J. Christopher Winery
On a clear day last July, Jay Somers led me around the estate vineyard accompanied by his two German Shepherds, Nina and Aja. He pointed to an old tree that looked like it was dead, but actually had a thriving bee colony buzzing around it. It used to be somewhere else: right in the middle of where they wanted to plant some Pinot Noir. To preserve the bees, the team covered it in shrink wrap early one morning and carefully moved it to the periphery of the property. This respect for the whole farm as an ecosystem informs Jay’s growing and winemaking. This will come as no surprise as Jay, whose middle name is Christopher, made his first vintage 1996 at Cameron Winery. In 2010, Jay and Dr. Ernst Loosen formed a partnership and broke ground on the new winery in the Chehalem Mountains.
Before I ever discovered the beauty of their Pinots, I was enchanted by the “Über” Sauvignon Blanc. I was first introduced to this wine while dining at the Allison Inn in Dundee by a Master Sommelier who insisted it was a dead ringer for the Loire Valley - and he was right. Made in a combination acacia barrel, concrete egg, and stainless steel, the source for this wine is the Croft Vineyard, southwest of the Eola-Amity Hills. Jay has been a champion of Sauvignon Blanc because he believes that the valley is too warm for the more popular Pinot Gris. Plus, it is a better suited partner for Pinot Noir, as is demonstrated with the Loire's Central Vineyards. The winery also releases an all-stainless Sauvignon Blanc from the Croft Vineyards as well as a blend from several AVAs.
The main focus of production is on Pinot Noir. The crown jewel is the Appassionata cuvée, the name a wine made from a selection of special barrels (and also the name of the estate vineyard). The wine has been made since 2005 from other sources but in 2013, the first fruit came off of the vineyard. Jay and Erni decide to release the wines whenever they think it is ready – 2005 and 2008 have yet to hit market. Sometimes no wine is made at all, such as in 2010 and 2011. While most of his other Pinots come from the Chehalem Mountains, my favorite is the Lumière, from the Eola-Amity Hills. I was able to pour the 2011 by the glass for two wine programs in Portland and it satisfied such a wide array of guests. It’s the kind of wine your in-laws will love, as will your wine geek terroir-seeking friends. Sourced from several vineyards in the northern part of the appellation, it is polished and zippy. While the 2011 is a revelation, the 2012 is the current release. It is bolder and riper, but bears the intensity of the vintage well.