A Fun Domestic Take on Grüner Veltliner

Today’s Story: Illahe Vineyards

Illahe Vineyards is a family owned and operated wine estate located in Dallas, Oregon within the Willamette Valley winegrowing region. The vineyards on the property trace back to 1983 when Lowell and Pauline Ford planted an acre of Müller-Thurgau, though they have since evolved into a concentration on Pinot Noir with 22 initial acres in 2001. Their son Brad joined the family business in 2004, and runs the property today as grower and winemaker alongside his wife Bethany who heads up sales. The Illahe holdings today consist of 80 acres, though only 60 acres are planted with about 50 of those planted to Pinot Noir. The remaining 10 acres of vineyards are planted to Pinot Gris, Grüner Veltliner, Tempranillo, Viognier, and very small quantities of Lagrein, Schioppettino, and Teroldego.

From a viticultural perspective, Illahe is mainly focused on the preservation of the land. They use cover crops throughout the vineyards to maintain the soils and provide an excellent environment for biodiversity, while refraining to irrigate more mature vines. Pruning and harvest are both accomplished exclusively by hand, and they only use Sulfur spray to combat mildew and botrytis. Taking tradition from some vineyards in Burgundy and throughout France, Illahe also uses two horses, Doc and Bea, to mow and bring all harvested fruit to the winery.

When it comes to winemaking itself, the name of the game is traditional and minimally invasive vinification. After being hand harvested and delivered to the winery by horse in small buckets, the fruit is hand sorted and either destemmed or left whole cluster depending on cuvée and variety. Following a two to six day cold soak, fermentation begins using only native yeasts and Brad uses up to 40 fermentation vessels ranging from oak to clay to stainless steel. The finished wines are meant to be a pure representation of place and variety, which one might gather from the overarching love for tradition in every facet of Illahe.

Today’s Wine: 2020 Estate Grüner Veltliner

100% Grüner Veltliner; 13% ABV

The 2020 Estate Grüner Veltliner is pale straw yellow in color and completely transparent in the glass. The aromas are of medium intensity and the nose rather delicate, offering up notes of green apple, cucumber, lime zest, white florals, wet stone, and white pepper. Flavor intensity is also medium, while the palate showcases notes of green apple, ripe pear, kiwi, lime, crushed gravel, grass, and white pepper. This dry white is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. Pretty good quality here, and fun to try a domestic Grüner.

Price: $22. Given the very good quality level here, I think this is a very fair price for the wine. While the intensity could be better, overall this is a very easy-going wine for a hot day and it’s a great representation of Grüner with some classic notes.

If this wine seems like something you might enjoy, you may find this link helpful in locating it.

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