Teaming Up for 2013 Staff Wines

Halter Ranch Vineyard

Kim, Katie, Molly, Sarah

Making Wine With the HRV Staff


Those who have been watching the blog over the past 8 months may remember the exciting developments in our staff winemaking project.  What follows is an update on each team and their wines.


21 and Holding


Halter Ranch Vineyard

21 and Holding (Michelle and Kendall not pictured)


The Block 21 Cabernet Sauvignon team headed by Darren Ramos and including Kendall Carson, Lindsay Peugh, Tony Quealy, and Michelle Robles picked their block at 24 brix.  Given the altitude of Block 21 and its proximity to nearby oak woodland, canopy tends to be fairly minimal and yields tend to be relatively low.  To encourage as much canopy as possible, Darren’s team took a minimal approach to pruning.  Wings were removed from the Cabernet clusters, allowing the vines to focus on ripening  remaining fruit. Yield from the block came in at just under 1.5 tons to the acre, notably less than the property wide average of 2.5 tons per acre.  The wine was taken through a relatively cool primary fermentation at about 84 degrees Fahrenheit.  It was pressed off the skins early given the onset of tannic structure and is now making its way slowly but steadily toward dryness.  Alcohol will likely come in at around 14%.  Ph is holding at about 3.75 and Total Acidity has moved from about 4 prior to primary fermentation to about 7 in the midst of it.  A portion of the wine was fermented in barrel, half new oak, half neutral, and again kept slightly cooler through fermentation than many of the other lots from the ranch (about 85 degrees Fahrenheit). 21 and Holding’s intention is to make an acid driven wine with deep color with slightly more restrained alcohol than most of Paso with a mind toward allowing the fruit to truly sing.

New Kids on Block 3


Halter Ranch Vineyard

New Kids on Block 3 (Tajin not pictured)


New Kids on Block 3, composed of Molly Strupp, Katie Glenn, Kim Potvin, Sarah Forstner, and Tajin Flores, enthusiastically embraced the task of taking Block 3 Malbec from budbreak through fermentation with a mind toward making as delicious and balanced a wine as possible.  This block posed a particular challenge in that the vines planted here have some viral activity that causes the leaves to change early in the season. The effect of the shift from green to red halts photosynthesis and keeps the fruit from ripening further.  In order to mitigate this, an irrigation schedule was implemented to keep the vines happy.  The New Kids reduced crop load to 1 cluster per shoot and removed all wings to allow the vines as much potential as possible to take remaining grapes to full ripeness. Throughout Spring, the team met weekly to pull leaves and manage the canopy in their portion of the block.  Ideal ripeness was reached and 8.5 tons of fruit were harvested on September 16 at 25.3 Brix with a ph of 3.94 and a total acidity of 3.3.  The must and juice went through a 7 day cold soak with three movements—movements include pumpovers, punchdowns and delestages—a day to extract color before it was inoculated for fermentation.  The juice also underwent three movements a day and Molly’s crew used predominantly aerated pumpovers with three separate delestages–delestage is the process of moving the entirety of the free juice (juice not bound up in skins and pulp) from one tank to another and then gently sprinkling it all back through the must–to keep the yeast happy.  They chose to employ a method new to Halter Ranch in allowing the yeasts to perform fermentation at a higher initial temperature in an effort to increase the number of bound anthocyanins (to darken the color) before slowing the process and allowing the tannins to rise more slowly (a balance between anthocyanin and tannin is sought during primary fermentation).  As an experiment, a portion of the wine began fermentation in new oak barrels, and were fermented at approximately 87 degrees fahrenheit.  This is the first time a barrel ferment has been attempted with Malbec from Block 3 and the tannin level in the barrels rose more quickly than expected.  As a result, the barrel fermented portion was kept separate and will be used to add structure to other lots from the ranch. The New Kids’ lot is currently making its way through secondary fermentation in one of our four temperature controlled barrel rooms and looks to be a deep, delicious, and delightfully velvety addition to the line-up.

Oscar’s Grouches


Halter Ranch Vineyard

Oscar’s Grouches (Cathy and Wendy not pictured)


Though Merlot has waned in popularity on the world scene of late, Oscar’s Grouches, composed of Oscar Ruiz, Jordan Meznarich, Wendy Evans, Cathy Lafayette, and Lindsey Burrell, joined forces this past Spring to assist in vaulting it back to prominence.  Block 33 was hit severely by a frost following initial budbreak in 2013 and as a result there was distinct variation from vine to vine in terms of growth.  Given that Merlot does not generally have difficulty ripening a slightly heavier crop, and taking into account the fact that some of the vines in 33 would not be producing fruit as the result of frostbite, the Grouches chose to keep a few wings and extra clusters in the mix.  Block 33 was picked at just over 23 brix on September 18.  8.5 tons were brought in and supplemented with 1.5 tons of Malbec from Block 42 to fill a 10 ton fermenter.  After analysis the wine came in at 23.1 brix, a ph of 3.64, and a total acidity of 3.8 prior to innoculation.  Primary fermentation took just under 2 weeks and the wine was pressed off and moved to barrel on October 3.  The team felt very privileged to get their hands in the wine and learn so much about a process we talk about daily in the tasting room.

Check back here over the next few months as the staff gets to taste each wine and Kevin decides where each of these special lots will end up.  As always thanks for reading and cheers!

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