A Home Run for Team Balletto
2013 Russian River Estate Pinot Noir, BCD Vineyard is Harvest Fair Sweepstakes Winning Red Wine
By Taylor Pires
“It’s hard to build a company up and it’s harder to keep it at that level and grow it. You have to be diligent. You can’t take your eye off the ball,” said John Balletto, President of Balletto Vineyards and Winery.
The Balletto family and their tight knit team of employees have certainly been working hard, and it shows. They have kept their eyes on the ball and hit it out of park at this year’s Sonoma County Harvest Fair with their sweepstakes winning red wine.
“It’s such a huge accomplishment for us. It’s at the end of the rainbow. It’s the biggest award at the Harvest Fair and for us to receive it is a phenomenal achievement. Not only for Terri and I and our family, but also for our winemaking team, vineyard team and staff,” John said.
“I feel very honored, especially for our winemaking team to be acknowledged; I think it’s a huge deal. It’s hard to believe still,” Terri Balletto, John’s wife and Vice President of Balletto Vineyards and Winery, added.
Whether the Ballettos can believe it or not, their success is absolutely undeniable. Aside from the winery’s numerous other accolades, the wine from the BCD Vineyard has consistently won a gold medal or double gold over the last five years. “It’s a wonderful spot. You taste this wine and I can see how the judges were unanimous. It stands out; it’s amazing,” John said of the sweepstakes winning red.
Balletto winemaker Anthony Beckman also praised the prime location of the BCD Vineyard and its bounty. “It’s a gorgeous little vineyard with rolling hills. It makes a very rich, really fun Pinot Noir every year. It’s really nice to get some recognition for a location,” Anthony said. “We do eight Pinots but when you put this one in the lineup, it really shows it has a little bit broader shoulders, more forward. It’s always the wine that’s most approachable young. It’s a happy young wine.”
High quality wine isn’t the only thing that sets the Ballettos and their business apart. They identify themselves as family driven, team focused and community oriented.
John and Terri have built their vineyards and winery from the ground up. They transitioned from a successful vertically integrated vegetable business to a thriving grape growing and wine business that is now up to about 650 acres and 22,000 cases of wine for the Balletto brand. The family continues to keep growing their business with the second generation, daughters Jacqueline and Caterina, in mind.
“We hope our kids come and take it over. The opportunity is there but they have to earn it. They’re not just going to take it over because their last name is Balletto. They have to earn their position and be the right person for the job,” John said.
While Caterina finishes her degree in finance at Santa Clara University, with hopes to return to Balletto Vineyards and Winery, Jacqueline has begun to earn her place in the family business. She is currently a harvest intern with a focus on lab work, following her graduation from Fresno State this past May with a degree in Ag Business. “It includes daily analysis for wine lots, clean up, help on the sorting table and anything else they need help with,” Jacqueline said of her internship.
“Jacqueline is trying to learn different aspects of the business. She’s never been able to work harvest before because of school, so she wanted that opportunity. She interviewed with Anthony just like any other intern,” Terri said, sharing another example of the family’s work ethic.
Jacqueline isn’t just like any other intern though, according to Anthony. “Jacqueline has been the highlight of harvest. We are really thrilled to have the second generation starting to work at the winery. Number one, it’s great to think of it as a family treasure that you pass down. Second, is that Jacqueline has worked really well. She’s super conscientious, she works hard and she’s always doing something,” he said.
Working hard is part of the team dynamic at Balletto, and so is family. “We have a great team of employees. Hardly anyone ever leaves us. We strive to keep a good team and take care of them,” John said. “We’re pretty close; it’s more like family. It’s professional but since people stay here for so long they become like family,” Terri agreed.
John emphasized that everyone in the Balletto Vineyards and Winery family is treated with respect, puts in a hard day’s work, does more than what is expected of them and that they aren’t afraid to do anything they have to do because they are a valued voice in the business.
“It is a pretty tight knit family here at Balletto. I have known most of the employees since I was a child; I like to think of them as my second family,” Jacqueline said.
Team Balletto also finds fellowship in the community. “Ninety nine percent of the growers want to help each other. I don’t know of any other industry where you have that kind of camaraderie, where people want to help you,” John said.
The community is part of what inspires John and Terri to do what they do. “We live in a beautiful place, surrounded by vineyards in a beautiful county. If you’ve got to work all the time, it’s a pretty great business to be in. In farming everybody is honest. They’re just good people,” Terri said.
“I love to grow. To also be involved in making the end product that you can enjoy with a meal, with good friends and family, is a great thing. I think we’ve won the lottery by living where we live, doing what we do and being involved in a great community. It’s a beautiful thing,” John said.
Team Balletto can revel in their successes with a bottle of their sweepstakes red wine, a definite win for the home team and a celebration of the community they love so dearly. “Most of our audience is Sonoma County. We feel like this is where we most want to be appreciated. To win here was like winning on your home field. That’s the most meaningful. This is the audience that really matters to us,” Anthony said.