This is just another story of me discovering Sonoma wines. There are just so many — the adventure will never end (that’s a good thing in my book). Balletto is a name I’ve hard around in my world of wine chatter, but have never had the opportunity to taste. So when I found this reasonably priced Chardonnay at the local grocery store, I thought — well, why not?

About the Wine: The Balletto story is actually quite a heart warming one. John Balletto, owner and founder of Balletto Family Wines, started farming straight out of high school, basically to support his family after the sudden death of his father. Turns out he had a knack for it because just a few years later he was able to purchase his own acreage and establish quite a lucrative career in vegetable farming. And that was the industry the Balletto’s stayed in — vegetable farming. That is, until horrible weather conditions (namely El Niño) struck and the cost to re-establish the once thriving farmland was, well, extensive. But, the Balletto’s did have a small portion of thriving Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris vineyards on their home ranch and made the agricultural and financial decision to begin replanting their farmland to vineyards.

The Balletto’s didn’t actually start crushing their grapes until just 15 years ago in 2001. It just goes to show you what hard work, a knack for farming, and mother nature can do for you. Today, the Balletto’s own over 600 acres in the Russian River Valley, selecting 10% of their growth to produce their wine, while the remaining 90% of their grapes are sold to other wineries. So even if you, like me, have never tasted a Balletto Vineyards bottle of wine, chances are you’ve tasted their grapes (maybe that’s why the name sounded so familiar…)

The Balletto Vineyards Estate Chardonnay is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes harvested from the Balletto Family Vineyards located in the Sonoma County. Though I do not know the specific details in regards to the fermentation and aging of this wine, I can tell you that the Chardonnay — as with much of their wines — is oak-aged, but done so delicately, in neutral barrels and for just the right amount of time. This is an important aspect of winemaking for the Balletto’s, as they fancy their wines both versatile and food-friendly.

13.6% ABV

Flavor Profile: Mmmm…I love when a wine has a nose that just piques the appetite. Balletto Vineyards Chardonnay has an beautiful bouquet of aromas reminiscent of toasted pine nuts, white flowers, a hint of nectar, and the most vivacious line of citrus zest running right through the center.

The texture of the wine is just like a fur-lined comforter with its smooth, light, oaky exterior. These are the initial expressions of the wine. Mimicking the nose, you’ll get that warm, toasty nut flavor with the fragrance of flowers just delicately speaking up from the background. And yet, there is that undeniable dose of acidity that runs the length of the tasting. It’s subtle at first, letting your mouth, your brain, your body become and stay comfortable. But the finish, the finish is when that acidity shines in a most delightful way. It keeps your palate active, engaged, and ready to play!

Food Pairing: My friends, I only have one answer to this and it’s the meal I prepared the night I enjoyed the Balletto Vineyards Chardonnay: Fresh fettuccine with homemade alfredo sauce, mixed with sautéed portobello mushrooms and asparagus. This was topped with a grilled chicken breast that had been seasoned with garlic, rosemary, and just a thin layer of dijon mustard.

You’re going to want that creamy, indulgent pasta and sauce to parallel the roundness in the wine’s primary tastes and textures. But, just like Balletto’s winemaking methods — not using too much oak to age the wine — you’re going to want to make sure that your dish has a bit of freshness to it as well. That’s where the dijon, the garlic, and the fresh herbs come in. I’m telling you it was perfection. (If you can’t find any one of these components as a direct on my site please let me know and I will add it).

I will add one more note here and that is that most white wines I feel can usually be enjoyed on its own. Not to say that Balletto Vineyards Chardonnay can’t — but it is most enjoyable with food. And I think they’d be pleased to hear it. Cheers.

More Info: This was my first experience with Balletto Vineyards name-branded wine and I can certainly say that if I find this or one of their other varietals again, I will certainly be purchasing it. I found the Balletto Vineyards Estate Chardonnay at Whole Foods (Price: $20). For more information about the Balletto Family, their estate, and their wines, please visit the Balletto Vineyards website.

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