A former photographer for the SF Chronicle, Eric Luse, founder and winemaker of Eric Ross Winery, stumbled into his passion on his way to a Wine Country photoshoot in the 1980s. Since that time, he’s dedicated the same kind of care and attention to detail in his winemaking as he does with his photography. “Photo-journalism insisted a respect for  the people that allowed me into their lives,” Luse says. Similarly, he prides himself in “respecting the growers, their fruit and making the wine based on the uniqueness,” and making wines that showcase his “respect for the quality fruit and (his) desire for you, the consumer, to ‘Taste The Vineyard.'” The journalist in Luse makes him crave realism and, as such, we’ll only find “real” fruit qualities in his wines — no filters or photoshop; no heavy-handed oak or excessive, forceful fermentation. Respect. Honesty. Realism. Quality.

About the Wine: Eric Ross 2013 Pinot Noir is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes harvested from “Nick’s Block” from the Leras Family Vineyard in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County. This is a Pinot clonal selection of 667, 777, 115 and Pommard. The Pinot Noir is co-fermented and aged for 11 months in French oak barrels (35% new).

14.4% ABV

Flavor Profile: Pop the cork and there’s an immediate aroma of juice-bursting ripe plums dropped in the middle of a freshly watered herb garden. On the pour, the Eric Ross 2013 Pinot Noir is a dusty, rusty rouge-meets purple, settling into the glass into a lightly-faded maroon. It’s nearly iridescent except for one mysterious portion in the dead-center of the tilted glass.

Initial aromas are purple, earthy, soily and of plums that are both ripe and dried all at once. Swirl and sniff again, the wine releases a delicate floral bouquet of velvety red roses along with an herbaceousness of mint or eucalyptus leaves. At the top of the glass, there’s something sweeter, like a very light perfume of pink roses, orange blossoms, and cranberries straight off the bush.

On the palate, my immediate reaction is that this red wine is as cool and refreshing as a glass of juice. It’s that watery, subtly sweet marion berry that fills the mouth with background fruits of plum, cranberry, and even some black cherry. There’s a  solid line of acidity through and through that adds a delightful prickle at the finish. The tannins are quite subtle — you get a hint of them at the forefront, but they dissolve quite elegantly, and are almost completely gone by the time the sip is through.

And just when you think you’ve reached the finishe, the aftertaste has it’s own bouquet of flavors: milk chocolate dipped cherries, fresh water, fertile earth, and of course that lingering prickle on the tongue.

Food Pairing: I paired the Eric Ross 2013 Pinot Noir with a restaurant-inspired meal of seared salmon on top of cilantro-pesto rice, wilted greens, surrounded by a ginger-lemon grass beurre blanc. Perfect pairing. Full top. Mic-drop. Seriously.

The herbs in the pesto brought out all the earthiness this wine had to offer. The body of the wine is light-medium, perfect for this hearty meal.

More Info: I bought the Eric Ross 2013 Pinot Noir at The Locals in Geyserville. Price: $60. For more information about Eric Ross, his wines and to purchase wines directly, please visit the Eric Ross website.

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