AWG Correspondent

Rob Boss

WillaKenzie Estate Photos

WillaKenzie Estate Review

Regions: Willamette Valley AVA, Yamhill-Carlton AVA, Oregon

Reviewed: September 10, 2016 by Rob Boss
Published: July 14, 2017

(Photos by Jai Soots)

In the heart of the Yamhill-Carlton district, Willakenzie Estate sits in the middle of the increasingly noteworthy Loughlin Loop. Covering over 400 acres, big and beautiful is an apt description of their operation, which takes its name from the marine sedimentary soil that makes up the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. The tasting room is over the top elegance, the view from the patio is spectacular, and the wine is pretty good, too.

Chris was our well-informed tasting room associate, who started our flight by pouring the 2015 Pinot Gris. There’s plenty of bright, food-friendly acid but it’s easy to drink on its own, with lemon and lime on the nose, melons, star fruit and citrus flavors on the palate.

Now it was time to get down to business with Willakenzie’s single vineyard Pinot Noirs. First up was the 2013 Gisele, with its nose-tickling, spicy, raspberry and cherry aromatics. The cherry and blackberry flavors were round, ripe and juicy. The 2013 Pierre Leon that followed showed cherry, a hint of cedar and forest floor on the nose, with ripe black fruit flavors. Last in this Yamhill-Carlton lineup was the 2013 Emery. The nose was full of crushed cherries and spice, and juicy, young cherry and raspberry flavors. All the wines were consistent with the spicy nose and darker flavor profile I’ve come to expect from Yamhill-Carlton.

However, Willakenzie Estate owns property in the Dundee Hill AVA, and the 2013 Jory Hills went down a very different road. This Pinot Noir had a spicy, cherry pie note that greeted my nose, followed by a mouthful of bright, young, red cherry and raspberry flavors—in short, all the charm, finesse, spice and red-fruited character that defines the Dundee Hills AVA. Solid winemaking throughout the tasting, but this one drove that point home. That elusive sense of place that makes fine wines world class was on display in all of them. The term “integration” frequently gets bandied about among wine tasters, and I can think of few better examples than these wines. Balance, elegance, grace, and refinement are all words that come to mind —while opulent and ostentatious do not. That would somehow seem out of place.

There’s also an “everything in its place” feeling in the tasting room that’s reflected in the wine—or maybe it’s the other way around. (I doubt it.) Either way, to feel such a sense of order in a tasting room that big and that busy is quite a feat. The tasting bar is long but well-staffed. There’s no shortage of merchandise, but the room doesn’t feel cluttered. The tasting room offers cheese and charcuterie plates but during tourist season (roughly Memorial through Labor Days), local food carts park out front and you can enjoy a picnic (or bring your own) on the grand patio with its extraordinary view of the Valley. All this, yet the place still feels comfortable.

From the sheer size, one might not ever bump into another visitor ever, save for intent. But it isn’t size that matters at Willakenzie Estate. It’s quality, and that’s displayed everywhere you turn. Even then, none of it would matter if the wine was less than top flight. But it certainly is, offering an experience worth every sip.

Address & Contact Information: 19143 NE Laughlin Rd. Yamhill, Oregon 97148. Telephone: 503-662-3280, email:, website: Tasting Hours: May-Oct 11:00-5:00; Nov-Apr: 11:00-4:00.

Overall Rating:  

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More information about WillaKenzie Estate

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