Winery Feature

New Winery: Illahe Vineyards, Oregon

That’s right, we have added another winery from the States to our portfolio! Illahe Vineyards is a leading producer of sustainable, handcrafted wines, with a focus on Pinot Noir and white wines. Pronounced Ill-Uh-Hee, the name is a local Chinook word meaning “earth” or “place” or “soil”.

The owners, Lowell and Pauline Ford have a long history of stewardship and grape growing, with Lowell’s great-grandparents growing the first wine grapes on their farm near Dallas in the 1890s. Today, the winery is run by the new generation of Brad and Bethany Ford. Brad, in particular, is the lead winemaker, who continues the tradition of working with horses, trying ferments in oak, acacia, and clay, and spending hours on the pedal-powered pump moving the 1899 wine from the fermenter to barrels.

Recently, he built a kiln so he can make his own amphorae, earthenware pots used for fermenting and ageing. Illahe’s goal is to make wine as naturally as possible from soil to bottle, focusing on wine that expresses the vintage and their varietal characteristics.

The vineyard

Illahe Vineyards is one of nine vineyards situated in the Mount Pisgah area in Willamette Valley, Oregon. Their 80-acre, south-facing vineyard lives in shallow clay soils in, and like their friends in the Deep Roots Coalition, they do not irrigate mature plants. Illahe is also one of Oregon’s few horse-powered vineyards, utilising a team of Percheron drafts to mow and deliver grapes to the winery at harvest. The vineyard now has a total of almost 60 acres, planted with seven varieties: Pinot Noir dominates, accounting for 50 of those acres. They only use estate fruit from the family vineyard Glenn Creek, located near West Salem.

Illahe is a warm site that experiences slightly earlier bud break and flowering than many vineyards in the Willamette Valley. The southerly aspect of the vineyard and the moderate elevation mean that grapes will achieve maturity even in cooler vintages. Their overall characteristic is Willakenzie-type sedimentary clay – specifically Bellpine, Wellsdale, Dupee, with patches of volcanic Jory.

Viticultural practices

Illahe is a LIVE-certified, Salmon-Safe vineyard. They use cover crops throughout the vineyard to benefit the soil and for biodiversity, and also do extensive green pruning and conduct plant topping. All pruning, as well as the harvesting, is done by hand. Sulfur spray is only used to control for powdery mildew and botrytis. They aim for balance and optimal ripeness. This includes leaf pulling to decrease shade and dropping green clusters after the grapes ripen (veraison). Their winery is also solar-powered, helping to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

Here are the wines that we will be stocking!

Illahe Vineyards Pinot Gris 2019 ($56)


The 2018 Illahe Pinot Gris is layered with complex fruit and starts with notes of crisp granny smith apple, bright lemon zest, and hints of clove, paired with light notes of papaya and starfruit. Part of the fruit is from the estate vineyard and part is from neighbours at Erratic Oaks Vineyard. Both sites are heavily influenced by the Mount Pisgah weather patterns and soil structures. It is also influenced by the neutral oak it is vinified in, which adds creaminess and texture with lingering flavours of almond butter and a spicy finish of cardamom creates an exciting and flavorful wine.

Illahe Vineyards Viognier 2019 ($60)


The 2019 Illahe Viognier leaps from the glass with expressive apricot, nectarine skin, apple blossom, and honeysuckle. The palate finishes clean crisp kiwi, chamomile, and Siletz salt. The best way to describe this wine is that it smells and tastes like spring in a bottle. Pair with a warm sunny patio, scallops, grilled peaches, or all of the above.

Illahe Vineyards Willamette Valley Estate Pinot Noir 2018 ($70)


The aromas of the 2018 Illahe Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir begin with strawberry, tamarind, and blackberry then broaden along the palate to include chalk, tobacco leaf, chocolate, and earth. The acid supports a complete yet not overwhelming tannin balanced between skin and oak. The wine retains its velvet mouthfeel through a process of clarification by racking. For an entry-level pinot, this wine is a great value and will last 6 to 12 years under the best conditions.

Illahe Vineyards Bon Sauvage Pinot Noir 2018 ($84)


The 2018 Bon Sauvage presents aromas of cigar box, cedar chest, forest floor, fennel, earth, and erratic stone leads into a pallet of lingonberry, blueberry, violet, cranberry, and raspberry seed. This pinot is structured with fine tannin and finishes with clove, tobacco, and fresh-cut fir. This pinot will age well for at least 10 years to come!

Shop Illahe wines here.

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