2016 Nicolas Jay, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA
The 2016 Pinot Noir is pale to medium ruby-purple in color with a nose of warm red and black cherries and cranberry plus touches of crushed blueberries, cinnamon stick, charcuterie and underbrush. Light to medium-bodied, it has good concentration of warm red and black fruits in the mouth with earthy and spicy layers, soft, grainy tannins and plenty of freshness, finishing long. 3,000 cases produced.
Drink 2018 - 2022
Erin Brooks, Wine Advocate (August 2018)
About this WINE
Nicolas-Jay is a collaboration between Jean-Nicolas Méo of Burgundy’s Domaine Méo-Camuzet and American music producer and wine enthusiast Jay Boberg. Established in 2013, the enterprise makes wines from its own fruit and fruit sourced from other high-quality growers. The partners initially used the winemaking facilities of Adelsheim and later those of Sokol Blosser. They subsequently bought some promising vineyard land and constructed a new winery. Both initiatives will create scope for improvements to what is already a hugely successful operation, which has established itself among the Willamette Valley’s finest producers.
American music producer Jay Boberg and Burgundian winemaker Jean-Nicolas Méo had been friends for over 30 years when, in ’13, they established Nicolas-Jay in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Their initial plan had been to buy grapes and run a négociant operation. But when they discovered that the property whose fruit they rated most highly was for sale, they bought it: the 7-hectare, organically farmed Bishop Creek in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA became their estate vineyard.
Nicolas-Jay’s first vintage was ’14. Today, the range includes several bottlings of Pinot Noir, notably Ensemble, a special barrel selection from the Willamette Valley blended by Jean-Nicolas Méo, and several single-vineyard wines, along with a small amount of Chardonnay. Their early vintages were a hit with consumers and critics alike, despite tiny volumes.
Nicolas-Jay obtain fruit from three sources. First is their own vineyard, Bishop Creek in Yamhill-Carlton. This steep site, with elevations ranging from 80 to 180 metres, was planted in the 1980s. There are six hectares of Pinot Noir and one hectare of Chardonnay. This fruit is the source of a single-vineyard wine.
Second, they source fruit from specific blocks within vineyards owned by other growers, notably: Momtazi in the McMinnville AVA, planted to Pinot Noir in ’97, farmed biodynamically and with volcanic soils; and Nysa in the Dundee Hills, where Nicolas-Jay’s block consists of low-yielding Pommard-clone vines planted in ’90. Both sites are used to make classy, almost Burgundian, single-vineyard wines. Others are used for Nicolas-Jay’s Willamette Valley blend.
The third source will, in due course, be their new vineyard in Yamhill-Carlton. This site features Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in three distinct sites with different aspects and soil types, all farmed organically.
The new winery gives winemaker Jean-Nicolas Méo and his associate Tracy Kendall greater control over temperature. It also provides space to keep wines in barrel for more than one vintage, which had not been possible in either of their previous facilities. The winery is operated by gravity flow, allowing for gentle fruit reception and processing.
All fruit is destemmed and fermented with natural yeasts. The Pinot Noir is aged in 30-35% new French oak; the Bishop Creek Chardonnay is aged in 20% new wood.
All of Nicolas-Jay’s estate vines are farmed organically. Most of the grapes they purchase are organic or biodynamic.
The Willamette Valley Viticultural Area lies in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. At 5,200 square miles (13,500 km2), it is the largest AVA in the state, and contains most of the state's wineries; The Willamette Valley AVA was established in 1984, and since then six smaller AVAs have been created within the northern portion of Willamette Valley (Dundee Hills, probably the best known, Chehalem Mountains, Eola-Amity Hills, McMinnville, Ribbon Ridge, and Yamhill Carlton ).
Its soils, rich in volcanic and glacial deposits are ideal for wine-growing. This combines with the Willamette Valley’s relatively mild climate: cool, wet winters and warm, dry summers.
The region's terroir provides some of the best conditions for growing Pinot Noir. Although Williamette Valley is worldwide acclaimed for their production of Pinot Noir wines, it also produces such varietals as Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, and limited quantities of Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah.
Pinot Noir is probably the most frustrating, and at times infuriating, wine grape in the world. However when it is successful, it can produce some of the most sublime wines known to man. This thin-skinned grape which grows in small, tight bunches performs well on well-drained, deepish limestone based subsoils as are found on Burgundy's Côte d'Or.
Pinot Noir is more susceptible than other varieties to over cropping - concentration and varietal character disappear rapidly if yields are excessive and yields as little as 25hl/ha are the norm for some climats of the Côte d`Or.
Because of the thinness of the skins, Pinot Noir wines are lighter in colour, body and tannins. However the best wines have grip, complexity and an intensity of fruit seldom found in wine from other grapes. Young Pinot Noir can smell almost sweet, redolent with freshly crushed raspberries, cherries and redcurrants. When mature, the best wines develop a sensuous, silky mouth feel with the fruit flavours deepening and gamey "sous-bois" nuances emerging.
The best examples are still found in Burgundy, although Pinot Noir`s key role in Champagne should not be forgotten. It is grown throughout the world with notable success in the Carneros and Russian River Valley districts of California, and the Martinborough and Central Otago regions of New Zealand.
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With its deep, dark blackberry colour, this gorgeous Pinot Noir still both looks and feels impressively youthful. The nose is fabulous, full of sweet red cherry and fresh raspberry with a volcanic, granitic lift to the aroma. It is aromatically pure with subtle, savoury touches of charcutérie and fresh leather but all is held in check by a wonderful minerality and fruit freshness.
The palate is gorgeously vibrant. This absolutely has the precision and focus of Nicolas-Jay’s subsequent L’Ensemble cuvées. Almost quartz-like, this is so pure, clear and alive. The tannins are chalky-fine and the long length continues on and on. This is brilliant now but would certainly benefit from some more time before it really starts to sing.
Drink now to 2034
Catriona Felstead MW, Senior Buyer, Berry Bros. & Rudd (November 2022)
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