2009 Petite Sirah
Fig Tree Vineyard
The 2009 vintage was a great growing season and great for
Petite Sirah. An average year for seasonal temperatures and
dry through harvest, Ballentine was really able to dial in the
ripening on this vineyard. The loamy loose soil on our Fig
Tree Ranch allows for mid season ripening and small berries,
whose concentration is evidenced by the finished wine
They press off the Petite Sirah at dryness and barrel age in French
oak for a period of 14 months. The wine is racked a little
more rigorously over its life to allow the tannins to mature
and body to develop with the additional exposure to air while
racking. It is then bottled on the younger side to keep that vibrant
fruit as bright as possible.
The Ballentine 2009 Petite Sirah has intense aromas of violets and
boysenberries. Blueberries, cherries, and plum all dance
across the palate while Sipping this wine. There are some
caramel and toffee notes from the well integrated oak that
nuance this wine and make it seem more like a fresh berry
Texturally very full the entry is rather silky smooth while
the weight builds as the wine slides across the roof of the
mouth finishing showing off its muscle. Flavors of
boysenberries linger on the palate for a long time while the
tannins are not shy on the finish with a bit of bittersweet
chocolate and coffee.
While great with food, try it will an all cheese dinner and you will be rewarded.
At about $24 retail, you’re going to like this one.
Copyright 2012 By Punchin International. All Rights Reserved.
100 Petite Sirah
10th_26th September 2009
14 months in French oak barrels;
25 of which was new French oak
2820 St. Helena Hwy N., St. Helena, CA 94574
Winery 707. 963.7919 Fax 707. 963.6090
Office 707.963.3493 Fax 707.963.5129
Planted on our Crystal Springs ranch located at the northeast
edge of the St. Helena appellation, this vineyard is shaded
from the early morning sun. The peak exposure is late in the
day when the sun hangs low over the Myacamas & the
ground has warmed up. Usually the last of our sites to ripen,
the rocky and loamy soil helps de-vigorate the vines and
improve the tannin structure of the grapes from this vineyard.
The Petite Sirah is located at the eastern most edge of this
vineyard and is dutifully guarded by two staunch old fig trees.
Betty’s grandfather, Libero Pocai arrived in California in 1884 at the age of 22. He left the small city of Lucca, Italy to make his fortune, with dreams of returning home. Before a small sum could be amassed, his father died, leaving him little reason to return to Italy. He fortunately met Maria Cristofani and soon they married. Maria was also the daughter of an Italian immigrant family. They planned to stay in San Francisco, while Libero found work in the wood and coal business. But Maria’s health suffered and the family doctor told Libero to get her to the country. On April 18th 1906, the catastrophic earthquake of San Francisco encouraged them to make their way to the upper end of Napa Valley, near Calistoga. Libero knew he was destined to plant a vineyard, make wine, and raise a family. He had the foresight or the unbelievable luck to purchase 60 acres of the best possible vineyard land in the Napa Valley. It was purchased from the T.H. Steele family. The early deed to the land recorded that payment was made in gold coins.
In many ways, the land was golden. The vineyard’s soil was identified as bale gravely loam. It was the timeless result of alluvial deposits having their origin in rhyolitic rocks. It was difficult backbreaking work to plant a vineyard in this rocky soil. The gravel constantly interfered with the farming implements. A team of horses tilled the vineyard. Luckily, the rewarding attribute of the soil is that it is well drained and outstandingly adapted to grape vines. Libero planted a variety of wine grapes: Zinfandel, Merlot, Charbono, Petite Sirah and Gamay. He acquired the 115th winery bond in the state. Today, there are over 5,600 bonded wineries in California.
Libero named his winery after his family, L. Pocai and Sons. The winery produced, at its peak, about 50,000 gallons. At the prestigious California State Fair, L.Pocai and Sons won a gold medal in 1951 for Claret, a gold medal in 1954 for Gamay and a bronze medal for Zinfandel in 1947. The state fair wine competition began in 1947 and ran until 1959. For its time, it was the only visible accolade a winery could hold.
Libero had two sons, Frank and Henry. The boys took immense pride in helping their father in the vineyard and in the winery. They had little leisure time, but they were far from underprivileged. Both boys had a bicycle at a time when most families would have made one do. In 1910, their parents bought them their first car, to celebrate an exceptionally good harvest. Ironically enough, the next year a hard frost wiped out their entire crop. Henry never married but Frank married Anna Cavagnaro and together they had two daughters, Betty and Marie. Betty Pocai grew up in Calistoga and graduated from Calistoga High School. She went to Armstrong College, for an accounting degree. Back in Napa Valley, she worked for more than a decade at the Charles Krug Winery. Her father, Frank, and Uncle Henry continued to produce wines, until they retired in 1963 and closed their winery doors. Sadly, it was also the year that Maria Pocai passed away at the age of 94. The vineyards continued to produce grapes, which were in strong demand and sold to a shortlist of emerging Napa Valley wineries. The historic Pocai Ranch is the backbone of our Merlot program and the reserve wines called “Bg”.
Van Ballentine grew up in St. Helena. His father, John Ballentine emigrated in 1910 from his small farming estate in Omagh, County Tyrone, Ireland to San Francisco. His family estate was called Deer Park and it left a lasting impression on him. He lived in San Francisco for a decade before he moved to Napa Valley. Van’s mother, Ellen Gerhardt, was born and educated in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She came to California in 1921 and lived in Yuba City and the San Francisco area. She came to St. Helena in 1924 where she married John J. Ballentine. They had two children, Van and Helen.
On September 5th 1922, during Prohibition, when it was an illegal act to produce and sell wine, John purchased 160 acres and an old stone winery. The winery was built in 1891, by Emil Leuenberger, who was married to the daughter of John Sutter. The winery was the original Sutter Home Winery and remained so until 1909, when they sold it to three Italian families for only $25.00 in gold. The new owners were never able to make a go of it and when Prohibition started in 1920, they totally neglected the property. With a twinkle in his Irishman’s eye, John saw the abandoned winery as his possible pot of gold. He felt that it was both an idyllic place to raise his family and his opportunity to resurrect the winery. All he needed to do was wait. Prohibition ended in 1933. John Ballentine was one of the first to apply for a winery bond and received number 3595. He named their estate Deer Park. Luckily the vineyards were still producing grapes and the first vintage of Ballentine wines was 1933.
Van was a young child, but he pitched in to help. Since he was the youngest in his family he often was chosen to clean out the wine tanks. As a small boy he could easily squeeze through the small manhole opening. He followed his father, quite literally in his footstep, planting vineyards, pruning vines and making wine. They produced Cabernet, Zinfandel, Claret, Riesling and Sauterne. By age 14, he came full circle and now he was driving his father to San Francisco and delivering Ballentine wines to quaint Italian restaurants and city nightclubs.
Van entered the Navy in 1945 and returned to Napa Valley after his tour of duty. He continued to work with his father, developing a deep love for wine making and working the land. John and Van shared the winemaking duties as well as the management of the vineyards.
1934 thru 1950 were reported to be the most difficult 16 years in the wine industry. In 1934 there were only sixty wineries in Napa Valley, mostly small operations like Ballentine’s Deer Park. In the next 16 years, wineries started up and folded. The 1940’s ended with four years of near drought conditions. Grape prices fluctuated wildly, fine bottles of wine were still priced under one dollar. Bulk wine was being sold for fifteen cents to thirty cents a gallon.
John Ballentine decided to retire as the winemaker in 1959 and Ballentine Winery at Deer Park closed its doors. In 1979, the winery was sold to David and Kinta Clark. Van owned another vineyard site, which was purchased in 1949, at the base of Howell Mountain on Crystal Springs Road. This site was originally planted to Zinfandel, Cabernet, Petite Sirah and Syrah. To date, Van has worked more than 60 vintages in Napa Valley. His family winery and vineyards have always been the core of his working life. He knows the vines as an architect knows his building. He also became a vineyard manager for Christian Brothers, managing all of their northern Napa properties from the late 50’s to the mid 60’s.
To date, Van has worked more than 60 vintages in Napa Valley.
Betty and Van met as children. Betty was in a piano recital at the Tucker Farm Center and she still remembers catching Van’s glances. They were both from Napa Valley, both winery kids. They attended different schools but they shared the same farming experience. They have been happily married for over 50 years. They have two sons, Frank and Bill, and four grandchildren.
Today, Ballentine owns 100 acres of vines spread among the Crystal Springs Vineyard at the base of Howell Mountain, Pocai Ranch between the Napa River and the Silverado Trail and the Home Vineyard at the winery. After selling their grapes for many years to wineries; Cabernet Sauvignon to Caymus, Cabernet Franc to Rombauer, Zinfandel to Rosenblum, Ravenswood and Mondavi, Van and Betty decided to revive the Ballentine brand that Van and his dad worked at for many years at Deer Park. They started by having their grapes custom crushed for a small production in 1992. In 1995, they built a winery, behind their 100-year-old farmhouse. They revived the original bonded winery number 3595 issued to his father, John Ballentine, in 1933 after prohibition ended. Ballentine Vineyards produces red wines, perfectly suited to the Northern Napa Valley climate and vineyards. Our production is less than 10,000 cases of Zinfandel, Syrah, Merlot and with a future release of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah and Cabernet Fran