Summary: Balistreri Vineyards is a unique winery with an appreciation for using less manipulation in producing its wines. All wines are made with natural yeasts. No sulfites are added to the wines and there is no fining, filtering or racking the wines. Check out the events at Balistreri Vineyards especially the annual Harvest Party.
In April 2012, we were pleased to revisit Balistreri Vineyards in Denver, Colorado as part of the Drink Local Wine Conference post trip. Balistreri now has a large red brick two-story winery/tasting facility. Two areas are available for events. We enjoyed a delicious lunch in the barrel aging room on the lower level. The ambiance of food, wine and oak barrels filled with aging wines was memorable.
On the first floor of the building, visitors will discover the tasting counter in a rectangular room. To the side of this area, travelers who have been to Balistreri Vineyards earlier will find the former small tasting room still exists. Behind these tasting areas a large brightly lit area with woodwork and large windows provides a delightful event room. A curved wood staircase is an attractive feature of the event room. At the time of our visit the new facility was in the process of opening, moving and landscaping. Julie Balistreri noted that it was her father who designed the new facility. In the winery, bottling is direct from the barrel. Julie noted that the winery does not add sulfites to any of the wines.
The Balistreri winery opened in 1998. John Balistreri is the owner and winemaker. His daughter, Julie, also makes wine and takes care of the business end of the operations. John is friendly and enjoys talking about his wines. He is passionate about his style of winemaking. He had an uncle who made a dry Muscat wine. John made wine as a youth. Today he produces all of the wines with natural yeasts. He does not add sulfites during winemaking. There is no filtering, no racking and no fining of the wines. The resulting wines may have a slight haze or slight sediment – but this in no way is detrimental to the wine. In fact, many wine drinkers may prefer wines that are not fined, filtered or racked. It is a more natural process. John also does not use cold stabilization for white wines.
The wines are in traditional wine bottles but rather than using foil, John prefers a sealing wax because it is tamper proof. No matter the reason for the wax, it adds a note of elegance to the wine bottle. Today Balistreri produces over 50,000 bottles, about 4200 cases. A short distance from the winery building, there are two and a half acres of vineyards. John sources mostly Colorado grapes but sometimes he obtains grapes from California. Colorado and California grapes are never mixed. John pointed out that the wines with Colorado on them are made from 100 percent Colorado grapes.
The Balistreri family is very involved with the winery. John’s son, an artist, and professor at Bowling Green University in Ohio, created several sculptures on the winery property.
There are events at the winery. One of the largest is the Annual Harvest Party. This event can draw 1,000 people. The festival includes grape stomping for children, a feast of appetizers, pizza, roast pig and desserts along with music. The winery will roast 200-pound pigs beginning the day before. If you can’t make it in time for this year’s Harvest Party, check out the event for next year. The grapes stomped by children are used to make the wine labeled “Little Feet.” The Little Feet wines are especially popular with the parents of the children who have participated in the stomping. Parents also purchase a bottle of the wine to give to their children when they are twenty-one.
The new winery building is perfect for different events. The event space behind the tasting room is delightful for large get-togethers and weddings.
We began our tasting with white and ended with a dessert wine. The wines have an identical image on their labels. The image is a watercolor painting by Francis Balistreri.
Muscat Orange 2009 had grapefruit notes. The citrusy finish was crisp. Riesling with 14.8 percent alcohol was an orange/deep yellow color as a result of four to five days of skin contact.
The Balistreri Syrah 2005 was a dark ruby color. The aroma and taste offered dark fruit notes with slate and pepper nuances. The finish had tannins and pepper notes. Zinfandel 2009 had pepper on the nose. Dark fruit notes were on the taste. The finish had dark fruit notes yielding to pepper. Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 was a dark ruby. The aroma and taste had layers of blackberries, blueberries and wood nuances. The finish was chewy with bold tannins. Syrah 2010 had a dark ruby to dark purple color. The wine had dark fruit notes and the wine finished with pepper and spice. Denver Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 was made with grapes from the vineyard down the street. This ruby wine offered dark fruit notes.
Colorado Little Feet Merlot, named Little Feet because children stomped the grapes, had a dark purple color. The aroma was of dark red fruit and the taste was creamy and fruity. The finish was balanced, not hot despite the alcohol level being 15 percent. Tannins were very noticeable on the finish.
Grapes for the Colorado Little Feet Merlot 2007 were from Lovies vineyard. The nose was a dark red and the taste was very fruity. The finish was fruity with big, very puckery tannins. The alcohol is 16 and a half percent alcohol but you wouldn’t realize it.
Balistreri is a friendly winery. They enjoy talking about their wines and what makes their wines unique. We believe you will enjoy a visit to Balistreri.
J. A. Balistreri Vineyards
1946 E. 66th Ave.
Denver, Colorado 80229
GPS N 39°81.635' W104° 96.485'
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