California’s Jackson Family buys Oregon icon WillaKenzie Estate

By on October 4, 2016


Willakenzie Estate

WillaKenzie Estate is considered one of the iconic wineries in Oregon’s northern Willamette Valley. This week, it was sold to Jackson Family Wines in Santa Rosa, Calif. (Photo courtesy of WillaKenzie Estate)

YAMHILL, Ore. – Jackson Family Wines has acquired WillaKenzie Estate, deepening its investment in Oregon and affirming its commitment to producing high-quality wines from the region. WillaKenzie Estate is an acclaimed Willamette Valley producer of single-vineyard Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris.

The transaction is expected to be finalized Wednesday, and terms of the sale have not been announced.

“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.”

WillaKenzie Estate, based in Yamhill, was founded by Bernard and Ronni Lacroute in response to Bernard’s desire to return to his Burgundian roots. The couple planted the estate vineyards starting in 1992, replacing poison oak, blackberries and pasture with Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and small amounts of other varieties.  They were pioneers in the cultivation of cool-climate grape varieties, for which their soil, climate and topography proved to be ideal.

They made their first wine in 1995 in their newly built, state-of-the-art gravity-flow winery.

Since then, they have continued to make improvements, building an innovative facility in 2007 to dramatically cool their grapes before processing, as well as installing a large solar array and adding a new tasting room in 2010. Today, their annual production is 20,000 cases.

WillaKenzie Estate 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 site is also reputed for its plantings of Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc clones from the Alsace region of France, Gamay Noir clones from Beaujolais, as well as Pinot Meunier and Dijon clones of Chardonnay.

Jackson adds to Oregon portfolio

WillaKenzie Estate

WillaKenzie Estate is considered one of the iconic wineries in Oregon’s northern Willamette Valley. This week, it was sold to Jackson Family Wines in Santa Rosa, Calif. (Photo courtesy of WillaKenzie Estate)

WillaKenzie Estate and Jackson Family share a focus on sustainable viticulture practices, responsible vineyard and natural resource management.

Jackson Family Wines was founded in 1982 by the late Jess Jackson. Today, under the leadership of Chairwoman and Proprietor Barbara Banke, Jess’s widow, members of the Jackson family hold key positions throughout the company. Family personnel include Jess and Barbara’s three children, Katie, Julia and Christopher Jackson, Jess’s two daughters, Jennifer Jackson Hartford and Laura Jackson Giron, Jennifer’s husband Don Hartford (who serves as CEO) as well as other family members who work in other roles.

The first female Master Sommelier, Jennifer Huether, is also a member of the Jackson Family team.

Jackson Family Wines include Penner-Ash Wine Cellars and Zena Crown in Oregon, as well as about 50 wineries spread across Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Santa Barbara, Monterey, France, Italy, Chile, Australia and South Africa.

It purchased Penner-Ash from Lynn Penner-Ash, and her husband, Ron, in April.

Along with the WillaKenzie Estate brand, gravity-feed winery and stunning hillside hospitality center with views of the vineyards, the transaction includes 100 planted acres at the estate in the Yamhill-Carlton region and 25 planted acres of Pinot Noir clones at Jory Hills Vineyard in the Dundee Hills.



About Abra Bennett

Abra Bennett, after careers in social work, environmental policy, and as a personal chef, is studying enology and viticulture at Walla Walla Community College. She has been a freelance food, wine and environmental and agricultural policy writer for several years and is working on a book about the experience of becoming a winemaker. She also is contributor to Great Northwest Wine, focusing on wineries and vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley.

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