“I challenge you to show me a great Pinot Grigio,” said a wine-loving friend from California. Well, Dave, here it is, Balletto, 2010 Pinot Gris, Russian River Valley, Estate Bottled, Sonoma County.*
I tasted it while visiting Balletto Vineyards at Passport to Pinot Noir. The owner, John Balletto is a personable and generous man who had to leave a promising sports career and college when his father died unexpectedly. At 17 years old, he and his mother started farming vegetables in Sonoma County. Their business grew to be the largest farm north of the Golden Gate. John told me he made the decision to turn his vegetable farm into vineyards after three bad floods in 1998. Today, he owns over 500 acres of prime grape growing land. 90% of his fruit is sold to others. In 2006, Balletto Vineyards opened a small tasting room and now sell their own label. You can find it online, by visiting and at Bay Area restaurants and wine shops.
I also highly recommend their 2011 Rosé of Pinot Noir and their Zinfandel Their 2007 Zinfandel is better than many Zins from neighboring AVA Dry Creek Valley, which is famous for Zinfandel.
Insider Tip: These wines are excellent value, especially considering their location in the Russian River AVA. All of their current releases are less than $30 a bottle. If you join their wine club, you get 20% off which make these wines a steal. The Pinot Gris is $18.
*Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris are the same grape; Italians use the former.