ORO Restaurant and Lounge with William Cole Winery
Sponsored by Abel & Barbara Zalcberg
William Cole Vineyards
When William and Jane Ballentine bought a nineteenth century ghost winery in St. Helena in 1999, little did they know it would take them years to open its doors which had been shuttered since Prohibition. They enthusiastically began an extensive renovation of the 1873 stone wine cellar on the bottom level of the historic three-story building while they moved their family into the top two floors. Throughout the project they began to uncover the incredibly rich history of the property and it became their goal to restore the original integrity of the winery and incorporate modern winemaking techniques. The property was deemed so important to the history of the Napa Valley that the county wrote a special historic ordinance to allow it to be reopened as a winery. By 2004, they had completed restoration and opened as a fully operational winery. In honor of tradition, they named it William Cole for ‘William’ and their son Cole and dedicated their Cabernet Sauvignon, Cuvée Claire, to their daughter ‘Claire’.
The fourth generation in his family to make wine in Napa Valley, William Ballentine, Jr. has winemaking in his blood. Growing up among the vines, tending grapes and making wine is the dominant theme of Williams life, a legacy handed down to him by his father, grandfather and great grandfather. William grew up in St. Helena on the family vineyard, which serendipitously is across the street from William Cole Vineyards. He studied business and finance along with enology and viticulture at Fresno State University and graduated in 1987.
A direct reflection of our soil composition along the lower slopes of Spring Mountain, ‘Cuvée Claire’ is cultivated from our 2.5 acre estate vineyard, which enjoys a historic legacy going back to the 1870s. The estate is comprised of a variety of soil types; silty loam and volcanic soils interlaced with black obsidian; our small vineyard is diverse and complex. These soils have excellent drainage which forces the cabernet vines to reach deep for their water and nutrients, what results is smaller, stressed berries which yield thicker skins and ultimately more concentrated flavors ensuring a rich and cellar worthy wine. “My Goal in the vineyard is to celebrate the distinct qualities that each of the varying soil types has to offer.”
Our winemaking practices are gentle and slow. “The timing of everything in the creation of our wine is based on taste,” William says. “There is no hard and fast schedule and no rush in the winemaking process. ‘Cuvée Claire’ is allowed to work its magic slowly, which we believe results in a complex, elegant wine that represents the best of Napa Valley.”
Thompson 31Fifty Wines
Michael Thompson, the 56-year-old founder and CEO of ITS Technical Services, an electronics manufacturing company, has spent a small fortune collecting wine. He has also generated a considerable sum by giving it away.
By his own estimate, he has personally raised in excess of $500,000 by donating wine to and purchasing wine at charity auctions. As a patron of Emeril Lagasse's Carnivale du Vin and Nashville's L'Eté du Vin and as a founding board member of the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation, he has secured donations, recruited vintner participation and bid on or sold a variety of premium lots. Some of his major consignments have included 6-liter verticals of David Arthur Elevation, large-format California Cabernet Sauvignons from the acclaimed 1997 vintage, and verticals of Château Cos-d'Estournel from 1982 to 2000.
"Charity wine auctions take up a large portion of my life," Thompson explains. "I have made some lifelong friends through my philanthropic wine endeavors."
The Thompsons purchased their six-and-a-half-acre vineyard property in the Russian River Valley (RRV) appellation on Westside Road, known as the Rodeo Drive of the RRV in Healdsburg, California. Well-known wineries such as Rochioli Vineyards, Williams Selyem, Arista, Gary Farrell, and Thomas George are located along this prestigious stretch.
Thompson 31Fifty Winery was born with the planting of over four acres of vineyards in August 2014. The vines will take three to four years to mature under the eye of famous vineyard manager and grower Ulises Valdez. An immigrant from Mexico and now a US citizen, Valdez started from nothing and is known for his hard work, passion, and family values. He now owns the Valdez Family Winery, which has been featured in Wine Spectator magazine. The other integral part of the Thompson 31Fifty team is winemaker Patrick Sullivan, whose career has included stints at Spring Mountain, Rudd, Lewis Cellars, Paul Hobbs, and Peter Michael. His experience covers a broad spectrum of wine regions and varietals, prominently Burgundy, making him an ideal partner.
Thompson 31Fifty is a boutique winery with limited production; only 125 cases were bottled in 2013, and production doubled to 250 cases in 2014. The Thompsons believe that by having the best terroir, varietals, and team, their wine will reflect their passion for excellence.
It has been quite a story so far, and the Thompsons will avidly continue their journey through life with their passion and dedication not only for fine wines, but also for making a difference in the lives of many.
ORO Restaurant and Lounge
ORO Restaurant & Lounge, located in the heart of Downtown Raleigh, is a fun, chic, and casual restaurant in the PNC Building. Rather than offering individual starters and main courses, ORO serves dishes that are designed for sharing among friends and are brought to the table steadily and continuously throughout the meal. ORO’s wine list, cocktail selection, and variety of local beers are diverse and exciting to please all palates.
Chris Hylton, Owner and Executive Chef of ORO, began his culinary career in Los Angeles, California at age 18 and came to Raleigh from Washington, DC where he was the Executive Chef at OYA Restaurant & Lounge. Prior to making his way to the east coast, Chris held a number of culinary and management positions at various restaurants in Los Angeles including Mobay, Kas-bah, and Linq. Chris enjoys pairing recognizable foods with international flavors and ingredients to create unique dishes that are powerful in flavor and beautiful in design. Chris uses local and seasonal ingredients whenever possible and is constantly evolving the menu to create the latest in food trends and seasonal delicacies.