WillaKenzie Estate is located in Oregon's Willamette Valley on rolling hillsides in the Chehalem Mountains. The winery was named after the Willakenzie soil on which the vineyards are planted to convey the influence that the soil imparts on the wine's flavors and aromas. The vineyards are planted with grapes of the Pinot family, mostly new Dijon clones of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris from Alsace. Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris are cool climate grapes, which are particularly well adapted to Oregon. As winemaker for WillaKenzie Estate, the acclaimed producer of single-vineyard Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris, Erik Kramer leads all winemaking and cellar
operations. He has been working in Oregon’s Willamette Valley since 2004, where he has built a reputation for world-class wines of finesse and balance. A scientist by training, Erik 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 to moving to the Willamette Valley. Prior to joining WillaKenzie Estate, Erik crafted highly-regarded wines for Domaine Serene and Adelsheim Vineyard. He also holds a degree in geology from Florida State University, which he draws on today when considering the relationship between terroir and wine quality. When not at the winery, Erik enjoys spending time with his family at his wine country home in McMinnville
One of Pinot Noir's most successful New World outposts, the Willamette Valley is the largest and most important AVA in Oregon. With a continental climate moderated by the influence of the Pacific Ocean, it is perfect for cool-climate viticulture and the production of elegant wines.
Mountain ranges bordering three sides of the valley, particularly the Chehalem Mountains, provide the option for higher-elevation vineyard sites.
The valley's three prominent soil types (volcanic, sedimentary and silty, loess) make it unique and create significant differences in wine styles among its vineyards and sub-AVAs. The iron-rich, basalt-based, Jory volcanic soils found commonly in the Dundee Hills are rich in clay and hold water well; the chalky, sedimentary soils of Ribbon Ridge, Yamhill-Carlton and McMinnville encourage complex root systems as vines struggle to search for water and minerals. In the most southern stretch of the Willamette, the Eola-Amity Hills sub-AVA soils are mixed, shallow and well-drained. The Hills' close proximity to the Van Duzer Corridor (which became its own appellation as of 2019) also creates grapes with great concentration and firm acidity, leading to wines that perfectly express both power and grace.
Though Pinot noir enjoys the limelight here, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay also thrive in the Willamette. Increasing curiosity has risen recently in the potential of others like Grüner Veltliner, Chenin Blanc and Gamay.
Almost exclusively used in the production of Champagne, Pinot Meunier is a late budding and early ripening red variety that was once planted extensively throughout northern France. When blended into Champagne’s eponymous sparkling wine, Pinot Meunier adds lively fruit. Chardonnay adds brightness and Pinot Noir is appreciated for structure and weight. Pinot Meunier has acidity levels higher than in Pinot Noir, making it a prized choice for Champagne growers. It thrives in cool north-facing vineyards and is able to withstand damp or frost-prone valleys. Somm Secret—Not surprisingly, it does well in Germany where it goes by Müllerrebe or confusingly, Schwarzriesling.