One of the gems in the Willamette Valley, WillaKenzie Estate has developed a national reputation for world class Oregon Pinot. Having tasted there for more than ten years, I was hugely impressed with what they did in this new, warm vintage. WillaKenzie is named after the sedimentary soil on which the vines are planted. After a successful career in the tech industry co-owner Bernard Lacroute decided to return to his Burgundian roots and purchased the 420 acre cattle farm in 1991. Planting started in 1992 and the first wine was made in 1995. This winery recently sold to the Kendall Jackson Family, so it will be intriguing to see how the wines evolve moving forward. The winery itself is perched on a hill overlooking the valley. There is a large, expansive outdoor space that is perfect for a hot summer day. WillaKenzie is truly one of the best places in the valley to taste.
The new WillaKenzie lineup of Pinot Noirs is hugely impressive. I was hugely impressed with their entry level bottling, the 2014 ‘Gisele’ Pinot Noir (WWB, 92) which shows wonderful richness and texture from this warm vintage. An absolute stunner, the 2014 ‘Triple Black Slopes’ Pinot Noir (WWB, 95) is one of the highest rated wines that I have sampled from this vintage and shows incredible depth, black fruit flavors and intoxicating aromatics. Learn more about WillaKenzie Estate at https://www.willakenzie.com Here are the awesome new wines from WillaKenzie Estate.
2014 WillaKenzie Estate ‘Gisele’ Pinot Noir- The 2014 WillaKenzie Estate 'Gisele' is a fantastic bottling that showcases this wonderful and hot vintage. This was sourced from three Oregon AVAs (Willamette Valley, Yamhill-Carlton and Dundee Hills) and was aged in 20% new French oak for 10 months prior to bottling. The resultant wine is an intensely mineral driven Pinot Noir that begins with aromatics of red cherry, red raspberry, cremini mushroom, pomegranate and black tea and hints of orange rind. There are lovely light flavors of red cherry, cran-cherry, guava puree, mandarin orange and suggestions of tarragon. This is absolutely lovely for the price point, showing both poise and incredible range. Drink 2016-2024- 92
2014 WillaKenzie Estate ‘Pierre Leon’ Pinot Noir- An absolutely gorgeous bottling, the 2014 WillaKenzie Estate 'Pierre Leon' impresses with its earthy terroir and dark fruit flavors. Initially slightly more reticent on the nose than some of the other new releases from this estate, this Pinot Noir has intoxicating aromatics of Shitake mushroom, forest floor, black cherry, wild blackberry and smoky accents. There are rich flavors of black cherry, black truffle, black plum, anise and spicebox accents. This has a lingering finish that coats the mid-palate. The mouthfeel and viscosity is excellent, as is its dazzling minerality. Be sure to give this beautiful wine at least a two hour decant before enjoying. Drink 2016-2026- 94
2014 WillaKenzie Estate ‘Triple Black Slopes’ Pinot Noir- One of the best Oregon Pinot Noirs that I have sampled in the past year, the 2014 'Triple Black Slopes' by WillaKenzie estate is an absolute heavyhitter of a wine. Utilizing Dijon Clones 114 and 777, this perfumed Pinot Noir begins with bright aromatics of red cherry, black plum, cigar box, black truffle and boysenberry liqueur. There are intense flavors of wild blackberry pie, cigar box, cran-cherry and Asian spices. This has an incredibly dense core, and has the makings to be magical, albeit a bit tightly wound right now. There is a seamless quality to this exceptional dark and brooding Oregon Pinot which is currently displaying an irresistible plush mouthfeel. Sampled the next day, the wine was more open and rounded out. Try to wait on this gorgeous bottling for at least another year. Drink 2017-2028- 95
2014 WillaKenzie Estate ‘Kiana’ Pinot Noir- A fantastic new release from this estate, the 'Kiana' Pinot Noir is sourced from Dijon Clones 114 and 777. The wine was aged for 14 months in French oak prior to bottling and begins with aromatics of red currant, red cherry, black plum and hints of nutmeg. There are medium weight flavors of red cherry pie, guava, pomegranate and a lingering finish. This feminine style wine has a beautiful mouthfeel and will age beatifully into the next decade.Drink 2016-2026- 93
2014 WillaKenzie Estate ‘Aliette’ Pinot Noir- Utilizing Pommard UC Davis Clone 4, this gorgeous new release wine by WillaKenzie Estate was aged for 14 months in French oak (50% new prior to bottling in February 2015. This beautiful wine has spicy aromatics of red cherry, allspice, spiced pecan and hints of guava with forest floor. There are flavors of wild blackberry, Shitake mushroom, red cherry, cran-pomegranate and dried mint. This feminine style wine has a silky mouthfeel throughout.Drink 2016-2025- 92
2014 WillaKenzie Estate ‘Terres Basses’ Pinot Noir- An exceedingly strong new release wine, the 2014 'Terres Basses' Pinot Noir by WillaKenzie estates shows the earthy side, while showcasing this wonderfully warm vintage in Oregon. Having a darker core than most of the new releases, this wine begins with earthier aromatics of black truffle, forest floor, black cherry and suggestions of milk chocolate. There are rich flavors of wild blackberry, black plum, black truffle and suggestions of cherry cough syrup. This is a bit of a slumbering monster at this point, having an extremely dense core that will need at least another year of bottle age to fully express itself. Try to resist this elegant and Burgundian bottling for at least another year. Drink 2017-2028- 93
2014 WillaKenzie Estate ‘Jory Hills’ Pinot Noir- Sourced from the Dundee Hills AVA, another gorgeous release by WillaKenzie estate is their 2014 'Jory Hills' bottling which showcases the intoxicating combination of lush red fruit and earthy terroir. The wine was aged for 14 months in French oak (only 10% new) prior to bottling in February 2015. Aromatically present at this juncture following a two hour decant, this Pint Noir offers a range of red and dark fruits highlighting red cherry, black plum, roasted figs, boysenberry and cinnamon. There are flavors of red cherry, cedar, wild blackberry and hints of nutmeg and forest floor. Lithe and light on its feet, this impressive new release wine needs another year of bottle age to fully amalgamate. It shows lovely range that will only improve with a few years of cellaring. Drink 2017-2027-93
2014 WillaKenzie Estate ‘Emery’ Pinot Noir- Extremely translucent, this beautiful Pinot Noir which was sourced from the Yamhill-Carlton AVA begins with aromatics of rose petals, red cherry, red raspberry, orange rind and hints of black truffle. There are rich flavors of red cherry, guava puree, black truffle, forest floor, and hint of kumquat. Balanced and having lovely poise with lighter red fruit flavors, this is one for the cellar. Try to cellar this feminine wine for at least another year for everything to come together. Drink 2017-2028- 93