Halter Ranch Vineyard


One of the most common questions we get when pouring for patrons in the tasting room is:  “So which one is your favorite?” or “What would be your pick from this list?” or any number of variations on the core theme: “What is your personal preference among these wines?” 

While we have addressed this question from a different angle on the blog before, I keep arriving back at it because I have conflicted feelings about how best to answer it.  I spend in the vicinity of 250 days a year, between 8 and 12 hours a day tasting, pouring, discussing, moving, and otherwise thinking about wine.  The more time and thought I accumulate, the more aware I become of the little details that sway me toward enjoying a wine more or less.  I also draw closer to the conclusion that infinite variation is part of what makes wine fascinating and what sets it apart from other fermented or alcoholic beverages.  By infinite variation, I mean that within any category, be it grape variety, or red wine, or white wine, or pink, or bubbly, there are innumerable options.  Further, that even between bottles of the same wine there is variation simply as the result of particular conditions in its creation and how it is stored.  Variation in cork density can cause bottles of the same wine to breathe at different rates.  Even wines under screw caps, which are much more consistent in terms of controlling oxidation, can vary due to being stored in slightly different temperatures, or near vibration, or by catching a hint of sun.  All of these details lead me to want to say two things.  First, variation, uniqueness, and specificity of experience are beautiful aspects of wine.  Second, a degree of joy may be derived from the first statement in that it gives everyone a valid, blanket reason to embrace their individual experience and have their own opinion about what they like and dislike.

With all that said, and again as the result of experience, I have begun to believe that being reluctant to share the particularities of one’s taste in regard to wine, even when that reluctance derives from a desire to allow space for someone to choose for themselves, ultimately contributes to the aloof or snobbish perception of the industry.  From the perspective of a patron who does not spend up to 3000 hours on a yearly basis obsessing over fermented grape juice it must seem as if I am being judgmental or hiding deep dark secrets of the trade when I am reluctant to tell them which wine from a list of ten appeals to my personal taste.

So again, the non-conundrum conundrum rears its head, to communicate and possibly infect someone else’s opinion with my own, or not to communicate and possibly guide them to the conclusion I am a petulant aloof snob.  In this case, obviously, the answer is to share my opinion.  It is, after all, free for me to give, free for them to reject, and it adds to that special list of opportunities–in an industry both blessed and plagued by an enormous amount of history and detail–which lend clarity and fun to an experience rather than potentially stifling it.  Taste, I can still say, is a personal thing but sharing personal taste in a positive way has the potential to enhance the experience for the entire human collective…

…or at least the immediate audience.

As always, thank you for reading, I’d love to know your thoughts on the subject of taste (don’t be shy about the comment section!), and cheers until next week.

In regard to upcoming events, tickets for the both the Cab’s of Distinction Gala in Paso Robles and the American Rhones event in San Francisco are still available.  For details on the Cab Collective or to purchase tickets click here, for Rhone Rangers click here.


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