Jackson Family Wines continues to add more Oregon vineyards and wineries to its fast-growing portfolio. Yesterday it announced the purchase of WillaKenzie Estate. The deal includes the brand, 125 acres of existing vineyards, and a 25,000-case winery and hospitality center with stunning views of the Yamhill-Carlton AVA in Willamette Valley. The price was not disclosed.
“I’ve been in it for 25 years,” WillaKenzie proprietor Bernard Lacroute told Wine Spectator. “My children are not interested in taking over the business. I turned 73 in September. It’s time for me to retire. I don’t play golf, but I plan to spend more time on my bicycle and on a pair of skis, and travel more. There are plenty of countries left to visit.”
Born in Burgundy, Lacroute left a career in tech and bought a 420-acre cattle farm in Willamette Valley in 1991. A year later, he and his wife, Ronni, began planting the steep slopes with 100 acres of vines, and made their first wine in 1995 in a newly constructed gravity-flow winery. The couple later divorced, but they have remained business partners, sharing management of the winery and vineyards.
After helping in the transition, Lacroute intends to move to Napa Valley, where he has a home. “My son lives in Silicon Valley,” he noted.
Hugh Reimers, president of Jackson Family Wines, called WillaKenzie’s wines “distinct and vivid,” and said they complement the company’s burgeoning Willamette Valley offerings. Recent acquisitions include the 250-acre Zena Crown and 200-acre Gran Moraine vineyards, the Penner Ash winery and vineyards, the former Soléna and Maple Grove winery facilities and 655 acres of unplanted vineyard acreage in southern Willamette Valley.
Willakenzie bottles single-vineyard Pinot Noirs from six separate parcels within the estate vineyards—named Aliette, Emery, Kiana, Pierre Léon, Terres Basses and Triple Black Slopes—and a Pinot Noir blend called Gisèle that includes grapes from another estate vineyard, the 25-acre Jory Hills in Dundee Hills. There are also estate Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay bottlings.
“WillaKenzie Estate has built a following for its Pinot Gris program, something that we did not have in our Willamette Valley wine portfolio,” said David Bowman, executive vice president, estate wineries, of Jackson Family Wines.
“We do not plan to change much,” Bowman added. “We will grow the estate cuvée Pinot Noir program and the Pinot Gris as quality allows through simply introducing WillaKenzie Estate to more restaurants and fine-wine retailers nationally.”