History (and great wine!) at Halter Ranch Vineyard
As I mentioned in my previous blog entry, I’ve just returned from a visit to the Central Coast AVA. We stopped in Santa Barbara County for a couple of days, but my main focus on this visit was to taste in Paso Robles. We had the opportunity to taste at many wonderful wineries, but today I’m going to focus on Halter Ranch Vineyard, located in the heart of Paso Robles’ Westside Adelaida District.
Full of history, Halter Ranch is one fun winery to visit. We were fortunate enough to embark on the full tour, hosted by our informative and personable guide Ray King. After checking out the Victorian farmhouse built in 1885 (which is a Paso Robles landmark!), we were loaded into a Jeep and crossed their picturesque covered bridge. Then off we drove into the 280 acres of vineyards!
We were shown some of their newly planted vines as well as a lot of old vine plantings. We stopped along the way for some breathtaking views, all while Ray was sharing a lot of the winery’s history and explaining which varietals were planted in which blocks, and why!
The highlight of the vineyards may not have been vines at all (although they WERE spectacular), but a huge, very old Coast Live Oak tree. Thought to be about 600 years old, it is one of two largest trees of this variety in the world. The tree sits in the middle of their Block 11 Syrah vineyard. The rows of vines were planted in a radius around the Ancestor Oak (as they have named the tree) to twelve foot spacing so that the tractors could get between the rows when the vineyard was first planted back in 1996. This was definitely a photo op. As you can see by the picture, the branches have reached down into the ground and now help to support the massive tree.
At one point in the tour we hooked up with another group headed by Assistant Winemaker Molly Lonborg. Our two groups became one as we began the tour of the winery itself.
Halter Ranch’s winery is the most state of the art I’ve seen. Architect John Mitchell worked closely with the winemaking team (headed by Winemaker Kevin Sass) to design this multi-level facility that employs gravity flow in all facets of the winemaking process. This allows the fruit to be handled in the gentlest way possible to get the grapes from the de-stemmer to the tank.
Molly showed us around the pristine facility, stopping to explain some of the many green aspects of the new facility, including rain harvesting water systems, the night cooling system, and a gravity based CO2 evacuation system. After showing off their new de-stemming machine and all of the other amazing features, she lead us to the cave where we saw barrels and barrels of fermenting juice!
Next up was a visit to their lab. Again, the lab was immaculately clean and fascinating. Molly shared some of the fun (and not so fun) stories of their days in the lab.
Last, but certainly not least, we were led to a beautiful outdoor patio where Ray began pouring us some of the Halter Ranch wines. This gorgeous spot was the ideal place to enjoy our tasting.
All of the Halter Ranch wines are good, but a few of them stood out for me.
Firstly, they make a rockin’ Rosé! Their 2014 is a blend of 71% Grenache, 9% Syrah, 13% Mourvèdre and 7% Picpoul Blanc. With aromas of strawberry and watermelon, it is made in the Provençal way and is refreshingly dry on the palate.
Another of my favorites was the 2012 Ancestor Estate Reserve. This is their flagship wine and is named after the “heart and soul” of their property, the Ancestor Tree. Comprised of 73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Malbec and 7% Petit Verdot, this lovely Bordeaux Blend has lots of dark fruit and mocha.
I also loved the 2012 Malbec Estate Reserve (76% Malbec, 20% Petit Verdot and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon) and the 2012 Syrah Block 22! Honestly, all of the wines we tasted were very well made and enjoyable.
So, if you’re in the Paso Robles area and would like to have a very memorable wine experience, be sure to put Halter Ranch on your list. You might even get really lucky and see the resident chickens.
Oh, and by the way … don’t forget to take your camera!
Halter Ranch is also SIP (Sustainability in Practice) Certified. To learn more, click here: http://www.sipcertified.org