Music Exec and Burgundy Star Collaborating on Oregon Pinot Noir

I.R.S. Records cofounder Jay Boberg and winemaker Jean-Nicolas Méo launch a wine in Willamette Valley

California music executive Jay Boberg and Burgundian winemaker Jean-Nicolas Méo of Domaine Méo-Camuzet have announced their formation of a partnership, the latest in a string of high-profile international winemaking collaborations to be announced in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

Méo, who learned his craft from Henri Jayer, is consulting winemaker on the as-yet-unnamed project. His winery in the village of Vosne-Romanée is one of Burgundy’s top producers.

Boberg cofounded the seminal I.R.S. record label in 1979 and headed the MCA Records division of Universal Music from 1994 to 2003. He is currently chairman of Isolation Networks, parent of digital music provider INgrooves and digital book publisher INscribe.

A longtime wine aficionado who owned a Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard in Napa Valley in the early 1990s, Boberg has been planning this venture with Méo since 2011. “Jean-Nicolas and I have known each other for 30 years,” Boberg told Wine Spectator. “He trained under Jayer and he has evolved his own style. The wines that he makes are some of the best and most elegant you can find.”

For the 2013 vintage, Méo and Boberg will produce approximately 300 cases of Pinot Noir selected from two blocks of the historic Maresh Vineyard in the Willamette Valley’s Dundee Hills. Kelley Fox, winemaker for Scott Paul Wines, oversaw biodynamic and organic farming of the self-rooted, 25-year-old vines, and made the wine according to Méo’s directions, which included harvesting and transporting the fruit in small lug boxes rather than 190-gallon bins.

“The biggest departure for me was the assiduous care taken at picking and sorting,” Fox told Wine Spectator. “We did a bit of whole-cluster-fermentation, and for that we trimmed each cluster a certain way, by hand. It was very time-consuming, but very cool.”

A heavy rainstorm put a damper on an otherwise-stellar growing season in the Willamette Valley this autumn, but Boberg is bullish about the wines. “Jean-Nicolas didn’t think this was anything unusual. He has enormous experience dealing with vintages in a great deal of rain in Burgundy. I think the caliber of the winemaking is going to have a great result,” he said.

The partners plan to increase production to 2,000 cases and move into a separate facility in time for the 2014 vintage.

The announcement comes just months after négociant Louis Jadot purchased Resonance Vineyard in the Willamette Valley, and film producer Mark Tarlov, formerly of Evening Land Vineyards, announced his collaboration with Burgundian Louis-Michel Liger-Belair on the new Oregon labels Chapter 24, Fire and Flood and Two Messengers.

“At one point, Jean-Nicolas and I were going to be partners with Mark and Louis-Michel,” said Boberg. “And while we still may partner in some way at some point in the future, we decided it would be best to have two separate entities.”

The Boberg-Méo partnership brings the total number of well-known Burgundian winemakers working in Oregon’s Willamette Valley to five, as Méo joins Véronique Drouhin at Domaine Drouhin Oregon; Dominique Lafon at Evening Land Vineyards; Jacques Lardière at Louis Jadot’s Resonance Vineyard project; and Liger-Belair at Chapter 24.

But the new partnership does not come as a surprise to insiders. Boberg has been a longtime friend of fellow music-industry veterans David Millman, now managing director at Domaine Drouhin Oregon, and Scott Wright, an importer of wines from Burgundy and Champagne and owner of Scott Paul Wines, in the Willamette Valley town of Carlton. In Burgundy, Méo, Liger-Belair and Drouhin are also close.

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