Fore Family Vineyards
Napa Valley AVA
Limited-production, critically acclaimed wines from select sustainably farmed vineyards
Arguably one of Napa Valley’s best under-the-radar wineries is this month’s Platinum Wine Club feature, Fore Family Vineyards. With just a 1,000 cases produced each year, and a handful of distinctive, site-driven wines making up the ultra-boutique portfolio, Fore Family Vineyards is steadily building its reputation as a world-class winery in northern California.
Owners Jim and Diane Fore grew up in Napa Valley and have long shared a passion 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.
“Doug was extremely helpful and set us in the right direction when choosing sites. He had a good feeling about where we should be looking and which grapes would grow best,” Diane credits. “Jim started working for Doug’s business, Yountville Equipment Company, and learned how to grow high quality wine grapes in Napa while planting and developing vineyards in the area.” Little did Jim know that he and Doug would become grape growing partners just a few short years later with the establishment of Fore-Hill Vineyards (1995).
The farming business clicked for the Fores and before long, Jim and Diane had acquired and planted forty-five acres of vineyard property in Napa Valley. About fifteen different grape varietals grow on the five different vineyard sites, most of which are sold to neighboring wineries. The vineyards are overseen by both Jim and Doug, and their shared vineyard management business (Fore-Hill Vineyards) that strictly adheres to sustainable growing practices.
In 2000, Jim and Diane Fore located a ninety-five acre mountain top property on Cobb Mountain in Red Hills Lake County - just a couple of hours north of Napa Valley. They fell in love with the land, purchased it, and planted seventeen acres to mostly Rhône varietals, plus a little Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Just four years later, the couple released their first vintage of Fore Family Cabernet Sauvignon from the new Lake County 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.
“Peter is a simplistic winemaker and believes in a minimalist approach,” Diane states. “His style has worked well for us and he has made excellent, distinctive wines for our winery.” Fore Family’s current winemaker is Tim Dolven, who also serves as Peter’s assistant at Peter Franus Wine Company.
Over the years, Fore Family Vineyards has introduced a number of wines to their label, including a Pinot Noir, Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc, Grenache Blanc, Albariño, Merlot, Mourvèdre, Grenache Noir, and a GSM blend. Each bottling is made in extremely limited quantities from either the Fores' Napa Valley or Lake County properties.
Fore Family’s wines have won a number of first place awards in local competitions, which considering the caliber of their Napa Valley and Lake County neighbors, is an incredibly impressive feat.
“We are very happy with how far we’ve come,” Diane says. “We’ve been playing it safe with our production, but we’d like to grow a bit more when we have the opportunity.”
Fore Family recently opened a tasting room in downtown Kelseyville (Lake County) that features samples of their handcrafted wines, a handmade tasting bar, an oven that passes through to the neighboring bakery, and an artist-of-the-month series with local artwork displayed. The project has been an exciting new development for Fore Family Vineyards, allowing visitors to get to know the brand and wines while growing the winery’s Lake County exposure.
Jim and Diane Fore are now happily joined by their son Eric, who helps around the winery and vineyards in nearly every capacity. He has been a wonderful addition to the family business that is certain to see continued success.
Map of the area
Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,
In 1995, the path for Jim Fore drastically changed when his submarine design engineering job at the Vallejo Naval Shipyard ended. As a hobby grape grower and winemaker, Jim directed his future towards the wine industry, farming grapes in Napa.
In 2005, with ten years of commercial wine grape growing under their belts, Jim and Diane Fore started their own wine label - Fore Family Vineyards. The focus being on high quality wines, made entirely of their own grapes.
Currently, Fore Family Vineyards farms in Napa Valley as well as on Cobb Mountain, in Red Hills Lake County - varietals ranging from Albariño to Zinfandel. Our goal is to represent the varietal and site, so every wine made is from one single vineyard.
A recent addition is our newly opened tasting room in Kelseyville, Lake County. We are fortunate that our son Eric joined the operation, running the tasting room and other aspects of the business, such as label design, distribution, and a set of hands for harvest.
Hopefully, our hard work shines through, and you enjoy this delicate, complex 2012 Napa Carneros Pinot Noir.
Jim, Diane, and Eric Fore
About the Vineyard
Fore Family Vineyard’s 2007 Pinot Noir comes from the Eastern Carneros region of Napa Valley, specifically the Stewart Ranch Vineyard off of Highway 29. The 25-acre vineyard site can be seen entering Napa, off the right side of the highway, surrounded by an estuary created by tidal activity in this lower stretch of the Napa River. The site’s cool and breezy summer weather allows the grapes a slow and extended ripening period, helping to create the power and finesse that make this 2007 Pinot Noir so intriguing to drink. The Stewart Vineyard is planted to Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Albariño and Pinot Noir.
Few California wine regions produce Pinot Noir with the same depth and elegance as Carneros. Straddling the southern parts of Napa and Sonoma Valleys, Carneros has an identity all its own. The summer days are often cooled by fog from the San Pablo Bay, but it is Carneros’ wind that really makes it a world-class Pinot Noir region. These winds help retain the all-important acidity that makes Pinot Noir the ultimate food-friendly wine it’s famous for.
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.