When William and Jane Ballentine bought a nineteenth century ghost winery in St. Helena in 1999, little did they know it would take them three years to acquire a permit to open its doors which had been shuttered since Prohibition. The reason: county laws prohibited restoration of abandoned wineries with less than ten acres and the young couple only owned five. After several years working with the county, the Ballentines received a special historic winery ordinance that allowed them to reopen the 1873 winery.
As soon as Jane and Bill had the permit in hand, they enthusiastically began a three-year renovation of the stone wine cellar on the bottom level of the historic three-story building while they moved their family into the top two floors. By 2004, they had completed restoration and William Cole Vineyards opened as a fully operational 5,000 square foot winery. For Jane and Bill, who run the winemaking and winegrowing operation of the three acre, estate planted cabernet sauvignon themselves, commuting to work is just a stairway away.
A fourth-generation vintner with family roots stretching back over 100 years in Napa Valley, William Ballentine, Jr. manages the estate vineyard and serves as winemaker. His ‘Cuvee Claire’ is produced primarily from the estate’s 13-year-old cabernet sauvignon vines.
Jane and Bill’s teenage children, Cole and Claire, have expressed a desire to carry on the family winemaking tradition. Actively involved and eager to learn the business of growing and making wine, Cole has committed to collegiate viticulture studies in a few years, a commitment and determination not lost on his father. "This is a long-term commitment," Bill says. "What we don't achieve in my lifetime for this estate, my children most likely will. We’re pleased with what we've achieved so far and we’re excited about our children carrying on our family legacy of making fine wine.