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.
We are honored to be featured in the Telegraph UK as one of the "best red wines for Christmas 2019"
Nicolas-Jay Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, 2017, Oregon, USA
Nicolas-Jay is a collaboration between Jean-Nicolas Méo of Domaine Méo-Camuzet in Burgundy and music executive Jay Boberg. It’s a seriously impressive Porsche of a pinot: chiseled and pristine, yet also one that flows as a good pinot noir ought.
Read more at the Telegraph
Our Willamette Valley is available for your holiday table today!
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 top 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.