Foris Vineyards Winery

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Foris Vineyards Winery is an American winery located near Cave Junction, Oregon in the Illinois Valley region of the Rogue Valley AVA of Southern Oregon. As one of Oregon's pioneering grape growers, Ted Gerber planted his first vineyard in 1974. For 15 years, Gerber provided quality fruit to other winemakers, until 1986 when the winery was founded by Ted and Meri Gerber and the Foris label was launched.[1][2]

In 2000, Ted and Meri Gerber received the Oregon Winery Association's Founders Award for their contribution to the industry. The award recognizes members whose pioneering efforts and longstanding accomplishments help to create the image of the Oregon wine industry while nurturing fellow embers to grow and flourish. Over the years, the Gerber's have been partners in many projects conducted by Oregon State University and United States Department of Agriculture.[3]

Foris is one of Oregon's most consistent producers specializing in Pinot Noir, and Alsace varietal white wines- Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Riesling, and Muscat. The cool mountainous valley which is home to Foris contributes to crafting elegant Pinot Noir with subtle and deep flavors as well as steely, bracing white wines, reminiscent of Alsace.[4] Gerber was among the first to recognize that the Dijon clones of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir offered considerable opportunity for blending and complexity. His Dijon clone propagation program supplied several top California wineries with grafted wood.

History[edit]

While Foris turns out a variety of quality wines and has been known for years for producing excellent Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, and other cool climate varietals,[5] Ted Gerber's journey is a textbook case in "do what you love and the rest will follow". His path started more than 40 years ago when he visited Oregon's Illinois Valley where he fell in love with the wilderness, the community and the peace.[6] He had a dream. Armed with meteorological data going back 30 years, Gerber and his late wife, Meri, purchased their first 15 acres near the old, abandoned mining town of Holland in the hills above Cave Junction in 1971. At the time, the Gerber's were as much pioneers down south as the Letts, Eraths, Adelsheims, and Ponzi's were up north.[7] Gerber recognized that he had purchased a vineyard site that had an ideal soil type and climate for Alsatian and Burgundy grape varieties. By 1974, the Gerber's planted their first vineyard and eventually the winery. It took nine years of selling grapes to other Oregon wineries before Gerber decided to segue from Foris Vineyards into Foris Winery, recognizing he had developed vineyards with intensely flavored berries. He knew which varieties did well and he knew he could produce good wine. In 1990, he hired Sarah Powell a French-trained winemaker who focused on low yields and quality fruit. Foris began producing award-winning Pinot Noir and launched marketing their wines to states outside of Oregon. Powell's success was particularly noted when Foris 1994 Maple Ranch Pinot Noir was served at a White House dinner in 1997. Powell left Foris in 2001 to pursue a consulting career.[8] Eventually Gerber invited Bryan Wilson to join Foris and he became winemaker in 2007, bringing a new vibrancy to Foris wines. Wilson's working background included winemaking at Stags Leap Wine Cellars in Napa,Benziger Family Winery in Sonoma and Sylvan Ridge near Eugene Oregon. Foris is known for their Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, Pinot noir and Merlot and had its 2006 Pinot Blanc voted "Best of Show" at the World of Wine Festival near Gold Hill, Oregon. They also produce Foris Cave Bear Red, the sale of which is used to support the Oregon Caves Chateau renovation.[9]

Vineyards[edit]

[10] Foris has 145 estate planted acres of vineyards. The high elevation in the Illinois Valley, 1,200 to 1,800 feet, results in a short growing season. annual rainfall within the region is approximately 60 inches. Winters are cold and wet. Springs are warm and usually dry. Summers are dry and hot. The elevation and close proximity to the Pacific Ocean, defines a location well suited for cool climate varieties such as Pinot Noir and Alsace varietal white wines- Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Riesling, and Muscat. If any winery offers the quintessential Southern Oregon profile, it is surely Foris. Gerber hails the region's Siskiyou Mountains as dramatically different with a variety of aspects and soil types that produce the most intense fruit.[11] Ted Gerber has been nurturing the land since the early seventies and his commitment as a caretaker of the vineyards since the planting of the first vine to the last, is the hallmark of Foris. An expression of place, the winery's goal is to showcase grape quality and winemaking, while reflecting the soil and climate that is unique to the estate vineyards.[10] All estate vineyards are within three miles of each other and the winery. These include:

Gerber Vineyard-204 acres,47 acres planted to grapes

  • Back of the valley at the base of a hill with 100 acres of trees blocking airflow
  • A hot day and cold night pocket giving extreme day to night fluctuations
  • Three feet of soil with clay underneath
  • An exceptional vineyard for Gewurztraminer

Maple Ranch Vineyard-112 acres, 43 acres planted to grapes

  • On the crest between two major stream drainages, on a bench at the back of the valley
  • Soil permeability is moderate to 5 feet and rapid below this depth. Red fractured rock, clay and gravelly loam surface layers with substratum gravelly, loamy sand. Great drainage that never puddles water.
  • We consider this our best vineyard, especially for Pinot Noir due to several factors: Excellent soil, micro location, mix of several good clones

Cedar Ranch Vineyard-74 acres, 47 planted to grapes

  • At the back, upper most part of the valley along Sucker Creek
  • Three feet of soil with river rock underneath
  • Ideal for Riesling, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Noir

Holland Vineyard-12 acres, 8 acres planted to grapes

  • Adjacent to the home vineyard yet is distinct from Gerber
  • Soil is very productive loam for 18-24 inches; below that is rock, boulders, and river wash that drains the top soil causing light vigor vines for high quality wine
  • Riesling has shown best here in the early years of grape harvest

What Foris shares in common with Alsace[edit]

Alsace is a French grape growing region on the German border outside Strasbourg. The grapes are mostly whites-Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Gris. The wines all tend to share roundness, unctuousness, and power emanation from the warm days and a crisp acidity locked in by the cold nights of the growing region. This diurnal shift between temperature highs and lows is what makes the wines of Alsace important and is what Foris Vineyards in the Illinois Valley share in common. An easy way to experience this phenomenon is to compare a Pinot Gris from Alsace or Oregon with a Pinot Grigio(same grape, Italian name) from Italy. Tough there are exceptions, most Italian Pinot Grigio is grown in areas characterized by warm days and mild nights. Without the cold nights the acidity in the grapes gradually diminishes and one is left with a fairly light, soft textured wine. While pleasant, they do not share the exuberance of an Alsatian or Oregon wine made from the same grape. The bright acidity found in Oregon Pinot Gris emphasizes the fruit, brings it into focus, and carries it along throughout the finish.

In Oregon, few areas replicate the growing conditions in Alsace as well as the Illinois Valley does, the home of Foris estate vineyards. Unlike the rain prone Willamette Valley, the Illinois generally experiences a warm and very dry summer with surprisingly cold nights throughout the growing season. Coupled with low fertility sites, low yields and careful farming the winery is almost assured of crisp exuberant fruit.

Wines[edit]

in 2013, Foris produced 45,000 cases of wine and ranked #13 for Top Oregon Wineries by Total Production. Approximately 22,500 cases in 2013 were produced for the Foris label, positioning Foris #20 for Top Oregon Wineries by Brand/Label.[10] Varietals featured under the Foris label are estate grown Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Riesling, and Moscato as well as their multi award-winning, single vineyard Maple Ranch Pinot Noir.THe wines are distributed in 38 states, the District of Columbia, and Japan.[12] Foris also produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot as well as the famous "Fly Over Red"- a blend of Bordeaux varietals with the fruit sourced from several vineyards in the Rogue Valley.

Ownership[edit]

Founded by Ted and Meri Gerber, Foris Winery and Vineyards is family-owned and family managed. A graduate of California State Hayward in 1969, Ted studied political science and public administration. During his college years, he also developed a passion for making homemade wine. in 1971, Ted and Meri purchased hillside acreage in Southern Oregon's remote Illinois Valley with the specific intention of growing grapes. Starting from scratch, they built a house, bought the land that is now Gerber Vineyards, and begun planting grapes.

For a number of years they provided fruit to various vintners in Southern Oregon, and in 1986 started producing their own wines under the Foris label. Meri passed away in 2000 after a lengthy battle with breast cancer. In 2003 Ted married his present wife Teri, a health professional with thirty years of medical experience and an avid interest in photography and landscape painting. As co-owner, Teri is responsible for keeping the vineyards' books, employee safety, and helping out with the administrative needs of the winery.

Alicia Gerber, Ted's daughter, came of age in the family vineyard. She studied early childhood development in college and went out into the world on her own for a number of years. During her mother's illness, however, she returned home to help out and never looked back. She loves gardening and all things that grow so working alongside her father proved a natural fit. Over time, Alicia assumed a variety of important roles at the winery, and at present her responsibilities include, working in the business office, ht tasting room, and managing the gardens and grounds with Teri. Alicia, her so Skylar, and daughter Ava live on Maple Ranch in the foothills of the Siskiyou Mountains, a few short minutes east of Gerber Vineyards. Teri's daughter, Heidi and daughter Alex are also part of the Gerber family. They make their home at Cedar Ranch Vineyards, not too far from Maple Ranch. Heidi is learning the wine business from the ground up, devoting the majority of her time working in the Foris business office, managing the wine club, and assisting winemaker Bryan Wilson during harvest.

Foris was founded by Ted and Meri Gerber, who fell in love with the Illinois Valley when visiting friends there in 1969. In 1971, they began studying Oregon's climate over the past 30 years and decided that the weather and soil in Oregon could grow quality grapes. They purchased 15 acres (61,000 m2) near the former gold mining town of Holland and added 80 acres (320,000 m2) more in 1975 in what is now the site of Gerber Ranch and Foris Winery. The early years saw failed crops and the wrong grapes planted in the wrong areas. Changes in the wine market also forced various adjustments over the years. By 2006, Foris' crops had proved that the Illinois Valley is a viable place to grow grapes.[13]

In 2007, Foris Winery produced 48,000 cases of wine, making it the 14th-largest bonded winery in Oregon.[14]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Goracke, Susan (January 24, 2008). "Ted and Terri Gerber finish Foris Vineyards buy out". Mail Tribune, Retrieved January 27, 2014
  2. ^ Klooster, Carl (2008-12) "The Big Boys Down South". Oregon Wine Press (Not available to retrieve.)
  3. ^ Howie, Millie 2000-September/October. Foris Winery, "Winegrowers' Association Honors Trailblazing Oregon Couple". Practical Winery Magazine (Not available to retrieve)
  4. ^ Gregutt, Paul. (April 2, 2011) "Wines in spotlight euro-gon", Paul Gregutt blog
  5. ^ Twitchell, Cleve (November 28, 2007). "Foris offers bargains for wine lovers". Medford Mail Tribune
  6. ^ Fiering, Alice (September 18, 2000) "A love for the land" Wine Today from New York Times Digital
  7. ^ Foris Vineyards Winery, "Great Awakenings: An Eclectic History of Foris Winery". Accessed January 27, 2014
  8. ^ Kent, Roberta (January 15, 2014) "Homework has paid off for Foris wines." Mail Tribune
  9. ^ Twitchell, Cleve (November 28, 2007). "Foris offers bargains for wine lovers". Medford Mail Tribune. Retrieved December 3, 2007. 
  10. ^ a b c Foris Vineyards Winery "The Vineyards"
  11. ^ Pawsey, Tim (September/October 2000) "The Jefferson State of Wine" Northwest Palate
  12. ^ Eastman, Janet "Oregon Wine, Japanese Clients......When Opportunity Knocked, Foris Vineyards Answered", Mail Tribune
  13. ^ Rutan, Roger (May 3, 2006). "Oregon wine pioneer made the right call in Illinois Valley". The Register-Guard. Retrieved December 4, 2007. 
  14. ^ "Local Business". Medford Mail Tribune. January 24, 2008. Retrieved January 24, 2008.