The founder of WillaKenzie Estate knows that wine is all about terroir. Bernard Lacroute was born in a small village in Burgundy and, after a successful career in high tech, he decided to return to his roots and start a winery in Oregon, which, according to Bernard, is the best place (after Burgundy) to grow Pinot Noir.
WillaKenzie Estate was named after the sedimentary soil on which most of the estate vineyards are planted. The second site, Jory Hills Vineyard, is also named after the soil, which is volcanic and imparts different characteristics to the wine.
The goal at WillaKenzie is to make a Burgundian style of Pinot Noir that reflects the place where the vineyards are planted and the wine is made. “A great Pinot Noir displays great color and aromas, fills the mouth with silky tannins, with a backbone of acidity to carry it over the years,” Bernard explains. “This is what we strive to make year after year.”
He goes on to explain: “The soil is the soul of the wine. Through the nutrients, which are absorbed by the vines, the soil expresses itself with the subtle characteristics of the wines.
“The clones [the selection of the planted material] are the body of the wine. They provide the color, the structure, the tannins, and the mouth feel of the wine. And the people—the vineyard workers and then winemaker— are the conductors of the orchestra. They get the best out of the terroir without coercing it.”
WillaKenzie has earned LIVE (Low Input Viticulture and enology), Salmon Safe, and OCSW (Oregon Certified Sustainable Wine) certifications. Bernard also strongly believes that innovation has its place alongside the time-proven traditional methods. He designed Big Foot, a mechanical punch-down robot, in 1995 and a wind tunnel in 2007 to cool and dry grapes.
By remaining true to its soil, clones, and ingenuity, WillaKenzie Estate delivers wines of exceptional character year after year.