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Nicolas-Jay project invests in new winery

Domaine Nicolas-Jay, the joint project between Burgundian winemaker Jean-Nicolas Meo and music entrepreneur Jay Boberg in Oregon, has opened its own winery in the Dundee Hills.

The news came as the pair presented two wines for the first time in the UK. These were the estate’s new flagship label, a Pinot Noir blend from the “best of the best” vineyards they work with in the wider Willamette Valley, and their first single site Chardonnay from the Bishop Creek vineyard.

Both wines are from the 2018 vintage, which Boberg said was, “our best vintage to date”.

‘L’Ensemble’ as the new Pinot blend is known has a production run of around 1,200 cases of 6×75 and is being offered at £81 a bottle.

For the Bishop Creek Chardonnay, the team selected the best four barrels leading to a first bottling of just 120 packs of 6×75, with a price of £105 a bottle.

Boberg added that the plan was to build up the Chardonnay programme so that it eventually mirrored that of the Pinot range with a flagship blend and several single site bottlings.

Not available in the UK this year are small quantities of two other Chardonnay-based wines; a blend of two sites (including the rest of the Bishop Creek fruit) called ‘Affinites’ and a Chardonnay/Pinot Gris blend called ‘L’Alliance’.


New winery

The project now has its own winery too. For the first six vintages the pair made wine at rented space in other local wineries; first Adelsheim and then Sokol Blosser.

Boberg explained that they had not invested in a winery in 2014 when they embarked on the project because they were unsure of the reaction the wines would get. As a following has developed it became clear it was a necessary next step.

The 2020 vintage was the first made in the new facility, a converted cattle barn. Boberg said that it was, “the first time Jean-Nicolas was able to make the wine in the manner he really wanted.”

Although he said that the previous years working in a shared winery, “didn’t impact the quality of the wine,” nonetheless, he added: “Having our own winery will be a big difference – in learning and being able to do things.”

The new winery also comes with 53 acres of land, some 25 acres (10 hectares) of which have been deemed suitable for planting, allowing the pair to begin expanding their own vineyard holdings and production.

A small amount of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay was planted recently with more to follow this year – roughly eight acres in total – with more being added over time.

The new vineyard is on the opposite side of the Dundee Hills to many other estates including Domaine Drouhin.

It is a slightly cooler site, the potential of which intrigued them both. Jean-Nicolas Meo said it was, “like a move from Chambolle to Vosne-Romanee [where his own family domain is based]”.

US wines are increasingly finding a global audience and seeing their share of trade by volume and value rise on the secondary market. In 2019, US wines accounted for just 2% of trade by value on the exchange which rose to 7% last year.

Californian wines are dominating this trade, representing 99% of the trade value in 2020, while Oregon accounts for just 0.20% of US trade.

From the very small number of Oregon wines traded last year, however, Nicolas Jay’s Pinot Noirs were the most traded by both volume and value; with the 2017, 2015 and 2014 vintages being sought out.