NICK FREY - PUBLIC RELATIONS AND BRAND AMBASSADOR, BALLETTO VINEYARDS
With its 12-inch-thick, insulated walls, serious temperature control, a deep concrete foundation and floors that slope toward drains, the change from a produce facility to winery was pretty painless. Out went the stainless steel tables for making mixed green salads and in came the stainless steel tanks for making wine. With a few tweaks here and there, the transformation was complete.
Currently we have 16 variously sized tanks inside and space for about 1,800 barrels. Our outside crush pad has a few more tanks and room for three different presses (two bladder presses and one basket press). Because almost all of our Pinot Noir is harvested in a three week period, we have 34 six-ton open top tanks to handle the on-rush of fruit. In both 2009 and 2010, we filled every tank, which made for a lot of punchdowns!
The Balletto Family has over 600 acres in the Russian River Valley and select 10% from many different clones and soil types to make their wine. They feel fortunate to sell the remaining 90% of their grapes to other wineries. In July 2010, the Balletto Family was honored being awarded the Sonoma County Farm Bureau Farm Family of the Year.
RICHARD LONGORIA - OWNER/WINEMAKER, LONGORIA WINES
It was during his student days at Berkeley that he discovered the wine country of Sonoma and Napa. The bucolic countryside, and the sights and smells of the wine cellars attracted Rick. He had absorbed much of the philosophies of the counterculture during his college days, and the craft of winemaking seemed to embody many of them. Not knowing anything about the business, Rick shelved his daydreams to the back of his consciousness in favor of plans to obtain a law degree. Rick decided to take a year off before entering law school, and traveled to South America. Rick traveled throughout Colombia and Ecuador for nearly five months. It was during this trip that he came to realize that his heart was not in law but rather the possibility of working in a winery. When he returned he sent dozens of inquiries to wineries looking for work. He got lucky and was hired as a rookie cellarman at one of his favorite wineries, the historic Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma.
It was here at Buena Vista that he met the famed winemaker, Andre Tchelistcheff, who was the consultant there. Andre saw the enthusiasm and motivation Rick had and took an interest in helping his career. Andre told Rick about the new Firestone winery he was consulting for in Santa Barbara County. Andre was very excited about the potential of this new wine region. Having spent part of his teen years in the area, Rick was intrigued about moving back and still staying in the wine business. After Andre told him that the Firestone winery was looking for a cellar foreman, Rick interviewed, received the job and moved to Los Olivos in May 1976.
Rick met his wife Diana at Firestone and they were married in 1977. Soon after he decided to seek a more responsible position in Northern California, and took the job of Cellarmaster at Chappellet Vineyards in the Napa Valley in 1978. Though Rick enjoyed his time at Chappellet, the contrast in styles between Napa Valley and Santa Ynez Valley made Rick realize that he felt more at home in the less hectic, more down to earth Santa Ynez Valley. Rick found out about a position at a new small winery, J. Carey Cellars, was hired on the spot as the winemaker and moved back to the Valley in May 1979.
The portfolio at J. Carey Cellars consisted of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc. By this time in the development of the wine regions in Santa Barbara County, it was becoming clear that the initial successes were coming from the Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. Rick was making neither of those at J. Carey Cellars, so in 1982 he decided to start his own brand to focus on just those two varietals.
In 1985, Rick became the winemaker for The Gainey Vineyard, a new state of the art winery located on the 3600 acre Gainey Ranch. Over the next twelve years Rick enjoyed much success in producing some of the best wines in the area and thereby establishing Gainey as one of the region's top wineries.
In 1997 Rick and Diana felt like it was time to devote their full energies to their small wine business, and both left their jobs to build their business into what it is today.