WINEMAKING

WINEMAKING TEAM

We are delighted to welcome Erik Kramer as WillaKenzie’s Winemaker.

Prior to joining WillaKenzie in February 2017, Erik spent thirteen years specializing in Willamette Valley Pinot Noir at highly-regarded wineries, Domaine Serene and Adelsheim Vineyard, earning a reputation for world-class wines of finesse and balance.

A scientist by training, Kramer worked as a hydrogeologist in the petrochemical industry before combining his passion for science and appreciation for fine wine into a career. He spent a few seasons in Washington as a harvest cellar worker, before pursuing a postgraduate diploma in viticulture & oenology at Lincoln University in New Zealand, where he graduated with honors. Kramer went on to craft wine in New Zealand before moving to the Willamette Valley to focus on cool-climate winemaking.

Erik is joined by our Assistant Winemaker Michael Caputo and Enologist David Maas.

 

FRENCH TRADITION

WillaKenzie Red Wines

Stylistically, we aim to make red wines that are complex, fragrant, and full-bodied, but with soft and silky tannins. Our Pinot Noir, Gamay Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes spend their first few days after harvest cooling in our Cold Storage facility. The grapes then undergo a cold-soak maceration and fermentation in a stainless-steel or oak tank with a traditional punch-down regime and pump-overs as required (a modern version of grape stomping). This is almost always followed by a post-fermentation maceration. The wines are then aged in small French oak barrels in our underground cellar for at least one year. The wines typically age another year in the bottle before release.

WillaKenzie White Wines

The goal for our white wines is to produce fresh wines that fully express the characteristics of their fruit. For this reason, all of our white wines (with the exception of our Late Harvest Pinot Gris), are made entirely in stainless steel with no malolactic fermentation and no barrel aging. The grapes are first picked ripe, then loaded as whole clusters into a bladder press where they are gently squeezed. The grape juice is fed by gravity into closed-top stainless-steel fermenters where it undergoes primary fermentation. The wine is bottled a few months after fermentation is complete.

 

AMERICAN INNOVATION

Burgundian by birth, engineer by training, and vintner by passion, WillaKenzie founder, Bernard Lacroute, has relied on all three traits to further refine winemaking at WillaKenzie Estate, where innovation and technology have always played an important part in the vineyard and winery. Below are some of the innovations we use to create our world-class wines:

Gravity-Flow Winery

Our multi-level, gravity-flow winery allows for gentle handling of our grapes as well as aging in our naturally cool underground cellar in true Burgundian fashion. Learn more about our gravity flow winemaking process…

Big Foot

Designed in 1995 by Bernard Lacroute, this punch-down robot gently and consistently punches down the cap during grape fermentation. Learn more about how ‘Big Foot’ is used… 

Big Chill

aka Cold Storage: In 2007, a cold-storage facility, also designed by Bernard, was custom built to dramatically cool our grapes before processing, thus improving the aromatics and structure of our wines. This sophisticated system can also be programmed to manage the moisture content of our grapes in wet years. Learn more about why we use Cold Storage of grapes prior to fermentation…

Cork-Free Closures

Starting with the 2001 vintage, we have bottled an increasing percentage of our red and white wines, including estate Pinot Noirs, with screw caps, which prevents the taint associated with even the best grade of natural cork.  Learn more about why we use cork-free closures…

Solar Array

In 2010, we finished installing a large solar array that produces almost half of our energy needs.  Learn more about sustainable practices at WillaKenzie. 

French Oak Tanks

To micro-manage temperatures during fermentation, we custom designed French oak fermentation tanks and we will compare the results with our other stainless steel fermenters. Learn more about our philosophy behind the use of French oak tanks… 

Reclamation of Carbon Dioxide

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is produced naturally during the fermentation of grapes and is an excellent agent to protect finished or unfinished wines during their various phases of fermentation, especially during the post-fermentation phase. We have designed a very simple system that captures the CO2 from fermenting tanks, especially the closed-top tanks of white wine, and pipes it into wine tanks during the post-fermentation phase. The wines are protected, and the CO2 is reused effectively.

WINEMAKING

WINEMAKING TEAM We are delighted to welcome Erik Kramer as WillaKenzie’s Winemaker. Prior to joining WillaKenzie in February 2017, Erik spent thirteen years specializing in Willamette Valley ...

DIRT MATTERS

New World Topography Oregon’s northern Willamette Valley and WillaKenzie Winery is a pioneer in the cultivation of cool-climate grape varietals, producing wines that are world-renowned. The soil, ...

CLONES MATTER

CLONES MATTER At its most basic, a clone is a separate organism genetically identical to its predecessor.  Viticulturally, a clone is a plant that has been reproduced directly from a bud or a shoot ...

CELLAR CLUB

Day in the Vineyard Our Annual  Cellar Club Exclusive event, held each year in August. This is a crowd favorite and it includes wine industry seminars, an al fresco lunch in the vineyard and so much ...

OUR HISTORY

WillaKenzie Estate Winery is the longtime dream of co-founder Bernard Lacroute. After a successful career in high tech, Bernard decided to return to his Burgundian roots and grow Pinot Noir.

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