Paso Robles Wines in Context

I love wine. I love tasting wine in all of its myriad expressions. My personal introduction to wine drinking happened while I was living in France and Italy in the early 1980’s. Oh, the many wine trips my friends and I took! Albarino and Cornas. Condrieu and Super Tuscans, Chablis and Barolo. Sancerre and Rioja. Some wines were lighter and some bolder and some seemingly impenetrable. As my friends and family introduced me to their respective favorite regions, the intro came with at least a modicum of education. One learned that Cornas was not a Beaujolais and should never be consumed before at least 5, but better 10-15 years. Ditto Barolo. Rose was the wine of choice when warm Mediterranean climes dictated cold wines, but when many of these regions were still producing mostly insipid white wines. Chablis and Sancerre accompanied oysters. It was all so much fun……and from my perspective, logical. I think that I was lucky to be introduced to wine by French and Italians who were so very passionate about their countries’ viticultural treasures. I am not sure that it is even common for young French and Italians to learn about wine the same way now.

When I moved to Paso Robles 18 years ago I found myself working with a new group of wine lovers. This group was unencumbered by my former wine education and often by any formal wine education of their own. There was no need for context for their wine enjoyment. You can grow anything anywhere, and blend however you want as long as it has the requisite level of deliciosity. Standards were passé. You needn’t worry about ‘thinking outside the box’, because there was no longer even a box.

Now I am observing a new trend. My colleagues here at Halter Ranch are eager for more wine education and are clamoring for more wine tastings. They especially love comparative tastings where we taste wines with similar varietal make ups from different regions of the world. We are discussing wines in terms of ‘traditional’ and “international” styles. They are raising questions about weight and texture and alcohol levels. They are more and more interested in tasting wines from outside of Paso Robles and California. I am sensing a growing interest in context. And as the General Manager here at Halter Ranch, this trend excites me. In the next couple of blog posts I am going to share with you some of these discussions we are having here at Halter Ranch.

Bird Sightings and Event Updates

Bird - Halter Ranch Vineyard

The Winery as our Vineyard Sleeps


Over the past week we’ve had two vineyard hikes and were the featured wine for guest chef Suzanne Tracht’s Monday Night Supper at Artisan Paso Robles.  Suzanne hails from Jar in Los Angeles and is close friends with Chef Kobayashi. According to staff and club members who attended, the dinner was absoutely stellar.  If you haven’t yet, we’d highly recommend a visit to Jar in Los Angeles and to Artisan in Paso Robles.  Our next winemaker dinner will be taking place at Robert’s in Paso Robles on February 25.  For additional information check our events page.

Sunday’s hike took guests up the old airstrip to visit the Ancestor Oak before heading out to block 52 where guests caught a nearly bird’s eye view of the entire vineyard.  A similar hike with a slightly different route will take place on  February 15, sign up information is available here if you’re interested in partaking.


Bird - Halter Ranch Vineyard

Hiking up to the Ancestor Oak


Monday, Mitch hosted our yearly birdwatching trek accross the property where the following list was compiled by the group and generously provided for the blog by Neil Gilbert and Mary Hirsch: (more…)

Hobbit Stew on Friday the 13th



Preparing to stand in a long, early morning, Hobbit ish line.



We won’t deceive, there are a fair number of rabid Tolkien enthusiasts among the HRV staff.  As such, we embark on today’s Hobbit round 2 premier with great anticipation and some sidelong glances from those who have had to listen to Gandalf Groupies chatter in excitement over this next installment in the series.  Gone are the dark days between 2007 and 2012 when nary a Middle Earth premier lay on the horizon and we Tolkienites were relegated to viewing the extended editions of the first three movies marathon style in every possible combination of director’s cut and commentary.  It is with great hope and anticipation that we fantastical few don our wooden swords and elvish ears to travel the twists and turns of Desolation’s release.  (more…)

Tasting with Carnivores

Carnivore - Red Dragon

Dionaea – The Venus Fly Trap


For the past few weeks we’ve been experimenting with a Carnivorous Garden in the Halter Ranch Tasting room.  Dedicated readers may recall our fruit fly post from around this time last year.  For this harvest season we’ve taken mitigation efforts to a new level by incorporating some carnivorous flora in our multi-pronged fruit fly deterrent effort.  (more…)

Fitcation at Halter Ranch

Fitcation - Halter Ranch Vineyard

The Fitcation Crew and Ancestor


Fitcation is a retreat founded by a network of food and lifestyle bloggers who gather once a year to promote health, explore, and share ideas.  Check out the website here.  This past Friday we had the absolute pleasure of hosting the group toward the end of the first day on their 2013 Fitcation weekend.  They arrived around 3 pm for a tour of our vineyard and winery before meeting in the barn for dinner, provided by Trumpet Vine Catering,  and a presentation by Earth Shoe Company. Kris Beal, director of the SIP (Sustainability In Practice) Program, helped sponsor and organize this visit

The vineyard tour peaked with a visit to the Ancestor Oak and we stopped to soak up the shade. While sitting in the embrace of this ancient guardian the group wandered into a discussion about what the SIP program means and how it is incorporated into our vineyard and business practice here at Halter Ranch.  Though we’ve already discussed SIP on the blog, the Fitcation discussion opened up new questions and lines of thought that we’d like to touch upon here.

Very briefly, SIP certification is distinct from other third party certifications (like USDA Organic or Biodynamic) in that it requires a rigorous set of sustainable practices with regard to employee benefits, continuing education, and business plan, in addition to farming practices in the vineyard.  While sitting and talking under the tree we touched upon the concept of greenwashing.  A brief definition of this practice is: the use of any term or group of terms making an environmental claim about a product, in the interest of selling said product, without any basis in actual practice. Or as Kris and Leslie put it…without any teeth.  A glaring example of greenwashing in the food and beverage industry is the term ‘natural’ (also ‘naturally’).  There is no regulation of this term from the standpoint of the USDA or any other agency when it comes to food products.  As a result it has been appropriated and widely used on food packaging to encourage–essentially to take advantage of–consumers who are interested in buying products composed of ‘natural’ ingredients.  The result is that without definition and subsequent regulation, the term ‘natural’ is used so widely as to be essentially meaningless when it comes to telling us anything about how food and beverages are produced.

It is through the rigor of programs such as SIP that we may rely on the practices behind a product and its subsequent quality.  It was refreshing to participate in this discussion with a group of open minded folks who are both eager to engage with quality products and healthy living and to share the knowledge gained through that engagement.  A resounding thanks to our Fitcation guests for great discussion and an absolutely delightful afternoon.  Check out the Fitcation Blog here



Comparing Cabernet Despite the Splinters


Cabernet - Halter Ranch Vineyard

Cabernet and Light



Last week the production crew set aside some time to blind taste through a group of prominent Cabernet Sauvignons and Cabernet based blends.  Among the eight wines were many famous, critically acclaimed, and highly sought after offerings from Napa Valley.  Our 2010 Ancestor was thrown in the mix for comparison.  The task for each taster was to select her or his favorite wine from the bunch while also noting any wines that seemed to differ significantly from the rest of the group.  The difficulty in tasting Cabernet Sauvignon is that it tends to be noticeably tannic, fairly acidic, and depending on the region, heavily oaked.  The result is a distinctly weighty and mouth stripping experience.  The crew persevered however, and the consensus among the staff was quite interesting.  We found that though Ancestor is from an entirely different region than the rest of the offerings, it was not selected as among the outliers.  Additionally, while it fit well with the rest of the line up in body and flavor profile, it is less than half of the retail cost of most of the other wines tasted.  (more…)

Ian Adamo of Bistro Laurent Drops Knowledge

Knowledge - Halter Ranch Vineyard

Liquid Knowledge


Monday evening we were treated to the immeasurable privelege of a wine tasting and education session with the famed (or infamous depending on perspective) Ian Adamo of Bistro Laurent.  Ian has achieved various wine service and education certifications (including WSET and Somm); he is now in the process of studying for and finishing his Master of Wine Certificate (think Jancis Robinson, but a dude, and not British).   Beyond managing the wine list and shop at Bistro, Ian has begun offering his knowledge and experience to assist local wineries in educating their staff and coming up with a comprehensive plan to present the wines and wineries of Paso Robles to consumers in an engaging and memorable way.

The idea behind our tasting was to compare Halter Ranch wines with various offerings from around the globe in a process of reductive reasoning.  By reductive, we mean breaking the wines down by what they are not in terms of variety, place, and quality.  A few pointers we received from Mr. Adamo at the outset:  Your nose and eyes will tell you far more about a wine than your palate will.   The ‘why’ in regard to a wine is far more interesting and engaging than an individual point score, adjective, or even group of adjectives can possibly be.  After visually and aromatically analyzing each offering, we tasted through and broke down quality to price ratio using a system Ian refers to as BLIC (Balance, Length, Intensity, Complexity).  This offers an objective map for determining a wine’s quality outside of personal taste.  For example, I might personally delight in Nebbiolo, and be less interested in Pinotage, but focusing on those four characteristics may create a conceptual map by which to assess a wine without involving personal preference.

My personal favorite among the group of wines we tried (outside the Halter offerings of course ‘ ) is pictured above.  This complex and delicious white is composed of 100% Viognier from Condrieu in the Northern Rhone region of France.  It presented full body and fairly low acid while remaining delicate in comparison to most of the Viognier I’ve tried in the past.  Tasted against the Condrieu, 2012 Cotes de Paso Blanc displayed distinct acidity, bright fruit, and notable length.  Both wines would perform well in the four BLIC categories, but it is interesting to note that the Condrieu goes for about $90 a bottle, while CDPB retails for $28.

Expect coverage of additional tastings as they happen.  Our next article here on the blog will cover new developments in the cellar as we prepare for harvest 2013.  In the meantime cheers and thanks for reading!





Rosé Musings and Upcoming Events


Halter Ranch Vineyard

Men Drinking Pink


Think of your palate as a fingerprint, in fact, think of everyone’s palate like you would a fingerprint.  That is, wholly unique and subjective to you and them.  So while we might occasionally reach consensus and agree about what is good or bad, we likely fall at different points along the continuum of those concepts.   We bring this up as the result of a recent series of comments in regard to rosé on the Halter Ranch facebook page.  The gist of the discussion was that when pouring rosé in the tasting room we  find a percentage of customers will initially wave it off, saying:  “I’m not a rosé person.”  This is disheartening both as wine lovers and as advocates for Halter Ranch because we know as the result of our own journeys in wine that while not every wine is for every person, a huge part of the overall experience and excitement (at least from our perspective) is the opportunity to experience something new.  Further, the possibility that the new thing will alter your perspective in a wonderful way.  With this in mind it is difficult for us, and we suspect, for many in the wine industry to hear the words “I am not a rosé person” or “I am not a white wine person” because there is so much diversity within “rosé” and “white wine” it is likely that while one may not always like the majority, there are probably many wines within each category that one would enjoy or at least find interesting.  With this in mind we encourage the world to open its mind to new experiences in wine and otherwise, enjoyment can come as easily from something new and different as it may from something pleasant and predictable.  On that note, below are a few upcoming events


Upcoming Events


Forks and Corks

The Forks and Corks Festival will be taking place here at the ranch on July 6. A plethora of beverages stored under cork will be served in our historic barnyard alongside delicious eats prepared in the pit (barbecue pit) and garnished with pitted fruits. This is, without question, an event to set your sights on. Proceeds will benefit worthy local non profit must! charities.  For details and tickets check here:

Real Men Drink Pink

On Sunday June 23 the second annual Real Men Drink Pink event will be taking place at Star Farms.  Music by the English Beat, delicious rosé from 20 of the top producers in Paso Robles, and an overwhelmingly excellent time await!  Check it here:

Pairing Appetizers With Pier 46

Lindsey B, Sarah, Tony, Christina

Pier 46 and Halter Ranch


This past Wednesday morning we had the opportunity to apply our culinary expertise while discussing sustainability with Tony DeGarimore of Pier 46 Seafood Market in Templeton.  For this momentous occasion our own Sarah Forstner selected three simple appetizer recipes to pair with 2012 Halter Ranch Rose and the soon to be released 2012 Sauvignon Blanc.  Tony generously provided some delectable  treats to flesh out the project and we lept into the kitchen with abandon.  (more…)

Earth Day, Farms, and Forks


Green Horizon - Earth Day

The Green Ranch


The horizon looks increasingly green as Earth Day 2013 approaches…

Beyond our participation in the main event, Halter Ranch will be hosting the Farm to Fork tour and dining experience on April 19 from 6-9 pm.  Our own Kevin Sass will be leading guests on an educational journey through our sustainable vineyard and winery.  The idea here will be to convey, to the best of our ability, the combination of beauty, terroir, specificity, history, philosophy, and approach that make Halter Ranch Vineyard so special.  The journey will be capped off, or topped off if you like, with a multi-course meal prepared by Tom Fundaro of Villa Creek.  Expect some stellar pairing interactions betwixt HRV wines and chef Tom’s stupendous cuisine.

Why attend this event, or celebrate Earth Day through this festival you might ask?  Beyond the reasons above, what body in physical space could possibly compete with our planet when it comes to order of importance?  The sun and moon might be high on the list given our little Third Rock’s codependent interaction with them, but it would be difficult to argue they deserve more attention.

As we’ve expressed in a few previous posts, wine may be considered the sensory exemplification of our planet’s interaction with the sun and moon, given it is essentially the result of natural process that would not exist without these relational physics and the interactions of starstuff that drive them.  So, with this in mind, how indeed could we not spend at the very least one day a year paying homage to our vibrant host planet and the natural happenings round which we base our lives.  While we’re at it, why not indulge in a delicious glass of wine (perhaps even a few!) and a plate (or three!) of scrumptious locovore-type eats?  Why not indeed.

For tickets click here.


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