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Balletto Vineyards - Sonoma County


Double Gold Medal Winner - San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition

With roots firmly planted in Sonoma County, Balletto Vineyards has emerged from what was once the largest produce grower north of San Francisco Bay. Now with over 500 acres planted to premium Russian River Valley fruit, John Balletto and his wife Terri have achieved one of the greatest farming success stories in all of California. John Balletto began farming in 1977, at the tender age of 17. He had just graduated from high school and was working towards a football career, when his father’s untimely death took him down a different path. Instead of going away to college, John stayed put in Sebastopol, California where he helped his mother farm the five acres of zucchini on their family property. Just five years later, John purchased an additional ranch property in Santa Rosa, where he planted lettuce, herbs, and beets that would be sold to Safeway stores and specialty restaurants in the area. All that hard work bred serious success for the Ballettos. Their family farm grew from five acres in 1977 to more than 500 acres in 1985.

By 1990, they were producing more than a million cartons of vegetables annually, had 200 employees and owned their own trucking company and shipping facility. With their passion for farming and smart business sense, the Ballettos had built an incredibly successful farming operation and had became a big name in Sonoma County’s agricultural industry.

John Balletto and his wife Terri (who married in 1988) decided to make a change in 1995 when they agreed to plant Pinot Noir and Chardonnay on their home ranch for neighboring winery DeLoach Vineyards. The site was located in the western hills of Sebastopol (in the Russian River Valley), a region where vintners were quickly discovering the potential of growing cool climate varietals. With competition in the vegetable business becoming extremely tough, John and Terri began converting their vegetable land to wine grapes and felt that in order to stay in the farming business they must make a change. Today, 100 acres of Chardonnay, 60 acres of Pinot Noir and 5 acres of Pinot Gris surround the winery site. “We started by selling the grapes to nearby wineries,” explained Terri Balletto.

“Our main business was farming, and it still is. We sell 90 percent of our grapes to other wineries.” In 2001, John and Terri decided to experiment and make a few hundred cases of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay themselves. With the help of consulting winemaker Dan Cederquist (formerly
of DeLoach Vineyards), the Ballettos had a stunning inaugural vintage and the wines completely sold out before there was a chance to enter them in competitions.

“This was a good change for us,” Terri acknowledged. “From 2001 to 2004, we completely phased out our vegetable growing business and replanted all of our acreage to wine grapes. We now grow six different varietals on our 500 acres, selling most of it to smaller, more ‘boutique’ wineries. We keep enough for ourselves to make about 15,000 cases annually.” Balletto is now a name associated with world class wines, with some of the top vineyard properties in the Sonoma County area. Their grapes are in high demand as well, with over 20 different wineries currently purchasing Balletto fruit. Selling to big-name wineries such as Bogle, Gloria Ferrar, Sonoma-Cutrer, DeLoach, Kenwood, Domain Chandon, and La Crema, Balletto Vineyards has established themselves as a major supplier for premium Russian River Valley fruit. All of the grapes Balletto uses are hand-picked from their various vineyard locations, and then transported to the winery, located in the middle of the 280-acre Balletto family property in the Russian River Valley. The Balletto Winery is actually the former vegetable packing facility from the family’s produce farming days and provides a wonderful home for their award-winning fruit.

Also on the Balletto family property is a piece of land that borders the Laguna de Santa Rosa wildlife preserve, a home to many species of birds and animals. The Ballettos felt that the area of land they owned along the Laguna was so beautiful that it should be shared with others, and they are in the process of putting in a trail that can be enjoyed by the public for hiking and bike rides. John and Terri Balletto have come a long way in the farming world, and today are earning such praises as “Business of the Year” from the Sebastopol Area Chamber of Commerce and “Farm Family of the Year” from the Sonoma County Farm Bureau. With such recognition, we know the Ballettos’ journey is far from over and we invite you to enjoy the incredible fruits of their labor as this month’s Pinot Noir Series selection.


  1. Balletto
    2008 Pinot Noir
    Balletto
    Russian River Valley
    Sonoma County

    $32.00

    $34.00
    Double Gold Medal
    id: 662
    Special
    Pinot Noir

Anthony Beckman

Despite his life-long passion for food and wine, Anthony Beckman came into the wine industry later in life. In his first career, he worked as a daily newspaperman in Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia, and later moved into bio-tech website development in San Francisco. While in San Francisco, he spent his free time on trips to Sonoma County wineries and it became evident that this was his real calling. Beckman started his wine career by working a few harvests in Dry Creek Valley, and abroad in New Zealand. He also worked for a gourmet grocery and wine store in Sacramento where he tasted through thousands of wines from around the world. He graduated from UC Davis’ prestigious Enology program and went to work for a number of wineries.
Prior to joining the Balletto Vineyards team in January of 2007, Beckman gained winemaking experience at Peay Vineyards in the Sonoma Coast, Hudson Vineyards in the Napa-Carneros region, Delegats (Oyster Bay) in New Zealand, and Quivira Vineyards in Dry Creek Valley. Balletto Vineyards also continues to work with consulting winemaker Dan Cederquist, who is now president and winemaker for Everett Ridge Vineyards.

About The Region

Balletto’s 2008 ‘Winery Block’ Pinot Noir was produced from the 60-acre Pinot vineyard on the winery’s 280-acre property in Santa Rosa, California. Blended from several different clones of Pinot on the ‘winery block,’ this 2008 vintage represents a distinctive, single vineyard selection from Balletto Vineyards. Also grown on the winery property are 100 acres of Chardonnay and five acres of Pinot Gris. The Ballettos were actually the first growers in the area to plant Pinot Gris, and it has since become one of their most popular offerings. Located in the heart of the Russian River Valley AVA, the Balletto winery property experiences the seasonal fog and tempering effects of the nearby Pacific Ocean. These cooling effects promote an uncommonly long growing season that creates ideal conditions for cool-climate-loving grape varieties, particularly Pinot Noir.


Pan Roasted Salmon with Potatoes and Mushrooms


Ingredients

1 pound small new potatoes (about 10), halved
8 oz. button mushrooms
3 Tbs. olive oil
Kosher salt & black pepper
One 1-1/4 lb. piece skinless salmon fillet
1 Tbs. red wine vinegar
1 Tbs. whole grain mustard
1 tsp. honey
2 Tbs. fresh flat-leaf parsley, choppen


Instructions

Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the potatoes, mushrooms, 1 Tbs. of the oil, and 1/2 tsp. each of salt and pepper. Roast, tossing once, until the potatoes begin to soften, about 20 minutes. Push the vegetables to the edges of the pan and place the salmon in the center. Season with 1/4 tsp. each of salt and pepper. Roast until the salmon is opaque throughout, the mushrooms are tender, and the potatoes are golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, honey, and parsley, the remaining 2 Tbs. of oil, and 1/4 tsp. each of salt and pepper. Drizzle over the salmon and vegetables before serving.




Lemon-Herb Chicken and Vegetable Kabobs


Ingredients

6 whole tiny new potatoes
1 small zucchini or yellow squash,
diagonally cut into 1-inch slices
2 small boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (8 oz. total)
1/4 cup lemon or lime juice
1 Tbs. olive oil or cooking oil
1 Tbs. water
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. dried basil or oregano, crushed
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper


Instructions

Remove a narrow strip of peel from the center of each potato. Cook potatoes, covered, in a small amount of boiling water for 12 minutes. Add zucchini and cook, covered, for 1 to 2 minutes more or until vegetables are nearly tender. Drain and cool. Rinse chicken and pat dry. Cut each breast half into 4 lengthwise strips. Place chicken in a plastic bag in a mixing bowl. Set aside. For marinade, in a bowl combine the lemon juice, olive oil, water, garlic, basil, thyme, salt and pepper. Add potatoes and zucchini to the plastic bag with the chicken. Pour the marinade over chicken and vegetables in the bag. Close bag and turn to coat well. Marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes or in the refrigerator for 2 hours, turning bag occasionally. Drain the chicken and vegetables, reserving marinade. On 2 long or 4 short skewers, alternately thread the chicken, accordion style, with potatoes and zucchini. To grill, place kabobs on the rack of an uncovered gill. Grill directly over medium-hot coals 8 to 10 minutes or until chicken is tender and no pink remains, turning and brushing with marinade often. Or, to broil, place skewers on the unheated rack of a broiler pan. Broil 4 to 5 inches from heat for 5 minutes, brushing with marinade frequently. Turn and broil for 3 to 5 minutes more or until chicken is tender and no pink remains, brushing with marinade often. Makes 2 servings.



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