Burgundian winemaker Jean-Nicolas Méo and music entrepreneur Jay Boberg’s mutual love of Pinot Noir, and desire to create something lasting together, drew them to the North Willamette Valley of Oregon’s wine country. Our viticulture and winemaking are informed by years of working the soils of Burgundy’s Grand Crus, an understanding we bring to old-vine sites in Oregon, including our own organically farmed estate Bishop Creek vineyard, as well as our 53-acre Dundee Hills Estate. It is from these unique sites that Jean-Nicolas, Jay and associate winemaker Tracy Kendall craft Nicolas-Jay Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Viens avec nous.
Jean-Nicolas and Jay became friends in 1988, when Jean-Nicolas was studying abroad in the United States. The two found that they shared similar philosophies about life, music, wine and friendship. Though Jean-Nicolas soon immersed himself in guiding his family’s renowned Domaine Meo-Camuzet, and Jay continued to build his own IRS Records into a seminal indie label, they stayed friends over the next quarter century. During this time, they also discovered a shared interest in the quality and potential of Oregon pinot noirs, which Jay has been enjoying since 1983, and Jean-Nicolas has been exploring since attending the International Pinot Noir Celebration in Willamette Valley in 1991.
In 2011, a visit to the Willamette Valley reignited Jay’s fascination with the region. It also inspired him to commit himself fully to his lifelong passion for wine. He approached Jean-Nicolas with the idea of starting a small winery in Oregon. After nearly a quarter century of making wine at Meo-Camuzet, Jean-Nicolas was excited by the idea of taking what he’s learned from the grands and premiers crus of Burgundy, and applying it to a new region, a new climate, new soils and new vineyards.
Knowing that the wines of Nicolas-Jay would be defined by the quality of its vineyards, Jean-Nicolas and Jay began a lengthy exploration of the Willamette Valley and its top winegrowing sites. This search took them to dozens of vineyards, as well as wineries and cellars, where they tasted numerous single-vineyard Pinot Noirs and barrel samples. During one of these blind barrel tastings, featuring 20 different vineyards, Jay and Jean-Nicolas were both wowed by a wine made from the grapes of Bishop Creek Vineyard. It was distinctive, powerful, complex and elegant, with a beautifully perfumed nose. It was so striking that, even though they had no intention of buying a vineyard at the time, when they later learned that Bishop Creek was for sale, they knew that it was an opportunity they could not pass up. To complement the exceptional estate fruit from Bishop Creek, Jean-Nicolas, Jay and Tracy have also established relationships with a handful of the finest vineyards in the region, and work closely with the talented people who farm these sites to tailor vineyard practices to Nicolas-Jay’s specifications.
“We make the kind of wines we love to drink,” says Jay. “Elegant wines, with beautiful, complex aromatics and pure, lovely fruit – wines that evolve in the glass, and in the cellar. To achieve this, we start with the best vineyards, practice respectful farming, and strive to make our wines with sincerity. This means having good intentions as winemakers, and respecting the character of the wine.”
We approach our winemaking with a steadfast belief in true artisanship, a passion for discovery and a deep respect for the land. We bring Burgundian traditions to our winemaking while aiming to express the natural elegance of Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
As stewards of the land, and passionate oenophiles, we endeavor to discover and reflect the unique terroir in our wine. Sharing our results makes the journey meaningful.
Cofounder and Winemaker: As the owner and winemaker of the Cote D ‘Ors famed Domaine Meo-Camuzet, Jean-Nicolas Meo’s path to Oregon’s Willamette Valley first went through the great grands crus of Burgundy, where he spent nearly 30 years making wines from legendary vineyards like Richebourg, Clos de Vougeot, Corton Clos Rognet and Echezeaux. In 2012, inspired by a three-decade interest in the quality and potential of Oregon’s Pinot Noirs, Jean-Nicolas partnered with his longtime friend, Jay Boberg, to found Nicolas-Jay in the Willamette Valley. At Nicolas-Jay, Jean-Nicolas applies insights gained from his experience making Pinot Noirs from some of the world’s greatest winegrowing sites to craft exciting and elegant Pinot Noirs that authentically show the terroir of the Willamette Valley, and some of its very finest vineyards.
Jean-Nicolas began his career in wine in 1989, when he left Paris and moved to Burgundy to guide his family’s domaine. As many of the metayeurs (sharecroppers) who leased his family’s coveted vineyard land began to retire, Jean-Nicolas made the decision to slowly start reclaiming the land for Meo-Camuzet’s own bottlings. This was a bold new direction for a domaine that had long been overseen from Paris. Finding that he enjoyed the rhythms of country life, and the challenges of running a winery, Jean-Nicolas began a period of intense modernization. To help during this period of transition, Jean-Nicolas was mentored by the great Henri Jayer, who had been making wines from some of Meo-Camuzet’s finest parcels for decades. From Henri, Jean-Nicolas gained a deep and lasting love of wine, and an appreciation for the more sensual side of Pinot Noir. At the same time, he began defining his own signature style, with an emphasis on depth, refinement and impeccable balance – a style that has catapulted Meo-Camuzet to fame, and earned Jean-Nicolas respect as one of the finest Pinot Noir winemakers in the world.
Though Jean-Nicolas has deep roots in Burgundy, he has long nurtured an appreciation for Pinot Noirs from other parts of the world – most notably for the wines of Oregon, which he first discovered while attending the International Pinot Noir Celebration in Willamette Valley in 1991. There, Jean-Nicolas met many of the region’s early pioneers, and had an opportunity to explore the remarkable potential of its wines. “I loved the valley’s Burgundy-like charm and mentality, with its dedicated farmers, and small, family-run wineries committed to making wines of great character,” says Jean-Nicolas.
For Jean-Nicolas, the opportunity to take a lifetime of experience in Burgundy and apply it to a new region, a new climate, new soils and new vineyards is both exciting and inspiring. “I have great respect for what has already been achieved in Oregon. It is a remarkable place with a vibrant wine community that we are thrilled to be a part of,” says Jean-Nicolas. In keeping with his belief in being hands-on, Jean-Nicolas spends nearly two months in Oregon each season, travelling regularly to the region throughout spring, summer and harvest to oversee the viticulture and winemaking alongside Tracy and Jay. “We see Nicolas-Jay as a collaboration,” adds Jean-Nicolas. “A collaboration between the three of us, between Burgundian and Oregonian ideas, and between Nicolas-Jay and our growers. Together, we want to create wines that are distinctive and exciting. We also see this as a unique opportunity to build something together that we hope will go on for generations, and have the same kind of significance 100 years from now as Meo-Camuzet.”
For visionary music entrepreneur Jay Boberg, the founding of Nicolas-Jay marks the exciting next act in a remarkable professional life, and is the culmination of a lifelong love affair with wine. Working alongside his longtime friend, renowned Burgundian Jean-Nicolas Meo, Jay has immersed himself in the world of viticulture and winemaking, and is deeply involved in every aspect of Nicolas-Jay. Spending close to six months a year in the Willamette Valley, Jay is both the dynamic guiding force behind Nicolas-Jay and its most committed cellar rat, taking samples, driving the fruit from the vineyards, sorting grapes, doing punch-downs, and whatever else needs doing without ego or reservation. “Along with our associate winemaker, Tracy Kendall, Jean-Nicolas and I make up Nicolas-Jay’s three-person team,” says Jay. “We all do windows.”
Throughout Jay’s life, he has made his avocation his vocation. Following his passion for music, at the age of 21, Jay cofounded the seminal indie record label IRS Records, and by his mid-30s, he began a tenure as president of MCA/Universal Records that lasted for more than a decade. Throughout his career, he launched or fostered some of the most influential music artists of the past three decades, including R.E.M., The Go-Go’s, Blink-182, Mary J. Blige, Sublime, The Roots and B.B. King.
During this time, Jay also developed a passion for wine that would shape his life. While attending college, Jay’s roommate worked at a wine distributor, and on an early trip to Napa Valley, Jay met Robert Mondavi, an encounter that inspired an enduring interest in wine. Building on this interest, Jay started forming wine tasting groups with music industry friends early on in his days at IRS. He also began working with people like Kermit Lynch (who has become a friend and mentor) to regularly hold winemaker dinners as part of promoting music events. “There are so many parallels between wine and music,” says Jay. “Both are driven by personal recommendations – one friend telling another – and they both enhance and enrich our lives by creating emotional connections. There are certain wines, like certain albums, that move you and stay with you forever.”
For Jay, whether they are from Burgundy or Willamette Valley, these unforgettable wines are almost always Pinot Noirs. “Pinot Noir is my desert island wine,” says Jay, “and I love the Pinots from Oregon. I’ve been drinking wines from Willamette Valley since 1983. People used to talk about their potential, but now you can taste what that potential has become – earth and elegance.” In 2012, as Jay was winding down his fulltime role in the music industry, he approached his friend, Jean-Nicolas, with the idea of starting a winery together in Willamette Valley. “Jean-Nicolas and I have been friends since 1988. We share very similar philosophies about life, business, wine and friendship. Nicolas-Jay is about making the very best Pinot Noir we can possibly make. It is also about building something together that one day we hope our kids will be a part of. When you look at the great domaines of the world, these two ideas go hand in hand.”
As an integral part of a three-person team that includes Jay Boberg and renowned Winemaker Jean-Nicolas Méo, Associate Winemaker Tracy Kendall utilizes experience gained in New Zealand, Australia, Washington and Oregon to help guide winemaking and viticulture at Nicolas-Jay. A Pacific Northwest native, with a masters in enology and viticulture from UC Davis, and experience working with several top winemakers around the world, Tracy is one of the rising stars of the Willamette Valley wine industry. Combining a gifted palate with an exceptional understanding of viticulture and fermentation science, Tracy works in concert with Jean-Nicolas and Jay to guide the day-to-day viticulture and winemaking at Nicolas-Jay, while also contributing her insight and acumen to the overall direction of the winery.
Born and raised outside of Seattle, Tracy fell in love with wine in her early 20s, while earning a degree in anthropology from the University of Washington, and working towards her masters in global health. Traveling to tasting rooms in Walla Walla, Willamette Valley, and Napa Valley, Tracy would often sneak away from her friends in search of the winemaker, so that she could ask more complex winemaking questions. In 2009, Tracy worked her first harvest at Oregon’s Torii Mor Winery, where she learned from winemaker Jacques Tardy, a native of Burgundy. During her time at Torii Mor, Tracy lived at Cristom Vineyards, where she became friends with Winemaker Steve Doerner, as she helped out the Cristom team with their nightly midnight punchdowns.
Tracy quickly fell in love with the camaraderie and collaborative spirit of winemaking, and found that she enjoyed its constant challenges, and its potential to be a part of creating something enduring and special. Eager to gain as much experience as possible, she began working both southern and northern hemisphere harvests – experiences that took her to Vasse Felix in Australia, Darby Winery in Washington State, and Felton Road and Seresin Estate in New Zealand, where she worked with noted Winemaker Clive Dougall. In 2011, Tracy returned home and joined Winemaker David Paige’s team at Adelsheim, where she spent more than four years as enologist, before leaving with David’s blessing in 2014 to join Nicolas-Jay.
“I’ve been incredibly fortunate to learn from some of the very best people in the business,” says Tracy. “People like Steve Doerner, who taught me to be passionate about the vineyards and treat wine as a living thing, Clive Dougall, who inspired me with his energy and artistry, David Paige, who instilled in me a standard of meticulousness and excellence, and now Jean-Nicolas, who is sharing his incredible breadth of winemaking knowledge with me.”
Today, Jean-Nicolas, Jay and Tracy oversee every decision that goes into making the wines of Nicolas-Jay. ”As a winemaker, this is a dream come true,” adds Tracy. “Not only am I making Pinot Noir from the finest vineyards in Oregon, I’m doing so side-by-side with one of the world’s great Pinot Noir winemakers. And what makes it even more special is that it is so collaborative. It’s never about ego. It’s always about the vineyards, the grapes, and the wine.”
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