Napa Valley AVA
More than 100 acres of prime Napa Valley vineyards.
Ballentine Vineyard’s roots run deep beneath the soils of Napa Valley where they continue to farm their 100+-year-old Estate Vineyards and produce wonderful wines that are true expressions of the terroir. They are one of the few and true old, small family wineries in Napa Valley.
Founded by immigrants Libero Pocai from Italy, and John Ballentine from Ireland, the winery has been owned and operated by four generations since 1906, yet still remains a hidden gem. Today, Van and Betty Ballentine (third generation) and their son Frank Ballentine continue to build on the legacy of respect for the land and enjoyment of the wines with family and with all who visits them.
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 original family vineyard land bought by her grandfather.
The celebrated Crystal Springs Vineyard at the base of Howell Mountain, however, is where the winery sources much of their impeccable fruit. The simply named Home Vineyard surrounds the present Ballentine Vineyards Winery as well as the Ballentines’ home that are located on the property.
“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.”
We are happy to offer this small production release as a Platinum Plus! selection.
About the Vineyard
All of Ballentine’s estate grown grapes come from two of Napa Valley’s most prestigious appellations, St. Helena and Calistoga. Both are located in what is considered the upper valley, at Napa’s northern end. The three separate vineyards that comprise Ballentine’s estates provide an excellent cross section of micro-climatization that is important to the style of wines that Ballentine Vineyards continues to produce.
The two sub regions (St. Helena and Calistoga) contain both mountainous and flat (valley) vineyards and are considered among the elite growing areas in Northern California. They occupy the eastern slopes of the Mayacamas Ridge and are subject to the same cool nights and sun-filled days that the rest of Napa Valley enjoys. Red varietals dominate the plantings but an occasional white vineyard can be found in selected spots. Many of Napa Valley’s finest wines originate in this region that is held in the highest worldwide regard.
Bruce Devlin - Winemaker
Like many other preeminent Napa Valley winemakers, Bruce Devlin is a graduate of UC Davis. He also has worked for wineries in South Africa, Germany and Australia before returning to California.
In South Africa, he became familiar with the venerable Chenin Blanc grape and now considers it his signature grape and wine. He has also consulted for a number of other Napa Valley wineries.
Van and Betty Ballentine
One might think that at age 81, Van Ballentine would begin to slow down a bit. Happily, this is not the case with the laid back owner of Ballentine Vineyards. "I can't really remember being interested in anything else since I was a child," Ballentine recalled in a recent interview. My father was dedicated to the wine business and I guess it just rubbed off on me." For the record, Van Ballentine has recently completed his 64th consecutive harvest, a number that puts him in rarified air amongst Napa Valley growers and vintners. While he admits to slowing down a bit, he remains a formidable outside force when his prized vineyards are picked each year.
His wife of many decades, Betty, herself a descendent of an original Napa Valley pioneering winery family, tells it this way: "No one in Napa Valley tends to their vineyards like Van does," she said proudly. "And what's really more important is the fact that he really enjoys doing it. He says it's something that is in his blood and anyone who knows him knows it is true. Van recalls that he was either seven or eight when he began helping his dad around the winery. At first he simply followed his father helping wherever he could. Then, his small statue was put to good use when he was able to fit through the small opening that allowed him to clean the inside of the empty tanks. As with most Napa Valley wine families, the Ballentines have had their share of ups and downs. Van remembers times in the valley during the 1950s when money wasn't very available and a really good bottle of wine could be bought for under a dollar.
Van's career included a stint as the vineyard manager for the huge Christian Brothers facility just north of the town of St. Helena, a period that Van described as "eye opening to see wines made on such a large scale. It sort of made me appreciate the fact that as a small winemaker you tend to have a great deal more flexibility in making decisions about your wines." Van Ballentine is also proud of his no-nonsense approach to wines. He pleaded his cause with a direct approach to the business.
"I just want to make something that is good to drink. I place a good deal of emphasis on the fruit content and have stayed away from over-oaking the finish. Betty and I have done a huge number of public tastings and from the feedback I get from many consumers, the type of wines I make actually taste better to many of them. After all, the idea is when you drink one of my bottles I want you to want another right away. In the end, isn't that what it's all about’" At an age when many of his peers have retired and taken a seat on the sidelines, Van Ballentine continues to perform on the playing field that is the wine industry. His wines are as subtle as his personality and are among the true values of the Napa Valley. The wines of Ballentine Vineyards reflect a period of times past in Northern California and of an era that allowed Napa Valley to emerge as one of the great wine producing regions in the entire world. Happily, Van Ballentine was around during those times and reflects it well with his lovely wines.