Our Team

We enjoy working together as a family to make sustainable, handcrafted wines from our estate vineyard. We are farmers at heart and we enjoy being close to nature through our grapes, watching the seasons change the landscape around us and each vintage change the wines in the bottle.

 
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BRAD FORD
WINEMAKER

Brad's job at Illahe is to make delicious wines that have a unique character. He hopes that by working with his grapes year after year, he will discover the little things that ensure each one is a special, hand-crafted product. He reaches back into the history of wine for hints and ideas on how to improve. So far, this has included working with horses, trying ferments in oak, acacia, and clay, and spending hours on the pedal-powered pump moving the 1899 wine from the fermenter to barrels. Recently he built a kiln so he can make his own amphorae, earthenware pots used for fermenting and aging.

After receiving a degree in classics, Brad was a carpenter, grant writer and English instructor. In 2004, he followed his dad into the vineyard and worked his first harvest. He went on to work with Russ Raney (Evesham Wood), Michael Lundeen (Lundeen Wines) and Gabriel Jagle (Scenic Valley Farms).

Email Brad Ford: brad@illahevineyards.com

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LOWELL AND PAULINE  FORD
OWNERS AND GROWERS

Lowell and Pauline have a long history of stewardship and grape growing. Lowell’s great-grandparents immigrated from Russia via Canada and grew wine grapes on their farm near Dallas, Oregon in the 1890s. Pauline’s father finished his family’s westward migration and bought a farm in Salem in 1943, and she has lived on that farm her entire life.

Lowell began his career as a winegrower on that very farm – planting of an acre of Müller-Thurgau in 1983. His early experiments in viticulture were made with the help of friend Earl VanVolkinburg of Vitae Springs Vineyard in South Salem. He won ribbons, including a best of show, at county state fairs for his wines.

In the 1990s, Lowell spearheaded the development of the Northwest Wine Studies Center at Chemeketa where he remains a lifetime donor. While Pauline isn't actively involved in the vineyard or winery, she makes a famous salmon cheesecake that we invite you to indulge in at our holiday tastings!

Email Lowell: lowell@illahevineyards.com

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BETHANY FORD
NATIONAL SALES MANAGER

Bethany fell in love with Pinot Noir in the Santa Ynez Valley while she was earning a BFA in art in Los Angeles. Inspired by the craft and process of making wine, and having always wanted to live in the Northwest, she moved to Oregon in 2005. Bethany joined the team at Illahe Vineyards in 2009 after gaining experience with some of Oregon's top wineries. Her sales experience drove Illahe's success in transitioning from a winery with a small distribution radius to achieving recognition in 35 markets internationally. At harvest, you can find her in work boots doing lab work, punch downs, and fruit sorting – she often cooks lunch for the entire crew, as well. Bethany has a WSET Level 2 Award for Wine and Spirits. She is also the mom of two adorable little ones, Beckett and Miette, and is Brad’s wife. 

Email Bethany Ford: bethany@illahevineyards.com, or call her cell: 503-415-0067

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NATHAN LITKE
ASSISTANT WINEMAKER

While working as a whitewater raft guide and ski bum in Colorado, Nathan began to think about a future in wine. So, he hopped on his bicycle and rode back home to Oregon to enroll in the Northwest Wine Studies Center at Chemeketa. Since then, he has learned his trade at various Willamette Valley producers, including A to Z, Panther Creek and Cherry Hill. A desire to explore working with big reds took him out to the Columbia Gorge and Maryhill Winery, where for two years he cut his teeth on fruit from across Washington. But he knew he would return to Oregon to make pinot at some point. He is thrilled to have the chance to work with the Fords at Illahe, crafting fun, exciting and always delicious wines.

Email Nathan: nathan@illahevineyards.com

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KATHY GREYSMITH
HOSPITALITY

Kathy grew up in Minnesota many years ago. It was a flip of a coin in the late 70’s that brought her to Oregon where her dream of having a little farm with lots of animals came true. Since being in Oregon, she has undertaken a variety of pursuits including owning a coffee house, managing a nationally recognized herd of Nubian dairy goats and building her house with the help of a few good friends. Sprinkled throughout this time she built up a taste and passion for working in the wine industry. Kathy has acquired eight years of tasting room experience. 

On Earth Day, 2017, Kathy stepped behind the wine bar at Illahe. She hasn’t stopped smiling since. You can often hear her say, “I love my job!” 

Email: kathy@illahevineyards.com

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HOWARD OPATOWSKY
CELLAR MASTER

Howard was born in a pre-hipster Brooklyn, NY and grew up on the East Coast.  He followed the advice of Horace Greely and made his way to Oregon.  Howard earned his B.S. in Forestry at Oregon State University (Go Beavs!).  While at O.S.U. he fell in love with everything Oregon had to offer from the natural wonders and open spaces to the amazing local food, beer, and wine.  He knew he had found his forever home. 

Like many before him, Howard's path into wine was through homebrewing which led to an interest in home winemaking.  After working in the field of forestry for a few years Howard decided he needed to follow his passion so he returned to school at Chemeketa Community College where he completed a degree in winemaking. While at Chemeketa he had classes with the future owner and winemaker of Illahe Vineyards, Brad Ford.  Howard has learned his craft at a number of wineries around the Willamette Valley including Benton-Lane, Van Duzer, Evening Land, and Cristom.  He also had the great fortune to work a vintage in the Central Otago region of New Zealand for Amisfield Winery.  

When he's not helping Illahe make great wine he can be found on the trails of Oregon hiking and backpacking, roadbiking, gardening, cooking, and adding to his ever growing, recently resurrected  vinyl collection.  Howard has recently taken up the glass harmonica.

Email Howard: Howard@illahevineyards.com

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MASON CARROLL
CELLAR WORKER

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DOC & BEA
VINEYARD HORSES

During harvest Doc and Bea are responsible for delivering fruit from our vineyard to the crush pad. In the springtime we use them with a horse mower to cut our cover crop between the rows of vines. They also enjoy giving wagon rides through the vineyard on event days!

 

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LOGAN
WINERY DOG

It's not a proper Oregon winery without a dog. Logan likes to hang around the office waiting for treats or a good pat; he stays in shape by racing cars up the driveway. Logan was Bethany's first baby, and is now in his golden years at 13 years old.