Nicolas-Jay L'Ensemble Pinot noir 2019
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94 points Wine Spectator: "A wine with grace and tension, this opens with pretty violet aromas that lead to vibrant, steely raspberry and guava flavors accented by forest floor and spices. Ends with refined, mineral-tinged tannins. Drink now through 2030."
2018 vintage notes
95 points Decanter: "L'Ensemble is the selection of the best barrels from across the favoured vineyards where Nicolas-Jay sources grapes, including the estate Bishop Creek. These are not pre-selected, but chosen anew each year. The 2018 selection shows off the ripe, black fruit of the vintage with an appealing savoury, meaty character and a dense, tannic structure on the palate. Yet the sensitive winemaking has preserved freshness and elegance despite the warm, dry growing season to leave a lasting impression. This wine will age magnificently well."
95 points Jamie Goode's Wine Anorak: "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.
More on Nicolas-Jay
A partnership between Jean-Nicolas Méo, owner and winemaker of famed Burgundian winery Domaine Méo-Camuzet and longtime friend Jay Boberg, one of the most influential music entrepreneurs of the last several decades, Nicolas-Jay has exceeded our expectations and softened our cynical edge. We highly recommend you check them out.
We've been in the Oregon wine industry long enough to form highly qualified opinions. We've seen trends, wineries, and personalities come and go.
At first, we weren't sure what to think of Nicolas-Jay. Was it a vanity project of two high-profile men, where the story was the featured "product" and the wine was an afterthought, all style and no substance?
The answer is, unequivocally, no. The person who was key to our discovery and understanding of the wines and vision behind Nicolas-Jay is Tracy Kendall, Associate Winemaker. After meeting and tasting with Tracy in the store a couple times, I visited her in the Nicolas-Jay barrel room (housed at Adelsheim) and was even more convinced that N-J is creating special Willamette Valley wines. We've since spent time with Jay and Jean-Nicolas; as we wrote in our first offering of Nicolas-Jay wines, consider us won over.
Because the two proprietors are larger-than-life successes in their respective fields, I wondered from the beginning what it was like for Tracy to work with them, if she felt in the shadows. I know first hand how challenging it can be to find your own voice within Oregon wine. Seeing Tracy, Jay, and Jean-Nicolas interact, it's clear that they are a team and that Jay and Jean-Nicolas know how lucky they are to have Tracy's talents (Jay commented, wryly, "someday we'll all be working for Tracy").
My conversation with her confirmed it. "Jay and Jean-Nicolas are incredibly supportive and collaborative, encouraging and inclusive. They've always been very excited to have me at every consumer event and tasting, every interview and festival. They see me as the third leg in a tripod.
"And in turn I get a lot of questions, especially from the media, along the lines of well Jean-Nicolas is the 'winemaker' but you're actually the winemaker, and the reality is that's not true. Jean-Nicolas is very much an executive winemaker and the inspiration behind why we do what we do. He lives far away but he's here a fair amount, and I wake up to text messages from him, or I call and we rap about a barrel that's not quite right. I can call him anytime and he's very open to my input, and will suggest that we incorporate a new technique I learned in New Zealand or at Adelsheim that might make the wines better.
"I feel really blessed. I came to Adelsheim in 2011 as an intern; they kept me on as a cellar hand and by the next harvest they had made me enologist, which I did for 3.5 years before I was brought on as associate winemaker of Nicolas-Jay. It has been an incredible gift and boon to my career. I am doing so much more than enology: I'm in the market and in the vineyards. I'm getting a crash course in running a small winery.
"People ask me all the time if I'm going to start my own winery, particularly because my husband is the assistant winemaker at Beaux Freres and we've made wine here together. I feel like this is my wine, I feel like this is my winery. I am part of this team and this family. My identity is wrapped up in Nicolas-Jay."
I said, without attempting to put words in Tracy's mounth, "So the answer to the question 'are you going to make your own wine?' is, I already do."
She agreed and with a chuckle said, "I do, and without having to raise millions of dollars! It's an ego thing for a lot of people and for me, being a part of something so incredible strokes my ego plenty! I don't need to have it be called Tracy Kendall Wines."