Your Pilot

Wine Country Balloons is quite fortunate to have the most experienced balloon pilots in the region. In addition to being highly safety conscious, these certified hot air balloon flight professionals have the personality and knowledge to make sure you walk away from your ballooning experience having learned more about the sport and the local environment than you ever anticipated. Recognizing that a balloon ride should be considered “entertainment” not “transportation” these gentlemen each possess a keen sense of humor, certain to entertain you as you gently drift through the sky.


Scott van der Horst

Scott van der Horst

Scott is the chief pilot in charge of operations for Wine Country Balloons and has been flying balloons since 1972. Performing 95% of the flights for this company since 1984 he has accumulated more than 5000 hours flying hot air balloons and has personally hosted more than 30,000 passengers. He has flown balloons throughout North America, Europe and even over the rain forests of Costa Rica. He is an active flight instructor for hot air balloons and has been responsible for certifying a number of local and international pilots.

Scott van der Horst

Jeff Spear

Jeff has always had a love for aviation, and entertaining others; ballooning was a natural next step to combine his talents. As a fixed wing and commercial balloon pilot it’s difficult to keep him on the ground. What he loves most about ballooning: Each day and each flight is a new adventure. I enjoy meeting new people and seeing their joy as they rediscover the area from a whole new perspective.

Scott van der Horst

Michael Vargas

Formally educated in aeronautical sciences at San Jose State University, Michael already had a commercial license in fixed wing aviation when he decided to become a balloon pilot. When he’s not flying he’s a full time Dad for 4 pre-teens.