2021 Nicolas-Jay Chardonnay, ‘Affinités’ Willamette Valley
Even while Pinot Noir from Oregon was catching the imagination of wine lovers everywhere 25 years ago, Chardonnay from the northwest was proving to be a very hard sell. Even when they were good- and that wasn’t too often back then- customers preferred the predictability and style of those tried and true Chards from Burgundy and California. My, how times have changed! As experience working with this hard-to-master grape in Oregon has increased and vintners have found the right spots to plant it, so has its quality improved, and the best Willamette Valley Chards can now drink with any Chardonnay made anywhere in the world and, just as importantly, the wines have a sense of style all their own and don’t simply mimic the competition. And I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that one of the best examples of Oregon Chardonnay we’ve ever tried was made at Nicolas-Jay. This Franco-American marriage between California music mogul Jay Boberg and native Burgundian Jean-Nicolas Meo of the iconic Meo-Camuzet estate is thoroughly dedicated to creating something new and uniquely expressive of the Bishop Creek Vineyard terroir they’ve chosen to work with in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. Farming organically and using as light a touch as possible in the cellar, Meo has proven to be as adept as working with Chard as with Pinot Noir, producing a single cuvee that exudes a level of class in an Oregon Chardonnay we’ve simply not seen before! And, having had wines like Doug Tunell’s wonderful Brick House Cascadia, the benchmark Ponzi Reserve and, more recently, Louis Jadot’s Resonance, in the past, that’s really saying something! The 2021 Nicolas-Jay Affinités Chardonnay sets a high bar for the variety in the state with its elegance and finesse- a sort of sublime sense of understatement that starts with a fresh nose of lemongrass, lemon thyme and lightly lees-infused Asian pear that gives way to a palate that’s not at all heavy but somehow, still, full and satisfying. Lots of people in the wine biz speak of ‘weight without heaviness,’ and that’s exactly how this uniquely Oregonian Chardonnay feels on the palate. Taught, bright and more savory than sweet, there’s an impossibly long finish that belies its elegance. Intrigued? We were. Try some with some seared scallops with a lemon-thyme or tarragon butter sauce, an herby quail with grill marks on it or a poached salmon or halibut with a corn-pepper salsa. Will it age? We’re guessing yes. A must try while we wait for Nicolas-Jay’s 2021 Pinot Noirs to arrive in September. And considering the quality, this is not a bad price!
International Wine Report: The 2021 Affinités Chardonnay is aged for 25% new French oak barrels and displays a light lemon and straw core with a water rim. This is a scintillating and gorgeous Chardonnay from the winemaking wizards of Nicolas Jay that showcases what Chardonnay can be from Oregon. Grilled lemon citrus, singed herbs, and white nectarine merge with shades of white clay, wet stone, and pink grapefruit pith. The palate is a perfect mélange of brioche, citrus, and sliced green apples with perfectly balanced acidity and a lengthy finish that doesn’t stop. 97 points
Decanter: Whispers of lemon curd and fresh mint soften the brace of crisp green apples and limes in this spirited, salt-licked Chardonnay produced by Jean-Nicolas Méo of Méo-Camuzet fame, music mogul Jay Boberg, and the American winemaker Tracy Kendall. Vinified entirely in neutral French oak with ambient yeast, it's full-bodied. 94 points