The gate at FOON Estate was designed by Feldman, who used old farming implement parts. ##Photo provided

First to FOON

Umpqua winery a discovery for all guests

By Chris Cook

You know that feeling when you discover something really amazing? That new recipe that blows your mind and palate? That exquisite Bouchard Finlayson Pinot Noir on clearance at the local Grocery Outlet? A treasure hidden in plain sight? In a nutshell, that’s FOON Estate Vineyard in the Umpqua Valley.

Just outside Roseburg, FOON’s tasting room impresses from the start, including the whimsical gate. Once inside, guests are greeted by a gregarious host ready to pour a distinctive line-up of small-lot wines made from Spanish and French varietals accompanied by house-made Spanish tapas inside the 1850s timber-framed barn filled with handcrafted details, original fine art, and views of the winery and vineyard.

“I want this to be the incredible little winery that you found first — before your wine snob friends discovered it,” quips owner Howard Feldman. “When you pull out a bottle of our Tempranillo or Malbec or Albariño to serve your guests, you will have a story to tell about this amazing little tasting room with great wines and stunning food pairings, oh, yes, and the owner…” he laughs.

Feldman likens his tasting room to “a spa for your palate,” where he, most often, serves the wines himself around a large community table he crafted from a slab of beautiful native curly redwood. His talent in woodwork can be seen throughout the former barn. The walls are adorned with art created by his wife, Marjorie, alongside other fine artists.

FOON Estate’s Howard Feldman inside his Southern Oregon tasting room. ##Photo by Chris Cook

With FOON’s wines — Tempranillo, Malbec, Albariño, Viognier and Rosé de Malbec — a tapas and pintxos menu delights guests with a variety of seasonal dishes that change weekly and are crafted using local ingredients. For example, the Manchego cheese with house-made membrillo is only served in the fall when the quinces are ripe. In addition to herb focaccia he makes every day, other offerings include: house-marinated olives; roasted almonds with salt and spices; tortilla espagnola, a caramelized onion, potato and egg tart; and signature romesco served with a variety of protein such as pan-seared scallops, spicy garlic shrimp or chorizo poached in Tempranillo.

While he’s always enjoyed good food and wine, Feldman’s background does not include food, farming or winemaking. A retired cardiologist, he has spent the last nine years — eight of which were before retirement — replanting and cultivating a defunct vineyard, learning the art and science of winemaking, building a home at the vineyard site, and transforming the decrepit barn into a warm, inviting tasting room with adjacent winery.

Having established Heartland Cardiac and Vascular Center in Great Falls, Montana, and working in L.A., Boston and New York City, Feldman arrived in Roseburg in 2007 to develop a comprehensive heart services program at Mercy Medical Center, the Shaw Heart and Vascular Center. Under his direction, the center became renown as a regional resource for comprehensive cardiac care and one of the nation’s premier heart programs — the first program west of Texas to earn national Accreditation for Cardiovascular Excellence (ACE) certification.

Building something impressive from something less seems to be Feldman’s forté. He recalls the first time he entered what is now the tasting room. While it had previously housed the former Champagne Creek Winery — and before that Callahan Ridge Winery and Garden Valley Winery — Feldman recalls, “It looked like a haunted house. There were holes in the roof you could have dropped a cow through.”

Upon sharing his discovery with Marjorie, he jokingly recalls, “I think she may have threatened my life. And I said, ‘No, no, this has a great feeling to it — the feeling of imminent bankruptcy,’” he says, still laughing.

Now, with the tasting room open and wines in full production, the structure is far from a laughing matter but instead a seriously impressive feat, including a commercial kitchen, not to mention a memorable entryway, and the ornate and unusual front gate Feldman designed and fabricated with pieces of old farm equipment and plasma-cut steel.

In addition to the transformation of the tasting room, Feldman has also had his hands full with the vineyard. Ripping out the existing vines, Feldman planned, planted and now farms — sprays, mows, trims, harvests — and make the wine himself with a tiny crew consisting of a local father and son who’ve been with him from the start.

The 13.5-acre property is also the location of the home the Feldmans designed and built, along with Marjorie’s studio, gardens, including Howard’s traditional Japanese tea garden, a flock of chickens and a labyrinth near the tasting room.

While guests will have a hard time leaving FOON, surrounding wineries —  Abacela, Cooper Ridge Vineyard, Delfino Vineyards, JosephJane Winery, the historic HillCrest Vineyard, Season Cellars and Melrose Vineyards — easily make this part of Oregon wine country a special place filled with great wine, food and people.

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