Block 11 Historical Society

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Last Thursday we harvested Block 11 Syrah which is one of two remaining blocks from the 1996 MacGillivray planting four years prior to Halter Ranch becoming Halter Ranch.  The pick began at 12:30 am on Thursday September 12 and carried on until 6 am.  12.2 tons of fruit were delivered to the upper crush pad at a temperature of 52 degrees Fahrenheit.  8.5 tons of Syrah from Block 11 were destemmed and combined with 1.5 tons of Viognier from Block 35 and will comprise our Syrah/Viognier coferment for 2013.  The remaining syrah clusters were destemmed and will be fermented separately.  Beyond the excitement of being one of the first red blocks to be harvested this year, 11 is special because it represents an abundance of both Paso Robles and Halter Ranch history.

In the middle of Block 11 sits the Ancestor Oak.  This ancient Quercus agrifolia (Coast Live Oak) is one of the two largest trees of this particular variety on the planet.  Rows of vines were planted in a radius around this huge tree to twelve foot spacing.  The wider rows in this block allowed the MacGillivray family to drive their normal (as opposed to vineyard specific) tractors up and down the block.  Syrah planted to 11 is the Estrella clone which originated in the vineyard of same name on the east side of Paso Robles.  The cuttings themselves were sourced from the now famous James Berry vineyard back in 1996.  Jim Smith gave the MacGillivrays permission to take cuttings from his vines prior to pruning.  Due to the cost of rootstock and grafting, the cuttings were planted on their own roots as opposed to being grafted to new world rootstock.  A quick aside: due to the risk of soil bound pests such as phylloxera most plantings of the last century are grafted to the root portion (rootstock) of vines from the new world that has resistance to said pests and is acclimated to the soil on this side of the Atlantic.  In Block 11’s, cuttings from the established James Berry vines were not grafted, but stuck directly into the soil to sprout their own roots a testament to the vigor and enthusiasm of grapevines!

Expect to see Block 11 as one component in our core Syrah for 2013.  Given the history and high fruit quality from these 17 year old vines, this block  may eventually join the ranks of our reserve line-up alongside Ancestor, Tempranillo, Block 22 Syrah, and Block 41 Cabernet Sauvignon.

 

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