The Dream of the 90’s is Alive in Portland. Do you get this Portlandia reference? Link to the video is below in case you need to catch up on your viewing. They seriously do not make this stuff up. All those writers have to do is sit around and observe.
Observe with me Illahe Vineyard’s 1899 Expedition 2014 Pinot Noir. Small winery, family owned and operated, minimal intervention, blah blah, not an unusual story for Oregon. Illahe takes this “back to nature” lifestyle a few trots further by using horses to mow and to deliver grapes to the winery at harvest. Since they already had the horses, winemaker Brad Ford, decided to see if he could complete the entire winemaking process with no electricity or machinery. Ford explains, “We did this to challenge ourselves and to see if the process truly made a difference in the wines.”
Per usual the grapes were hand picked and brought to the winery by horse. (Warning the next four sentences are technical but there is a canoe party at the end so bear with me or skip to the next paragraph.) The grapes were destemmed by hand and the wine was placed into wooden fermenters where it went through fermentation spontaneously. It was hand pressed in a wood basket press, bicycle pumped into barrel, and encouraged through malolactic fermentation without inoculation. It was hand bottled and hand corked with no gas. The 1899 never touched dry ice, canned nitrogen, enzymes, stainless steel, forklifts, packaged yeast, electric pumps or filters.
Wine in hand, you still gotta sell it, so off to the distributor it goes. Google Maps says this 63 mile trip can be completed in a little over 1 hour by car and almost a full day by foot. The mapping app does not have an estimate for canoe. The Illahe team brought the wine, by stagecoach no less, to the Willamette River in Independence, Oregon, floated it away in a basket, and watched from behind a bush until an Egyptian Princess rescued it. Wait, wrong ending. They canoed the wine for three days to Portland and then biked it to the distributor.
And I was waiting for the canoes at the docks in Portland, in a dress and kitten heels, in the sun, because who doesn’t want to witness real life Portlandia? Of course a tasting party followed, complete with bearded and mustachioed men, women sporting shagged bobs, lots of plaid and logo t-shirts, and people not speaking first unless they know you.
Does the wine taste different? Yes, to me it did. The unusual winemaking process provided more opportunity for oxygen to influence the wine. The result was a wine that was mature for its age in both appearance and flavor. More brownish than ruby with dried fruit notes. I am probably crazy but if I closed my eyes I would swear I had a cocktail mixed with an aged tequila (I got notes of wood and blue agave), sweet vermouth, and walnut bitters.
Only 200 cases, if you want to try some you can order directly from Illahe ($65) but who knows you may have to live near a canoe dock. It is also distributed in small amounts to Texas, Missouri, California, Idaho, West Tennessee, Iowa, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Illinois, Colorado, Nebraska, Alabama, Washington, Arizona, Georgia, New York, Louisiana, and South Carolina.