence in the Golden State.

Jenson began planting his first grapes in 1975. Selleck, Reed and Jenson Vineyards were all planted with Pinot Noir and encompassed about 24 acres in total. 1978 was the first productive year for these vines, though it was a miniscule harvest.

In the early 1980s, Jenson had expansion on his mind. He bought an additional 300 acres on Mount Harlan in 1982. The following year, he became one of the first New World vintners to plant the uncommon Viognier varietal. In 1984, he began developing Mills Vineyard and planted it with Chardonnay.

Despite his enormous success, the road has not always been easy for Jenson. His property has historically been very susceptible to drought and receives only 12-15 inches of rain a year. Additionally, the vast majority of this precipitation occurs during the off-season. 1987-1991 were particularly severe years with very little rainfall.

Several generations before Jenson’s arrival, much of his property was quarried for its massive limestone deposits. As a lasting testament to this activity, there is a large limekiln near one of Jenson’s current vineyards. It seemed natural to name the vineyards and winery Calera which is Spanish for “limekiln.”

Jenson produces about 25,000 cases of wine from the broader Central Coast AVA to finance his high quality vision at Mount Harlan. Only 5,000 cases are annually produced under the Calera label.

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