This Eco-Friendly Oregon Winery Uses No Electricity or Fuel

The barrelling process is powered by bicycle.

Illahe 1899 No Electricity Winemaking
Photo: © Bethany Ford

A bevy of modern machinery and technology enables most of today's winemaking, but one Oregon vintner is trying to do things the old-fashioned way. Several years ago, Illahe Vineyards began working on its aptly named Project 1899 blend "with a goal of creating a new-world wine with a sense of place that wasn't altered by technology," according to their website.

The idea is to make wine using methods dating back to, well, 1899. First, the grapes are hand-picked and hauled by the winery's horses to be processed. The winemakers then de-stem the grapes by hand, and then pump them using a bicycle into the barrels, with employees taking turns pedaling the bike, according to Portland's KGW news.

"We're probably the only professional winery in the United States doing something like this," says winemaker Brad Ford of their completely electricity- and fuel-free process. When the wine is finished fermenting, it is bottled and cored by hand and delivered via canoes paddled down the Willamette River to its distributor—keeping with 19th century tradition until the very end.

"You're definitely tired by the end of the day," says assistant winemaker Nathan Litke of the added effort needed to produce the bottles, but he believes its worth it to produce a wine that offers a one-of-a-kind experience. "Just putting in that extra sweat equity really makes you feel pretty prideful about it at the end of the day.

Illahe's old-fashioned bottle has been such a success that they're doubling their quantities this year, and creating 200 cases—still quite a small amount—of the unique wine. For those interested in getting a taste of the past, the pinot is currently available for $65 on their website.

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