John Balletto is the owner of Balletto Vineyards in Santa Rosa, one of the top producing wineries in Sonoma County, with more than 600 acres of vineyards that provide grapes for the Balletto label and two-dozen wineries throughout the county. Balletto’s first vintage was in 2001, although he’s been in the agriculture business for 41 years, starting with five acres in 1977, and eventually producing more than one million cases of vegetables annually from 1988 to 1998 on his family’s property. He lives on his 110-acre vineyard in West Sebastopol with his wife, Terri Balletto, of 30 years.
When you’re not drinking Balletto wines, what are you drinking?
Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Russian River Valley. All of the wines are fantastic from this area.
What was the last gift you gave someone?
A shotgun, to my good friend Nick Frey who lost his guns when his home burned in October.
Would you rather be a famous rock star, or the next Einstein?
Rock star, of course! I’m a collector of The Doors’ music. It’s too bad Jim Morrison left the planet so young.
What’s the best part of your daily routine?
I love getting in the office early and answering my messages and emails. It’s great when it’s quiet—I can get so much done.
Would you rather never have Internet again, or never be able to take an airplane again?
No Internet would be fine with me. You must have airplanes to travel the world. We’re only on this planet for a short visit, and need to see as much of the world as possible. It’s an amazing place.
Can you play an instrument?
No. I wish I could play the piano. Music is part of the soul. Some songs change the whole mood of the moment.
How did you meet your spouse?
We met at the Washoe House in 1982. I was at a young farmer’s meeting and she was at a company party for the Cotati Vet Hospital where she worked. We were married in 1988. Terri has been an amazing partner.
If you were to get a tattoo, what would it be and where would you put it?
I would put it on my right arm, and it would say, “Never Give Up.”
If you could go to lunch with anyone, who would it be?
My mom. She taught me to never stop until the job’s done. Or Warren Dutton; he taught me that any problem or situation can be fixed. He came up with the phrase, gtr-done, before Larry the Cable Guy.
What’s your most prized or sentimental possession?
My family and friends. I’m blessed to have a great family and so many great friends.
Do you have any plans for your birthday?
On my 60th, we’re having a mini-Woodstock party. Memories of sharing good wine, conversation and great food around the fire—priceless.
What’s your favorite part about being a father?
My two daughters, Jacqueline and Caterina. Seeing them grow up and develop into great people is rewarding, but their mom deserves most of the credit. She did an incredible job.
What’s in your refrigerator?
Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Balletto Sparkling, cheese, bacon and a few veggies. Terri and I are busy and we dine out a lot. When we cook, it’s fresh salmon, chicken or steak.
What’s your favorite board game?
I love Monopoly. How great would it have been to be a part of the early days in New York and Manhattan when construction was just starting? I usually win half the time.
What do you love to do outside of work?
Duck hunting. There’s something special about being in the duck blind with your hunting dog and a hot cup of coffee, watching the sunrise over the Butte Mountains.
Who are your mentors?
Coach’s Lamb and Castleberry, teacher Pete Barbieri, the Petersen brothers, Warren Dutton, Mel Sanchietti and my SRJC teacher, Steve Olson. Later in life, Pat Kilkenny and Clem Carinalli. They all played apart in who I am today.
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