Bottle Stories: Interview with Co-Founder of Foursight Wines, Kristy Charles

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I found Foursight Wines through my Instagram account. I looked up their website and read up on them a little bit. Their story of a small, family owned winery  just captured my attention. I just had to know a little more of their story. So I reached out to Co-Founder, Kristy Charles, and she graciously agreed to an interview – even though the harvest was approaching quickly.

Located in the Anderson Valley, California, Foursight Wines was founded in 2006 by Kristy Charles, Joe Webb and Bill & Nancy Charles. Every grape and bottle of wine produced in the vineyard and small winery has been shepherded through the process by a member of the family, making the final product all that much more special.

Wines of Note (WON) – What’s the best part of your job?

Kristy – I’m always doing something new, and no two days are the same. One day could start out with bookkeeping, then transition to tasting room, then to helping my husband, our winemaker, top wines. That evening could be an event, and the next day we could spend the morning walking the vineyard, tasting the fruit as it ripens. As we do everything from tend our own estate-grown fruit to selling wine in our Boonville tasting room, it can be complex, but it’s certainly never boring.

WON – What has surprised you the most since owning your own winery?

Kristy – The relationships that have formed with our customers and club members, and their support and passion for our wines. We have been truly lucky to be on the front lines of the business since day one, and we’ve met so many wonderful people who start out as casual tasting room visitors, and end up as friends and our biggest advocates.

WON – What struggles do you face as a small, family owned winery?

Kristy – Selling wine in the U.S. is not the easiest of endeavors. Every state is unique, and the landscape is always changing. Sometimes I think I may drown in the paperwork required to get our wines to our customers. Then I just have a glass of wine, take a deep breath, and delve in again. It’s absolutely a passion business; we’re all a little crazy about wine, otherwise we wouldn’t do what we do.

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WON – How quickly can you tell if/when a harvest will be great wine?

Kristy – I think it takes at least a few years to truly know if a wine is something extraordinary. You can always start with a great foundation: the perfect proportion of acidity versus sugar, good physiological ripeness, etc. That’s always promising, but it’s not the whole picture. It doesn’t capture every nuance of the vintage, or of the resulting wines. I’ve learned to be open to surprises when it comes to wine — sometimes a vintage that was panned turns out to be incredible a decade down the road. They all have their own personalities and timelines.

WON – What is your view of the current wine business? How do you think it will change in the next 5-7 years?

Kristy – I am constantly amazed at the number of wineries in the country. But I think it makes sense: people are searching for products that are authentic, and that speak to certain values that they admire or hold dear. Hence the growth of the boutique/craft, well, everything. As winery owners retire and sell, there will certainly be more consolidation in the wine business, but also more new winery owners chasing their dream of running a small winery. I definitely see more opportunity for urban wineries, and other models not tied to land or tradition — it’s a lower barrier to entry. Direct-to-consumer sales will continue to be a bigger slice for everyone, especially with consolidation also in the wholesale/distributor arena. And I know I’m going to be amazed at where technology takes us in the future. Look at social media in the last decade!

WON – What is your wine making philosophy?

Kristy – We produce very traditionally made wines at Foursight. We have never inoculated at our Boonville winery and use only native yeast and malolactic cultures. We don’t fine or filter most of our wines and we use whole clusters in our Pinot Noir fermentations, meaning all work is done by hand or gravity once the fruit is inside the winery. In other words, we focus on picking the grapes at the right time — earlier than most — so we don’t have to manipulate and correct them in the cellar. Wine should be made like wine, not like soda pop. It should be a product of nature, not of the lab. This is why we grow all our own grapes and produce the wines on-site, where we live and raise our next generation.

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WON – What is your flagship wine? Can you tell me the story behind it, how it came to be etc.

Kristy – Our flagship wine is the Charles Vineyard Pinot Noir. It was the first Pinot Noir we made — the only one we offered for for our first vintage — and combines a little of everything in the vineyard (all our estate Pinot blocks). It is named after our estate vineyard, Charles Vineyard, my family’s last name. We wanted to produce a wine that was bright and elegant, but with structure, and oak as one of many flavors and aromas in the wine, not the predominant one. We wanted to craft a wine that was enjoyable upon release, but that would also astound our customers with 7-10 years in the cellar. And it consistently does, thank goodness!

WON – Do you make your wines to be consumed right away or should they be cellared?

Kristy – We live in a world of immediate gratification, so we produce wines that are drinkable and enjoyable upon release. However, we typically release or wines a little later than most (and have since the beginning). I do tell all our customers that they will be rewarded if they can hide a few bottles from themselves — and their spouses — for at least a few years. We keep a library list of older vintages at the winery as well, to offer something a little older to our customers. Because there is some magic in those older bottles.

WON – Do you have any distribution outside of your winery?

Kristy – A small amount in California, but we are, and always have been, 95-98% direct to wine lovers.

WON – What would you say to consumers, like me, who have not had the good fortune to taste your wines to convince them to make a purchase sight unseen?

Kristy – Do a quick google search on Foursight Wines, and if you’re intrigued, read our story at foursightwines.com. We produce some outstandingly delicious wines, and we’ve been lucky enough to garner some recognition for them. But for most people that’s not what persuades them to give us a try. It’s that we’re family owned and operated, we grow our own grapes, and we believe in wines that are more naturally produced. And, if they call or e-mail, they get one of the family. So ask us anything, and we’re there to answer, whether it’s what to buy, or when to drink it.

I really appreciate that Kristy was willing to take some time out of her very busy schedule to do this interview. Their story is compelling and while I have not had the chance to taste their wines yet, I have the feeling I will be ordering some very soon.

 

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