William Cole Vineyards is a premium winery producing 500-700 cases annually from a single vineyard. Even by Napa standards that is small and they are also the smallest producing winery that we know of in Napa Valley to have their own bottling line on site. This has its unique advantages as they are not tied into the schedules of having a mobile bottling truck come to the property.
The owner, vineyard manager and winemaker is Bill Ballentine who has a long family history in Napa Valley dating back over 100 years; he used to be the winemaker at nearby St. Clement Winery. The name of the winery comes from his own name and his son Cole. William Cole handcrafts a single vintage Cabernet Sauvignon each year from their estate property called Cabernet Sauvignon Cuvée Claire (named after his daughter).
Everyone has their own taste in Cabernet’s and their Cabernet Sauvignon fit our palate like a glove. Our visit here was very early on in our project and after tasting this wine this was the first winery where we said “yes, we get it”!
We are always looking for the “it” Cabernet Sauvignon wine during our Napa wine odyssey and this is definitely one of those. A local winemaker we met with previously describes “it” as having that special richness combined with elegance. The 2004 vintage is one of the nicer Cabernet’s that we’ve tried in Napa Valley. It is structured so that nothing dominates the wine, rather the acid, tannins and alcohol are extremely well managed and the overall structure is smooth and velvety. The nose is full of aromas of cherry and touches of vanilla from the French oak which lead to rich fruit flavors with a touch of mocha. Everything contained within this wine is representative of a very high quality Napa Cabernet.
2.5 acres are planted on site and extreme micro management goes into the making of this wine – there are even micro terroir (soil) regions within the small property and each of these regions is treated as its own unit during harvest, fermentation, aging and the actual winemaking.
The estate is gorgeous – it is located right next to Highway 29 North and you can drive by their location day in and day out and never know its there due to its hidden location behind the trees and bushes as well as the non signage. It is one of the first stone wineries built in St. Helena (dates from 1876) and originally opened as the JC Weinberger Winery. Starting in 1883 Hannah Weinberger became one of Napa Valley’s first woman winemakers. This was because her husband became a victim of St. Helena’s first murder after a disgruntled employee tricked him with a fake telegram and then shot him in broad daylight at the train platform. Yes, in our experience every ghost winery we have visited in the valley has some interesting history!
The current winery dates from 1997 which is over 90 years between vintages. Over the last few years a huge renovation and restoration was conducted and now the winery and grounds look sparkling. Parts of a more modern restoration and addition date from 1938 and include the pool and gardens behind the actual winery…definitely the oldest pool at a Napa winery! Also of note is William Cole typically places within the top barrel lots at the annual charity Napa Valley Auction.
A visit here is for very extremely serious wine enthusiasts and collectors as all visits and tours are private and the estate is opened for your party only. Visit: www.williamcolevineyards.com
NOTE: This review has been identified as needing a major update.