Napa Valley AVA
Limited-production, critically acclaimed wines from select sustainably farmed vineyards
One of Napa Valley’s best under-the-radar wineries is this month’s Pinot Noir Series feature, Fore Family Vineyards. With just over 1,000 cases produced each year, and eight different wines making up the ultra boutique portfolio, Fore Family Vineyards is steadily building its reputation as a world-class (but super limited production) winery in northern California.
Owners Jim and Diane Fore grew up in Napa Valley and have long had a love for premium wines. Their transition into the winery business, although unexpected, has proven to be an exciting new path that challenges them every step of the way.
“We weren’t always in the wine business,” explains Diane Fore. “I used to be a Kindergarten teacher and my husband was a Piping Designer at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard. When the base closed in 1988, Jim and I moved back to Napa and he decided we should become farmers.”
Jim and Diane sought out friend Doug Hill (of Hill Family Estate Winery) who had over twenty-six years of experience growing grapes in Napa, and started acquiring leases on suitable properties throughout the Valley. Jim even started working for Doug’s business (Yountville Equipment Company), and began developing vineyards in the area.
Today, Jim and Doug have a partnership, Fore-Hill Vineyards, that farms forty five acres across five vineyards in the Napa Valley. About fifteen different grape varieties are grown on the various sites, most of which are sold to neighboring wineries, and Jim and Doug share in the vineyard management using only sustainable farming practices.
In 2000, Jim and Diane Fore located a 95-acre mountain top property on Cobb Mountain in Red Hills Lake County - just a couple hours north of Napa Valley. They fell in love with the land, purchased it, and planted 17 acres of it to vineyards. Just four years later, the couple released their first vintage of Fore Family Cabernet Sauvignon from their new property with the help of winemaker Peter Franus. The Fores had been selling fruit to Peter for many years and it seemed like a natural fit that he would become their winemaker.
Over the years, Fore Family has expanded to include Pinot Noir, Grenache Blanc, Merlot, a GSM Blend, Mourvedre, Late Harvest Syrah, and a Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc, sourced from various vineyards in Napa and surrounding areas. They have garnered a number of first place awards in local competitions, which considering the caliber of their Napa and Lake County neighbors, is an incredibly impressive feat.
The Fores are very happy with how far they’ve come, and look forward to continued growth in the future. Cheers!
Peter Franus - Winemaker - Family Friend
It was the University of California at Berkeley and a degree in Journalism that drew Peter Franus from Connecticut to California in the late sixties. It was also Berkeley’s proximity to Napa Valley that lead to his initial intrigue with winemaking. Franus put journalism aside and sought a new degree in viticulture and enology from Cal State Fresno. After graduating in the early 1980s, Franus moved to Napa Valley and he has been involved with grape growing and winemaking ever since. Before joining Fore Family Vineyards in 2004, Franus was winemaker for Mount Veeder Winery. He also launched his own Peter Franus brand and today, his widely recognized label can be found in many states throughout the U.S., as well as Canada. Philosophically and stylistically, Franus relies on a minimalist approach to winemaking. He believes that the more you manipulate and hover over a wine, the greater the likelihood you will diminish its personality and risk creating a wine that resembles the score that are already out there. His wines at Fore Family Vineyards have garnered multiple awards and consistent recognition from top competitions.