John Balletto began farming in 1977 at the tender age of 17. He had just graduated from high school and due to the untimely death of his father, gave up what looked like a promising college football and track career. With $200 in the bank and five acres in Sebastopol, California, John began farming produce with help from his mother, Hazel.
By 1981, John purchased his first ranch in Santa Rosa with the help of former high school counselor and friend, Pete Barbieri. As business grew he leased more land. With the increasing costs of leased land, John and his wife Terri decided to purchase a large piece of land in order to grow more vegetables and build a new produce packing facility. This land is where the winery and one of our larger vineyards are today.
John would eventually become the largest vegetable farmer north of the Golden Gate Bridge growing more than 70 different vegetables on over 700 acres. More than two million cases of mixed vegetables moved through the premises during its heyday.
In 1998, although they were still going strong in the vegetable business, there were three El Nino storms during the spring that wiped out three of their successive plantings. For reference, each planting cost about a half million dollars. Between those storms and the NAFTA Agreement that went in place in 1994 - 1995, it was hard economically to stay in the vegetable business.
They already had 35 acres of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris vineyards on their home ranch in the western hills of Sebastopol and felt that in order to stay in the farming business they must make a change. So, in 1999, the conversion of vegetable land to vineyard planting began.
In 2001, the Ballettos crushed enough Russian River Valley fruit for 391 cases of Chardonnay and 689 cases of Pinot Noir. In 2002, they again crushed small amounts of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir while adding Pinot Gris from their Burnside Rd. vineyard. For the 2003 vintage, they added Zinfandel from the BCD Farms vineyard in the Russian River Valley.
The Balletto Family has over 600 acres in the Russian River Valley and select 10% from many different clones and soil types to make their wine. They feel fortunate to sell the remaining 90% of their grapes to other wineries. In July 2010, the Balletto Family was honored being awarded the Sonoma County Farm Bureau Farm Family of the Year.