In 1906, long before Napa Valley made its mark on the world wine stage, Frank Ballentine’s great grandparents Libero & Maria Pocai purchased 60 acres of Napa Valley vineyard with a handful of gold coins.
Libero Pocai was an immigrant from Lucca, Italy who knew he was destined to have a vineyard, grow grapes and make wine. He named it L. Pocai & Sons Winery and Vineyards, and he began to grow grapes, mainly Zinfandel, and applied for the 115th winery bond in 1912. At its peak, it produced 50,000 gallons. Their first award-winning wine, a Zinfandel, was recorded in 1947 when the first wine awards were started at the California State Fair Wine Competition.
The winery and vineyard were a family livelihood. Libero and Maria raised their two boys, Frank and Henry on the estate. Together they raised grapes and delivered them to a train station in a horse-drawn wagon.
Today, we call the historic vineyard Pocai after our first generation. This vineyard continues to produce award-winning wines from the same blocks including our current release Cabernet Franc and Reserve Zinfandel.
John Ballentine, Frank Ballentine’s grandfather, was an immigrant from Tyrone County, Ireland who landed in San Francisco in 1910. In 1922, he traveled to Napa with Ellen his wife. Together, they have two children, Van and Helen. They purchased 160 acres with vineyards and a winery on the west hillside of Howell Mountain that was the original Sutter Home Winery. He called it Ballentine’s Deer Park, after his farm in Ireland.
In 1933, right after Prohibition ended, John was one of the first to apply for a winery bond #3533 and produced his first wine in 1933. In fact, one of his wines was among the first Cabernet Sauvignon in Napa Valley.
During the subsequent decades, John and son, Van Ballentine purchased two other Napa Valley vineyards. Betty’s Vineyard, located north of St. Helena, was purchased in 1943 and is home to our winery as well as Betty Ballentine. Fig Tree Vineyard was purchased in 1949 and sits at the base of Howell Mountain on Crystal Springs Road.
Van Ballentine & Betty Pocai married in 1953, combining both family legacies and eventually their vineyards. Together, they had a vision and worked to build a legacy for their family and for future generations. Today’s Ballentine Vineyards exists because of their dream and their dedication over the years.
In 2012, Frank Ballentine rejoined his family and now remains committed to the promise of our land, honoring its continuous ability to produce great wines. With Frank’s business background and partnership with his mother, Betty as well as longtime Winemaker Bruce Devlin, the future of our winery and vineyards is bright. Our winery continues to work to improve our vineyards, wines, and host our wine fans at our St. Helena winery.
Enjoy authentic and old school Napa, see our vineyards and hear the stories while tasting the fruits of our Napa Valley wine harvest.