Log In / Join Now

james laube's wine flights

Another Excellent Calera Pinot with Insightful Back Label

Photo by: Greg Gorman

Posted: Jan 20, 2009 5:18pm ET

I’ve written about how useful I find the back labels of Calera’s Pinot Noirs (not to mention what’s inside the bottle!), which are the most informative and useful back labels I can recall.

The 2007 Calera Central Coast Pinot (88, $24) is not only an exceptional wine, smooth, silky and elegantly styled, but upon further review I noticed that owner Josh Jensen produced 15,767 cases (an amazing achievement) and if I hadn’t noticed that, I might have thought that this wine was made from some of the cuvees that didn’t make it into the line of Calera single vineyard Pinots.

What I found interesting and informative is the back label breakdown of where the grapes came from. Calera lists all nine vineyards by name and percentage included in the cuvée, with 22 percent coming from Doctor’s Vineyard in Monterey (along with three other Monterey vineyards, which makes up about half of the wine) and small lots from San Benito (where Calera is based), Santa Barbara and Santa Clara. It also includes a few notes about the winemaking.

Many wineries would consider putting so much information on a back label a hassle. Yet for me Calera’s tells a story of how complexity is built into a wine through regional diversity and you can not only taste it but also see the different sources in black and white.

David Tietz
Columbus, OH —  January 21, 2009 12:43am ET
I really don't see why that would be such a hassle- someone has to design the label, and if the winery knows that info going in (which they should) it would take less than an hour to type it in (plus a little formatting) and then it's off to the presses.I wish more would add that! I like to know what I'm drinking and its history, and while one can always go to the winery's website (assuming they list expanded winemaker's notes), what better way to inform people than right there when they're looking at the bottle?
Morgan Dawson
Rochester, NY —  January 21, 2009 6:18am ET
Thanks, Jim, for throwing the spotlight on the shining example of what winemakers ought to be doing with their labels. From the brix to pH to lot sourcing, Calera is an open book for those who seek the information. It might only be a small percentage of consumers who care to know these things, but if more producers followed this example, more consumers would recognize the value. Knowing the brix, oak choice, and lot sourcing all help the consumer understand the philosophy of the winemaker. Knowledge is power.
Jordan Harris
Niagara, Ontario —  January 21, 2009 9:45am ET
I agree that Calera has some of the most educational and hense best labels in the wine industry. That said the reason why it is a pain for some to do is because if you change any of that information on the label annually you have to re-submit the label to the TTB. If the only change is the alc% and the vintage then the label does not need to be re-submitted. Also you can only label vineyards if the appellation is smaller then as state (a registered AVA). That would mean that the wine labelled as "California" would not be able to label vineyards. That said most great quality wines such as the Calera wines do come from some sort of AVA even if it is something like the larger Central Coast. Great job Calera, keep up the good work.
Pjmj@charter Net
glendale —  February 22, 2009 5:11pm ET
Lets not forget that Josh Jensen at one time gave no information on his label. Instead he followed with the thought of the French Wine makers only giving the smallest amount of information. So if he can come around others can surly follow.

Would you like to comment? Want to join or start a discussion?

Become a WineSpectator.com member and you can!
To protect the quality of our conversations, only members may submit comments. Member benefits include access to more than 315,000 reviews in our Wine Ratings Search; a first look at ratings in our Insider, Advance and Tasting Highlights; Value Wines; the Personal Wine List/My Cellar tool, hundreds of wine-friendly recipes and more.

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.