Published on 30-06-2022
SLO Down with Stephen Ross Wine Cellars
Q&A with Stephen & Paula Dooley

Every now and then, a really good wine “happens” to you. By this, I mean that it stops you in your tracks; from the first sip to the last, you find yourself smiling ear to ear. This was my experience with a bottle of Stephen Ross 2021 Spanish Springs Vineyard Albariño. Wine Enthusiast awarded the 2020 vintage 92 points, and I’d give this one a solid 98. They also produce outstanding Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Chardonnay, Grenache Blanc, and a Blanc de Noir that I cannot wait to try.
If all that didn’t get your attention, I’ll share this: Stephen, his wife Paula, and their team are kind, cool folks who are making great wine in San Luis Obispo. They love educating others about the joys of food and wine, and I recently had the pleasure of chatting with them.


Stephen & Paula Dooley

AM: Could you tell our readers a bit about how making wine is all you ever wanted to do?
“Since I was a teenager, I have been curious about how grapes grow and how wine is made. At that time and now, I am fascinated by the process of fermentation and how it preserves a perishable agricultural product into a stable delicious beverage.”

AM: Paula, what’s your favorite part of being in the wine business, and do you have a favorite varietal?
Paula: “The wine business is a happy business; customers are in the hedonistic pursuit of wine and food, and winemaking is a fulfilling way to spend our time in that we work hard for tangible results. If we want something to happen, we can generally do it. We are constantly educating ourselves on wine, on small business ownership, agriculture and lots of other things.
I have lots of favorites, but the one variety that has my heart most often is Pinot Noir.”

AM: You guys produce a lot of that varietal, and your wines have been awarded numerous accolades. Could you touch on your love of Pinot Noir and why you think SLO is a great region for this grape?
“When I moved to San Luis Obispo to make wine in 1987, I gained an appreciation for cool-climate grape growing. We started our winery in 1994, and the growers in the Edna Valley had just started planting the new Dijon clones of Pinot Noir, and this opened my eyes to the potential for high quality Pinot Noir. I’d like to think this potential has come to fruition in the wines we produce today.”

AM: You ventured into the sparkling wine territory in 2019 with your Blanc de Noir. Do you have a favorite food pairing for that bottle, and do you plan to release sparkling wines moving forward?
“This is a fun project, and yes we have continued to make Blanc de Noir in 2020 and 2021.  We are very happy with the results of our 2019.  Going forward I hope to disgorge and release the wines with a bit more bottle age. Stand by, we only disgorged half of the 2019, the rest of the wine continues to age in the bottle en tirage. Rather than food pairing, I have two favorite times to enjoy the Blanc de Noir. It makes a terrific aperitif and then I like it again at the end of a meal. I am usually too full for dessert and am not a huge fan of sweet dessert wines, but sparkling wine is a great way to start and end a nice dinner.

AM: Terroir is such an exciting topic. Perhaps you could talk a bit about your relationship/take on terroir.
Terroir is so important, and that is made up of the place, the soil, the climate and the people. The San Luis Obispo Coast is a somewhat unique growing region with cool air temperatures (as a result of being close to the Pacific Ocean) and our position on the planet (low latitude) puts our region almost directly under a very bright sun. The region is cool and very sunny, a wonderful combination.”

AM: Anything else that you’d like our readers to know about your facility/wines, etc.?
“I’d say our winemaking approach is intensely hands-on when it comes to making our wines during harvest/fermentation season, this is in terms of transforming the grape into wine, but hands-off as far as adding things to the wine.  High quality winemaking requires state-of-the-art winemaking equipment, and a cool spotless cellar in which to age wines.  I believe we have both in our investment in our cellar, and our dedication to cleaning and sanitation.”

Be sure to visit Stephen Ross in San Luis Obispo and also check out their Flying Cloud Wines collection. Named after a little airport in Stephen’s hometown of Eden Prairie, MN, they offer excellent value and varieties other than their main line of business. These wines are high-quality overachievers, and with a price tag of only $20.



Cheers, and happy tasting!


Stephen Ross Wine Cellars cheers!

Mark your calendar!

Vespara Resort on Pismo Beach
Featured Winery and Winemaker Dinner
Tuesday July 19, 2022

Stephen Ross will be the featured winery all month long at Vespara Resort on Pismo Beach for July. They will be hosting two onsite tastings at Vespara as well as a five-course meal paired alongside a variety of Stephen Ross wines. Visit www.stephenrosswine.com for details.

International Pinot Noir Celebration
Friday July 29-Sunday July 31, 2022

Stephen Ross Wine will be participating in the 36th annual International Pinot Noir Celebration (IPNC) Festival in McMinnville, Oregon. The event offers Pinot Noir lovers and wine industry members the chance to enjoy an amazing, global selection of Pinot Noir through a weekend of various seminars, walk around tastings, winery tours, and impeccable meals prepared by top Northwest chefs. Find more information about IPNC at ipnc.org.
To learn more about Stephen Ross wines and events, visit www.stephenrosswine.com.



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