Nicolas & Jay’s 2021s

It was a great pleasure to meet Jay Boberg on his recent trip to London. I often say this when I write about great wines, so here I go again, but please do refer to this winery’s website because there is so much more information than I could ever hope to note down in a speedy tasting!

You can read about the 2018s here and 2019s here.

In 2020, disaster struck with fires 50 kilometres away in Salem, affecting the vines with smoke taint, so no wines were made. 

In 2021, Jay described the vintage as very cold, and it rained a lot in the Spring, so there was a late start, and there was rain during flowering. Nonetheless, the fruit set was good. In June, a ‘heat dome’ took the temperature to 115F! While 110F is not unusual, 115F is extreme, and the vines just shut down. Fortunately, it didn’t adversely affect the grapes. By contrast, August was cool and sunny, and ripening slowed down, and, in the end, everything came in very clean. The first pick was on 4th September, and the last was Chardonnay at Spirit Hill on 26th September.  Interestingly, this fruit goes into Affinités Chardonnay (below). All of the 2021 fruit was clean, with no botrytis, and there was even a tiny amount of rain at harvest, which was beneficial, freshening the fruit. The other point about 2021 was that it was an excellent acid year, and these vintages seem to concentrate the purity of the fruit notes, making the wines very special indeed. These were also the first wines that Nicolas & Jay made at the new winery. This winery was a long time coming. They started this building project in 2019, dismantling a barn and pouring foundations. However, like everything in life, the pandemic delayed the building, and it was fortunate that the market came around. Wine sales kept the winery buoyant during the pandemic, allowing them to finish the winery in time for the 2021 harvest. While the 2021 is already sold out in the UK, the wines were only released in the UK last week. 

Whites

2021 Nicolas & Jay, Affinités Chardonnay, Willamette Valley £228 per case 6 in bond, www.bbr.com

Farming | Organic, Bio-dynamic; Harvested | Sept. 6 – 18, 2021; Harvest Brix | 21.5

Alcohol | 13%; TA | 6.8g/L; pH | 3.2; Fermentation | Native Yeast; Cooperage | 20% New French Oak; Date bottled | March 16th, 2022; Cases made | 592 

Lovely, pure, clean, smooth, layered and beautifully balanced, this is a thrilling wine, and it is made from four parcels in 2021 – Bishops Creek (Yamhill-Carlton AVA), L’Angolo (Dundee Hills), Spirit Hill (Eola-Amity) and Lone Star (Eola-Amity). There is an amazing crunch of limestone that kicks in under gorgeous fruit notes, and the result is a buoyant, smooth and holistically engaging wine.  18.5+/20

2021 Nicolas & Jay, Bishop Creek Chardonnay, Yamhill-Carlton £372 per case 6 in bond, www.bbr.com

Farming | Organic; Harvested | September 17-27; Harvest Brix | 21.2; Alcohol | 13%; Fermentation | Native yeast; Fining/filtration | Light fining; Cooperage | 20% new French oak; Date bottled | March 2, 2023; Cases made | 120 cases

I admit, I didn’t think I would be typing these words, but I am – this is the most incredible Oregon Chardonnay I have ever tasted. It is sensational – and I feel even more excited to announce it reminds me of a great Margaret River Chardonnay than a Burgundy. Stunning, full of magical herbal notes interwoven in the amazingly complex palate. In 2023, they managed to harvest over 3 tons to the acre. In 2021, it was only 1.4, so perhaps this concentration, balanced by extraordinary freshness, is the clue to this wine’s incredible impact. It is tremendously layered, cool and succulent, and the finish is insanely long and amazingly refined.  19+/20

Reds

2021 Nicolas & Jay, L’Ensemble Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley £288 per case 6 in bond, www.bbr.com

Farming | Organic, Bio-dynamic; Harvested | Sept. 8 – 26; Harvest Brix | 22.5; Alcohol | 13.0%; Fermentation | Native Yeast; Fining / Filtration | None; Cooperage | 35% new French oak; Date Bottled | April 27, 2023; Cases Made | 1,800

I cannot believe how captivating this wine is. It is refreshing, cool, centred and balanced, and in 2021, it comes from a blend of 9 plots, the largest being Bishop Creek. It comprises the best barrels from each of these vineyards, and the principal skill on display in L’Ensemble is the dark art of blending! Once again, there is staggering purity here, and Jean-Nicolas picks a particular toast and grain for each distinct parcel of fruit. While he freely admits this is guesswork, and he makes minute changes each year to determine which suits best and always includes a new one in the mix, he has only changed the recipe twice over the years!  The fruit handling and this attention to detail are evident in every flavour molecule. This is a landmark wine for Nicolas & Jay.  19+/20

2021 Nicolas & Jay, Own-Rooted Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley £360 per case 6 in bond, www.bbr.com

Farming | Bio-dynamic, Organic; Harvested | September 8-26; Harvest Brix | 22.5

Alcohol | 13.0%; Fermentation | Native Yeast; Fining/filtration | None; Cooperage | 50% new French oak; Date bottled | April 27, 2023; Cases made | 305

This wine is made from vines that were planted on their own rootstocks, and in 2021, it is made up of three different vineyards: Hyland (McMinnville), Bishop Creek (Yamhill-Carlton) and Nysa (Dundee Hills). It is a dryer and more structured wine than L’Ensemble, with more of a smoky tone with a hint of meatiness. Only Pinot obsessives need apply here! There is terrific concentration and definition, making this a wine formed of vines that express the ultimate representation of terroir. As Jay puts it, “there is no graft to filter the flavour”.  18.5+/20 

2021 Nicolas & Jay, Momtazi Pinot Noir, McMinnville £384 per case 6 in bond, www.bbr.com

This is one of two biodynamically farmed vineyards in the group, and it always delivers spicier and darker-toned fruit than the others. I sense Nebbiolo-like tension here, and this makes Momtazi more immediately expressive but also more polarising. While it appears to be one of the richer and more dazzling wines in the portfolio, and it is certainly juicy and intense, a lot of this scale is derived from earth as opposed to fruit tones, making Momtazi an entirely fascinating wine.  18.5+/20

2021 Nicolas & Jay, Nysa Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills £384 per case 6 in bond, www.bbr.com

Made from own-rooted vines planted in 1990, there is phylloxera present in this vineyard and so its days are numbered (in years, of course), and I feel that there is a more angular and more particular character here that brings subtlety and accuracy to the fore. Specific flavours of violets, roses and sour cherries, without the glitz of Momtazi make this a curiously focussed and unwavering wine, and you can sense the warmer, south-facing site and volcanic undertones here. Nysa starts quietly, but it builds and grabs hold of your senses (gently), and this makes it a thoroughly convincing wine.  18.5/20

2021 Nicolas & Jay, Bishop Creek Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton £384 per case 6 in bond, www.bbr.com

Made from solely the own-rooted vines in block 3 (Pommard clone) and block 4 (777 clone), this is a stunningly classy wine with a calm, quiet, deeply penetrative flavour that ought to be more sombre and challenging but turns out to be silky, cherry-soaked, creamy and luxurious. There are even lovely, teasingly hedonistic raspberry notes hidden in its depths, making this a fantastic gift that unwraps itself on your palate and seems more layered than appears possible.  19/20

FIN