There’s a Story Behind Every Wine

The OCWS Winery Webinar program is thrilled to be presenting Giovanni Balistreri, co-owner and winemaker of Russian River Vineyards, on Friday, April 9. After listening to Gio and hearing the excitement in his voice and seeing the look of sheer pleasure on his face, it was clear to see why he feels that “wine is fun and it’s a passion.” He explained that to him, “there’s a story behind every wine,” and that his philosophy and style is that he makes wine by taste, touch and feel. With this love of his, it’s easy to understand how Russian River Vineyards garnered three awards at the 2019 OC Fair Commercial Wine Competition and overall, how RRV wines have won more than 200 medals, 75 of them gold.

From fifth generation Sonoma farmer to impassioned winemaker, Gio wears his heart on his sleeve when it comes to his passions. As a three-year-old learning at the knee of his grandmother to tend her vegetable garden, to a newly graduated high school student in 1999 planting his first four-acre vineyard of Pinot Noir on his family’s farm with his father, to his first vintage in 2004, having just graduated college, Gio exudes passion when he speaks of everything from his upbringing to his family and his love of the wine making process.

When asked of his favorite aspect of the wine industry, Gio says that “wine is fun and not work” and that he loves to “control every aspect of growing the grapes, watching them all summer long and then harvesting them” so he can “control the quality, get the most premium fruit and make that into wine.”  He also loves the social side and tries to be in the tasting room as much as possible, speaking to every single person.

Russian River Vineyards has generously offered their wines at a 30% discount, with wine sales extending from March 1st to April 12th. The three wines that will be presented are: 2019 Chardonnay/Bacigalupi, 2017 Pinot Noir/Classic Cuvee, and 2016 Red Blend/Confluence and can be purchased for just $100 for all three. Information on ordering wines can be found on the OCWS website.

This brief article cannot possibly convey the passion emitted from the man himself. Don’t miss the opportunity to see and hear Gio live!  Sign-ups close at 5 pm on Wednesday, April 7 and remember, purchasing wine does not automatically sign you up for the Zoom webinar. You must sign into your account and sign up to attend under the “Events” tab at If you have any questions, please contact Rich Skoczylas at

– Fran Gitsham, Contributing Writer