16 Dec Illahe Vineyards – Stepping back to a simpler time
Well, I suppose “simpler” is all about perspective. They have a wine here called 1899 that they do with all the conveniences that could be had at that time. That means no tractors, no electricity, no motorized vehicles.
Illahe means “earth” or “place” or “soil” in the Chinook local dialect.
We visited Illahe this past July and spent the morning with Lowell Ford, the owner and grower. He and their Hospitality Manager Kathy took us through a tasting and a tour of the Winery and Vineyard.
The proposed Mount Pisgah, Polk County AVA
The winery and vineyard are located in the middle part of the Willamette Valley, West of Salem near Dallas Oregon. This area is part of the overarching Willamette Valley AVA and Illahe winemaker Brad Ford (Lowell’s son) has started the process of creating a Mount Pisgah, Polk County AVA.
The AVA covers 5,850 acres, 15 miles west of Salem and home to 10 commercial vineyards, including Freedom Hill, and two bonded wineries: Amalie Roberts Estate and Illahe Vineyards. Mount Pisgah, named by settlers in the 1800s in honor of a hill back home in Missouri, has 531 acres of vines — mostly Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay — planted from 260 to 835 feet in elevation.
The Vineyards at Illahe
While the Primary focus here is Pinot Noir, they have planted Pinot Gris, Grüner Veltliner, Tempranillo, Viognier and then small bits of Lagrein, Schioppettino and Teroldego.
The vineyard is LIVE-certified and they take pride in working by hand. They are using native flowers as cover crops, which is good for the soil and makes for stunning vineyard shots.
The winery is built on the hill and is set up to be gravity flow. They also use solar power.
The site and soils
The site is south-facing with spectacular views from their patio in front of the winery. Their elevation here ranges from 250-440 feet. They get earlier budbreak and a bit of the Van Duzer Winds. On Mount Pisgah they get a little less of the extreme temps and winds than those vineyards in the proposed Van Duzer Corridor.
Soils here are Willakenzie sedimentary clay (Bellpine, Dupee, Wellsdale) with sections of volcanic Jory soil.
They use some Acacia barrels here, and the winery was designed for it’s roof to make you feel as if you are inside a barrel.
The 1899 Pinot Noir
Without electricity for their 1899, they revert to bicycle power to do pump overs. Everything here is done by hand. The Percheron’s plow the fields, the harvest is by hand, the bottling, labeling etc. Then they have a carriage take the wine to the river and there is a two day canoe trip north and then they bicycle the wine to market. Yep… maybe not “simpler” right. But worth the effort.
To visit Illahe
You can look forward to a journey through the winery and into the cellar with Lowell coming up. In the meantime if you want to visit them To schedule an appointment email Kathy: [email protected] or call 503-831-1248.