“Coming Home.” Review: Ballentine Vineyards Malvasia Bianca 2014

After a week in the Napa Valley, wherein I had visited more than twenty wineries, taken and passed my level one exams, and shared seemingly countless excellent dinners with friends old and new, I was on my way back to Omaha at last. I missed Sonja and Titus, and I knew they’d be glad to have me back after almost a week away. Driving south from Calistoga on 29, I spotted one familiar place after another, and then a sign. An obligatory flick of the blinker and a quick jerk of the wheel and I had pulled in for a final unplanned stop.

Ballentine Vineyards has been a favorite of Sonja’s and mine for years. We once belonged to their wine club (before our growing family made us redo our budget) and we have stopped there more than once. We enjoy the people, the small feel of the tasting room, the history and, of course, the wine. I tasted through a few, knowing I had a plane to catch, and picked out this bottle to bring home to Sonja. Then a few nights ago, my parents in town to welcome their granddaughter into the world and all of us around the dinner table, Sonja and I agreed it was a good time to open it up.

Pale straw color with a greenish hue is complimented by an exciting floral bouquet. The sweetness hits the palate first, of course, yet recedes quickly, as water on the hood of a hot car in summer. What remains is a study in complexity. Terrific flavors of overripe stone fruits, minerals, sugary citrus, and mild herbs make this an interesting wine. It’s a varietal you don’t see much of in Napa or in the US in general, but if Ballentine keeps producing it as beautifully as they did this one, my hunch is we’ll see far more of it in time. Limited to 180 cases and very reasonably priced at around $25/bottle, this is a fun wine. My family and I enjoyed it a great deal, and I highly recommend it.



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