2001 Stephen Ross Pinot Noir, Bien Nacido Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley, California

Continuing with my tastings in recent weeks of wines from the California Central Coast here is a great Pinot from the Edna valley under the Stephen Ross Label.

Stephen Ross is basically the efforts of one man: Stephen Ross Dooley, who decided to leave his long time employment as President and winemaker at Edna Valley Winery in 1994 and start his own label. In addition to his tenure at Edna Valley, Stephen has spent time winemaking in both South Africa and Australia before deciding on California’s Central Coast as the place to put down his roots.

Stephen Ross was recently named Artisan Winery of the Year (2004) by Wine & Spirits Magazine, which also had great praise for his Bien Nacido Pinot:

“In a roomful of Central Coast winemakers, Stephen Ross Dooley would be the wallflower ­ quiet, unprepossessing, soft-spoken. You’d probably tend to gravitate to one of the more voluble guys in the room like Au Bon Climat’s Jim Clendenen. Both of these guys, however, made a Bien Nacido Vineyard Pinot Noir in 2001, and of the two, it was Dooley’s wine that took top score this year. It’s the sort of wine that lulls you with its beauty, a seamless, gentle evocation of sea air and crushed red berries, all with a concentration that has it opening for hours.”

I don’t know much about gentle evocations of sea air, but the stuff is good, and it does continue to open up and evolve in the glass for quite a while.

Stephen has this to say about the Bien Nacido winemaking:

Bien Nacido Vineyard excels as a place to grow Pinot Noir due to its cool climate and well drained, clay loam soils. This wine comes from 14 rows in Block G. The wine was fermented in small tanks, punch down by hand, aged in French oak barrels for 12 months, and bottled unfined and unfiltered. 596 cases produced.

Bien Nacido Vineyard is, of course, one of the most famous vineyards for Pinot Noir in California. Along with Gary Pisoni’s vineyard, a number of the top Pinot producers in the country source their fruit from Bien Nacido, including the aforementioned Au Bon Climat, Ojai, and Sanford.

Stephen Ross also produces several other Pinot Noirs, as well as Chardonnay, Petite Syrah, and Zinfandel.

Tasting Notes:
In the glass this wine is perfect ruby in color and possesses a nose of deep complexity with aromas like cardamom, dried herbs, caramel, tart plums and raspberries. On the palate the wine is smooth and silky with the flavors of dried herbs carried over into the body of the wine and surrounded by restrained red fruit flavors of currant and raspberries. The finish is long and elegant with elements of tea and a hint of figs. Overall this is an incredibly balanced Pinot that will appeal to those who don’t want their Pinots too extracted along with those who want some fruit along with their herbal earthy Pinot-ness.

Food Pairing:
An excellent food wine this can be paired with anything you’d normally serve a Pinot with. Try it with

Overall Score: 9/9.5

How Much?: $33

I get mine through Porthos.