On a day off, I wanted to taste. And I knew where I was headed. I just wasn’t anticipating this magnanimous impression. Right when I parked, down a scenically stretched driveway from Occidental Road, I parked just outside the Balletto tasting room. Relaxed and removed Xanadu sense enveloping me from the first step on that gravel, following me into the cozy room which reminded me of the living room of a friend’s Central Oregon cabin. Met by Ms. Charlotte, warmly and genuine invite to the bar, she pressured me with nothing, only setting a glass before me and pouring me some of the exceptionally rounded and balanced sparkling. The to a Pinot Gris and Sexton Hill Chardonnay which had me equally struck.
I had the vision that I was over at a friend’s house, simply tasting wine and talking about the Russian River dimension, the styles of Pinots and Chards you find around the tasting room versus other growing zones in the state, or even the county.
She as well put some of the ’14 Rosé of Pinot before me which struck me in how assertive it was with its flavor; not in any way passive or quick, or one of those safe Rosés that someone would say, “Yeah, it’s great for just sipping on a hot day.” No. This Rosé of Pinot translation delivered an acute dactylic dance; the luminary stylistic effulgence you hope to taste from Rosé bottle, but don’t, ever. Here you will. Balletto shows there doesn’t have to be the humdrum pattern of Rosé production. There can be narrative, there can be liveliness, and persuasive qualities in what you let prance on palate.
Two Pinots, the ‘RRV’ and ‘Burnside Road’, respectively. Both were fiery in the catapulting of fruit and terroir-sewn inference, but still with that gentle, feminine, savory tryst that Pinot denotatively ensures. I didn’t favor one of the other, they both roared when with me, and showed me more of the stratospheric intensity to which Balletto cares for their wines; how they’re produced and how they reflect site in addition to varietal interpretation and oenological intent.
Then, the ’12 Zin, which I have to say is one of the most distinct and playful wines (regardless of varietal, region, or vintage) that I’ve tasted since, well, anciently. Nothing excessively jammy or serrated about the texture or olfactory setting; all harmonized and communicative, depth and amorous with what it does; black, red, and a bit of blue fruit insinuation in all measures of the song. Again, fun. And if I ever do drink Zin, I hope to enjoy, not be deafened by high alcohol and scattered fruit intentions.
Coming home with me after my visit with Ms. Charlotte at Balletto’s base, were the Sexton Hill, Russian River Pinot, and the Zin. So I ask myself as a wine chaser and writer and professor, ‘what I learned’. Or as I ask my students, “What am I walking away with?” Hard to say, as I walked back to my car across that gravel thinking so much. But for one, certainly a new affinity for artfully arranged wine. Nothing self-anointing about this label, just humble, precise, prowess-stricken oenology. Anyone reading this needs to visit if you not only want to taste wines, notably Pinots and Chardonnay—and that sparkling!—but be taught something about wine. By the wines themselves. Not some pseudo-sagacious host only wanting to hear themselves speak. Balletto’s keepers, most keenly Charlotte, offer conversation, avidity, and kindness.
I’ve been taught.