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edible Monterey Bay Summer 2015

Wine steward Jensen is a deep thinker and a committed environmentalist. 46 edible monterey bay Summer 2015 He joined in the campaign against fracking in San Benito County and is still jubilant about the ban approved by voters last fall—one of the state’s first. Calera vineyards have been cultivated organically for decades and were certified organic in 2008. “The land I bought had never in the history of the world been planted on. It was in a pure, pure untrammeled state,” he explains of his decision to go organic. “I thought how bad it would be if I ruined the land and filled it up with salts and toxic chemicals so that at some point you couldn’t do any farming here.” “I wanted to do just the opposite. I wanted it to be sustainable and to increase the fertility and health of the soil,” he adds. Like most farmers, Jensen’s biggest environmental concern right now is the drought. “It’s a disaster. We only got 4 inches of rain last winter. Nobody who’s alive can remember it being this dry,” he says, clearly alarmed by a book he’s been reading called The West Without Water by two University of California, Berkeley climate scientists. As he did last year, Jensen trucks in five 3,000-gallon tanks of water a day from a neighbor’s artesian well. Five days a week from mid-March to mid-October the water is transported and stored in steel tanks to irrigate the grapes through drip lines. “I hope we can make it to October, but we may get cut off at any time,” he says. “I can’t believe we would go out of business, but there are no guarantees. This is a new ballgame, and we don’t really know how to play it yet.” But after all the obstacles that Jensen has overcome on the road to Calera’s current success, it’s likely he’ll find a way to survive the drought, too. And while many of his contemporaries are retiring or selling their wineries, he has no such intentions. “I still enjoy coming to work every morning,” he says. “I told my kids I’m not going to sell this winery. If they decide to sell it after I kick the bucket, that’s their problem, but I’m not going to sell Calera while I have anything to say about it.” Brand new at Calera is San Benito County’s first wine cave—1,050 feet of underground tunnels bored into the cliffs alongside the winery in a grid pattern. “I always thought tunnels were baloney. I thought people who have caves had more money than sense, but I got backed into it,” says Jensen. He originally planned to expand the winery into the parking lot, but the county wanted him to build a water treatment plant and sprinkler system, so he went underground where the permitting process was relatively easy. “I absolutely did not want to own and operate a water treatment plant!” he adds. The caves have an impressive Calistoga stone entry and tall, 6-inch thick mahogany doors. Resting inside are 1,838 neatly stacked French oak barrels filled with the 2014 harvest. At the end of each passageway is a raw rock wall—a striking visual reminder of where the minerality comes from in Calera wine. The caves also contain a library vault and a cone-shaped concrete fermentation tank filled with 300 gallons of Viognier. A hospitality room at the center has yet to be finished, but will someday be used for tastings and special events. While the caves aren’t open to the public yet, there’s a friendly tasting room inside the winery open daily from 11am–4:30pm and picnic tables outside. Jensen welcomes visitors. Bring a picnic lunch and you, too, can enjoy his spectacular view. Deborah Luhrman is deputy editor of Edible Monterey Bay and editor of our weekly newsletter. A lifelong journalist, she has reported from around the globe, but now prefers covering our flourishing local food scene and growing her own vegetables in the Santa Cruz Mountains. JENSEN’S VIEW: For a glimpse of Jensen’s view from Calera Wine, see photograph on p. 2. Or better yet, visit the winery in person: You’ll find our guide to all San Benito County wineries that are open to the public under the “LOCAL FOOD GUIDES” tab at www.ediblemontereybay.com. EXPLORE: See related stories, p. 48-51 about San Benito County’s Wine Trail and new dining opportunities along it.


edible Monterey Bay Summer 2015
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