Illahe Vineyards and Winery Viognier 2017
Pronounced Ill-Uh-Hee, is a local Chinook word meaning “earth” or “place” or “soil” . At Illahe, their goal is to make wine as naturally as possible from soil to bottle. They work by hand on small lots with age-old techniques and materials. Their focus is to grow and make quality Pinot Noir and white wines that express the vintage and their varietal characteristics. They don’t use enzymes or additives. Some of their wines are made entirely by hand, with no electricity or modern mechanization. They use a gentle wooden basket press and age their Pinot Noir in French and Oregon oak. Their gravity-flow winery features three levels, utilizing the natural slope of the site, starting from the crush pad to the fermenters and the press below. A further 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 stabilizes the temperature throughout the year. Their winery is also solar-powered, helping reduce their reliance on fossil fuels. They also harvest rainwater to help mitigate dry spells in the summer.
One of Pinot Noir’s most successful New World outposts, the Willamette Valley is the largest and most important AVA in Oregon. With a continental climate moderated by the influence of the Pacific Ocean, it is perfect for cool-climate viticulture and the production of elegant wines.
Mountain ranges bordering three sides of the valley, particularly the Chehalem Mountains, provide the option for higher-elevation vineyard sites.
The valley's three prominent soil types (volcanic, sedimentary and silty, loess) make it unique and create significant differences in wine styles among its vineyards and sub-AVAs. The iron-rich, basalt-based, Jory volcanic soils found commonly in the Dundee Hills are rich in clay and hold water well; the chalky, sedimentary soils of Ribbon Ridge, Yamhill-Carlton and McMinnville encourage complex root systems as vines struggle to search for water and minerals. In the most southern stretch of the Willamette, the Eola-Amity Hills sub-AVA soils are mixed, shallow and well-drained. The Hills' close proximity to the Van Duzer Corridor (which became its own appellation as of 2019) also creates grapes with great concentration and firm acidity, leading to wines that perfectly express both power and grace.
Though Pinot noir enjoys the limelight here, Pinot gris, Pinot blanc and Chardonnay also thrive in the Willamette. Increasing curiosity has risen recently in the potential of others like Grüner Veltliner, Chenin blanc and Gamay.
Full-figured and charmingly floral, Viognier is one of the most important white grapes of the northern Rhône where it is used both to produce single varietal wines and as an important blending grape. Look for great New World examples from California, Oregon, Washington and cooler parts of Australia. Somm Secret—Viognier plays a surprisingly important role in the red wines of Côte Rôtie in the northern Rhône. About 5% Viognier is typically co-fermented with the Syrah in order to stabilize the color, and as an added benefit, add a subtle perfume.