Winemaker: William Ballentine
The fourth generation in his family to make wine in Napa Valley, William Ballentine, Jr. has winemaking in his blood. Growing up among the vines, tending grapes and making wine is the dominant theme of Bill’s life, a legacy handed down to him by his father, grandfather and great grandfather.
After working for Gallo Wine Company in the late 1980’s, Bill joined his father Van Ballentine of Ballentine Vineyards to replant and develop vineyards in Napa Valley that had been in the family since Bill’s ancestors immigrated to the valley and built wineries during the early 1900s. In those years Bill’s maternal great grandfather, Libero Pocai, established Pocai Winery near Calistoga while Bill’s paternal grandfather, John Ballentine, opened Deer Park Winery on Howell Mountain. Following Prohibition, these ancestors worked with Andre Tchelitscheff, the late renowned Russian winemaker who influenced Napa Valley winemaking.
While growing grapes and managing vineyards for his family and others in the Napa Valley in the 1980s and 1990s, Bill made wine with his father for Ballentine Vineyards. Eager to hone his cabernet harvesting and blending techniques, in 1998 he became the winemaker for St. Clement Vineyards in St. Helena where he had the opportunity to work with many of the world’s great winemakers. Bill’s winemaking excellence was officially validated when the 1997 St. Clement Cabernet Sauvignon he blended was ranked #30 on the Wine Spectator’s list of "The Best 100 Wines In The World".
In 2001, Bill left St. Clement to concentrate on opening his own winery and on winemaking consulting for small, quality-driven growers, many of whom he has helped develop and build wineries throughout Napa Valley.
In 2004, Bill and his wife Jane opened the doors of William Cole Vineyards north of St. Helena on the lower slopes of Spring Mountain after purchasing and restoring the old 1873 ghost winery. William Cole Vineyards is named after Bill and the couple’s 17-year old son Cole. ‘Cuvee Claire’ Cabernet Sauvignon honors their 13-year old daughter Claire. Bill’s other interests include fishing, hiking, supporting youth sports, mentoring local young people to pursue careers in agriculture and preserving the agriculture climate in Napa Valley through Future Farmers of America programs.
Bill grew up in St. Helena on the family vineyard, which serendipitously is across the street from William Cole Vineyards. He studied business and finance along with enology and viticulture at Fresno State University and graduated in 1987.