Winery and Cave
The winery, designed by Laurence Ferar and Associates of Portland, features three levels—two different drop-offs from the crush pad allow for gravity loading of fermentors and the press. Another drop-off from the fermentation room to the press level allows us to load the press baskets by hand. The building’s west and north faces are buried in the hill which will stabilize the temperature during the year.
Our wine cave, finished in March, 2015, allows us to store around 200 barrels of wine at perfect temperature and humidity throughout the year. It is behind the winery underneath the highest part of the property.
We ferment around 15 tons of pinot noir in oak cuves. We also age all the pinot noir in barrel for nine to ten months and the Bon Sauvage, Percheron, and 1899 for 15 to 20 months.
Of course, our winemaking begins in the vineyard applying what we’ve learned from the wine in our barrels to the needs of the plants. So far in our history, this has resulted in careful pruning, shoot-thinning, and leaf-pulling. But when it’s time for harvest, we make sure each cluster is treated carefully—if it makes the cut. Tons of the wine grapes are hauled to the winery by the horses, which is a prerequisite for the 1899.
We harvest by hand and deliver the grapes to the winery in very short totes or five-gallon buckets, eliminating all juicing and exposure to deleterious yeast and degradation before processing. We load the sorting table before the vats, where we take out unripe clusters or clusters with any damage. In the case of the 1899, the grapes are sorted cluster by cluster.
From the sorting table, the grapes fall whole-cluster or are destemmed, whole berry, to the fermentation level. Some grapes skip the destemmer and enter fermentors for whole-cluster fermentation. In the 1899, the destemmer is powered by hand before entering a wooden vat.
The grapes undergo a cold soak of two to six days, then begin fermentation by natural yeast, typically mothered from another fermenter. Illahe uses over 40 fermentation vessels to increase complexity and keep cool ferments, and punches down the cap by tool and at times a very clean foot.
From there, the finished product is drained and then scooped carefully down to the press level, leaving the lees and seeds behind. We press gently in a wooden basket press, only retaining enough tannin in pressing for aging. The 1899 is pressed using iron channel bar, chains, and come-alongs, then pumped to barrel after settling with a bicycle pump.
Our whites are at times destemmed (gruner and viognier) and soaked overnight and at times pressed whole-cluster (gris, riesling, and rose). They are fermented cooly and slowly in stainless steel, neutral oak, or acacia. A small amount ferments in clay.
If you have been following Illahe for a while, you may have noticed that we changed labels twice. Our final change to the permanent label rolled out in 2010.
Our label was designed by artist James Siena and letterpress artist Ruth Lingen who worked together to create a classic look with American fonts from the early 1900's.
If you can't tell by now, at Illahe we try to do things the hand-crafted, old fashioned way in the vineyard and in our winemaking techniques. James was insistent on a number of features that exemplify this, especially the vintage on the necker and the simplicity of design.
James Siena is not a household name in Oregon, though it will be. He is a household name if your house is bedecked with art or at least the curiosity to know something about its important people. His work appears in the Museum of Modern Art, the Met, the Whitney, the Museum of Fine Art in Boston, the Hammer in LA, and many other of America’s great museums. And now it also appears on the Illahe label.
How so? Thanks to our great friend Dan Schmidt, also a New York artist, a few bottles of the earliest Illahe products showed up at James’s studio lunch table on Canal Street. James is a huge fan of Burgundy and Bordeaux, but it was the viognier that he enjoyed so much that he offered to design a label for us.
He worked with Ruth Lingen at Pace Prints (Pace Gallery represents James), and they came up with a label that incorporates letterpress fonts from the 19th century. Ruth, The Letterpress Queen of Brooklyn, found a beautiful font designed by Emil Rudolf Weiss to type ILLAHE. Don’t try to find this font on the internet—it comes directly from the antique type, perhaps from the famous Bauer type foundry.
James redesigned our logo based on the word "Illahe" from the Duployan script that our friend and designer Merry Young of Santa Barbara found for the winery near its inception. James is still drinking Illahe and is now hopefully enjoying his label while he sips our wine.
Thank you, our sophisticated friends!
About our wax top:
When we started changing our packaging we started questioning the tin capsule. While we are all for local tradition, we are also excited about things that are good for the enviroment and sustainable. The process of making capsules is not sustainable if the things aren't recycled. Therefore, we decided to switch to a drop of wax on the top of our bottles. We put this wax on by hand (with a spoon if you can believe it). It seals the bottle, allows only a few molecules of oxygen in over the years, and creates a nice clean look. Just drive your corkscrew right through the wax to open your bottle.