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Willakenzie Estate, located in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, has been growing Pinot Noir and other varietals since 1992. ##Photo by Andrea Johnson

Haul in the Family

Jackson gains Willakenzie in Oregon portfolio

Jackson Family Wines continues its unprecedented expansion into the Oregon market with the Oct. 5 acquisition of Willakenzie Estate.

Located in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, Willakenzie now joins Penner-Ash, Gran Moraine and Zena Crown, all Oregon-based brands in the growing portfolio of the family-owned and -operated California enterprise — La Crema and Siduri also offer Willamette Valley wines. 

“The distinct, vivid wines of Willakenzie Estate complement our Willamette Valley offerings,” said Hugh Reimers, president of Jackson Family Wines. “Welcoming Willakenzie to our family not only adds to our luxury Pinot Noir vineyard holdings and winemaking capabilities, but also introduces highly regarded Pinot Gris to our Willamette Valley portfolio.”

Co-founded by Bernard and Ronni Lacroute, after his successful career in technology and hers in teaching French, Willakenzie celebrated a return to Bernard’s Burgundian roots. The couple began planting the estate vineyards in 1992 and made their first wine in 1995, inside the brand new, modern gravity-flow winery.

With the belief that wines reflect a sense of place, the winery was named after the site’s predominant sedimentary soil type. With a foundation in terroir-driven wines, Willakenzie has established a reputation for making elegant, balanced wines. Thirteen Pinot Noir clones are represented in the vineyards, displaying a wide array of flavors and sensory components. The estate also features Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc clones from Alsace, Gamay Noir clones from Beaujolais, as well as Pinot Meunier and Dijon clones of Chardonnay.

Along with the brand, winemaking facility and hospitality center, the acquisition also includes 100 planted acres on the Yamhill-Carlton estate and 25 of Pinot Noir at the Jory Hills Vineyard in the Dundee Hills.

Ronni Lacroute is convinced Willakenzie’s high quality will continue.

“I’m confident that Jackson Family Wines will respect our brand and philosophy with their strong values of people first, sustainability, respect for the environment and innovation.”

Less than a week before the Willakenzie purchase, JFW announced plans to construct a modern winemaking facility for its mounting production of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris; it will be located in McMinnville on the same property as the former Evergreen Aviation office buildings, two of which were acquired by JFW in January.

The new structure will incorporate sustainable technology, housing a small-lot winery and barrel room; construction began in August, and the winery is expected to be operational for the 2017 harvest season. 

“Building our own facility enables us to create a contemporary environment for crafting luxury wines,” said Reimers. “We’re proud to be a part of the McMinnville community, bringing additional employment to the area and joining in the overall revitalization and enhancement of this part of the city.”  

One of the existing office buildings will be renovated into a sophisticated laboratory and offices for the winemaking and production teams. No plans have been mentioned for the other building.

Founded in 1982 by wine pioneer, entrepreneur and philanthropist Jess Jackson, JFW and its wineries, which include 50 renowned brands, are led by Chairperson Barbara Banke and the Jackson family.

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