Nicolas-Jay Willamette Valley Pinot noir 2021
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A beautiful garnet color is the first indication of a dense, concentrated harvest. It’s stunning at first approach with red cherry, black tea and subtle splashes of toasted clove, spices and citrus aromas. The fruit is crunchy and wet at this early stage, but a core of cinnamon spice and light menthol arrive to inter-mingle with these coldpressed red fruit elements as the wine begins to stretch out. Alert acidity on the front-end gives way to granite, medium-weight tannins. It’s round on the palate, but shifts into a compression of red bush fruits, orange citrus and sandalwood that presses for minutes but still finds a way to maintain an elegant canter so typical of this celebrated cuvée.
2019 vintage notes
95 points Wine Spectator: "A lovely wine, supple and harmonious, with multilayered raspberry and cherry flavors that mix with brown baking spices and a hint of mineral as this builds richness and tension toward polished tannins. Drink now through 2030."
2018 vintage notes
94 points Wine Spectator: "Silky, savory and well-knit, with polished raspberry, spiced cinnamon and orange peel accents that build tension toward refined tannins. Drink now through 2030."
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."