Our local grape vines have been thriving throughout the warm summer, the leaves soaking up the sunshine and clusters of grapes hanging heavily from the vines. Our wine growers have been busy with canopy management - pulling selected leaves from the vines to give the best sunlight exposure and air movement to the fruit. Veraison (when grapes start to ripen and change from green to purple) has come early this year, attracting birds and other critters that are looking for a tasty meal. But even though the grapes are turning color, they aren't ripe enough yet - so nets are draped over the rows to protect them from being picked clean by hungry birds.
In my last column I wrote about the oldest winery (Morgan Hill Cellars) in our region. Today's column will feature our newest winery: Ross Vineyards and Winery. Owned by Jerry and Judy Ross, the winery has been bonded and certified since 2005, but just recently opened a tasting room this past May.
Ross Vineyards is a gem of a winery tucked among the rolling foothills of Morgan Hill. As you approach the winery along a country road, you are rewarded with a beautiful, scenic view of Chesbro Reservoir.
On a recent, late summer afternoon, Jerry and Judy, along with their grandson, Jim, their tasting room manager, greeted me and shared the story of the winery. They explained that even though they may be the newest winery in the area, they probably have the oldest history. It dates back to the early 1900s when the original property was owned by Joseph Coffe, who farmed 40 acres of grapevines to supply his successful store “The Wine Depot,” established in 1875 in San Jose.
In fact, when Jerry and Judy decided to buy some acreage to build a home in 1973, one of the last descendants of the Coffe family, Alphonse, came along with the purchase. Alphonse, the grandson of the original owners, lived on the property and over time, became a beloved family member. Before he passed away in 1999 at the age of 87, he convinced the Ross's to plant a vineyard - “Good grapes have always been grown here on this land. Why don't you plant some?”
So taking Alphonse's advice, they planted two acres with a dozen different varietals, including Tempranillo, Malbec, Sangiovese, Barbera, Petite Sirah and other Rhone varietals like Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre.
The harvest yielded almost 300 cases per year - more than enough to drink or give away to friends. Before long, their barrel room reached more than 1,000 cases and they were running out of storage. Wanting to make room for new vintages, it was only logical to start selling their wine to the public.
Jim poured me several samples of the all estate wines. The top-selling Tempranillo is a fantastic full-bodied wine - looking like rubies in a glass and with flavors of berries, plum, vanilla and leather. The 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon is a Bordeaux style blend with Malbec and Petite Verdot. I also enjoyed the 2005 Española Ross blend of Tempranillo, Granacha and Mourvedre. The tasting menu includes Merlot, Syrah and a 2005 library Zinfandel.
With the local birds of prey like the great horned owl and peregrine falcon in the area, the Ross's are fortunate that they don't have to net their vines. The owls take care of the rodents and the falcons, which are bird-eating raptors, catch smaller birds, mid-air.
When Jerry and Judy opened the doors to their new winery a couple of months ago, they never thought they would have so much fun. People stopped by in droves - shaking hands as they came in and giving hugs on their way out.
Visiting Ross Winery is a step back in time with the original wood planks and square nails from the 1800s that make up the rustic, tasting room structure. Sipping delicious wines under the tremendous oaks that shade the property, you feel a connection to the history of past generations and grapevines. Most of all, you'll experience the Ross's warm hospitality that makes you feel like family. Open every third Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.
Bev Stenehjem is a wine columnist for South Valley Newspapers. Reach her at email@example.com. "Like" the Gilroy Dispatch and Bev’s Wine Buzz on Facebook.
Bev Stenehjem is a wine columnist for South Valley Newspapers. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. "Like" the Gilroy Dispatch and Bev's Wine Buzz on Facebook.