Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Generation Now: A.F. Nichols Wines

Alex Nichols is the owner and proprietor of the label of the same name, A.F. Nichols. Alex is a young guy by anyone's standards at 24, and he's already crafting Willamette Valley Pinot Noir that leads one to believe that when it comes to his winemaking style, he's an old soul.

Alex graduated the Enology & Viticulture program at Oregon State in 2009, but has been working in the Oregon wine industry for about 5 years with some vineyard work for the USDA, harvests at Oregon winery Belle Vallee as well as some time in New Zealand. In between these stints and working harvest at Adelsheim (which has been a substantial influence in his wine stylistically), Alex has spent early mornings and late nights creating his own Pinot, with two bottlings in the 2010 vintage. Having sampled the 2010 Principio it's an impressive first effort.  So, how does someone so "wet behind the ears" make such a nice wine the first time out? Alex is always thinking and learning about the wines and the vines of the Willamette Valley.

Alex's background is very scientific in nature, he's a laboratory guy. Yet he's fully aware that crafting wine is art as well as science, and that laboratory gizmos don't replace a winemaker's best tools: "their nose, tastebuds and intuition."  For Alex, his education has continued outside of the laboratory in the vineyards of the Willamette Valley, but perhaps more importantly in his interactions with some of the Valley's great winemaking talent.

Alex has done as much as he can to taste wine with some of those influential winemakers and for him, it's not just about tasting, but about really deconstructing the wine he tastes. "When I taste someone's wine, I try to recall every detail I know about their winemaking and their vineyards, then I can put the pieces together in my head. I decide what I like and don't like about a wine, then I figure out if it is a function of the site or the winemaker." For Alex, all of this analysis, perhaps a product of his scientific background, helps him find his own leanings, or preferences, in style and site factors, like soil types or vine age that contribute to the kinds of wines he'd like to make.

As a young winemaker Alex relishes the opportunity to be a part of the Willamette Valley's second generation. As one of the Willamette's young talents Alex is certainly looking to leave his own mark, but always with the deference due to those who have come before him.  "I think it is important to understand where this industry started, and I want my wines to reflect the classic elegant style that the founding members of our industry were making 25 plus years ago."

Alex's first contribution is the 2010 Principio Pinot Noir, an outstanding and elegant Pinot Noir from this newcomer.  The wine is very balanced with bright acidity, red berry and earthen aromatics. The palate has earthen undertones, black tea, white pepper and cranberry. Fairly light in body but complex and the flavors and aromas have a depth to them. The wine has a phenomenal satiny mouthfeel. $36

This wine was provided as a sample from the winery.


Clive, thank you for the great write up! Cheers!

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