A Collection of Winemaking and Winegrowing Stories

Former Foris Winemaker, Sarah Powell, writing in 2001 why she loved Southern Oregon

The Rogue Valley offers an endless palate of things to do and see in the out-of- doors. Foris Winemaker, Sarah Powell, expresses her own excitement about the wilderness area, “My new passion and challenge is back county skiing. I now climb my own remote mountains and telemark ski down them. I usually ski the high Siskiyous, just South of Cave Junction, where we have found a winter recreational use for clear-cut forest! With one of our grape growers near Medford, I also venture out in the Southern Oregon Cascades, often skiing over what are ancient lava bed flows through the forest.”

Stay at Foris Vineyards in a 100 year old Farmhouse

Back country ski season here begins in late November or early December, and continues into July. This sport provides an understanding of the influence of weather patterns and elevation on the region. As the snow line melts and one has to go higher and higher to reach the snow, it is fascinating to see the seasonal, flora, and fauna changes with elevation. “While we’re farming the valley floor, wildflowers are abundant higher up, and so are bears,” exclaims Powell.

In June, one can “transition” to vegetable gardening, hiking and mountain biking and inflatable kayaking. The hydrology of Southern Oregon is spectacular. Take your pick: Rogue River, Klamath River, Applegate River, Illinois River, Smith River, and all the various creeks which feed them. The Smith River is so clean, you can see fish deep in the water, and never want to shower after swimming in it. The headwaters of all these rivers and creeks are pristine forests of unbelievable beauty. And this same water allows growers to farm the valleys below.

From their mountainous origins to their ocean end, the Rogue and Klamath Rivers each pass through one of the most diverse geological basins in North America. Each begins in the volcanic Cascade Mountains, and then pass through valleys of ancient seabed, followed by geological uplifts resulting from ages of tectonic plate movement. This geology is important, not only for farming (and historically, mining), but for many ecosystems. These basins host some of the most diverse botanical populations as well. Rock fracture springs abound resulting in barely accessible wetlands and pristine mountain bogs. The serpentine soils play host to many rare and beautiful wildflowers and even carnivorous plants, like the rare insect-eating Darlingtonia. Red clay loams host immense stands of Port Orford and other Cedars, Douglas and other Firs, various Pines, Madrone, Oaks, Maples, Alders and Yew, to name a few. The Smith River gorge hosts the northern-most stand of Giant Redwoods, intermixed with giant ferns, fragrant wild Azalea and crimson Rhododendron.