2020 Nicolas-Jay, Affinités, Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA
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.
Chardonnay is the "Big Daddy" of white wine grapes and one of the most widely planted in the world. It is suited to a wide variety of soils, though it excels in soils with a high limestone content as found in Champagne, Chablis, and the Côte D`Or.
Burgundy is Chardonnay's spiritual home and the best White Burgundies are dry, rich, honeyed wines with marvellous poise, elegance and balance. They are unquestionably the finest dry white wines in the world. Chardonnay plays a crucial role in the Champagne blend, providing structure and finesse, and is the sole grape in Blanc de Blancs.
It is quantitatively important in California and Australia, is widely planted in Chile and South Africa, and is the second most widely planted grape in New Zealand. In warm climates Chardonnay has a tendency to develop very high sugar levels during the final stages of ripening and this can occur at the expense of acidity. Late picking is a common problem and can result in blowsy and flabby wines that lack structure and definition.
Recently in the New World, we have seen a move towards more elegant, better- balanced and less oak-driven Chardonnays, and this is to be welcomed.
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The 2020 Affinités Chardonnay opens with citrus blossom, lemon curd and quince. These seductive aromatics give way to hints of river rock, fresh rain and baked apples.
Minerality and wet stone on the palate reveal flavours of lemon zest and tart candied apples. Tightly-grained French oak nuance and fruit-driven intensity add weight and power as the wine continues to drive forward.
This impressive chardonnay is defined by its linear precision and consistent tension. There is a remarkable purity here, an electricity of bound energy that cannot be mistaken for anything other than a wine of significance and ageability.
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