Wining Philosophical

Philosophical tanks, barrels, and bottles - Halter Ranch Vineyard

The Halter Ranch Headspace


There is a phenomenon within the tasting room which results from the tendency of particular patrons to wax philosophical across the tasting bar in the interest of fomenting discussion.  This post is a sort of homage to said patrons as the discussions they incite are often profound and quite memorable.  So what is it about fermented grape juice that inspires humans toward the cerebral?

It would be inaccurate to imply the only effect of wine is to inspire the mind toward the cerebral, or to lubricate dormant thought process, more accurately it probably functions to…inspire…a variety of behaviors positive, cerebral, and otherwise. For the sake of this article, we will focus on its talent for extracting deep brooding thoughts and encouraging conversation of the conceptually wandering kind.

On that note, let’s take a brief trek back through time to the underpinnings of modern philosophy.  Plato and Aristotle sit across from one another brooding.  Each holds in hand a clay goblet filled with, what else, vino. In this past era wine is generally stored and served from cool clay vessels and is probably sweeter than the majority of modern vinified offerings.  (more…)

Terroir, Climats, and Wine Culture

Wine Culture

A new owl box in Block 50


In the most recent issue of Wine Spectator a particular short article stuck out.  A single page interview (March 2013 Wine Spectator p. 21) with Aubert de Villaine, co-director and co-owner of the famed Domaine de la Romanee Conti in Burgundy.  The discussion centered around an effort to designate the region (of Burgundy) a world heritage site, and more particularly around the term Climat.  As it is used in Burgundy Climat (which translates literally to ‘climate’) encompasses Terroir along with the social, anthropological, and technological history of a site.  Due in part to the way land passes between family members in Burgundy along with the cultural heritage and the subsequent wine culture of the region there are some 1248 individual Climats or ‘unique’ vineyard sites that may be designated on a bottle of wine.  (more…)

Industry Party 2013 – Big Time!

The Clean Slate - Industry Party

Ready for the crowd…


Last night we held Industry Party 2013 showcasing our 20,000 square feet of caves and a very special pre-release taste of 2012 Rosé.  As always we were eager to present these exciting new developments and to show our appreciation for all the neighborly love in Paso Robles.


The Room Beginning to Fill - Industry Party

At 7 pm


The main room filled rapidly as groups from every aspect of the food and wine industries arrived to partake in fresh cooked food and Halter Ranch wines.


Tacos Al Pastor - Industry Party

Los Robles Tacos. Incredible.


Los Robles was back in force with their incredible portable taco line.  Always a hit with Côtes de Paso Blanc and Rouge (really any of the wines could pair with one or another of the various taco combos).


The Los Robles Crew Poses Post Party

The Los Robles Crew Poses Post Party


We were also privileged to have Artie and the Gypsy Flame crew slinging barbecued pizza throughout the evening (apologies for the lack of photo, the ‘zas never seemed to hang round long enough for a shot).


Artie and a Gypsy Flame Compatriot Pose by Their Magic Barbecue

Gypsy Flame rocked the house!


The evening began with a walk through the cave system from the eastern outer door through the caves to the main barrel working room with tastes of 2o11 Côtes de Paso Blanc and 2012 Rosé en route.  Michelle and Katie were on greeting and glass duty at the (chilly) front door.


The Katie and Michelle Dance

Katie and Michelle doing the greeting dance


720 glasses were washed and polished in preparation for the event.  600 ended up being put to use which meant lots of boxing and unboxing!


No Glasses Were Harmed in the Shooting of this Photograph

No Glasses Were Harmed in the Shooting of this Photograph (those boxes are empty)


Kevin offered insight into the new 2012 Rosé which contains the largest percentage of Picpoul Blanc (in a Halter Ranch Rosé) and the lowest alcohol in an HRV wine  to date.  The Picpoul contributes a delicious lip smacking acidity while lower alcohol makes the wine even more food (and porch!) friendly.  We cannot express enough how excited we are about this wine.  Expect an official release date sometime next month.


Kevin and Darren Catch a Sip in the Aftermath

Kevin and Darren Catch a Sip in the Aftermath


This was Kendall’s inaugural event at HRV; very exciting and what a success!


Awesome Inaugural Event Kendall!

Awesome Inaugural Event Kendall!


If you didn’t manage to make it out this time don’t hesitate to plan a visit the next weekend (tours take place at 11 and 1) you have free or during the week by appointment.  A massive thank you to all and cheers!


2013 Rose

Our special pour, in keeping with the pre V-Day Spirit





Tasting through Portugal and Spain: Part Deux

Oscar, Kevin, Darren, Katie, Raquel, and Molly put on serious faces as we embark on a Vinus journey through Spain



For round 2 Orestes provided and helped secure a group of diverse wines from Spain.  While one or two are favorite producers of his, most were selected for their obscurity and interesting character.  We began the tasting with an Albillo discovered at MEZE Wine and Tapas bar in San Luis Obispo.  The wine was bright, with noticeable but not overwhelming weight, and a distinct earthy funk.  Orestes informed us that the region in which it is grown (Ribera del Duero) is very warm, but Albillo is a variety that maintains its acidity despite the heat in its homeland.  (more…)

Tasting Through Portugal and Spain: Part Un

The Line Up From Portugal


In the final month of their stay at Halter Ranch we enlisted both Raquel and Orestes in helping us acquire a smattering of wines from their respective homelands.  Within a budget they each provided a list of delightful and/or interesting wines and we sought them out.  The following is an account of the tastings that resulted from these endeavors and some brief thoughts from the staff on the wines.


Raquel pours Vinho Verde


For the tasting from Portugal we began with a Vinho Verde which means ‘Green Wine’.  The title refers both to the region of origin and the fact that the wine is designed to be consumed when it is young. Vinho Verde is typically bright with bracing acidity and often has some slight carbonation.  The Aveleda fit these descriptors well and seemed to desire some light fare or a hot day in which to shine.  We followed our brief sensory tour of Vinho Verde with an Alvarinho (the Dorado pictured above) that showed distinct signs of oxidation, it received mixed reviews from the tasting panel.  Skylar commented that it exhibited some characteristics similar to intentionally oxidized wines produced in the Jura region of France.  When asked if the oxidation was intentional in this case Raquel responded:  “Maybe…but most likely not.”  (more…)

Halter Ranch in New York City

Lindsey B inadvertently posing.


The following is an account from our blog’s editor, Lindsey Burrell, as he explores wine (Halter Ranch and overall) in the big apple.

Over the past week I had the opportunity to visit and explore New York City. While there, my wife and I took the time to seek out a few restaurants in Manhattan that serve Halter Ranch wines while surveilling the state of wine on the island.  Below I recount a few of our experiences along the way:

After perusing the list of restaurants in Manhattan that offer Halter Ranch wine, we arrived in front of the Knickerbocker Bar & Grill at 33 University Place, Greenwich Village The Knickerbocker felt as if it had been lifted directly out of Jazz’s golden era and planted in 2012 New York.  The staff were gussed up in pressed formalwear and the atmosphere in the spacious room gave an impression, figuratively and literally, of warm, sturdy hardwood.  In the evening, we were told, a jazz combo will often materialize to entertain. 


Halter Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon


This outing offered a rare opportunity to reconnect with old friends over Halter Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon 2,928 miles from home.  After pouring the wine we ordered French Onion Soup, field greens, a mixed green salad with bacon, and the goat-cheese omelet.  Our server was politely taken aback by the decision to embark on Cabernet among a plethora of greens and lighter (beefless) dishes. Acknowledging his concern, we made the decision to forge ahead.  Conventional pairing ‘rules’ notwithstanding the acidity and spiciness of the Halter Ranch Cab complimented the herb qualities of the greens and the oil in the dressing quite well.  


What we thought of the food.


A discovery made while perusing the Knickerbocker wine list with more precision:  they offer a unique opportunity to experience one of our library whites.  The 2009 Cotes de Paso Blanc is on their list at a remarkably reasonable price given the fact it has been sold out at the winery for over a year (to the sorrow of staff, club members, and Halter Blanc fans alike!).  If you’re interested in a treat and have a taste for cellared whites don’t miss out on the opportunity to get your hands on a bottle of this delectable Rhone blend.


Where once there was French Onion Soup


We greatly enjoyed eats, atmosphere, and wine (of course) at the Knickerbocker, it is always amazing to taste a glimpse of home in a faraway place.  If you’re seeking a calming atmosphere after a long loud walk or a bumpy ride on the New York Metro system this is a destination to consider.

A few alternate locations serving Halter Ranch in New York:

Henry’s, Porter House, Nicholas James Bistro

Other notable wine sights not directly related to Halter Ranch we found exciting, inspiring, amazing:

For the enthusiast: Bar Jamon.  This (seriously!) tiny tapas bar is a purveyor of exclusively Spanish wine and cuisine.  Pours are generous, the staff is knowledgeable, and the fare is mindblowingly tasty.

For prestige: Gramercy Tavern.  A James Beard Award winning watering hole with an intimidatingly vast, diverse cellar, and professionalism with a smile.  Wear something nice ‘ )

For the refined:  The Burgundy Wine Co.  To find choice selections from Burgundy, the Rhone Valley, Oregon, small production Champagne, and Rose accept no substitute. Tastings and live music every Wednesday.

Introducing Lucas and Updates from the Vineyard

Lucas Pope, previously of Stolo Family Vineyards and Coastal Ranch Vineyards, joined the Halter Ranch team in early April as our new Viticultural Specialist. He will be working closely with Winemaker Kevin Sass and Vineyard Foreman Eusebio Rico toward keeping our current vineyard in tip top shape, while also getting the new plantings in the ground (and growing!).


This is a picture of Lucas during the 30 seconds he spent indoors today. Busy times! Photos of Lucas in action among the vines are forthcoming.



Prior to arriving here in Paso, Lucas worked with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cool Climate Syrah, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc (among other varieties) in Cambria and Santa Cruz. He brings with him an intimate knowledge of vineyard management and palpable delight toward working among the vines. When asked about his experiences thus far he responded:
“I am absolutely thrilled to be involved with this beautiful place and to be a part of the Halter Ranch team going forward.”
We (and the vines of course!) are very excited to have Lucas on board.

Speaking of the vineyard:

There are currently 4 crews out among the vines, shoot thinning in Cabernet Sauvignon Blocks 30 and 31 , moving wires to accommodate (abundant!) fresh growth in Cabernet Sauvignon Block 41, and planting Petit Verdot to Block 40.





According to Lucas we are in the midst of ideal growing weather. As you can see from the photos the vines (enthusiastically) affirm this. On a more ominous note, temperatures over the past few days have also been prime for mildew growth. To determine this we use an index that accounts for temperature and time, ideal conditions for mildew lie between 70 and 85 degrees for periods of six hours or more daily. To combat this we have spent the past few months inoculating the vineyard against fungal growth.

Expect a photo post later this week showing Lucas and the vineyard team in action.

As always thanks for reading and cheers!

The Barrel Experiment

The Line-Up


In order to stay ahead of the curve, and out of the inexhaustible need to experiment, Winemaker Kevin Sass takes the staff on a quarterly journey through a line up of barrels.  This practice is, in fact, common between barrel producers (coopers) and wineries, but it is a special treat for our staff to be included.  The process goes thus:

A series of barrels from various producers in varying styles (different levels of toast*, specific forest of origin etc.) are all filled with the same wine from the same vintage.  In our case we had 17 oak barrels, 1 neutral (as control), 2 New American, and 14 New French.  The wine we used was 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon from Block 41 in the eastern corner of our vineyard.  The task was to taste through them all and choose the top 3 and the bottom 2 among the French barrels, the preferred barrel between the two American, and to record overall impressions of each.

*To define our terms before embarking further:

Toast-refers to the degree a barrel was heated over a small bier during its construction.  The ‘toastier’ a barrel is the more it will typically impart a caramelized or ‘spicy’ flavor on wine aged in it.

Neutral-as an oak descriptor refers to a barrel that has seen at least one full season of aging with a wine.  As a result it imparts less flavor on subsequent wines.

New-refers to a barrel that is fresh out of the cooperage and in its first season of aging wine.

The various coopers we use, or are in consideration of using, send representatives to taste through with the winemaker.  They are challenged to identify which barrels are theirs.  After everyone has tasted through notes are compared and ultimately, it is revealed which barrel belongs to who.


Molly and Lucas focusing


It was fascinating to experience the varying impact a barrel may have on a wine based on the characteristics of each.  In this case, as a result of the cold 2011 summer, the wine in question had high acid and a more old world or cool climate character filled with dark brambly fruit, a cascade of lingering earthy tones, and a hint of vegetable edge one might typically associate with young Bordeaux.

Wine from the neutral barrel was predictably showing the characteristics described above, but distinction in flavor profile among the rest of the running was pronounced and stunning.  Some barrels seemed to impart very little character on the wine while others seemed to dominate it.  Surprisingly one of the ‘low impact’ barrels was American, this runs against the grain (haha!) given the higher concentration of Lactones (responsible for ‘oaky’ flavor) in the wood from American Oaks.  Higher impact barrels seemed to alter the texture of the wine, possibly by masking its acidity, lending a creamy mouthfeel and sweet spicy zest to the flavor profile.  Overall the staff seemed to prefer the higher impact barrel in the American pair.  Within the French group preferences were more varied but the barrels that received the most votes were those that provided the creamy texture mentioned prior while maintaining a pleasant balance between the character of the wine and that of the barrel.  It is important to note that the impact of a barrel and the character it will contribute to a final wine changes as the wine ages inside.  To account for this, Kevin revisits the experiment quarterly leading up to the point when the wine is bottled before making any final choices about barrels to use for the following season.

As always, thank you for reading and don’t hesitate to hit us up with questions or comments!


Not so Neat Notes

0 items - $0.00
View Cart ›
Checkout ›
Cart message goes here...