2820 Wine Company

Napa Valley AVA

91 Points - Connoisseurs’ Guide

The 2820 Wine Company is more of a project at this early stage than it is a full-fledged winery operation. Although judging from the success of new concern’s Zinfandel and Merlot, it won’t take long to firmly establish the 2820 identity in the marketplace.

The 2820 project is the brainchild of well-established Ballentine (rhymes with Valentine) Vineyards in St. Helena (2820 is their address). The premise is simple—to explore new, small vineyard sources in northern California, work with these typically family-owned growers to help them produce the best fruit possible, then in turn offering the resulting wines to consumers at hard-to-resist values.

So, the background story is really about the Ballentine family of whose wines we have featured previously in the Platinum Series and the Gold Series but with different selections of course. The 2820 2002 Zinfandel is a wine we are excited about discovering and thrilled to present to Platinum Series members.

The families of both Betty and Van Ballentine, owners of Ballentine Vineyards, possess rich, historical backgrounds that are solidly embedded in the foundation of California’s early wine industry.

Betty’s grandfather, Libero Pocai emigrated from Italy in 1884, and following the devastating San Francisco earthquake of 1906, found his way to northern Napa Valley. There he was able to purchase 60 acres described as bale gravely loam, otherwise known as prime vineyard land. He also acquired the 115th winery bond issued by the State of California.

Van Ballentine’s father John left his native County Tyrone in Ireland in 1910 for San Francisco and wound up in Napa Valley after a little more than a decade in the city by the bay. In 1922, he purchased 160 acres that included a defunct winery that had been built in 1921 by a relative of Napa pioneer John Sutter, and was the original Sutter Home winery. When Prohibition ended in 1933, John Ballentine was one of the first to apply for a new winery bond that was immediately followed by his first vintage, released the same year.

Van Ballentine, 76, recalls that he was 7 or 8 when he began helping his father around the winery. Initially, his small size allowed him to squeeze through the small manhole opening in the storage casks when cleaning time came around, a chore his entire family was happy to hand him.

The initial Ballentine wine business lasted until around 1960 but the Ballentine family remained in the industry as growers after the winery closed. The world of grape growing was an arduous one, and Van Ballentine secretly yearned for the time when he could get back into the winery segment of his favorite vocation. That came in 1992, nearly seventy years after his father had purchased his first vineyard property.

Ballentine Vineyards produced their first wines in 1993 and released their first 3,000 cases two years later. In addition to the case goods, Ballentine Vineyards continued to custom crush as much juice as their winery permit allowed. The custom crushing also allowed the Ballentines to pay some bills during the winery’s embryonic period.

Through it all, Van Ballentine has remained a purist with regard to vineyard management and ultimate control of the wines that bear his name. He also steadfastly maintains that wine quality begins and ends in the vineyard and spends endless hours ensuring his vines receive perfect handling and care.

“No one in Napa Valley tends to their vineyards like Van does,” a proud Betty Ballentine added. “And what’s more important is that he really enjoys doing it. It is truly in his blood.”

Ballentine Vineyards’ production has risen steadily over the past decade and currently rests right around the 10,000-case level. Van is happy with the present numbers but admits he is open to expansion “if the timing and circumstances are right.”

The winery’s estate vineyards currently consist of three separate vineyards. The long standing Pocai Ranch that reaches between the Napa River and the Silverado Trail was part of Betty’s family’s original vineyard land bought by her grandfather. The celebrated Crystal Springs Vineyard at the base of Howell Mountain is the source of much impeccable fruit and the simply named Home Vineyard surrounds the present Ballentine Vineyards Winery as well as the Ballentines’ home that are located on the property.

Van and Betty Ballentine recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at, what else, a wine tasting event. This time it was in Las Vegas, at a pouring occasion sponsored by UNLV that was cleverly dubbed UNLVino.

We are confident you will be more than pleased with the Ballentine’s special offering of 2820 Wine Company Zinfandel.