831 Wine Company
Producing a wide range of terrier-driven wines based in the 831 area code of Monterey County
This relatively new winery was developed out of the owner’s feeling that a winery was needed that correctly focused on a particular growing area’s ability to produce exceptional fruit that could be made into extraordinary wines.
The result of such thinking produced the 831 Wine Company for owners Bob and Daphne Balentine.
“I have long felt that Monterey County is one of the truly prime growing areas in all of California, and that includes the Napa Valley and Sonoma County,” offered Bob Balentine during a recent interview. “We have a wonderful climate, great soils and a diversity of conditions that makes Monterey County a special place for growing grapes. There is also the Blue Grand Canyon (see Region section) that might be the best kept secret in California winegrowing circles.”
831 Wine Company first saw the light of day in late 2013 with the release of a smallish (fewer than 250 cases) number of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir cases. Trade reception was quite immediate and rewarding and 831 Wine Company will produce around 3,000 cases this year.
“Our goal is to get to around 6 -7,000 cases,” Balentine continued. “Our other winery, Line Shack Wines, started off quite small and we were able to grow it to around 20,000 cases this year. We intend to develop slowly and let the market dictate our expansion.”
For the record, the name 831 Wine Company is a story unto itself. 831 is the area code that serves Monterey County, the growing area on which Bob Balentine wanted his new winery to focus. “There are actually seven sub-appellations within the 831 area code and we wanted a distinctive way to feature their produce. The county has great diversity in climates, and is cold in some appellations and warmer in others. This allows for our growers to produce a wide variety of grape varietals and it is up to us as vintners to purchase the correct grapes from the precise appellations.”
At this point, 831 Wine Company buys all of its fruit, but that scenario is about to change. The Balentines have purchased a 70-acre tract in the San Antonio Valley that will be planted next year to Cabernet Sauvignon, Bob Balentine’s varietal of choice. They are also looking at two additional vineyard sites that, should they be acquired, would also be planted in the near future.
“We are all about putting back into the land,” Balentine confessed. “Our family is convinced that adding property is the way to go for our wineries. We would be responsible for the plants and would reap the rewards if the fruit proves to be as good as we hope.”
831 Wine Company could easily be called the Balentine Wine Company. Bob does all the sourcing as well as all the winemaking of red wines, while Daphne makes the white wines and also serves as the office manager and compliance director. A cousin with years of wine marketing experience, Kelli Balentine, handles the company’s marketing, while son Jack, 19, is the cellar manager and assistant to Bob. Daughter Morgan, 21, is responsible for the social media aspect of the business and son Nick, 10, is the barrel cleaner and bung expert of the operation.
The owners of 831 Wine Company are an All-American wine family who make up the backbone of the California wine industry. Their wines are well-made and offer a great value to consumers. It is a pleasure to introduce our Gold Wine Club members to these outstanding selections. Enjoy!
Bob Balentine - Owner & Winemaker
Owner/winemaker Bob Balentine regards himself as one of a dying breed of California winemakers.
Self-taught, he now has more than twenty-five years of success under his belt in producing numerous award-winning wines that have also provided excellent price/value relationships in the competitive marketplace.
Balentine credits a long time Italian family friend, Lucio Gomiero, the owner of two highly successful Italian wineries, with introducing him to the delights of wine and winemaking. “I was growing radicchio and Lucio was called the ‘King of Radicchio” in Italy. We became friends and Lucio taught me the attention to detail that is so important in making really great wines,” related Bob Balentine. “Both of his wineries, Vignata and La Florita, have consistently produced among the finest Italian wines, so I naturally followed his advice. I am quite elated, as well as being lucky, that his tutelage has proven to be so successful.”
More on Bob Balentine
He can claim that he attended the same high school (Salinas High School) that the immortal John Steinbeck attended, but Bob Balentine, now 53, took a different course than man of today’s noted winemakers.
“I initially began as a farmer growing vegetables for my family,” Balentine confessed. “At one point, I was introduced to a great Italian farmer (see Winemaker section) who also owned a pair of noted Italian wineries. He made me see the value of drinking and enjoying wines. This experience morphed into the first wine company my family owned, and the subsequent development of 831 Wine Company.”
Since money was a valuable commodity in the beginning (and according to Balentine still is), he made the important decision to utilize the existence of the alternating proprietorship regulation that existed in the United States. The alternating proprietor is allowed to share usage of an existing bonded winery. The AP has lower investment in equipment and premises, but is responsible for all of its own production, records, reporting, labeling and taxes. The entity must also qualify as an alternating proprietorship to be allowed to operate.”
“When we started,” recalled Balentine, “I guess there were some 75 or so AP’s operating in our area. The number has been whittled down a great deal, maybe about 60% or even more. But that hasn’t stopped new people from coming into the business. All I can say is that these newcomers had better know the wine business before starting up an AP - the competition in the marketplace is just too fierce.”
Balentine has always relished a challenge and after twenty-five years as an owner/winemaker, he has developed some preferences along the way. The venerable Cabernet Sauvignon has emerged as his favorite grape and has even caused him to purchase land in the warmest part of Monterey County (the San Antonio Valley) to plant his first vines. “I started as a farmer and it looks like I will experience the full circle when we plant our first vines. I truly enjoy working with the soil and I think I understand the subtleties that come with caring for vineyards. We have put all our resources into these plantings and I just can’t wait to see the first fruit that comes out,” he added.
For many people, the success of his first winery, Line Shack Wines, would have been enough, but Bob Balentine is not your ordinary person. Balentine was one of the first vintners to extoll the virtues of Cabernet Sauvignon in Monterey County and has been proven to be correct in his prophecies. He has studied the microclimates of his home area and knows what varietals will produce the best fruits from a given appellation.
Finally, Bob Balentine is personally gratified that Monterey County has finally gained recognition as a major quality producer of fruit, an actuality that took several decades to achieve. “We have a perfect climate,” he finalized, “but it took a lot of hard work to get there.”
By now it is entirely possible that anyone truly interested in California wine has heard about the magnificent fruit that evolves from the region commonly called the Monterey County Wine Growing Area. The remarkable fact is that this well-deserved reputation did not reach fruition until the past half-decade.
There are many theories that have been advanced as to why this evolution has happened, but one seems to have received great credulence. Insiders simply refer to this phenomenon as the Blue Grand Canyon.
Factually, the Blue Grand Canyon is an enormous submarine canyon that is sixty miles long and two miles deep just off the coastline of Monterey Bay. It is the largest and deepest on the West Coast and among the largest in the entire world. Its proximity to the shoreline makes it even more unique and makes it comparable to its more famous cousin in nearby Arizona.
This climatic pathway stands at the very doorstep to the wine growing regions of Monterey County and affects the area’s viticultural prowess through fog, wind, moderate temperatures and an almost complete lack of rain through the growing season.
The Blue Grand Canyon expresses itself in a most delicious manner. Wines grown in this region are a reflection of their vineyards’ “sense of place,” a direct upshot of this unique meeting of land and sea.
The Blue Grand Canyon lies just one hundred yards off Moss Landing (some fifteen miles north northeast of the City of Monterey) and was formerly a busy whaling port. Archaeological digs have provided evidence that the Ohlone Indians may have lived in the area as long as 4,000 years ago.