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Anthony Beckman, winemaker at Balletto Vineyards is our guest today on California Wine Country with Steve Jaxon and Dan Berger. Pete Foppiano is sitting in for Steve Jaxon this week. Barry Herbst from Bottle Barn is also in.
Balletto Vineyards will produce 19 different wines this year. There are 9 single vineyard Pinot Noirs, 5 different Chardonnays, Pinot Gris, Rosé, Syrah and Gewurtz. They have a new Pinot Noir vineyard, which they planted 3 years ago and is coming on line in 2018. It is located just south or River Road and he now has the very first few barrels. Dan asks which clone, Calera, Mt. Eden and Swan, which Dan says is an ideal combination. Anthony says, “The Calera is all about structure and tannin, the Swan is all about these really pretty aromatics and the Mt. Eden kind of fills in the middle.”
The clones that came to California, the California heritage clones, there’s a reason they’re called that because they work really well here. The Dijon clones from Burgundy ripen faster. He wants something that ripens more slowly, that stays green longer, that retains acidity longer. “We’re not Burgundy and the wine shouldn’t taste like Burgundy.”
He says that the early pioneers who chose the clones that are grown here did not have the benefit of all the science we have today but they just planted and tasted the results and Dan and Anthony agree, “they nailed it.”
They taste the 2018 Balletto Rosé that was just bottled in December. The Rosé is always one of the first that they pick and bottle. It’s a good indicator for the rest of the harvest. It’s spicy and has great aromatics. He can smell it from two feet away. It has weight without viscosity. In the next 18 months it will calm down but now it is “super fun.”
Dan Berger says that Rosé is getting more and more popular and the winemakers are discovering how easy it is to sell. The Balletto Rosé has been one of the successful Californian Rosés. Pinot Noir (along with Grenache) is ideal for making Rosé. And the wine goes well with all kinds of food.
They taste a sample bottle of 2018 Balletto Pinot Gris. It’s one of his favorite wines and he calls it “understated.” Grown in the 8-acre Mary’s Vineyard about 11 mines from the ocean, which came on line in 2014. Fermented in neutral oak barrels, complete fermentation in barrel. They will bottle it in about 5 weeks after it settles. It is still murky, very young. It is a statement of the vineyard with nothing added in the winemaking process.
Dan Berger says that Pinot Gris is a strange grape, since it can be great or uninteresting. Barry says in Alsace they take it very seriously. Dan likes the flavor profile of the Pinot Grigio from Alto Adige in northeastern Italy. Pinot Gris has two separate lives. At first it is fruity and lively. If it comes from a cold region it will age well and after 5 years they are completely different.
Anthony tells that they did a vertical tasting of Balletto Pinot Gris from 2009 to 2017. They could feel the vineyard come of age. “When you have a special spot for Pinot Gris you have a special wine.”
They agree that the large amounts of cheap Pinot Grigio from Italy. It is grown where it is too warm and the wine is not interesting. That makes it hard for Anthony to get people to pay attention to his Pinot Gris.
He also has a red, a Pinot Noir to taste, the 2015 18-barrel Pinot Noir. It’s a blend he started in 2013. He usually strictly observes his rule of vineyard-designated vintages but he also makes a small amount of blended wine to satisfy his interest.