New releases from Nicolas-Jay, an Oregon legend in the making
Nicolas-Jay is a collaboration between Burgundian winemaker Jean-Nicolas Méo (Domaine Méo-Camuzet), and renowned music and media entrepreneur Jay Boberg (who co-founded IRS Records). I visited and interviewed them in July 2019 (you can read this here if you want more background on this interesting project).
They have just released two new wines, which I tasted with them over a Zoom. The first is their debut white, a Chardonnay from the top of their estate Bishop Creek vineyard, and the second is a new high-end Pinot called L’Ensemble, which brings together the most expressive barrels from the eight different vineyard sites they work with. They are both extremely impressive wines.
The debut vintage was 2014, and the first six vintages were made in other peoples’ wineries: they began at Adelsheim, and then moved to Sokol Blosser. From this vintage, though, they’ll have their own winery.
They have bought a 53 acre (21 hectare) property on the north slope of the Dundee Hills. As well as planting a vineyard (some 25 acres/10 hectares) are plantable, and Pinot Noir and Chardonnay will be going into the ground beginning this autumn) they have rebuilt and existing barn as a winery. This will mean that they can be fully gravity flow, and also install a 12-person sorting table like the one Jean-Nicolas uses in Bourgogne.
Nicolas Jay Bishop Creek Chardonnay 2018 Yamhill-Carlton, Oregon
13.5% alcohol. Marine sedimentary soils at altitude: this comes from the top part of the estate Bishop Creek vineyard, planted in 1990, and organically farmed since 2014. This sees 20% new oak and is the first white from Nicolas Jay . This is fresh and finely wrought with fine meal and toast notes alongside rounded lemon and white peach fruit. There’s a subtle saline streak under the fruit that’s really appealing, as well as some grainy, spicy character. Lovely detail and precision. There’s some richness here, but it’s moderated by the salinity and the fresh lemony character: it’s a really mineral expression of Chardonnay. Very, very fine: it’s a subtle wine that repays questioning. Sit with it for a while and it will surprise you. 94/100 (£105 Berry Bros & Rudd)
Nicolas Jay Pinot Noir L’Ensemble 2018 Willamette Valley, Oregon
13.5% alcohol. A selection of the most expressive barrels from each of the eight vineyards, spanning Dundee Hills, Eola-Amity, McMinville and Yamhill-Carlton. Wild yeast, unfiltered and unfined, aged 14 months in French oak (a third new). This is fresh, refined and textural with sweet black cherry and berry fruits, some nice acidity and appropriate tannic structure. It’s harmonious and silky, but also has nice brightness and a bit of grip, suggesting this could age in interesting ways. It has an Oregon stamp, but also an old world sensibility and refinement. I love the core of fresh, fluid, silky black cherry fruit, which never veers off into overripeness. 95/100 (£81 Berry Bros & Rudd)
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