Being a member of a winery’s wine club has so many benefits that it is difficult to limit our memberships. One annual event that keeps us coming back every year is the Taste of Route 116 that features the wineries in the Russian River wine area. Our first stop was at our “home” winery for the area, Balletto Vineyards.
We try to attend each and every Taste of Route 166 event. This year there were 16 wineries participating. The offer is simple: be a member of one participating winery and enjoy membership privileges at all 16 for the weekend. Most of the wineries add a little sizzle to the weekend with food pairings and case sales. We arrived at Balletto Vineyards around noon to check in and get our commemorative wine glasses. Balletto added a lovely New Orleans-style necklace to the setup to let everyone else know that we were Balletto club members.
As in previous years, Balletto cleared part of their large, temperature controlled warehouse for this special event. They started our day with some delicious 2014 Brut Rosé and invited us to look around. The room was comfortably full of happy club members celebrating the arrival of the holiday season. Everyone was excited about the day ahead and the opportunity to experience some new wineries in the area. Our starting plan had several wineries on included which had not previously participated. Only time would tell if we would actually execute our tour as planned.
The Balletto Vineyards wine club offers members 20% discounts on all wine purchases, plus 10% on their merchandise. They offer club members free tastings for themselves and three guests, plus exclusive member-only events throughout the year. These benefits, on top of their broad list of incredible wines and a staff that is knowledgeable, helpful, and unfailingly friendly, have meant that we have been members for many years.
We next tasted their 2017 RRV Pinot Noir, which they paired with a meatball duo in Syrah reduction. We always look forward to the Balletto pairings, which in recent years were usually hearty soups. This change of pace was surprising and pleasing. These meaty mouthfuls were a great pairing with the smokey, assertive dark fruit notes in the Pinot Noir. It took all of our discipline not to jump back in line for a second round! Once again, Balletto did it right for their club members.
We went into the main tasting room area to pick up an embarrassing number of overdue club releases. While the staff was pulling together our case of wine (don’t judge, we had a wedding in the Bliss family this year), we tasted their 2015 Syrah, which was a great representation of the varietal. We could not wait to open a bottle of this lovely Syrah during one of our holiday celebrations. We perused the list of wine sales and only the vision of the case of wine that we were already taking away kept us from buying more.
Our case of wine was collected and we had tasted everything that caught our eye. It was time to head off to visit other wineries participating in the Taste of Route 116. Where will we go next?
About the Author: John grills a mean steak and is always in the market for another wine fridge. Believes that if a winery has more than 10 employees, it's probably too big. Buys wine faster than he drinks it, but who cares?