After a successful career in the high tech industry, Bernard Lacroute determined that it was time to follow the footsteps of his Burgundy ancestors by growing Pinots. He and his then-wife, Ronni Lacroute, looked for a number of years at land that was suitable for growing Pinot grapes. Then, in January of 1991, they found a cattle ranch that was located just outside of Yamhill, OR with ideal qualities. The ranch in the rolling hills of the Yamhill-Carlton American Viticulture Area (AVA), a region known for growing world-class Pinot noir, was purchased and named after the mixture of Willamette and McKenzie sedimentary soil beneath the property—WillaKenzie Estate.
The Lacroutes aimed at making wine that was reflective of the terroir on which the vines were planted. Their desire to form a small, family-owned Oregon winery would shape the development of WillaKenzie Estate as a whole. The first plantings took place in 1992 on south-facing slopes and replaced blackberries and the native pasture and poison oak. Much of the vineyards were planted around untouched stands of Douglas fir, maple, and oak trees. The chosen varieties of grapes planted include Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Meunier, Gamay Noir, and Chardonnay, but two thirds of the vineyard is dedicated to Pinot noir from mostly Dijon clones, as well as some clones originally grown in Oregon. A second land purchase, 95 acres located among the Dundee Hills, was made in the year 2000. After the volcanic parentage of the soil, the vineyard was named Jory Vineyards. Of the 95 acres of land, only 25 acres of cloned Pinot noir have been planted.
This collection contains images of WillaKenzie Estate wine labels. For additional historical background and collection inventory, please see the Guide to the WillaKenzie Estate Papers 1992-2008.
This interview is with Ronni Lacroute, the founder of WilaKenzie Estate. During the interview, she talks about the early days in the Willamette Valley, the founding of the winery and selling wine in Oregon. Ronni also discusses being on the Board of Trustees at Linfield College and her passion for the arts.