On Buying Wine:

The key is to find a wine shop where you feel comfortable-both physically and in being able to communicate with the owner or salesperson there. Tell him or her, "I don't care about wines with big names; I'm interested in smaller producers." Buy an assorted case (to get the normal 10-15% case discount), and make notes when you try each wine-day, food, impression, whether you liked or didn't like it. Then go back to the same store and the same salesperson, and tell her what you liked and didn't like. This gives her a better idea of your palate, and should yield better recommendations.

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Foris offers bargains for wine lovers

Foris Vineyards Winery, established near Cave Junction back in 1986, continues to turn out a considerable variety of quality wines that retail from $9 to $20. It's been known for years for its excellent gewurztraminer, chardonnay, pinot noir and merlot, as well as red and white blends. This year, its 2006 Pinot Blanc was voted "best of show" white at the World of Wine Festival near Gold Hill.

Driving from Medford to Cave Junction takes longer than before because of all the new traffic lights in Grants Pass. And the winery is eight miles out in the country east of Cave Junction. So a round trip from Medford could amount to a three-hour drive.

For me, it works better to plan a Cave Junction winery visit in conjunction with a trip to Brookings and/or Gold Beach via Highway 199. Stopping on your way home provides a pleasant respite at about the halfway mark.

I did just that recently since it had been two or three years since my last stop at Foris, and I was eager to sample that award-winning pinot blanc. It's a fruity yet dry white with a lingering aftertaste. A bottle costs only $13.50. I was actually a little more impressed with the winery's 2005 Pinot Gris, one of the best around and on sale that day for $9.

A notable red blend is Foris Cave Bear Red, made primarily of cabernet sauvignon with smaller amounts of cabernet franc and merlot. It's just $12, and proceeds benefit Oregon Caves Chateau renovation. Foris also has a higher-priced 2002 Claret ($20) with the same three reds but different percentages.

The winery was among the first to make a port-style wine, and that tradition continues with its 2002 Port ($16).

Merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, grenache, rose, early muscat and gewurztraminer are among others often available for tasting.

The winery at 654 Kendall Road is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. From Cave Junction, head east on Highway 46 and follow signs. There's no fee for tasting.

THE LONGEST-RUNNING WINE and food event in Jackson County returns for its 27th year. It's the Jefferson Public Radio Wine Tasting, from 6 to 9 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 6. Location is once again the Ashland Springs Hotel, 212 E. Main St., Ashland.

Participating wineries/vineyards are Agate Ridge, Ashland Vineyards, Bridgeview, Chehalem, Cliff Creek, Crater Lake Cellars, Devitt, EdenVale, Elk Cove, Fiasco Winery at Jacksonville Vineyards, Foris, Girardet, John Michael Champagne Cellars, King Estate, Paschal, Pebblestone, R. Stuart & Co., Rocky Knoll, RoxyAnn, Spangler, Trium, Troon, Valley View, Weisinger's and Wooldridge Creek.

Nineteen restaurants and/or caterers will serve food.

Tickets cost $45 for JPR members, $50 for the general public. They are available at Chateaulin Selections and Ashland Wine Cellar in Ashland, Adam's Deli & Catering in Medford and by phone at 552-6301. Tickets also can be purchased online at www.ijpr.org. Guests take home a souvenir wine glass and an hors d'oeuvres plate.

LA FIESTA OF JACKSONVILLE is a rarity among local Mexican restaurants: It offers local wines. Troon of the Applegate Valley, EdenVale of Medford and Foris of Cave Junction are the featured labels.

I enjoyed some excellent EdenVale chardonnay followed by the ever-popular Troon Druid's Fluid (blend of syrah, zinfandel and cabernet sauvignon).

No prices were listed on the table-top wine list, so I decided to wait and be surprised when the check came. Not bad. The chardonnay was $4.75, the red blend $5.25.

ALSO SAMPLED RECENTLY:

  • Summers 2005 Adriana's Cuvee Cabernet Sauvignon. This is an excellent California red, subtle yet full of flavor. It's a blend of grapes from three vineyards in the northern Napa Valley. It costs $25 and is worth it.
  • Kendall-Jackson 2006 Vintner's Reserve Pinot Noir. It's mostly pinot noir with a splash of syrah. The result is an excellent $14 red.
  • Kendall-Jackson 2006 Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay. It's a little too oaky at first but improves a day after opening. Overall, a good wine for $12.
  • Columbia Crest 2003 Cabernet-Merlot. The wine isn't outstanding, but it's fairly good and cost me just $6.49 at a Ray's Market in Gold Beach.

Cleve Twitchell is a retired Mail Tribune editor and columnist. E-mail him at clevelinda@msn.com.



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