Made without any modern winemaking equipment or electricity, and shipped the 96 miles from Dallas, OR, to Portland using stagecoach, canoe, and bicycle, Illahe winery’s Project 1899 Pinot Noir opens itself to scorn and parody (I won’t mention the ‘P’ word). But talk to winemaker Brad Ford and it soon becomes apparent that all he’s interested in is making the best wine he can, regardless of how it looks to anyone else. Illahe already uses horses on their property and all their wines are made as naturally as possible, without additives. The 1899, says Ford, is a “history experiment” to see what can be achieved with the most basic technology. He enjoys the old-fashioned method: “You need patience,” he says. “It slows the process down and like any craft that increases attention.” He’s particularly interested in the technical challenges of making a wine wholly by hand, and even talking to him for a few minutes it’s apparent that there’s not a whiff of hipsterism; he’s just an enthusiastic, down-to-earth geek.
Ford has been producing 1899s for a few years, working to improve each vintage (he believes that they do taste better than wines made by modern methods). The 2014 is young—it took over ten minutes for the hot alcohol aroma to blow off, while delivering a huge dollop of black cherry in the mouth, some earthiness, and plenty of acid—it’ll be one to try in a year or two. There are 200 cases, with eight making it up the river to a distributor here.
Illhae 2014 Project 1899 Pinot Noir, $65