Vineyard tours show where wine is really made

Tue May 25, 2010 1:32pm EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Leslie Gevirtz

SANTA ROSA, California (Reuters Life!) - The last thing you would expect to see on a tour of a vineyard is a baseball field.

But there it is - a regulation-size baseball field - hidden down a slope behind the Balletto Vineyards winery and surrounded on three sides by 160 acres of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris vines.

John Balletto, in a move somewhat akin to that of Kevin Costner's character in the Oscar-nominated, 1989 film "Field of Dreams," plowed under four acres of vines and turned them into a baseball field because his pickers told him "how they'd like to play baseball when they're not working."

The baseball field, which is not visible from the road nor the winery's tasting room, is on a self-guided tour of the Balletto vineyards.

His is one of at least four vineyards in Sonoma County where visitors are encouraged to get into the fields and see where wine is really made.

The tours are the idea of the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission, (here) which represents about 1,800 growers. The vineyards in the program are in varying areas of Sonoma, so each has a different soil and grows slightly different varietals.

While Balletto's Russian River vineyard favors Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, those surrounding the Mauritson Family Winery further north in Dry Creek Valley are filled with vines of brawny, bold Zinfandel and the Bordeaux-blend grapes -- Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.

Clay Mauritson, a 35-year-old former linebacker for the University of Oregon's football team, does a bit of everything at the family's winery and vineyards -- sales, marketing, winemaking.   Continued...