“As stewards of this estate it is our goal to preserve the history and the integrity of the property and we are incredibly proud to be able to share it with others.”
– William & Jane Ballentine, Proprietors
When William and Jane Ballentine bought a nineteenth century ghost winery in St. Helena in 1999, little did they know it would take them years to open its doors which had been shuttered since Prohibition. They enthusiastically began an extensive renovation of the 1873 stone wine cellar on the bottom level of the historic three-story building while they moved their family into the top two floors. Throughout the project they began to uncover the incredibly rich history of the property and it became their goal to restore the original integrity of the winery and incorporate modern winemaking techniques. The property was deemed so important to the history of the Napa Valley that the county wrote a special historic ordinance to allow it to be reopened as a winery. By 2004, they had completed restoration and opened as a fully operational winery. In honor of tradition, they named it William Cole for ‘William’ and their son Cole and dedicated their Cabernet Sauvignon, Cuvée Claire, to their daughter ‘Claire’.
The early days of the Estate
In 1869, John and Hannah Weinberger purchased a 240-acre estate in St. Helena from Charles and Carolina Krug and began building a winery that would take three years, $3,000 and hold the distinction of being the first stone wine cellar in St. Helena.
Hannah Weinberger took control over the winery operations in 1882 after a disgruntled former employee murdered her husband. She is celebrated as Napa Valley’s first woman winery owner and winemaker. Hannah ran the winery for 38 years until Prohibition closed it down in 1920. After her death at age ninety-one, the property was parceled away to its existing 5 acres.
The property remained vacant until 1938, when the Harrison family of San Francisco purchased the estate. They commissioned famed architect Bourn Hayne to convert the top two levels of the dilapidated gravity-flow winery into a summer residence. In 1956, the Gonser family purchased the property and used it as a summer home until 1999 when the Ballentines acquired the property.
Having only 4 owners in its 140 plus years, has enabled the estate to remain remarkably intact to its original design. William and Jane have taken great pains to preserve and take immense pride in as “stewards of the land.”