Domaine Roy’s 2016 Maison Roy & Fils Pinot Noir, Shai
My friend GG sent me an image a month ago of a new wine that he had not yet tried, which is saying something. It was a wine that was selling at Skyview Wines and it was called Maison Roy & Fils Pinot Noir, Shai.
The first question we all had was what is Maison Roy & Fils? A quick Google search quickly found it to be an up and coming Burgundy style Domaine in the heart of the Willamette Valley of Oregon.
Sadly, there have been very few really good Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley of Oregon. This may well be the best one that I have tasted so far. The wine has the stylings of its owners, clean lines, almost clinically so, but with heart and soul, a purpose and focus of home, while being professionally styled and without too much fanfare.
A quick glance at the winery and you will see the same thing. Clear lines, clean, with focus on the home and not much fanfare. The wine follows the lines and while this is the first kosher vintage (we are hoping for me please), the winery has been doing this for three years already.
The winery was started by two men that have winemaking running in the veins and lineage. In 1992 wine critic Robert Parker and his brother-in-law, Michael Etzel partnered with Quebec property developer Robert Roy to create Beaux Frères. Marc Roy and Jared Etzel, both sons of Robert Roy and Michael Etzel, respectively, along with investors (more on that in a bit) created this gorgeous Domaine in 2012. The vineyards came online in 2015 and 2016, but the first wines were sourced from vineyards close to the winery.
The land was purchased in 2012, the vineyards were planted in 2013, and they lie on volcanic soils and basalt rock. There are two vineyards the first one is planted on 13 high-density acres of 10 different Pinot Noir clones and two acres of Chardonnay on its south-facing hillside. This vineyard is called the Iron Filbert Vineyard. The other vineyard which came online in 2016, is called Quartz Acorn Vineyard, it is planted in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. Here there are 22 acres of high-density Pinot Noir and 2 acres of Chardonnay. The soil is slightly quartz-based, with sedimentary soils that are surrounded by Savanah Oaks, which explain the vineyard’s name.
The beautiful winery is surrounded by the Iron Filbert Vineyard. Sadly, I have yet to visit the winery, but from the pictures, it is a sight to see. Jared is the winemaker and Marc is the founder working with a slightly hands-off approach.
Wine starts on the vine and finishes in the winery. This is a philosophy that Domaine Roy takes very seriously. Though the fruit used for this wine was sourced from vineyards not owned by Domaine Roy, the fruit is still of equal importance, and it shows in the wine. Shai was made from fruit sourced from the La Colina, Dundee Hills AVA. The Shai Pinot Noir uses the Maison Roy name, just like the Maison Roy wines of 2013 and 2014, which were also made from grapes sourced outside the vineyards of Domaine Roy, the wine had the same process of native yeasts, open bin fermentors, and oak aging.
The clear leanings of the winery is to let the fruit shine, and just shepherd the fruit towards its purpose, by not influencing it too much with manual intervention. This is not a natural wine, nor is the winery interested in that philosophy, which I have gleaned from the conversations I had with the winery staff.
The winery’s goal beyond letting the vineyards speak is to create a wine showing its purity and transparency at the highest level from their land. The real desire is to concentrate on wines from the Dundee and Carlton AVA regions. The focus is of course on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
The winemaking process is at the core of the second phase of winemaking at Domaine Roy. As explained above it starts in the vineyard, but then the rest of the process is to make sure the terroir shines through. The fruit is brought in bins and goes through a double sorting table process. First, the fruit clusters are sorted, then the fruit clusters go into a Destemmer which turns the cluster into berries. The berries are then put onto another sorting table (hence the double sorting table) where humans watch the berries go by and removing the ones that do not meet the exceeding requirements of the winery. The sorting line is entirely inside the winery, covered from the outside environment.
Finally, the grapes are put into open bin fermentors where the grapes are allowed to ferment with natural yeasts. The wine uses its native yeasts for both the primary and secondary fermentations (malo). The wine was aged in French oak for 11 months.
The 2016 Shai, we enjoyed, was made in conjunction with Oregon Kosher, the leading kosher supervision in the Oregon area. The Rabbis involved in the project were Rabbi Tzvi Fischer (Rav HaMachshir), Rabbi Gadi Levy, Tuvia Berzow, and Rabbi Rafi Shenk. Essentially, the entire Oregon Kosher staff. Production started August 2016 and ran through August 2017, when the wine was bottled. Rabbi Levy, Rabbi Shenk, and Tuvia Berzow were the hands-on “cellar rats”.
This is not the first kosher Willamette Valley wine ever made. That would be the AlexELi Winery, that made a Pinot Noir in 2010. The wine is still available from the winery, and I do not remember tasting it.
Next was the 2011 City Winery Ein Sof Pinot Noir, that was also made from Willamette Valley grapes, and though I did not love it when I tasted it at the winery, others said they found it very enjoyable. The wine was sourced from Hyland vineyard situated in Dundee area of Willamette Valley, the same area that the Shai was sourced from.
Finally, in 2015 Hajdu made a Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley as well. It is still for sale on his website.
Pacifica makes Oregon Pinot Noir, but it is not sourced from the Willamette Valley, though the Royal website says it was in 2010. Maybe the 2010 Vintage was sourced from a different location than their normal Pinot Noirs.
The 2016 vintage looks to be a very solid vintage for the Willamette Valley, though not at the same level as the 2014 and 2015 vintages, which according to Wine Spectator were classic class vintages.
Well, all of this brings us to the wine at hand. A Pinot Noir called Shai. The wine is a Hebrew name but its meaning is the gift indeed. This fact is written on the back label of the wine.
The wine was made because of two of the wineries investors asked if the winery could make some kosher wine. They would be the Lieberman family from Montreal and Brand Namier. The wine is a gift to all of us wine lovers who were craving a real kosher Willamette Pinot Noir. There were 120 cases made and now only 40 cases remain.
Having spoken with the winery a few times, the overall process was really not simple. This was a very new thing for the small winery to undertake, and as much as they loved the Rabbis and people involved, it was a slight distraction, from what I could surmise. That said, the clear interest in the wine from the kosher buying public will hopefully allow the winery to do this again, and I really hope they will source the grapes from one of their organic vineyards in the next round.
So the real question is where can you buy this wine? Well, the main place is the winery itself. Just call them and they will take care of the rest. If you live in the NYC area, you can buy it at a few shops there, including Skyview Wines and others.
My many thanks to Domaine Roy for all the help, information, and for the wine to taste. The wine note follows below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2016 Maison Roy & Fils Shai Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley – Score: 91 to 92
This wine really takes time to open up, it needs to be decanted for a few hours. After the wine fully opened it was still a bit shy, but is lovely with dark plum cake, showing lovely rose, and floral notes, with anise, white pepper, and mounds of milk chocolate. The mouth on this medium bodied wine fills the palate with layers of dark plum, pomegranate, dark cherry, blackberry, with red fruit galore, all backed by lovely mouth coating tannin, and nice balancing acid, lovely campfire smoke, with sweet notes that abound, rich earth, mineral, and hints of lovely saline. The finish is long and green/lemongrass with caramel, milk chocolate, and a nice viscous feeling that gives way to tart fruit, mineral, slate, saline, and lasting floral notes. Nice! Drink from 2019 to 2024.