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John Balletto started farming in Sonoma County at the age of 17 in 1977 after the untimely death of his father. He grew the family's vegetable farming business into the largest in Northern California at its peak (70 different vegetables on over 700 acres). Seeing a bright future for wine grapes, John and his spouse Terri transitioned to grape growing in 1995, and started selling fruit to renowned Sonoma County winemakers.
Today the Balletto family has 650 acres in the Russian River Valley including 280 acres in western Sebastopol devoted to wine grapes. 60 acres are planted to multiple clones of Pinot Noir. The western edges of his property are shared with the Laguna de Santa Rosa wetland habitat and are preserved lands. Only 10 percent of the best grapes are used for Balletto vines. 2001 was the first year that wine was made under the Balletto label.
Balletto Vineyards is one of the few 100 percent estate-grown and bottled producers in the Russian River Valley. The top 10 percent of the fruit from Balletto's estate vineyards is reserved for the Balletto Vineyard's wines and the remainder is sold to highly regarded producers. Annual case production of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay has gradually increased as vintner John Balletto has expanded his portfolio of single-vineyard Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines from a cluster of sites in the Sebastopol Hills including Cider Ridge, Burnside Road and Sexton Hill.
Winemaker Anthony Beckman came into winemaking after working as a daily newspaper reporter. He started at Balletto Vineyards as an enologist in 2007 and was promoted to winemaker two years later. Indigenous yeast is used in small fermentation tanks and aging is cared out in small amounts of new French oak barrels to enhance, but not dominate the wines.
Balletto Vineyards is at 5700 Occidental Road, Santa Rosa. The tasting room is open daily from 10:00-5:00. The phone is 707- 568-2455. The wines are sold on the website. The Balletto Russian River Valley Pinot Noirs are sensibly priced and consistent winners in local wine competitions. Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Syrah and Zinfandel are also offered.
In July 2010, Ballettos were awarded the Sonoma County Farm Bureau Family of the Year.
2013 Balletto Russian River Valley Chardonnay
13.6% alc., pH 3.51, TA 0.55, 1,273 cases, $28. Estate grown and bottled. 65% Occidental Road, 18% Saxton Hill, and 17% Cider Ridge vineyards. Goldridge soils. Harvest Brix 21.7º-23.3º. 70% clone 17 (Robert Young Selection) and 30% Old Wente clone. Barrel fermented with lees stirring, 100% malolactic fermentation. · Light golden yellow color in the glass. Aromas of green apple, lime, lemon and buttery oak. Apple-driven flavors on the palate have good richness and are complimented by oak. The wine is pleasant, but lacks a little vibrancy and finishes a bit shallow. Score: 88. Reviewed July 13, 2015 ARTICLE »
2013 Balletto Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., pH 3.68, TA 0.56, 9,550 cases. $29. Estate grown from 7 different vineyards. Aged in 100% French oak barrels, 36% new. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. This is a wine that aims to please with inviting scents of Bing cherry, spice, sandalwood and vanilla. Lighter in weight and offering welcoming elegance, the core of cherry fruit is juicy and flavorful, and balanced with supple tannins. Simple and straightforward, but a very good daily drinker. Score: 89. Reviewed July 12, 2015 ARTICLE »
2013 Balletto Sexton Hill Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.4% alc., pH 3.59, TA 0.58, 608 cases, $42. Harvest Brix 23.7º and 25.3º. Sourced from an estate vineyard southwest of Sebastopol. Grower is John Balletto and winemaker is Anthony Beckman. Clones are Calera (95%) and Swan (5%). · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Lovely, exuberant aromas of Bing cherries and baking spices. Juicy mid weight flavors of Bing cherries, raspberries and boysenberries. Ideal balance with plenty of finishing fruit goodness and length on the dry finish. A forward-drinking crowd pleaser. Score: 91. Reviewed December 11, 2014 ARTICLE »
2010 Balletto Estate Bottled Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $17 (retail $28). Double Gold Medal 2011 Sonoma County Harvest Fair. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Bright aromas of black cherries, black plums and blackberries, veering to the ripe side. Wood-kissed darker fruits on the palate with a citrus peel note in the background that lingers on the finish. Lacks conviction and a little too oaky, but pleasant. Decent. Reviewed April 4, 2012 ARTICLE »
2010 Balletto Burnside Road Vineyard Estate Bottled Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 350 cases, $35 (retail $40). Gold Medal 2011 Sonoma County Harvest Fair. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of very ripe dark berries and plums with hints of prune and oak. Middleweight very ripe fruit flavors with notes of Hoison sauce and rhubarb. A bit linear and bogged down with oak. Soft tannins make for easy drinking. Disappoints for a medal winner, but may find fans among those who prefer very ripe flavored Pinot Noir. Good. Reviewed April 4, 2012 ARTICLE »
2009 Balletto Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., pH 3.59, 4,004, $24. Sourced from four vineyards, 16 different lots, 12 different clones. Natural yeast fermentation. Aged in 25% new French oak barrels for 9 months. · Moderately deep reddish-purple color in the glass. Penetrating aromas of blackberry jam with hints of spice, purple roses and oak. Moderately intense core of dark berry and stone fruits with a lasting impression of Hoisin sauce on the finish. Veers to the riper fruit side. Some silky charm with bright acidity. ($16 at Bottle Barn in Santa Rosa). Good (+). Reviewed March 2, 2011 ARTICLE »
2007 Balletto Burnside Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., 300 cases, $22. · Demure aromas of dark red fruits with a faint echo of oak. Lip-smacking sweet dark red fruits with a hint of spice and anise. Full-bodied and rich with healthy ripe tannins and a tangy finish. Huge bang for the buck. Reviewed July 9, 2009 ARTICLE »
2007 Balletto Winery Block Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., 300 cases, $22. Sourced from the best grapes surrounding the winery. · Very appealing aromas of black cherries and black raspberries riff with spice and lavender. A solid wine with respectable black cherry fruit intensity, remarkable for its smooth texture and impressive for its very clean finish. An incredible value. Reviewed July 9, 2009 ARTICLE »
2007 Balletto Vineyards Russian River Valley Estate Bottled Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., $25. · An easy drinker featuring dark red Bing cherries, smoke and forest floor presented in a lighter style with soft tannins, a silky texture and a refreshing finish. Commendable balance. Reviewed November 2, 2008 ARTICLE »
2007 Balletto Vineyards Russian River Valley Estate Bottled Winery Block Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., $28. · Sensual aromas of confected berries, cherries and baking spices. Rich cherry liquor on the palate, nicely spiced, beautifully balanced, with gossamer tannins and a clean finish. Holds up in the glass nicely over time. Reviewed November 2, 2008 ARTICLE »
2006 Balletto Vineyards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., 3,178 cases, $20. Clones 667, 777, 32, 114, Swan, 37, 9 and 23. Aged 9 months in French oak. · Black cherry nose with a forest floor accent. Nicely spiced fruit flavors. A medium-bodied, light and silky wine which finishes clean. Very enjoyable and a great drink for a Jackson. Reviewed January 20, 2008 ARTICLE »