The wines of Illahe Vineyards are some of the most impressive of Oregon's up-and-coming "wineries to watch." Tasted a few weeks ago in a group of Pinots including bottles from Beaux Freres, Cameron, Evening Land and Brick House, the Illahe wines were beautiful, and their Reserve Pinot noir stood out in a very distinguished group of top Oregon wines. The Illahe estate vineyard clearly has something new and fascinating to say, and winemaker Brad Ford allows the grapes to tell it.
Illahe Vineyards is owned and operated by three generations of the Ford family. Current winemaker Brad Ford's father Lowell learned to grow grapes in the 1980's, planting his first vineyard with three acres of Muller Thurgau on his father-in-law's farm. He added Gruner Veltliner, Pinot noir and Pinot gris to his experience with plantings in 1995.
at right, vineyard dogs Logan and PowPow
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Below, Brad gets ready to cultivate the vineyard with their horse-driven plow
In 1999, after a decade helping to found and develop the Chemeketa Northwest Viticulture Center, Lowell purchased eighty acres of farm land in the mid-Willamette Valley. Today 52 acres are planted, including 40 of Pinot noir. Brad still makes wine from Lowell's earlier plantings and their old vine Gruner Veltliner has a cult following of winelovers who snap it up every year.
Brad Ford, Lowell's son, is Illahe's excellent winemaker, joining his father after working with Evesham Wood's Russ Raney and well known Oregon winemaker Joe Dobbes. A pivotal winetasting trip to Burgundy further inspired his winemaking style.
The new wineries that we enjoy year after year tend to be those with their own vineyards and a deep interest in its development. Illahe falls into that category. The vineyard's individuality grows with every vintage, and the owners are aware of the importance of managing it to allow the terroir's unique character to evolve and intensify.
"An excellent vineyard site and pinot noir, a fine facility, and a dedicated, kind, and talented team... this bodes well for Illahe's success." –Russ Raney, Evesham Wood
Illahe is a Chinook Jargon word meaning "earth," "land," or "soil."