Four Generations of Foresight.
Past and present mix with timeless ease at Foursight Vineyards where four generations of the Charles family have lived and made their living in the middle of Boonville. From logging to grapegrowing each has built upon the love and the possibilities of their land.
Chickens, a vegetable garden and an organic hay field have been part of the scene since 1950 when Bill Charles’ parents bought the place. The 32-acre family farm between Highway 128 and Anderson Creek were once the site of Charles Lumber Company, started by Bill’s father and grandfather.
Bill and wife Nancy live in the house where Bill was born. Their daughter Kristy and her fiance Joe Webb live in the house where Kristy and her two brothers were raised.
When I pull up in front of the tasting room, which is under construction along Highway 128 at the south end of town, Bill Charles is gathering tools from his truck, where two McNab shepherds look out the window of the cab. His wife Nancy walks up to meet me.
As I admire the natural redwood siding and the two posts at the entry of the new building, Nancy, trim and youthful is relaxed and welcoming. “It’s built with all recycled lumber from our property,” she says.
“We dug them up and milled them,” adds Kristy, who does sales and marketing for the winery. She explains that all the lumber and the posts were milled from old downed redwood logs, some of which were buried on the property for fifty years. Her dad, who had his own construction business, and a friend of the family are getting ready to seal the fern-colored cement floor in the tasting room, which they built. Both parents along with Kristy and Webb, who is also the winemaker and part of the business management, tend the vines and help with the hay and other chores that come with living off their land.
“Building the tasting room from our own wood is one of the things on this property that has meaning to our family,” says Kristy, who has a degree in journalism from Cal Poly. She is a charming young woman with a level of self confidence and marketing savvy beyond her 27 years.
Behind the new winery the old walnut, quince, loquat, walnuts, apple, wild plum and fig trees shade a pastoral picnic space where daughter Kristy and Webb will marry next summer. Many of the trees were planted by her grandparents, who owned and operated Charles Lumber Company on this site along with Kristy’s great –grandfather and grandparents who came to Anderson Valley in 1943 to work in the woods. We walk by the old office building that was once headquarters for Charles Lumber. “There used to be worker housing for the mill, which was relocated right here in 1950,” says Kristy. “My dad would wait with as many as thirty other children at the end of the driveway for the school bus.”
In 1963, the lumber business was beginning to decline. That same year when Bill was 12 years old his dad died suddenly of a heart attack. His mom had to sell most of their timber holdings in order to live and raise her two sons. She put in hay and started farming the land. When I was young we had cattle,” Kristy recalls. She rode horses and still has two retired thoroughbreds named Cindy and Handsome. “Joe and I ride when we have time,” she adds.
Webb, 30, grew up in Auberry, near Yosemite. In addition to his winemaking and other duties at Foursight, Webb works fulltime at nearby Londer Vineyards. He got a degree in wine business from Sonoma State and worked at Landmark Vineyards in Sonoma Valley. After graduation he was assistant winemaker at Joseph Swan winery in Russian. He and Kristy met nine years ago in San Luis Obispo.
The Charles family vineyard was planted in 2001. It was an extension of farming, Kristy explains. “We all loved wine and my parents decided to plant fifteen acres of vines.” They now grow Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir because they “are our favorite varietals.”
As Kristy points to the vines, which are nearly picked clean after harvest, she says they are the product of “a lot of tedious manual labor.” Bill can be seen on his tractor in the vineyard, his notebook in hand, jotting down which vine needs more compost or which one looks especially vigorous. “Can’t farm vineyard by neglect,” he says.
Nancy is known to cruise the vineyard rows spreading the ripening clusters apart so they don’t touch each other. “We don’t want any mildew,” she says. Slim, sandy haired, and energetic, Nancy grew up in Oakland and worked as a registered nurse in Ukiah after she and Bill moved back to Boonville. “Being in the vineyard is like coming back to your roots,” she says. “The kids went away, we planted the vineyard and these 13,163 vines are my babies. I’ve learned a little love works.” “You can see why she was a good nurse,” adds Kristy. Most of their grapes are sold to local wineries like Navarro and to Schramsberg in Napa Valley for their reserve Blanc de Noirs.
The Charles’ own brand Foursight got its name from four generations with vision about how this land can support them. They produce 400 cases of Pinot Noir and 200 cases of Sauvignon Blanc. This harvest, they produced their first barrel of Semillon from a few vines growing along the fence. They also plan to make some Rose and have dabbled in making sparkling wine, “our third most favorite,” says Kristy.
Meandering along the lane next to the vineyards we arrive back at the tasting room, which the Charles family hopes to have opened for the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival in May. A burl from the property will be handcrafted into the tasting bar. Next to it will be a couch and fireplace providing an ambience “that is like having people into our home,” says Kristy. Everyone in the family will work in the tasting room. “We all enjoy meeting people,” she adds.
“All four generations worked this land and we’ve created this family business to allow us to stay here,” says Kristy. One of her two brothers Tim, in his 20s, is training to be a helicopter pilot and is thinking of coming back to the farm. Older brother Matt is engineer in Cloverdale.
Webb, with his short trimmed hair and easy affability fits right in. He is well suited to Boonville where he mountain bikes on property his in-laws still own across the valley. “I love the fact that this is a family business to a T,” he says.
“Although we’re millennials and our parents are baby boomers,” says Kristy, who is also the parttime executive director of the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association, “our attachment to the land has brought us full circle.”
TASTING NOTES: Foursight’s 2006 Pinot Noir has the perfect balance of bright dark cherry aromas, smooth tannins and an earthy mouthful to go with pappardelle (wide egg noodles) in mushroom sauce and some tender roasted beets on the side.