The J. Christopher winery is located in Oregon’s Northern Willamette Valley, in the Chehalem Mountains AVA. It is a small winery that specializes in Pinot Noir made using the traditional methods of Burgundy. The winery is also one of the few in Oregon to produce Sauvignon Blanc, modeled after the great wines of Sancerre. Owner Jay Somers has been making wine in Oregon for more than 15 years, and established the J. Christopher brand in 1996. Jay’s wines are hand-crafted in small lots and are sourced from some of the best vineyards in Oregon.
Somers founded the J. Christopher winery after training with Don Kautzner at Adelsheim Vineyard in Oregon, Neil McCallum at Dry Creek Vineyard in New Zealand, and John Paul at Cameron Winery. Shortly thereafter, Jay relocated his production to his new winery in the Chehalem Mountain AVA and planted the surrounding 40 acres to massale selection Pinot Noir vines and a small amount of Sauvignon Blanc (this would become the Appassionata vineyard).
Jay Somers and Ernst Loosen (from Dr. Loosen) met in 2001 and quickly realized that they shared a similar taste and passion for Pinot Noir. The two cemented their friendship in 2004 when Jay traveled to Germany to help the short-handed harvest crew at Dr. Loosen. It wasn’t long before they began talking about collaborating to produce Pinot Noir together in Oregon. Their friendship led to a partnership, and in 2010 they began building a winery and planting a vineyard in Newberg, Oregon.
|APPELLATION(S)||Chehalem Mountains, Dundee Hills, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley|
(SUSTAINABLE, ORGANIC, BIODYNAMIC)
J. Christopher farms sustainably and is a member of the Deep Roots Coalition, a local group of growers dedicated to dry-farming their vineyards. In addition, the winery gets much of its electricity from solar power.
Chehalem Mountains AVA - The vineyards here are farmed according to sustainably, environmentally sensitive practices. It is meant to be the primary source for the high-end “Appassionata” cuvée that first launched the collaboration between Jay and Ernst. Elevation in this AVA ranges from 200 to 1633 feet, and temperatures and rainfall can vary widely.The 11 different counted soil types encompass everything from sedimentary sea beds to red volcanic soils to glacial sediment. The variations in aspect and soil give the team multiple different terroir possibilities. The Estate vineyard, also called Appassionata, is being farmed according to sustainable, environmentally sensitive practices. No pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers are used, only organic soil amendments (including compost made from the winery’s own pomace) and some biodynamic treatments for vine health. There is no irrigation.
Dundee Hills AVA - This AVA is defined by a chain of hills created as a result of volcanic activity and tectonic shifts. Located about 28 miles southwest of Portland and 40 miles inland from the Oregon Coast, this region is protected from severe weather by the Coast Range. It is noted for its red volcanic Jory soils, which provide optimal drainage for grapes. It gets about 30 to 45 inches of rain per year, most of which falls outside of the growing season.
Eola-Amity Hills AVA - This AVA covers almost 38,000 acres stretching from Amity to Salem. Like the Dundee Hills, this string of hills ranging from 250 to 700 feet in elevation was created by intense volcanic and tectonic activity. The weather here is mild with cool summer afternoons lending firm acid structure to developing grapes. The average 40 inches of annual precipitation generally has the good grace to fall after harvest. The shallow,rocky soils here are mainly volcanic basalt with some marine sediment and alluvial deposits. It provides good drainage for grapes of great concentration.
Yamhill-Carlton AVA - This is one of Oregon's younger wine-growing region. The AVA is sheltered from dramatic weather turns by the Coast Range to the west, Chehalem Mountains to the north and the Dundee Hills to the east. Its moderate conditions combined with elevations from 200 to 1000 feet, provide perfect conditions for Pinot Noir and other cool-climate grapes. The quick-draining soils in this area are mainly ancient marine sedimentary soils on a foundation of sandstone and silt.
The philosophy at J. Christopher is to produce wines in an Old World style that emphasizes focus, length and balance. As Jay puts it, “We do not make fruit bombs. We want wines that have a fine balance of fruit, acidity and texture. We want wines that give you more than just a big mid-palate blast — wines that are complete.” The key to this, Jay firmly believes, is patient winemaking — it is vital not to rush things and allow the wines to develop naturally. One important example: Jay would never use cultured yeasts to induce malolactic fermentation in his Pinot Noir. This is a New World techique done to facilitate earlier bottling, but Jay feels it is damaging to the wine’s texture and balance. He wants the wines to evolve at their own pace, with a minimum of intervention.
Jay destems 90% of the fruit, while also experimenting with whole-cluster and gentle crushing. All wines undergo long, wild yeast fermentations and natural malolactic fermentation. They spend 18 to 20 months in barrel (25% 1-year-old; 25% 2-year old; 25% 3-year-old). Racking only occurs after malo and before bottling. Wines are unfined and unfiltered.