Microclimate helps winery grow great grapes for its red wine varietals

Published on Page 7 of the September 4, 2013 issue of Morgan Hill Life:


By Marty Cheek

Jerry Ross, his grandson Jerry, dog Maybell, Judy Ross and Jim Ross welcome visitors to their "tasting barn."

Jerry Ross, his grandson Jerry, dog Maybell, Judy Ross and Jim Ross welcome visitors to their “tasting barn.”

For many people, it’s a bit of a challenge to find Ross Vineyards and Winery, located up a steep dirt road on a hill overlooking the southern end of Chesbro Reservoir on Oak Glen Avenue. But the exceptional quality of the wine and the family-friendly ambiance of the “tasting barn” make any endeavor to discover this small winery’s location well worth the effort.

“My wine-making philosophy is ‘good grapes, good wine,’” said Jerry Ross, who started in the vino business when he retired after 43 years owning and operating a Shell service station in San Jose. “The wine is made in the vineyard through good viticulture and by mother nature’s fermentation process. The wine maker must be a good babysitter to this process.”

The vineyard and winery are located on the site of the historic Coffe Ranch. Original owner Joseph Coffe came to the United States from France in 1870. In 1875, the pioneer Frenchman established The Wine Depot Winery in San Jose, at 60 Pleasant St., one block from the present-day SAP Center.

“At the turn of the last century, Coffe and his family purchased this beautiful 300-acre ranch in Paradise Valley, along Llagas Creek in Morgan Hill,” Ross said. “Through three generations the Coffe family lived and farmed on this ranch where Joseph cultivated 50 acres of grape vineyard for wine-making at his Wine Depot Winery. All of the original ranch buildings and farming equipment are still here on the ranch.”

After Ross and is wife Judy purchased the property, they started making wine as a hobby in 1998, using purchased grapes. They enjoyed the wine-making process so much that they decided to plant their own two-acre vineyard in 1999 on their ranch on the southern exposed slopes of well drained red shale soil located at an elevation of 1,000 feet and 15 miles from the sea.

“This perfect microclimate with warm sunny days and cool sea breeze evenings gives us a long growing season which results in grapes that are ripe and rich with luscious fruit flavors,” he said. “We are now producing 250 to 300 cases of estate grown wine per year.”

The winery sells only red wines — their varietals include Cabernet, Merlot, Barbera, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Petit Syrah, Mourvedre, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Grenache, Syrah, and Zinfandel – and bottles are priced between $20 and $25. Its 2007 Tempranillo Estate wine is a particular favorite with customers.

Wine lovers enjoy the rustic ambiance of the winery’s tasting room set in an 1890s-vintage barn with an attached patio area shaded by tree branches. The “tasting barn,” as it is affectionately called, was opened in May 2013 and includes many historic photos and antiques from the ranch’s early days. Guests often laugh at the antics of Maybell, the “winery entertainment dog” who has fun play-attacking balloons blown up by the Ross’s 9-year-old grandson Jerry.

“Ross Winery is a fun and comfortable destination where guests can picnic, taste wine and make new friends,” said Judy Ross. “Jerry and our family are having fun growing grapes, making wine and most of all sharing the fruits of our labor with all of our wonderful neighbors, new friends and acquaintances that have graced our tasting barn. We’re having fun.”



Location: 17520 Oak Glen Ave.

Hours: From noon to 5 pm., the first and third weekend of every month

Contact: (408) 779-4599 or email rossvineyards@aol.com

Marty Cheek

Marty Cheek

Publisher at Morgan Hill Life
Marty Cheek is the publisher of Morgan Hill Life and Gilroy Life. He is also the co-author with Congressman Jerry McNerney of the book Clean Energy Nation: Freeing America From the Tyranny of Fossil Fuels.
Email: marty@morganhilllife.com
Phone: (408) 782-7575
Marty Cheek