1910-1924 - John J. Ballentine

First Generation

John J. Ballentine, Frank Ballentine’s paternal grandfather, was an immigrant from Omagh in Northern Ireland’s Tyrone County who came to America at 26 years old by way of the Columbia steamship from Glasgow to New York. He headed West and settled in San Francisco. John worked as an auto mechanic and chauffeur when he married his first wife, Marie Carrere, a French dressmaker, in 1914. They had two children, Lorraine (1913) and Robert (1918), whom they raised in St. Helena and remained in the Bay Area for the rest of their lives. In 1922, John purchased the old Sutter Home Winery from Massimo and Adelina Ferrero on Howell Mountain. For $7,150.00 in gold coins, the Ballentines acquired 160 acres of land, winemaking equipment, a mule, a horse, two cows, a dozen and a half chickens, and hay in the barn. He renamed it Ballentine’s Deer Park Winery after his family’s cattle ranch and dairy farm in Ireland. In 1923, his beloved wife Marie passed away.

Less than a year later, John met Ellen Gerhardt from New Mexico and remarried. They had two children, Helen (1926) and William “Van” (1927), both of whom were born at the Sanitarium in Deer Park.

John was among the first to apply for a winery bond when prohibition was repealed in 1933. After receiving Bond #3533, he produced his inaugural wine, a Cabernet Sauvignon, among the first in Napa Valley. With a 65,000-gallon capacity, he also produced Zinfandel and Riesling under Ballentine’s Deer Park Winery. During this time, John Ballentine was the first to suggest to Robert Mondavi that their family should consider reviving Charles Krug’s pioneer stone winery.

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