Oregon Grand Cru
by HARVEY FINKEL
Great Pinot Noir is probably the rarest of wines.
Especially outside of Burgundy.
So it was when my old friend Peary Spaght, grand sénéschal of the Massachusetts Tastevin, reported with unreserved enthusiasm from touring Oregon of Pinots new to me, I paid close attention, and quickly and eagerly availed myself of an opportunity to host a visit from Jay Boberg, one of the principals of the source of the treasures.
Jean-Nicolas Méo, a respected Burgundian vigneron, and Jay Boberg, a Californian formerly in the music business, friends for 3O years, became partners in a Willamette Valley vineyard in 2O14, growing and producing Pinot Noir, thus establishing Domaine Nicolas-Jay. Jean-Nicolas is the owner-winemaker of Domaine Méo-Camuzet in Vosne-Romanée. Jay has long loved wine. Located in the Yamhill-Carleton AVA, their property, Bishop Creek Vineyard, is the hub of a vinous web that stretches around the northern Willamette Valley to seven other selected vineyards where Jean-Nicolas, Jay, and associate winemaker Tracy Kendall have control over the viticulture in their segments. Tracy has had previous work experience in New Zealand, Australia, Washington, and Oregon, most recently prior to 2O14 as an enologist at nearby Adelsheim Vineyard.
Their associated sources include sites high in the Eola-Amity Hills, in the cool Coast Range McMinnville area, and in the warm red-soiled Dundee Hills. Growing practices are organic, mostly biodynamic, LIVE certified (of sustainable viticulture). Bishop Creek Vineyard contains eleven acres of mixed clones of Pinot Noir, first planted in 1988. It supplies one-third of the fruit for the flagship Nicolas-Jay Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. Single-vineyard Pinots are made regularly from Bishop Creek, selectively from the others. Bishop Creek is steep and rolling. Soil is an ancient coarse marine sediment. Its vines are ungrafted. They are densely planted between 27O and 6OO feet of elevation.
Fermentation is conducted by natural yeasts. For the blend, each lot is vinified separately. The wines are matured for 14-16 months in French oak barrels, made by the same cooper that Jean-Nicolas employs in Burgundy. The oak is one-third new for the Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, half new for the single-vineyard wines. All are bottled in December of the year after harvest.
Nicolas-Jay’s first vintage was 2O14. It now produces 3OOO cases of the Willamette Valley Pinot Noir and small lots of single-vineyard wines, exporting widely. A winery, vineyard, and restaurant are being prepared in the Dundee Hills. Chardonnay will be added, and total production will top off at something over 5OOO cases.
PINOT NOIR WILLAMETTE VALLEY 2O16, DOMAINE NICOLAS-JAY $7O
Good color. Fragrant. Complex, transparent, delicious fruit, with an amazing memorable finish that swirls sensuously. Bit of tannin at the end. Will enthrall for some years.
PINOT NOIR BISHOP CREEK VINEYARD 2O16, DOMAINE NICOLAS-JAY $11O
Darker. Deeper notes. More reserved, concentrated, and tannic. Hints of raspberry among its untapped facets. For the future. 12O cases made.
Domaine Nicolas-Jay wines are distributed by the Boston Wine Company.