John Balletto, President and Founder of Balletto Vineyards, said that he is proud to raise his family and to make a living in the agriculture industry in Sonoma County.
“We are honored to a be a member of our farming community,” Balletto said. “We truly have a great community. I think it really showed last year when the fires hit our area, and everyone came out to help their neighbors.”
Like many in Sonoma County, John and Terri Balletto are no strangers to adversity. Together, they have built their vineyards and winery from the ground up. After the untimely death of his father in 1977, Balletto helped his mother, Hazel, to run a small five-acre vegetable farm. The Balletto family was determined to make the business a success, and throughout the 1980s and 1990s John and Terri purchased parcels of land to gradually increase vegetable production. One of those properties is where the Balletto Vineyards winery stands today. By 1994, the Balletto family had grown the business into the largest vegetable farm in Northern California, growing more than 70 different vegetables on 700-plus acres.
In 1998, storms, strikes, and the NAFTA agreement forced the Ballettos to sell the vegetable business. After seeing the high-quality Russian River Valley wines crafted from their fruit by other wine producers, John and Terri decided to pursue winemaking under the “Balletto Vineyards” name.
Remarkably, in a three-year period, they converted all vegetable farmland to estate vineyards. They saved one-tenth of the fruit for themselves-selecting the top 10 percent of quality-and in 2001 created the first vintage of Balletto Vineyards estate wines from Russian River Valley. Together, they transitioned from a successful vegetable business to a thriving grape growing and wine business
In their first year in business, the Balletto’s crushed enough Russian River Valley fruit for 391 cases of Chardonnay and 689 cases of Pinot Noir. Today, the Balletto’s own over 700 acres of estate vineyards, and still only keep the top 10% of their fruit, making between 20-25,000 cases of wine for their own label and sell the remaining fruit to 25 other wineries.
“Every wine that we make—we make right around 22 wines now—you can line them all up and there is not one wine that you would be disappointed in in the bunch,” Balletto said. “We strive for consistency and quality.”
He said that a large reason that they can count on consistency and quality year after year is because they own 24 different vineyards in the Russian River Valley. Balletto Vineyards is one of the few wineries in Sonoma County that is 100% estate grown and estate bottled.
“We are able to pick and choose what grapes we like to use for our wine,” Balletto said.
The nationally recognized vineyard is known for its Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and first-class hospitality.
“Our goal is one customer at a time for life,” Balletto said. “We have great staff and care deeply about hospitality.”
Balletto, who has been a Sonoma County Farm Bureau member for over 40 years and served 10 of those as a board member, said that now, more than ever, he thinks it is important to be a Farm Bureau member.
“Being a part of a farm organization that is made up of many kinds of farmers and aspects of agriculture and works not only politically to benefit agriculture but also to provide members with all kinds of benefits, is very important,” Balletto said. “Working together as a group makes us a very powerful organization.”
He said that Farm Bureau is a great organization that works every day to protect agriculture and our way of life in California and across the country.
“We are faced with so many new laws and regulations that sometimes Farm Bureau is the only resource we have that speaks up to protect our property rights and heritage,” Balletto said.
The Balletto’s two daughters seem to be following in their family’s winemaking footsteps and continuing their agricultural heritage.
“It’s great to have the next generation coming up,” Balletto said. “One of my daughters, Jacqueline, is the tasting room manager. She manages staff of about 12 people and our wine club, which has about 2,700 members and my other daughter, Caterina, helps us when she can part-time because she has a job in the wine industry offsite.”
Balletto said the future holds many new and exciting things for Balletto Vineyards. By the end of 2019 they will have a new hospitality center.
“It will be a place where we can host many different kinds of events with different kinds of entertainment and showcase our wines with great Sonoma County food,” Balletto said. “It will be a great venue that will have capacity for 150 people.”
Open every day but Christmas day and New Year’s Day, Balletto Vineyards offers wine tasting and tours on request.
“We have a wonderful staff in our tasting room so please stop by and join us,” Balletto said.
Balletto said he is looking forward to celebrating the holiday season with friends, family, and staff.
“We’d like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, and best wishes for 2019.”
To try Balletto Vineyard’s sparkling, which Balletto said is “fantastic,” visit the tasting room, located at 5700 Occidental Road in Santa Rosa, which is open 7 days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For more information about Balletto Vineyards visit, www.ballettovineyards.com