Oregon Wine

Oregon Wine. Pinot Noir and Next Economy Thinking.

The following excerpt is from a longer article I uncovered at MSNBC/Newsweek that is worth reading. It discusses how innovative thinking is required to build solid companies that will endure the next economy.

This excerpt focuses on a tech guy’s dream to build a winery and world class wine. The 1999 Oregon Pinot Noirs and many 2000 Pinot Gris from that region are phenomenal and in some cases you’ll unearth some great values. I’m digging them.


A Big Step Forward For an Ancient Art

Bernie Lacroute knows a thing or two about technology. At Digital Equipment, he helped develop the Ethernet and VAX. At Sun Microsystems, he was second in command during its growth spurt. But after he made his fortune and semiretired more than 10 years ago, the native of Burgundy decided to pursue his love of the pinot family of grapes, and opened the WillaKenzie Estate winery in Yamhill, Ore.

WillaKenzie Estate winery owner Bernie Lacroute (left) and head winemaker Laurent Montalieu peer into their 1,000-pound, microprocessor-driven grape stomper Wine making is an ancient art, but Lacroute didn[base ‘]t cork up his innovative impulses. He trained his eye on the way wineries mix the juice of grapes in tanks during fermentation with the [base “]cap[per thou] of skins and seeds on the surface. The cap, which can be as thick as 12 inches, contains the tannins that give wine its color and flavor. The most gentle method of extracting tannins is the foot stomp (think [base “]I Love Lucy[per thou] reruns), but most wineries use handheld [base “]jackhammer[per thou] devices. Lacroute worried that the machines were much too rough on his grapes, and longed for a kinder, gentler way. [base “]I knew we could do one better,[per thou] says Lacroute.

His solution: Big Foot, a 1,000-pound, pneumatically controlled, microprocessor-driven grape stomper. Big Foot and its three stainless feet move on a rail system above a dozen tanks, stomping each tank for about 20 minutes, two to three times a day, for about two weeks. [base “]It[base ‘]s so perfect because these plunges are gentle and replicable, whether it[base ‘]s 7 in the morning or 10 at night,[per thou] says Laurent Montalieu, the head wine maker. Lacroute won[base ‘]t patent Big Foot, preferring to give the specs away. The device is used in wineries in Washington, California and New Zealand.

The real payoff of Big Foot[base ‘]s work is in the bottle, and WillaKenzie has won many accolades from wine connoisseurs as it[base ‘]s quadrupled in size over the past six years to 15,000 cases of wine annually. So Lacroute says it[base ‘]s now time to kick back. [base “]I[base ‘]m from Burgundy and I don[base ‘]t play golf,[per thou] he says. [base “]What I do is drink wine.[per thou] That is, until the spirit moves him to invent something else.

[~]Joan Raymond