Russian River Valley
Ricardo Belloni loved people. In fact, he loved life. He loved to garden; he loved big family dinners with homemade wine; and most of all, he loved the vineyard that he made the wine from. Actually, Ricardo’s vineyard was like a member of his family.
Ricardo grew up near the village of Varsi in Emilia Romagna, not far from Parma. His wife Natalia came from the other side of a nearby mountain. To make a long story short, the two of them ended up in California, where Ricardo started a cabinet shop. But because he’d grown up on a farm, he also wanted a vineyard.
He found one for sale in 1971 along Wood Road on the outskirts of Santa Rosa, where it had been planted near the turn of the twentieth century. Ricardo and Natalia worked side by side every weekend—hoeing weeds, trimming suckers, and tying up vines.
Sometime around 1991, Ricardo called a winemaker who’d become known for old-vine Zinfandel, Joel Peterson. Joel drove up from Sonoma and, somewhat to his surprise, liked what he saw. Belloni’s vineyard wasn’t on a “well-drained hillside,” but the Russian River climate was temperate and the vines were 90 years old. Zinfandel was the primary player, but there was a classic array of accompanists—Carignane, Petite Sirah, and Alicante Bouschet—that Joel had learned to love.
Ricardo passed away in 1997. By then the vineyard had the respect it deserved, and the Bellonis received several offers. But they decided to keep it. Natalia continues to cut the grass, while her son Danny runs the wood shop and her daughter Milena’s husband Will looks after the grapes. It’s still a family affair, which is how Ricardo would have wanted it.
Location: Russian River Valley
Year(s) Planted: About 1900
Acreage: About 7.5 Acres
Soil Type: Huichica loam (a silty clay loam)
Climate: Cool, foggy
Elevation: Sea level
Exposure: Pretty flat