Thursday, April 2, 2015

On the Way from Düsseldorf, Germany, to Portland, Oregon: Winemaker Jay Somers, J. Christopher Wines, Stops in Northern Virginia, USA

Picture: Annette Schiller, ombiasy WineTours, Christian Schiller and Jay Somers, J. Christopher Wines, at the Wine House in Virginia, USA

One of the highlights of our tour a few years ago from Seattle in Washington State to Berkeley in California (where my daughter Katharina used to live) and further South to Paso Robles, was an encounter with star winemaker and killer guitarist Jay Somers in the White Eagle Rock/Jazz Club in Seattle (and a visit of the J. Christopher Estate a few days later with Jay’s right hand man Tim Malone). See: A Riesling Guru and a Killer Guitarist cum Cult Winemaker: Ernst Loosen and Jay Somers and their J. Christopher Winery in Newberg, Oregon

Pictures: Christian Schiller with Jay Somers in Portland, Oregon, at the White Eagle Club

Thus, when I got an invitation from Desiree Schröder, the Sales Director of Ernst Loosen’s wines in Germany, to join Jay Somers and his partner Ernst Loosen at one of their events (in Cologne, Berlin and Hamburg) on their Germany Tour following Prowein 2015, I was very disappointed when my calendar did not allow me to participate, because I had a few things on my to-do-list before flying back from Germany to the USA a few days later.

Picture: J. Christopher Deutschland Tour

Against this background, I was very excited when I arrived in the USA and found out that on his way back from Germany to the US West Coast, Jay Somers was stopping on the East Coast and, inter alia, presenting his wines at the Wine House in Fairfax in Northern Virginia. So, while the tasting in Germany did not work out, I had the opportunity to taste a flight of 4 J. Christopher wines at The Wine House in Fairfax, Northern Virginia, with Jay Somers.

Pictures: Welcome at the Wine House - Annette and Christian Schiller, Jay Somers and Sarah Noble of Loosen Bros.

J. Christopher Winery in Oregon

The J. Christopher Winery is located in the Chehalem Mountains AVA, a beautiful growing region of more than 100 square miles in Oregon, located just 19 miles from Portland and 45 miles from the coast. It is a joint venture of Germany’s Riesling Guru Ernst Loosen and the Oregon cult winemaker Jay Somers. J. Christopher Wines specializes in Pinot Noir made in the traditional style of Burgundy; the winery also produces Sauvignon Blanc modeled after the great wines of Sancerre.

Germany, sees his role as that of an investor who both supports the growth of the brand and broadens the winery’s exposure to Old World ideas and techniques.

Pictures: Christian Schiller with Tim Malone at the J. Christopher Winery (while under Construction)

The Jay Somers and J. Christopher Wines: The Early Years

Jay has a degree in philosophy and initially made beer. But Jay developed a passion for wine and got out of the beer business. In the years leading up to the launch of his own winery, Jay had the fortune to work with Don Kautzner at Adelsheim Vineyard in Oregon, Neil McCallum at Dry Creek Vineyard in New Zealand, and John Paul at Cameron Winery in Oregon. From Don, he learned that it was possible to make Burgundian-style Pinots in Oregon. Through Neil, he gained a passion for white wines. In his five years at Cameron, Jay adopted an Old World style of vineyard management and winemaking — a style that resulted in wines that tasted more like the Burgundies he loved to drink. With John’s encouragement, he bottled his first J. Christopher vintage in 1996, using the Cameron facility and fruit purchased from the neighboring Charlie’s vineyard. His first vintage, like many to follow, sold out in less than a week.

After Jay’s third vintage of J. Christopher, Jay spent the next 11 years making J. Christopher alongside Holloran Vineyard Wines at the Holloran facility in the Willamette Valley. Here, he continued to develop his Burgundian winemaking style: “Don’t force the vineyard, don’t irrigate the crap out of it, don’t spray a bunch of chemicals on it, and do all the hand labor right.”

Pictures: Tasting with Jay Somers at the Wine House in Fairfax

Riesling Guru Ernst Loosen

Ernst Loosen is the owner of Weingut Dr. Loosen, located just outside Bernkastel in the Mosel wine region. In 2001, the Gault Millau Weinguide named Ernst Loosen the German Winemaker of the Year.

Ernst is not only a star in Germany, but also in the USA. In Germany, Ernst Loosen is also the owner of Weingut J.L.Wolf in the Pfalz region, where he makes, inter alia, Pinot Noir. The joint venture with Jay Somers is not his first project in the US. He has been making wine now for many years in Washington State: Eroica, a Riesling, also a joint venture (with the Washington State giant with Chateau Ste. Michelle).

Picture: Annette Schiller, ombiasy WineTours, Christian Schiller, Winemaker Bob Berteau, Chateau St. Michelle in Washington State and Riesling Gurur Ernst Loosen, Weingut Dr. Loosen, at Prowein 2015

4 Wine Tours by ombiasy coming up in 2015: Germany-East, Germany-South. Germany-Nord and Bordeaux 

Jay Somers, Ernst Loosen and J. Christopher Winery: The Recent Year

Jay Somers and Ernst Loosen met years ago, and quickly realized that they shared a similar taste and passion for Pinot Noir. Their friendship led to a partnership (Loosen Christopher Wines LLC) and in 2010, they began building a winery and vineyard. As winemaker for the joint venture, Jay is in charge of all winery operations. Ernst, based in Germany, sees his role as that of an investor who both supports the growth of the brand and broadens the winery’s exposure to Old World ideas and techniques.

Loosen Christopher Wines LLC produces wines under the J. Christopher brand. The venture purchased a 40-acre property for a new vineyard and J. Christopher Winery on Hillside Drive in Newberg, Oregon, with a production capacity of 8000 cases of Pinot Noir and 2000 cases of Sauvignon Blanc and other white wines.

Pictures: Tasting with Jay Somers at the Wine House in Fairfax

The new winery has a lot of interesting features: Underground caves built using insulated concrete arches set into a north-facing slope help maintain natural cool temperatures and great humidity, allowing the wine to be held in barrels with very little evaporation loss and eliminating the energy use of artificial heating, cooling and humidification. “The caves naturally maintain a constant temperature between 52 and 60 degrees all year without any artificial heating or cooling,” said Tim Malone, when I visited the winery. “If they were above-ground, we’d be running heat and humidifiers constantly all winter and AC in the summer.”

Solar panels on the roof of the barrel cellar have generated power credits (meaning that the winery is making more energy than it’s using) since they were installed. Use of fluorescent bulbs throughout the winery add to the energy savings.

Waste from the winemaking process is all recycled. Spent grapes are composted and a process wastewater disposal system metabolizes the water and drips it into the soil at a low rate so it doesn’t get into the aquifer.

The Wines we Tasted at The Wine House

The Wine House is a wine store and a wine bistro at the same time. It offers a bistro-style dining experience paired with a large selection of wines from all over the world. I find the atmosphere very appealing – relaxed, sophisticated, and modern. The wine selection is excellent.

Pictures: Michael Pearce, Owner of the Wine House in Fairfax, and Christian G.E.Schiller

Wednesday evening is the so called Flight Night. This time, 4 J.Christopher wines were offered, with the winemaker and owner himself explaining the wines to the clients.

Jay Somers poured 4 wines:

Pictures: The 4 Wines Jay Somers Poured

2013 J. Christopher Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is a specialty at J. Christopher. Although not widely planted in Oregon’s Northern Willamette Valley, Sauvignon Blanc is ideal for the area’s climate, as this wine proves. Made in the clean, fresh style of France’s Loire Valley, this wine is fermented in stainless steel and does not go through malolactic fermentation. The result is a classic, highly aromatic Sauvignon Blanc with perfect ripeness and excellent acidity.

Appellation: Willamette Valley

Cases: 650

2013 J. Christopher Cuvee Lunatique Chardonnay

When Jay first produced this fresh, clean Chardonnay with no oak or malolactic fermentation, some called him a lunatic. But its local popularity proves that he wasn’t so crazy after all.

Appellation: Willamette Valley
Cases: 260

2012 J. Christopher Pinot Noir Willamette Valley

The Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is the flagship J. Christopher wine. The 2012 is blended from excellent vineyards in four of the Willamette Valley’s AVAs: Dundee Hills, Chehalem Mountains, Yamhill-Carlton and Eola-Amity Hills. Made with native fermentations and up to 18 months of barrel time, this is classic Oregon Pinot Noir.

Appellation: Dundee Hills, Chehalem Mountains, Yamhill-Carlton and Eola Hills
Cases: 2,600

2012 J. Christopher Pinot Noir Dundee Hills

This cuvée is a blend of selected barrels from several excellent vineyard sites in the red Jory clay of the Dundee Hills AVA. It shows the depth and power that are typical of this area, with classic savory and sanguine notes and a seamless acid structure. The 2012 vintage includes barrels from Bella Vida, La Colina, Meyer, and Charlie’s vineyards.

Appellation: Dundee Hills (Terroir Series)
Cases: 943

schiller-wine: Related Postings

Riesling from Germany and Pinot Noir from Oregon: A Winemaker Dinner with Ernst Loosen, Weingut Dr. Loosen and J.Christopher Wines, at Black Salt in Washington DC.

Riesling, Pinot Noir and Indian Cuisine: A tête-à-tête Dinner with Winemaker Ernst Loosen, Weingut Dr. Loosen, at Rasika in Washington DC, USA

Ernst Loosen and Dr. L. Riesling - His Hugely Popular Entry-level Wine Sold Throughout the World;

The Doctor Made a House Call - A Tasting with Ernst Loosen, Weingut Dr. Loosen, at MacArthur Beverages in Washington DC, USA

A Riesling Guru and a Killer Guitarist cum Cult Winemaker: Ernst Loosen and Jay Somers and their J. Christopher Winery in Newberg, Oregon

Wine ratings: Two American/German wines - Eroica and Poet's Leap - on Top 100 Wines from Washington State list for 2009

German American Wines: (1) Pacific Rim Riesling (2) Eroica and (3) Woelffer's Schillerwein

The German Winemakers at the 4th Riesling Rendezvous in Seattle, USA

4 Wine Tours by ombiasy coming up in 2015: Germany-East, Germany-South. Germany-Nord and Bordeaux

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