A Question of Style
A Winemaking Philosophy Rooted in the Vineyards
As wine-grape growers for over 30 years, Foris Vineyards winemaking philosophy is firmly rooted in the vineyards. As farmers we tend and nurture our vineyards to produce wines that reflect the unique attributes of our sites in the Illinois Valley. Over the years we have continued to develop our Estate vineyard acreage so that now over 80% of the wines we produce come from our Estate. The fruit harvested from our Estate vineyards has become the dominant signature of our winemaking style.
The Foris “House Style”
Every winery develops a “house style” over time and ours starts in the vineyard. The interaction of climate, soil, elevation, varietal and rootstock selection all influence fruit composition. Human interaction, the decisions and actions that we take in the vineyard to manage canopy, crop load, nutrition, water and ultimately the harvest decision are the most important drivers of style.
Style evolves in the winery with the winemaker’s interpretation of how best to handle the fruit: yeast selection, fermentation management, pressing, aging and when to bottle. Style also starts in the mind. We decide what style we would like to produce for each of our wines and once the stylistic goal has been chosen, the work starts in the vineyard to achieve those goals. At harvest, the work is then handed off to the winery to influence the style with the tools that we have in the winery.
Showcasing the fruit we worked so hard to grow…
While it is commonly believed that the character and quality of the fruit outweighs the influence of winemaking, it is our belief that this is true only when the winemaking goal is to showcase the fruit that we worked so hard to grow in the vineyard. For example, our Alsatian white wines, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Gewürztraminer and Riesling are fermented in stainless steel with an array of aromatic yeasts that highlight the purity of fruit attributes. Even with our barrel fermented Chardonnay, the barrel influence takes a supporting role along side fruit character, adding spice, depth and complexity that enhances the bright, high notes of the fruit.
The More We Do in the Vineyard, the Less we Have to do in the Winery
Pinot Noir is a delicate grape to grow and requires a gentle touch in the winery. Definitely a case of less is more when it comes to winemaking. It is often said that the hardest thing for a winemaker to do is nothing…and we aren’t talking about work ethic! The more we do in the vineyard, the less we have to do in the winery. We believe the same approach applies to barrel aging. We use less than 15% new French oak to age our Pinot Noir to insure the delicate aromatics and sensual flavor profile is not overpowered by a bunch of toasty oak character.
Our style is an Elegant One
Showcase the purity of fruit, underscore the rich textures and vibrant flavors that are derived from well farmed fruit, and don’t mess it up in the winery.
Bringing cold fruit into the winery is extremely important for a variety of reasons. Because of this, we’ve gone to night picking: picking grapes in the wee hours of the morning (between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m.) when temperatures are cool. We do not have the ability to chill our fruit prior to processing, as some do, and this is our alternative.
While it is important to be able to cold soak the pinots, it is equally, if not more important to bring the whites in cold. Especially with Pinot gris, the potential for phenolic extraction, bitterness, astringency and color, increases geometrically with a small increase in temperature of the fruit going into the press.
Responding to what we perceive as climate change, the earlier harvest comes to the Rogue Valley, the greater the chance we will be harvesting during warm days and nights. Historically, harvest has commenced the last week of September/first week of October. In 2010 and 2011 we started as late as October the 15th. Once we are in late September/early October, night time temperatures are in the 40’s F. So, what we’ve seen in ‘14 & ‘15 is harvest commencing the first week of September, a dramatic swing of 4-6 weeks from normal to cool vintages!