ABOUT A GRAPE ESCAPE BALLOON ADVENTURE

Learn... why "Experience, Safety and Professionalism make the difference!

Operating since 1991, A Grape Escape Balloon Adventure is a family owned business based in the Temecula Valley wine country.  We operate a fleet of thirteen balloons, offering daily sunrise flights exclusively over the Temecula Valley wine country.  A Grape Escape Balloon Adventure is the official balloon ride operator of the Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival, an annual event held each year in June. We are a proud supporter of local charities donating time and thousands of dollars each year.

Awards and Recognition

  • Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce Sterling Business of the Year in 2001, 2009 and 2013
  • TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence 2014
  • Temecula Tourism Professional of the Year 2016 - Cherise Manning
  • Temecula Xenia Spotlight on Service Award 2016 - Bill Geeson
  • 5 Star Rated on TripAdvisor and Yelp

Meet Our Staff

Rusty Manning

Rusty discovered his love of ballooning in 1990 while training to get his fixed wing pilot's license. He started crewing on hot air balloons and knew he found his passion. He decided to get certified as an LTA (lighter than air) pilot and landed his first job as a commercial pilot flying the Tony the Tiger special shape hot air balloon. After traveling across the United States with Kellogg's, he decided to settle down with his new wife Cherise in Temecula, California which was known for its great balloon weather. He and Cherise started A Grape Escape Balloon Adventure in the Fall of 1991. Rusty spent those first years doing double duty, flying in the Temecula Valley in the morning and piloting afternoon flights over the Del Mar coastline to gain more flight time. Through the years, Rusty has accumulated 7400 + hours of flight time. His pilot logbook contains a record of flights throughout the United States and he has flown internationally in Switzerland and France. Rusty believes in giving back to the community in which he lives. He served as a Board Member of the Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival for over 20 years and has also served as the Chairman of the Board for several years. He is currently a Chairperson for the event and serves as the balloon liaison. In addition, he has been a Rotarian for 11 years and has also served as President.

Cherise Manning

Cherise has a degree in Marketing and Business and spent the first years of their fledgling business providing a second income as a high school marketing teacher. After the birth of their second child, Cherise quit teaching full time to focus on expanding the business and raising their two children. As a result of the fruits of her labor, business started to grow and soon they hired an office manager and pilots. She now focuses her time directing the operations of the business including marketing, expansion, balloon advertising programs and overseeing day to day operations. She is also actively involved in the community and has been a Chairperson with the Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival for 15 years. In addition, she is also on the board of Visit Temecula Valley, a marketing organization that promotes the Temecula Valley as a destination. She is currently serving as Chairman of the Board.  In 2016, Cherise was honored by the Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visit Temecula Valley as Tourism Professional of the Year for her dedication to promoting the area and the ballooning industry. She is a Rotarian and serves her local community with her involvement in several charities.  Cherise and Rusty have two teenage children. 

Tracy Bosteter - Office Manager

Tracy began her career with us in 2005. She is an integral part of the day to day operations in the office. She handles reservations, customer service, and business administration. Tracy is familiar with local restaurants, overnight accommodations, and wine tasting in Temecula. Her years of experience and knowledge are an invaluable resource to the company. She is married and has two children and three grandchildren.

Bill Geeson -   Lead Pilot

Bill is our lead pilot who has been with us for 12 years.  He began his career as a balloon pilot in 1997, and to date has 5300+ logged pilot hours. He is the day to day face that will greet you in the morning and take you on your memorable hot air balloon adventure.  Bill has flown in Arizona and Del Mar, California, and has chosen to make beautiful Temecula his full time ballooning home with us. Bill is married and has three children.

Peter Gallagher - Pilot

Pete has been a balloon pilot for over 30 years and started flying in 1984 right here in Temecula. He has flown several special shape balloons throughout the western United States, and in the Loire Valley, France. He has 4000+ hours of flight time.  He was the first pilot that was hired on our staff.  Pete still enjoys flying with us part time. He lives locally, is married, and continues to be our longest affiliate pilot.

Matt Downin - Pilot

Matt had a friend who's father was a balloon pilot in upstate NY.  When he was a teen he started working as a member of the chase crew team. Later, Matt came to California to attend college and landed a job locally as a balloon crew member while also training as a commercial  LTA (lighter than air) balloon pilot.  Matt has been a Math teacher for 17 years and works part time as a pilot, flying for us on weekends and during school breaks.  Every year he treats his students to tethered balloon rides.

Erin Barnes - Customer Service Representative

Erin is the pleasant voice on the phone who always seems to be wearing a smile. She is available to personally assist you with your reservation and answer any questions you have about our tours. She confirms online reservations and replies to email inquiries. She can also offer information on overnight accommodations, restaurants, and wineries. Erin is the newest member of our office staff and we are pleased she has joined us this year.  

Ricky Cawley - Crew Chief

Rick is our team member in charge of organizing the crew for each balloon flight, and takes on additional safety duties. He has been with us for 8 years. He holds a private balloon pilot license, and is currently working to be certified as a commercial LTA (lighter than air) pilot. He loves the outdoors, has worked as a wild land fire fighter and as a local winery tour guide. Rick is recently engaged having proposed to his fiance' during a balloon flight, how romantic! 

Martin Perez - Crew Member

Martin is an important part of our team who has been with us for 5 years. He loves early morning ballooning and is a hard working crew member in whom the pilots have complete trust.  With Martin's experienced assistance our flight launches and landings are as smooth as possible. Martin is also employed full time as shipping manager at a local winery and thus has extensive insider knowledge of Temecula wine country. Martin is married and has six children. 

Derek Gray  - Crew Member

Derek has been involved in ballooning since childhood because his father, a balloon pilot, took him on flights.   He has worked as ground crew for many years.  He holds a private balloon pilot's license, and is currently training for his commercial LTA (lighter than air) pilot's license, Derek is a vital team member whose goal is to enhance our passenger's flight experience by assisting in safe launches and landings.  We are happy that Derek joined our team in 2016.