Winemaker Stephen Ross Dooley, and I pair his wines with lunch at Galley and Garden.
By Jan Walsh
Stephen Ross Dooley brought some of his California wines to pair with lunch at Galley and Garden. And over crab cakes and flatbreads, we tasted through his wines. I learned his story. And he learned a bit about Birmingham and got a taste of Alabama's Gulf seafood and locally forged mushrooms.
Dooley grew up in the Midwest before going to California and earning a degree in Enology at University of California, Davis. His eyes light up when sharing his memories of how he made apples into wine, bananas into wine, and blueberries into wine in his mom's basement. After two years of college as a student at Minnesota State University, in 1972, he read a Time magazine cover story, "American Wine: There's Gold in Them Thar Grapes." Here he learned about UC Davis and realized he could get a degree in making wine. So, he transferred.
His experience includes 10 years making wine in the Napa Valley working with Mike Martini at Louis Martini, and two harvests in South Africa and Australia, before going to the Edna Valley. Here he worked for seven years prior to launching his own label, Stephen Ross in 1994. He met his wife, Paula in 1989, married in 1995, and had two children. Today Stephen makes the wine and Paula runs the business.
Grapes for his Estate Bottled Pinot Noir are sourced from their own Stone Corral Vineyard in Edna Valley. In addition to the estate vineyard, they contract grapes from select Central Coast vineyards. The Flying Cloud label fills the need for good wines at good prices and to add other varieties. Flying Cloud is the namesake of a small little airport in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.
Today we taste through four of his wines: Stephen Ross Edna Valley Pinot Noir, Stephen Ross Edna Valley Chardonnay, Flying Cloud Sauvignon Blanc, and Flying Cloud Cabernet Sauvignon 2014. The luscious Pinot Noir is ruby color with notes of plum, black cherry, and spice. It is low in acidity with fine tannins. Stephen Ross Edna Valley Chardonnay is sunshine in a glass. It is light and lively in color and texture with notes of pineapple and mango. Flying Cloud Sauvignon Blanc 2016 is translucent in color, light in body and offers refreshing notes of lime, peach, and passion fruit. Flying Cloud Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 is deep purple to black in color with lovely notes of blackberry and red current, and a hint of sage.