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A Life-long Passion

Our Winemaker

Giovanni “Gio” Balistreri is a product of four generations of Sonoma County farmers.  Gio was seven years old when he went to work on his family’s dairy farm. Up at dawn each day with his Grandfather, Les, Gio did the chores and learned the skills of his family’s livelihood.

By the time Gio was set to leave for college, he already had ten years of practical farming experience.  But Gio’s father Jack Balistreri had realized the potential of the family farm for growing wine grapes.  So Gio and his father planted four acres of Pinot Noir grapes in Freestone, CA. With his first wine harvest already pending, Gio attended Fresno State University, where he majored in Agricultural business with concentrations in Winery Management, Wine Marketing, & Wine sales.  

In 2008, Gio was tapped by legendary winemaker Anthony Austin to join a team that acquired Russian River Vineyards.  Under Anthony’s tutelage, Gio learned the “light touch” approach to winemaking that has become a hallmark of Russian River Vineyards. Since then, Russian River Vineyards wines have won more than 200 medals, 75 of them gold.  

Giovanni Balistreri

Gio took the helm as RRV’s winemaker in 2012. The result has been a steady stream of remarkable wines. In 2014, Gio received the “Best Winemaker” award in the North of the Gate Wine Competition. In 2016, he won the “Best Red Wine in Sonoma County” award at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair.  In early 2019, the North Bay Biz Magazine reader’s poll named Russian River Vineyards estate-grown Pinot as the “Best Pinot Noir”. This year, RRV wines have already won at least one gold medal in five different competitions.

Through it all, the Balistreri Family Vineyard has continued to thrive, and fittingly, the wines produced from that vineyard have been added to the Russian River Vineyards portfolio. It seems that Gio has found his true calling, and at Russian River Vineyards, we feel very fortunate that he found it here.

On most days, you can find Gio at our tasting room, although that may not be case around harvest time.  But Gio loves to hear feedback, especially from those who enjoy the product he works so hard to create.  So feel free to come by and meet him.

"Wine is the only artwork you can drink" 

- Luis Fernando Olaverri

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