Stephen Ross Wine Cellars

San Luis Obispo Small Production Urban Winery

Stephen Dooley

Owner, Founder, Winemaker since 1994

Stephen Dooley Headshot

Background: I grew up in the upper Midwest and call Minnesota “home”. My mother was a geography professor and dean, and I have two siblings. I attended Mankato State University and the University of California, Davis, to earn a degree in Enology. I spent 10 years making wine in the Napa Valley, two harvests “down under” in South Africa and Australia, before coming to the Edna Valley, where I worked for others for seven years, and then launched Stephen Ross in 1994. I met Paula in 1989, married in 1995, and we have two incredible kids. 

Wine Inspiration: Turning sunlight into wine – I get to make it, and yet it makes itself – all part of the science, artistry, agriculture and magic of winemaking. Really, it is all I ever wanted to do. 

Hobbies: Drinking good wine and enjoying good food, woodworking, running, swimming and gardening.

What I Do: It would be easier to say “What I don’t do at the winery.” You name it, I do it; from winemaking to wineglass polishing…

Paula Dooley

Crew Member since 1994, Owner since 1995

Background: I grew up mostly in San Antonio, Texas. My dad was career Army, my mom was a nurse and I am the youngest of four children. I went to the THE University of Texas at Austin and earned my degree in Business Finance. I had some great jobs in aviation-related and corporate finance for 13 years and for which I am eternally grateful because they brought me to me to San Luis Obispo. I was able to use my business background to help Steve found and grow Stephen Ross. At the same time, we grew our family with two fantastic children, currently teenagers.

Wine Inspiration: I met Steve in 1989, and to fall in love with Steve was to fall in love with wine.   I am inspired by small wineries worldwide who passionately and painstakingly produce interesting wines.

Hobbies: Drinking wine (of course), swimming (anytime, anywhere), reading and yoga. I’d like to say travel, but we don’t have time to do much… someday.

What I Do: All the business-side of things.  It isn’t as exciting as being the winemaker, but it suits me well :-)

Mike Ortlieb

Crew member since 2013, Cellar Supervisor

Background: I grew up in a town in the East Bay called Antioch. I knew I wanted to go to Cal Poly for college, but wasn't sure what major I wanted to choose. I was looking down the list of majors and saw Wine and Viticulture and said, "Hey, that looks kind of cool." I worked as an intern here at Stephen Ross in 2013 to complete the internship portion of my degree for Wine and Viticulture. I worked as an intern again in 2015 after graduating from Cal Poly. I went on to work at Chamisal Vineyards in the tasting room and in the cellar. I came back in September of 2016 as a full time cellar worker.

Wine Inspiration: My wine inspiration is having the opportunity to see the grapes, then wine, through the entire process of fermentation, aging, and bottling. I enjoy being able to take one of those bottles and give it to somebody and say, "I had a hand in making this," then seeing their face light up when they begin to drink that bottle.

Hobbies: I love playing and watching sports, working out, rocking climbing at Bishops Peak, taking and editing photos, and taking weekend trips to visit my friends and family.

Maureen "Mo" Forsberg

Crew Member since 2012, Tasting Room Associate

Background: I have been involved in the community of San Luis Obispo for over 30 years. In my many jobs that I've had, my favorites have been working for the Chamber of Commerce and for Stephen Ross. I recently resigned from the Chamber of Commerce; but continue to work at Stephen Ross because I love the wines, and we have an awesome team here. 

Wine Inspiration: Chardonnay is my "go to" glass of wine, but I would never turn down a glass of Steve Dooley's wonderful Pinot Noir. 

Hobbies: Powerwalks, reading, binge watching on Netflix, and reading about, talking about and drinking wine.

Jessie Poletti

Crew member since 2017, Production/Cellarman


Background: I'm a born and raised native of San Luis Obispo and my love for the town was one of the factors that pushed me to choose Cal Poly for college.  After graduating with a BS in Wine and Viticulture in 2015, I ventured to Napa for a harvest internship but was drawn back home quickly after harvest ended and hopped around a couple of local wineries before landing my current position with Stephen Ross.

Wine Inspiration: My initial interest in wine was sparked by my dad who planted his own little Pinot Noir hobby vineyard at my childhood home and started making his own wine. At a certain age I became interested in the process and starting helping him throughout the year in the vineyard and with the winemaking process and eventually decided to choose that as my college major/career path.

Hobbies: Baking, cooking, eating, gardening, and spending time with my dog

Julian Hart

Crew member since 2018, Marketing & Tasting Room Associate


Background: I grew up in Venice Beach, California and came up to San Luis Obispo to go to Cal Poly! My degree is a BS in Graphic Communication which led me into graphics and marketing here at Stephen Ross. I took the job because of my interest in wine but a big part of it was also the opportunity to stay in San Luis Obispo, and now I find myself part of an amazing team!

Wine Inspiration: What really fascinates me is the way that wine is ever changing and how everyone interacts with it in their own way. Things like how a bottle could be predicted to taste better after a few years of aging but how are you going to compare that to the bottle you open today. Other things like  how the name, the label and presentation effects the perceived value of a wine. It is an industry that is ever changing and I want to see what I can do with that.

Hobbies: Surfing, drawing and painting, photography, beer, wine, cooking, and then almost anything active and outdoors.