Master Sommelier Jonathan Ross knows a little bit about wine. Before his recent foray into getting his hands dirty, Ross has been more accustomed to the crisply starched linen of some of the world’s best restaurants. Indeed, actually the world’s best. A New Jersey native, Ross worked his way along the familiar busboy-food-runner path in New York right to the very top of the sommelier tree, before he packed his bags for Australia with partner Jane Lopes (Wine Director at Attica), where his day job selecting wines from around the world is balanced by his “creative outlet” crafting wines under his Micro label. With variety matched to site, Ross currently makes a light, crunchy and super-bright cinsault from Barossa’s Vine Vale, a Rhône-like syrah from the Bannockburn Vineyard and a textural Mornington Peninsula pinot gris.
Ross came to wine by a fairly familiar path, where his night job in hospitality eventually took the lead over his college degree – first sports medicine, then architecture. He eventually switched out to study hospitality management, then went deeper down the wine path, taking his first exams for the Court of Master Sommeliers in 2006.
For over five years, Ross was the Head Sommelier at the lauded Eleven Madison Park, which was voted the World’s Best Restaurant in 2017. Ross left the restaurant in the same year it took out the ultimate accolade, which just so happens to also have been when he passed the notoriously difficult Master Sommelier exam (there are only 269 worldwide). Ross moved to Melbourne the same year, taking up a role with the Rockpool Dining Group as the Beverage Director for their Premium Restaurants in Victoria.
Apart from a couple of vintage stints in New York’s Finger Lakes, Ross had never tried his hand at much winemaking, but in the 2018 vintage a parcel of fruit from Bannockburn’s Matt Holmes caught Ross’ attention and Micro wines was born. “Micro Wines began as an opportunity to find new Ahah! moments with wine. To put so much of the theory that I’ve learned into practice, and to get outside of all of those fancy human-made buildings and touch the dirt,” says Ross.
Ross has continued with the same fruit from Bannockburn. “There are not a lot of places in the world where one finds shiraz/syrah planted on such soil,” he says. He also regards marriage of the sandy soils of Vine Vale with cinsault and grenache to be one of the country’s finest synergies, where his version of the former is pitched towards vibrant drinkability. A co-lab with fellow American Sierra Reed makes up Micro’s third wine, a textural pinot gris from Mornington. But, you can be sure there’s more to come, as Ross’ model is that of micro-negociant, finding special parcels and elaborating them in a way that responds to fruit and site.
“I couldn’t be more happy with the shiraz, cinsault and pinot gris I’ve put into bottle thus far. I’m excited to add a semillon to the mix this year, and l look forward to getting my hands on grenache and riesling in the near future. However, I won’t be fully satisfied until I have my own small plot of land to farm,” he says.