By Alexa Chipman May 13, 2017
Tucked along scenic Arnold Drive in Glen Ellen is a snug, weathered tasting room. It may not have an impressive building, but some of its wine certainly is. The interior is filled with comfortable couches and a distinctive rooster symbol scattered about the room, referencing an incident early in the winery’s history, when the forklift was moving from the barn to crush pad and nearly collided with a rooster, causing quite a flurry of squealing brakes and squawking. The proud rooster is found in the logo and on bottle labels, although my first thought was that it reminded me of Petaluma, which used to be jokingly known as the chicken capital of the world.
Eric Ross, who fully bought out the winery about nine years ago and has been working with the current tasting room managers even longer, was a photographer with the San Francisco Chronicle who found himself documenting wineries, and became fascinated with that world. After attending UC Davis, he now dedicates himself to winemaking, although you can see his photography in the tasting room and on Silver Image labels.
During his time as a photo journalist, Ross discovered gems of small vineyards that he now calls upon when finding grapes to work with for the winery’s limited runs. Gathering a harvest in that manner means that there is no obligation to produce the wine if it does not meet certain standards; for example, this year has no rosé— the grapes were not of high enough quality. He enjoys experimenting with the signature Eric Ross blends, such as Struttin’ Red, which might be Portuguese style one year, and primarily zinfandel the next. Eric Ross wine is a hit and miss for me; a few were not noteworthy, while others stood out as award worthy creations that I will remember for years to come.
Tasting Room managers Dennis and Diane Mitchell cultivate a cozy atmosphere for trying a wine flight. I had car trouble while I was visiting, and they were incredibly helpful and supportive—this is not a tasting room that sees you as a potential credit card transaction, they care about their visitors and are genuinely good people. Next time you are going through Glen Ellen, be sure to stop by.
Albariño, Lodi 2014
Violets and tangerine aroma touch the senses with this refreshing, well balanced wine. It has enough intensity to bring flavor without becoming bitter, with a touch of strawberry to it. Stainless steel fermentation was used.
Struttin’ White, 2014
A blend of albariño with muscat canelli, it has a tropical flavor with mangos and white peaches. The dry muscat interacts for a brisk, not overly sweet white wine. Stainless steel fermentation was used.
Pinot Noir, Russian River 2013
This distinctive wine wafts its powerful burnt toast and smoke aroma with such intensity that I found myself wondering if there was a campfire nearby. It brought back memories of marshmallows and family vacations. If you think pinot noir is an uninteresting, overused wine, you haven’t tried this one. It is French oak barrel aged. I noticed a slight smoke edge to the Struttin’ Red as well, it appears to be an emphasis in Eric Ross wine, that I find delightful. Although the price tag is high, I couldn’t help purchasing a bottle.
Tempranillo, Lodi 2012
The first thing that struck me was the color, which is a rich violet ruby in the glass. This satisfying, dark wine is multi layered with blackberry and molasses. It has a light touch on the tannins, without puckering the entire mouth. This table wine used a combination of American and French oak barrels.
Struttin’ Red Port, 2013
Butterscotch lingers into a floral aftertaste in a classic after dinner port. It is luscious and sweet without becoming a thick syrup—just the right level of dessert style finish to it.
OVZ Zinfandel Port, Dry Creek Valley 2011
This port has depth to it with a tangerine, hazelnut feel that is dryer than what I am used to. It caresses with sweetness, rather than rushing into it, and is worth taking the time to savor.