Gioconda in the Kitchen

These photos are from our cooking event in the Halter Ranch Victorian Farmhouse this past weekend.  Our neighbor and baker extraordinaire Ciro Pasciutto arranged this very special opportunity for a few lucky guests to take a crash course in Traditional Italian Cooking from his mother Gioconda.

The food was a smashing success –no surprise here!–and word is that the overall experience was wonderful and unique as well.  We’ve included a gallery below in the hope of conveying, via web-mosis, an echo of the past weekend’s delectible joy.  The dishes were paired with our current series of wines and it is dangerously pavlovian experience imagine our current series complemented by zesty Italian cuisine!

Halter Ranch Vineyard – Barn Projections

The barn to the left is our primary location for large gatherings onsite.  It was originally a livestock barn for the Smith and MacGillvray families when they occupied the property.  During the restoration of the Victorian farmhouse, the barn was also retrofitted so that it remains in an arrested state, preserving the 19th century aesthetic while remaining sturdy!

We have similar plans for the silo barn pictured below.  This second barn functioned as a storage and processing facility for the barley, safflower, and other dry growing grains farmed by the MacGillvrays in the the early-mid 20th century.

Ultimately, with the completion of the new facility and the restoration of the second barn, the lower half of our property including the current tasting room/victorian/bunkhouse area will become a picnic and special event area.  It will be a year or two more, but the tasting room will probably migrate up the hill to complement the winery.  The current building may then become more of a visitor’s center or *fingers crossed* a kitchen and dining area!

Vineyard Views

The morning’s rain made for more stunning views in the vineyard and around the new facility.  It is amazing to see the weekly change as it happens among the vines and on our various construction projects!

Monday looks to be big in regard to progress on the area surrounding the new tasting room.  We will be pressure washing the patio and letting it dry out before sealing it on Tuesday or Wednesday.  All this will take place as we prepare for Wine Festival next weekend!

In the new winery just 7 of the tank pads remain empty and the reverse osmosis system, a fundamental component of the winemaking process, is waiting on its last few pipe connections.

The Vineyard Drive entry gate is essentially complete but for the last bit of fencing immediately around it and the automatic mechanism for the gate!  Looking out the window every few minutes, the beauty of the day seems–miraculously!–to be increasing.

Pruning Continues at Halter Ranch

Pruning will be ongoing through early to mid-summer, depending upon the grape in question, until we begin seeing the first signs of Veraison.  Veraison is essentially the transition in the grapes from hard green berries to, again depending on the particular variety in question, plump black, purple, red, light green, yellow, or brown spheroids of juicy joy.

We focused our efforts this morning on Block 22B Syrah, grafted over from Cabernet Sauvignon in 2004.  22A and B are both Syrah (22A: Clone 383, 22B: Clone 174) and the two Syrah plantings that most consistently appear in our own bottlings.  We will be focusing on our top performing hillsides first as we work our way through the entire vineyard to open up areas on each vine that are becoming clogged with new growth.  It is a truly exciting and rewarding time to be among the vines!

Fresh Tasting Notes from the Halter Ranch Staff

2010 Sauvignon Blanc-True to form, the 2010 is bright and crisp with nice acidity, perfect for the season.  The character this time around tends a bit more toward the grapefruit end of the Sauvignon Blanc spectrum.

2010 Rose-One of the most popular wines on our list among staff and customers alike! Bright red fruit bursts through the nose on this reliable beauty.  Everything about it is pleasing!

2010 Cotes de Paso Blanc-Within our list, the Cotes Blanc expresses perhaps most directly the stony characteristics of our vineyard’s soil.  It begs for cucumbers, goat cheese, or possibly a little more time in the cellar to truly blossom.

2008 Cotes de Paso-The wonderful aromatics of our Grenache based blend reach the nose before the wine is even poured!  Its perfect melding of fruit and spice is liable to induce a Pavlovian salivation effect.  CdP 2008 drinks wonderfully immediately as it is poured from the bottle, no decanting or aerating necessary!

2008 Syrah-A little fuller than Cotes de Paso red, the 08 Syrah walks many paths.  It is great now with wonderful dark berry fruit and a little tannin.  It will age well for 10 years if cellaring is your game. Or, if you have a hearty dish in need of a deep purple companion this gorgeous wine is eager to oblige.

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon-Though it will reward some time lying down in your cellar, C.S. 2007 is perfectly drinkable immediately if you love some hearty dark fruit and tannin. Another wine that expresses itself enthusiastically when in the company of hearty meats and stews, the 07 among all Cabernet we’ve produced shows most excellently a blend of fruit oriented Paso style and Old-world spice.

2006 Ancestor-For being so young, the 2006  is potentially the most palate friendly Ancestor yet released.  Where its siblings of previous vintages have expressed their tannic structure very directly, the current release is more subtle, earthy, and drinkable on its own.  Don’t be fooled however, there is enough tannin on the back end to keep 06 on the shelf next to 2004 and 2005.

A Message from Solene

Saturday, June 18, celebrate Father’s Day and treat the man in your family to a Halter Ranch winery dinner set outside in the Historic Olive Orchard!  (more…)

New Developments and New Faces at Halter Ranch

Bill is on the far right

Many of you have probably now heard that our winemaker of the past 5 years at Halter Ranch, Bill Sheffer will be embarking on new and fascinating adventures after the 2011 harvest.  The latest word is that he will spend some time honing his skill in charcuterie!  Judging from the pâté he contributed to our last staff gathering, his raw talent in this arena may be comparable to his amazing skill in making wine.  The combination is fomidable, and will exponentially increase being so as Bill continues perfecting his meat oriented skills.  We will gravely miss hogging all his talent!


So! For 2011 Bill will be working alongside our new winemaker Kevin Sass, who previously headed up the Rhone program at Justin winery. It will be an impressive year for us, breaking in the new winery facility with 2 excellent, talented, and charming artisans of the trade!

The following links to a pdf: Press Release for Kevin Sass

Seth is on the right

Additionally we have a new Tasting Room Manager, also transplanted from Justin!  A native of Cambria, Seth Engel has worked in the wine industry for 8 years.  He studied and tested through first level Sommelier and is a Certified Specialist of Wine. Seth will greatly enhance the tasting room team with his vast knowledge, enthusiasm, and deep connection to the local wine scene!

We are all ecstatic to embark on harvest 2011 with such a strong team!

The Halter Ranch Summer Garden 2011

Yesterday the Halter Ranch Staff met bright and early in the open plot behind block 15 Mourvedre to plant the 2011 garden. We were able to get everything planted by about 10:30 am and it is already difficult to contain our excitement at the prospect of all the bright, delicious veggies we’ll be bringing home to pair with HRV wines. Visitors can expect to find the vegetable table back out in front of the tasting room in a few months!

A Crash Course in Basic Pruning

We were back out bright and early this morning to continue the process of pruning, this time on Block 23 Petit Verdot!  The basic idea with each vine is to insure that the shoots we keep have enough room to breathe while at the same time being spaced far enough apart that when the grapes ripen and swell, the clusters do not touch or block one another.

Typically we prune to between 12 and 14 spur positions per vine with 2 shoots per spur position.  Additionally we must be conscious of preserving new baby  shoots that will provide spur positions for next vintage.

This process will continue furiously over the next few weeks as we work to get the vineyard pruned to our winemakers’ preferences before the stems become more woody.  The scope of this yearly project will continue to mount as we begin keeping more and more of the fruit for our own wines.  It is very exciting to see this transition as it happens!

In the Vineyard – May 2011


Initial buds, pruned to preferred positions during winter 2010/2011, were lost due to frost in late March. The vines have reacted to this by enthusiastically sending out new buds and shoots in random locations on the cordon and trunk.  Thus, instead of simply thinning fruit from those preferred positions, as we would in a normal year, the team must focus primarily on pruning back the overabundance of new growth.

Initially we send a large crew (about 12 people) through each Block to pre-prune back to 8 buds per vine, leaving a larger number of buds in this manner functions as a means of protecting select buds against another late frost.  Currently a small follow-up crew of 2-3 people is thinning to 2 buds per vine on Block 4 and 5 Syrah while the larger crew prepares to shoot thin Block 22 Syrah and Block 41 Cabernet Sauvignon. Tomorrow we will update this post with some photos of the process in action!

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