Let me introduce you to the wines of Balletto Vineyards

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Every time I read a column called “Best Wines Under $ 35,” I imagine three things about the author: 1. They make more money than me. 2. They drink less than me. 3. They don’t pay for the wine they drink.

As an industry veteran, I avoided paying for wine for 40 years. If I paid the bill, based on the above calculation, my annual “best value” wine bill would exceed $ 6,000! When I have to buy wine I look for values ​​/ qualities below $ 15 and find them in the vibrant Chicagoland market. So dear reader, when I recommend that you spend your hard earned money on wine at $ 20 and up, I really mean it.

I really think so with the wines from Balletto Vineyards.

A little “oh!” with joy escapes me when the Balletto samples arrive. I know I can expect pure flavor from every varietal, with luscious fruit balanced by crisp acidity and no difficult techniques trying to make the wine more than an expression of the vineyards of the Russian River Valley family estate (RRV ). Ask your dealer for Ross’s Choice and the wines below (in theory available in Chicagoland, distributed by Breakthru Beverage), or visit Balletto’s online store or wine.com.

Rosé of Pinot Noir: Balletto’s declared mission is a joyful rosé and mission accomplished. His 100% estate Pinot Noir is harvested early in the season to maintain crisp acidity. During the fermentation of Balletto Pinot Rouge, some of the juice is removed from the vat early (in wine language called “bleeding”, to bleed) with just a touch of color, and vinified separately until dry. That’s a lot of work for a seemingly effortless wine, with a meaty starter, juicy strawberry-peach flavor and a long finish, with just enough tannin to accompany a wide range of dishes, from appetizers to light red meats. John Balletto recommends figs with blue cheese, prosciutto with melon, or endives with walnuts and Gorgonzola. (Around $ 20)

Pinot Gris : Balletto treats the gray-skinned pinot as equal to its pinot noir, planting its gris in prime vineyards just 10 miles from the Pacific for perfect maturity balanced by firm acidity. Neutral oak fermentation adds a satiny texture to the pear and stone fruit flavor. Richer and with more texture than Italian pinot grigio, this gris is an elegant meal companion for seafood, poultry, light meats, and creamy sauces, including a Balletto family favorite: cheese ravioli with lemon sauce. (Around $ 20)


Balletto gives me everything I want from California pinot noir: silky texture, lush aroma of spicy cherries, flavors of red berries, beetroot, exotic spices and a hint of vanilla. The family sells 90% of their fruit to neighboring cellars, vinifying their favorite grapes with native yeasts in small open-air fermenters, maturing judiciously in French oak barrels. Pinots from a single vineyard – such as the Sexton Hill available in Chicagoland – are rich and complex, suitable for fine steak or rich game birds. (Under $ 50) For summer sipping my choice is Balletto Russian River Valley Pinot Noir with elegant drinkability, perfect for a rich (slightly chilled) cocktail and as a complement to summer dishes, including sandwiches, Asian takeouts, rich salads and just about anything tossing on a grill, including vegetables like beets and mushrooms. Its price is reasonable at less than $ 30.

Balletto and other wineries unite modern sensibility and science with Old World philosophy of viticulture in the Russian River Valley Neighborhoods project. (Note, the French word for vigneron is “vigneron,” a person who tends the vineyard.) To explore the unique flavors of the six regions of RRV as well as the unique soil and climate (“terroir” in French) that arouse these flavors, visit Neighborhoods | Russian river valley. Then, for an overview of the groundbreaking study authenticating terroir, visit my Good Wine column, “What all the ins and outs of a terroir study Mean”, originally published by the Daily Herald on October 28, 2020.

• Mary Ross is an Advanced Sommelier (Court of Master Sommeliers), Certified Wine Trainer (Society of Wine Educators) and recipient of the “Grand Award of Excellence” from Wine Spectator. Write to him at food @ daily herald.com.


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