Stephen Ross Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands 2011
From the Olsen Ranch in Santa Lucia Highlands, Stephen Ross crafts this hand-harvested Pinot Noir. “It’s a very moderate area,” said Paula Dooley, Stephen’s business partner and wife. “The region is best suited for cool weather varietals and we are blessed with consistent weather.” As a small, family owned and operated winery that was established in 1994, Stephen Ross farms estate fruit and works closely with vineyards that are site specific. “It’s a small world and Steve is an affable guy,” said Paula. “If you make good wines then people want to sell to you. He’s been making wine for 35 years. And we like to choose vineyards that distinguish themselves. The farmer has to be good to the land.”
Focusing on Pinot Noir – the winery produces six – because it’s “so expressive of the site”, Stephen Ross works closely with this property, which provides 96.8% of the fruit for this wine (the other 3.2% comes from Chorro Creek) and is located on the west side of the Salinas Valley, its vines planted to soils of sand and loam on east facing hillsides. With a cool growing season, the 2011 vintage provided fruit with small clusters and low yields, resulting in a wine with bright fruit that’s balanced with acidity.
After the fruit was de-stemmed, it saw a 3-day cold soak, followed by a 10-day fermentation, with three punch downs a day. “The wine sees minimal handling,” said Paula, “once it goes into the barrel, we don’t mess with it too much.” Employing Classic Burgundian winemaking techniques, Ross aged this wine in Burgundian barrels for 10 months, 25% in new François Frères barrels, with the remaining 75% spending time in once and twice used barrels.
A classic expression of Pinot Noir, the Stephen Ross Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands 2011 offers red cherry fruit and a hint of purple flower aromas. At 13.5%, the mouthfeel here is light and silky, with bright acidity that is the perfect accompaniment to any backyard BBQ. “We make wines that we want to drink,” added Paula, “and not what a magazine would like.”