Oregon was honored to receive wine industry legend Steven Spurrier as guest speaker this summer at the 33rd International Pinot Noir Celebration at Linfield College in McMinnville. Among the 2016 vintage Pinot Noirs he tasted, Nicolas-Jay's Willamette Valley was among the top.
These young (in Burgundian terms) vintages really impressed me. Being totally modern both in concept and fruit, they are miles away from the 1970s Eyrie Vineyards wines that put Oregon on the Pinot Noir map – but the fruit is from mostly organically farmed vineyards, giving each wine its own character. These wines are very site-specific, reminding me of Burgundy, which is probably why Burgundians are taking such an interest.
And it is not just the Pinots. At the IPNC lunches and dinners, a bevy of sommeliers served an amazing array of wines. I loved the Pinot Blancs, admired the Pinot Gris (particularly from King Estate) and was fascinated by the Rieslings, the Alexana Winery 2018 being Alsatian, the bone-dry Anam Cara Cellars 2015 pure Mosel.
From the Pinots, I had so many scores over 92 that it is hard to choose just five from the splendid 2016s, but here goes: Cristom, Jessie Vineyard; Elk Cove, Mount Richmond; Evesham Wood, Le Puits Sec; Nicolas-Jay, Willamette Valley; R Stuart & Co, Autograph.
We are thrilled to be named by Food and Wine's Jonathan Cristaldi one of Oregon and Washington's 26 Wineries to Visit:
"The experience is casual and informative with 4-5 wines poured showcasing a classic earthy style with floral notes bolstered by impeccable minerality and savory spice—you leave as an expert in all things Pinot Noir from Oregon and Burgundy."
You can book a tasting with us today using our online reservation system.
Even though Jean-Nicolas and I came to Oregon for the temperate weather, 2019 was the first truly cool climate vintage of the six years we have crafted Nicolas Jay wines. With few days in the 90’s (and no days over 100) our summer turned to Fall providing cool days and, starting Sept 7th, some meaningful precipitation. It was a harvest that challenged winemaker’s expertise - and with Jean-Nicolas and Tracy at the helm you can imagine how much our wines benefited from their astute and experienced decisions. If 2019 was a “winemakers vintage” (like 2013) it was equally a “farmers vintage” – we are fortunate to work with great vineyards with great farming practices that supplied us fruit in pristine condition in a vintage that could have easily tilted toward rot/botrytis had the farming not been at the top of the game. This was a vintage where our “ vine to vat” protocol - where we baby the grapes off the vine into our shallow bins, on to the sorting line and into the tank - really paid dividends. As of today most of our wines are pressed and in the barrel with just a few tanks (Momtazi and Temperance Hill) left to press and get down into the cellar. Our wines will be defined by a bright acidity, lovely fruit - more raspberry and tart cherry - and a wonderful freshness. You should anticipate wonderful food wines from 2019 with low alcohol and great balance. I believe we will all be very happy drinking these wines in a few years.
In a feature covering the influence of Burgundy in Oregon, Nicolas Jay's 2016 Willamette Valley received 94 Points from Wine Spectator. Jay, Jean-Nicolas and Tracy received a full-page article, featured below.
You can acquire the 2016 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir by visiting our online store
2016 Nysa Pinot Noir
"Powerful, mineral- and spice-accented red fruits and candied owers on the expansive nose. Palate-staining raspberry, bitter cherry and spicecake flavors pick up a hint of vanilla and turn sweeter with aeration. Shows impressive clarity and spicy thrust on a very long, red-fruit-driven finish framed by fine-grained, harmonious tannins." 94 Points.
2016 Bishop Creek Pinot Noir
"Spice-accented aromas of dark berries, cola and incense, lifted by a smoky mineral quality. Sappy, focused and subtly sweet, offering palate-staining, well-concentrated black raspberry, cherry cola and violet pastille flavors and an exotic touch of Moroccan spices. The floral and smoke notes come back strong on the mineral-driven finish, which clings with excellent tenacity and gentle tannic grip." 93 Points.
2016 Momtazi Pinot Noir
"Pungent cherry, black raspberry, floral and underbrush aromas are energized by vibrant mineral and exotic spice notes that build in the glass. Palate-staining, gently sweet cherry cola, dark berry and spicecake flavors show impressive depth as well as vivacity. Licorice and bitter chocolate notes emerge on an impressively long, penetrating finish shaped by dusty, steadily building tannins." 93 Points.
We have some very exciting news to share: we have deepened our roots in the Willamette Valley and purchased a new home at the top of the Dundee Hills. This singular site gives us the incredible opportunity to build a new winery and plant a new vineyard, both to our exacting specifications. This new home will also be a gathering place for our extended Nicolas-Jay family, to visit and spend time with us.
Our purchase of Bishop Creek Vineyard in 2014 launched us into the Oregon wine business; the acquisition of this new parcel has only created a foundation for our legacy in the region and will allow us to craft the finest wines in the country.
We are thrilled about our new home and look forward to sharing updates with you on construction and planting. In the meantime, we encourage you to read this article in Wine Business Monthly, who spoke with us about our big plans.
Slated to break ground in summer 2019, the 450-elevation, north-facing site will comprise up to 25 potential acres of organically farmed Chardonnay and Pinot Noir planted to some of the deepest Jory soils in the Willamette Valley. “Although a lot of it is north facing,” says Boberg, “you do have multiple aspects in the vineyard, and three distinct planting sites.”
He also points out that Jean-Nicolas will be able to “orchestrate” high-density planting and clonal selection, which may include some plant material from France. “I want to perhaps try to bring one or two Domaine Méo-Camuzet selections to the States,” confirms Méo, “I’m still investigating whether or not it’s going to be possible, but I’d like to at least start it, and reserve some of that lovely vineyard for that [purpose]. That would be very interesting.”
The future looks bright and we can't thank you enough for your support that's made this journey possible.
5:00 am: The alarm goes off, marking the beginning of the 25th day of harvest at Nicolas-Jay in the Willamette Valley. My intrepid city-turned-vineyard dog, Lily, who kept me company during the drive from Los Angeles, is already awake and eager to get out the door. Tea in hand, I set out in the morning darkness to Bishop Creek, the vineyard we farm and own in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. Today is an important pick for the team: we’re harvesting the old Pommard vines planted in the early 1980’s, and what will likely become our Bishop Creek single vineyard for 2016.
7:00 am: The vineyard workers have been filling cherry bins for 30 minutes as the sun rises and the sky goes from pink to orange. Small bins are a Jean-Nicolas requisite, ensuring the grapes arrive in perfect condition to the winery. The cherry bins are the perfect size, they’re easy for the pickers to use but also allow us to make sure not more than two layers of grapes are on top of each other.
9:30 am: The fruit from Bishop Creek is gently being unloaded on the sorting line, where a small crew of friends, family and shareholders are hard at work. It’s a slow process and we test everyone’s patience: every cluster must be absolutely perfect. The grapes from Bishop Creek are beautiful, dark purple, small concentrated berries, bursting with flavor. Tasting a few off the sorting line builds anticipation--I think about the wine these grapes will become over the next 15 months. Traveling up the sorting table, the clusters then go through the de-stemmer and fall into a stainless steel vat in the cellar below. A gentle pumpover (bringing juice that has moved to the bottom of the vat to the top) homogenizes the newly crushed fruit and allows us to test for sugar levels. The vat then moves to the cool room where we’ll let the fruit soak for 4-5 days.
12:00 pm: Some final grape samples are needed from one of our last remaining vineyards to pick, the Momtazi Vineyard. When I first got to Oregon in late August, I spent the first weeks gathering samples from the 11 vineyards we work with. From these samples we gauge when we should pick—it’s part science but more importantly, instinct and taste. When we arrive at Momtazi, Lily bounds out of the car and runs after the ground squirrels, the birds and even sometimes the deer and elk. I trudge from one corner of the vineyard to the other, picking as I go to get a good representation of the fruit ripeness across the site. I put the clusters in Ziplock bags and walk back to my car with a reluctant Lily before we head back to the lab.
3:00 pm: After we measure the fruit from Momtazi for acid and pH levels, we do pumpovers. This full-body workout happens twice a day, every day during harvest, both to our cold soaking vats and also to our fermenting vats. After the juice has been allowed to sit in a cold room for several days, it is then moved to a warmer room where the wild yeasts really go to town on all the natural sugar. When the wine is almost dry, we break the cap (the skins and seeds on top of the juice) with a steel rod. We do this gently, tasting each day to watch the evolution of the wine.
5:00 pm: We taste through all the wines at various stages of the fermentation process. Tracy sends our tasting notes to Jean-Nicolas, who has just left Oregon to start harvest in Burgundy. We can hear the press working in the background. Soon we’ll be pressing off our wines, one of the most exciting parts of harvest, when you can really begin to taste the wine these grapes will become. After pressing, we’ll let the wine settle before finally putting it in barrel, where it will sleep for 12-15 months.
7:00 pm: We’re fortunate to make wine at Adelsheim Vineyards, an established winery with a full kitchen and a harvest chef. Dinners are a highlight of these long days, when the Adelsheim and Nicolas-Jay teams sit together and reflect on the day and the tasks that remain for the evening. I look around the table and think about the winemaking life everyone here has chosen: the pay is nothing special, but the food is great and the wine is even better. Being part of making something special–a wine to be shared around the world by friends…with friends.