Our Summer Employee Garden

At Halter Ranch Vineyard we plant a quarter acre garden each summer to benefit our employees. The garden, planted by our winery, vineyard, administration and tasting room teams, feeds our staff fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables for the remainder of the year. Halter Ranch generously purchases all the starts and garden foundation needed to plant a successful garden.

Employee garden planting Tuesday, May 23

 

We began this year’s garden on Tuesday, May 23. Our staff planted a variety of tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, cilantro, cucumber, melon, basil, zucchini, squash, beets, butter lettuce, sunflowers, and flowers. And they were out early again to perform garden maintenance including weeding and replanting on Tuesday, July 11.

 

Adjacent to the garden is our employee fruit orchard with peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums, cherries, figs, pears, apples and pomegranates. We also have a productive artichoke planting, planted in 2016, which provides an abundant artichoke harvest for all staff.

Employees are able to take home the garden bounty, use it for lunches, or we get together as a team to make pesto’s, soups and team lunches. We also host a variety of VIP guests and our signature dish is from our garden, heirloom tomatoes, burrata, basil and Halter Ranch’s very own award winning Mediterranean Blend Olive Oil – simple and delicious!

Our Assistant Winemaker Molly who spearheads the garden project said, it not only provides delicious and wholesome food but is a great space for team building, healthy living and a way to get people’s hands dirty.

Keep an eye on our social media outlets to watch as the garden progresses throughout the season.


Spring in the Vineyard

Spring is upon us and across the ranch vine buds are breaking signaling the start of a new growing season. This is one of the busiest times of the year for our vineyard team. Mowing, planting, shoot thinning and under-vine cultivation are all at the forefront of springtime activities.

Halter Ranch Grenache Block 1

Block 1 head-trained Grenache bud break. Photo by Zeb Little.

 

 

The first official bud break was experienced in Block 1 head-trained Grenache on March 13. To date everything has woken up except Cabernet Sauvignon, which has been slow to rise from its winter slumber.

Block 70 cane pruned VSP Grenache – almost at the complete opposite end of the ranch to our Block 1 Grenache. Photos by Zeb Little.

 

Vineyard Manager, Lucas Pope, said 50% bud break was experienced over two weeks ago, putting us two weeks behind last years’ growth. “This season is shaping up to be similar to 2013/14 for bud break dates. We are currently in the process of protecting our vineyards against the possibility of frost. Late winter rains are typically followed by frosty conditions. We are at a vulnerable time point because the tender green shoots are sensitive to even the slightest frost conditions.”

Mowing of our 281 acres of vines. Photo by Zeb Little.

 

To mitigate frost impact, the vineyard team mowed the 281 acres of vineyard on the property. Alternate row mowing was completed on hills, specifically in the Syrah blocks, to draw moisture from the soil. Flat blocks or valley floors, which are most susceptible to frost, were mowed each row as a means for passive frost protection. This is done by lowering the vineyard floor away from the canes of the vine.

Alternate row mowing. Photo by Zeb Little.

 

The vineyard team has also converted from cordon pruned vines to cane pruned vines. The difference being cane pruning promotes new growth each year with a healthier canopy and more fruit. Next in the vineyard is replanting missing vines across the ranch and shoot thinning to control crop levels and promote healthy vines; shoot thinning redirects the plants energy to where you want it to go.

Luckily, Vineyard Manager, Lucas Pope, now has a little extra help from new Assistant Viticulturist Zeb Little. Zeb, who started at Halter Ranch in August 2016, transitioned from the winemaking team into the field and is now responsible for vineyard observation, data monitoring, and undertaking our SIP Certification processes and management.


Rosé All Day

Halter Ranch Rosé

 

Okay, so I have to be honest here, pink is not my favorite color. I have always considered myself a bit of a tomboy and pink just does not fit into my color choices. However when it comes to wine it is the complete opposite. Rosé is one of my favorite wines that we make, and also one of my favorite wines to drink. The recent popularity of rosé has changed how and when we drink rosé, and has catapulted this category to a year round favorite which I absolutely love.

Picpoul Blanc grapes on the vine

 

Unfortunately rosé has been given a bad rap due to the sweet Lancers and white Zinfandels of yester-year that used to flood the U.S. market. Today we are much more fortunate to be part of a paradigm shift which has pushed wineries to produce high quality rosé, and in turn has brought you (the consumers) a wide array of delicious, dry (not sweet) wines that rival many old-world favorites, all while at a price point that won’t break the bank.

At Halter Ranch Vineyard we take our rosé program very seriously. Let me take a quick step back here and explain the three main ways in which rosé is made: there is the Saigne method, a direct press method and a skin contact method.

Block 16 Grenache harvested at night to make rosé

 

In the Saigne method grapes are harvested to become a red wine; the grapes are de-stemmed, sorted, then sent to tank for cold-soaking (the grapes are held cold for a desired period of time before fermentation is allowed to begin, a common practice in red-wine production). Usually as quickly as possible a portion of the juice is bled off (Saigne means to bleed in French) and set aside to be made into rosé. For the tank this means that you will have less juice to skin ratio, which in turn will create a more concentrated red wine. The problem with this method is that the juice you are starting off with has the DNA of a red wine, that is to say the sugar is higher and the acid is lower. Generally speaking, to make an approachable rosé the winemaking team has to add water and acid to this juice prior to fermentation.

The direct press method involves harvesting grapes that are destined for rosé, and dumping them into a bladder press, where they are pressed off and the juice is fermented.

Picpoul Blanc being dumped into the bladder press

Picpoul Blanc being dumped into the bladder press

 

At Halter Ranch we take this one step further and opt for the skin contact method. Much like the direct press method, we actually farm certain vineyard blocks for rosé, meaning we can pick at the exact sugar and acid level that will result in a low-alcohol fresh wine that does not require any manipulation. All of our grapes are hand-harvested at night and brought to the winery where we de-stem and sort the fruit prior to crushing into half-ton macro bins. The bins are left in a cold storage room for approximately 24 hours where the juice is in contact with the skins and absorbs some of the color, flavor and aroma compounds that make our rosé truly unique. After the skin contact period the bins are dumped into our bladder press where they are pressed and sent to tanks to ferment.

Rosé tank samples used for blending trials

 

Post fermentation we generally have between four and eight tanks of rosé, which results in the grueling task of blending. When we are getting ready to blend the rosé we will taste every tank on its own, then decide what quantities of each are required to make the most delicious cuvée. Because we love rosé so much, and want to get the finished product to you as soon as possible, we bottle this wine in early December so it has a couple of months to rest before being ready to consume around Valentine’s Day.

Our 2016 Rosé is made from Grenache, Mourvèdre and Picpoul Blanc. Grenache provides aromas and flavors of wild strawberry and red fruit, while the Mourvèdre brings hints of watermelon and guava. The Picpoul Blanc (which literally translates to Lip Stinger in French) brightens the palate with crisp acidity while also bringing weight to the mid-palate. The 2016 Rosé is bone-dry and comes in at 13.2% alcohol which means you can enjoy more than one glass at a time and not feel like you have over-consumed!

We released our rosé on Friday, February 10, and we couldn’t be more excited. Last year our rosé was sold out in the tasting room by September, so it’s time to say “Yes Way Rosé” and come see us to pick-up a bottle (or case) of your favorite pink beverage!

Our 2016 Rosé retails for $24 and is available through our website, by phone (805) 226 9455, or in the tasting room.

Molly Lonborg

Halter Ranch Assistant Winemaker


Las Tablas Creek is flowing again

Halter Ranch Vineyard like much of the county, experienced high levels of rainfall over the weekend and into this week. Las Tablas Creek located on the south side of the property, which travels under our Covered Bridge, is now flowing for the first time since 2011 after receiving over 10 inches of rain since January 3, 2017. The creek begins about half way down Adelaida Road and continues to Lake Nacimiento Reservoir.

This is a once in a decade storm and we hope the creek continues to flow for months to come; a nice change from the dry conditions of the last few years. During 2012, 2013, 2014 while the creek did not flow, the springs in the creek still had water on the surface providing seasonal access to animals, but even those dried up completely in 2015 due to the ongoing drought.

The water flow we are able to see is an indicator of what is going on below in the underground portion of the creek; it means the soil is fully saturated and the excess water above allows the creek to flow. The additional rain also has many benefits to the property and vineyard. The main benefit being it saturates the soil, so vines have the maximum amount of water at the start of the growing season and it recharges the groundwater. The frequency of the current storms will allow the soil to be fully saturated and fill the groundwater basins.

Halter Ranch Vineyard Manager Lucas Pope said things are looking up from the last few years with regards to rain and groundwater, having the soil saturated at the beginning of the growing season allows for less irrigation and more canopy growth.

The winery at Halter Ranch also has rainwater harvesting systems located on the roof, in the floors, and in drains around the exterior of the facility allowing the winery to capture all rainwater. Water collected beyond the needs of the facility itself is used to fill our vineyard’s irrigation pond.

Rainfall totals since 2010/11 from Western Weather Group, Tablas Creek Station:

38.18 inches July 1, 2010 to July 1, 2011

15.09 inches July 1, 2011 to July 1, 2012

14.98 inches July 1, 2012 to July 1, 2013

13.87 inches July 1, 2013 to July 1, 2014

14.2 inches July 1, 2014 to July 1, 2015

19.62 inches July 1, 2015 to July 1, 2016

17.21 inches to date since July 1, 2016

 

10.49 inches January 3, 2017 to January 11, 2017

 

We look forward to more rain in the coming months.


2016 Harvest Update

Halter Ranch Grenache

Grenache was the first varietal harvested this year

 

The 2016 growing season has progressed well; harvest officially started at Halter Ranch on Monday, August 29, which puts this year earlier than average. We watched with a sense of anticipation and excitement during the start of August as grapes went through veraison; shifting from green to purple signaling the accumulation of sugars, a telltale sign of fruit approaching ripeness. Over 281,000 vines will be harvested at Halter Ranch over the next two months totaling 600 tons of grapes.

Halter Ranch Grenache

Grenache being sorted after being destemmed

 

Our first varietal harvested was Grenache, Alban Clone, from Blocks 1 to 3 followed by Block 66, VNS3 Clone. Vineyard crews picked between 2am and 6am on Monday morning.

Halter Ranch Grenache Harvest

Production team removing berries which didn’t make the cut

 

Picpoul Blanc Blocks 38 and 76 were our second varietal picked and processed on Tuesday, August 30, and pressing was complete by 9am. Followed by Syrah Blocks 17 and 74 and more Grenache from Blocks 41 and 72 on Thursday, September 1.

Halter Ranch Picpoul Blanc

Picpoul Blanc was harvested on Tuesday morning

 

If we continue to see these consistently warm days and cool nights, we are looking at a compact harvest. Our yield projections are on target for an average crop of two to three tons of grapes per acre. Our improved irrigation technologies have proven again this year; we do not need to water nearly as much as we did in the past.

Halter Ranch Picpoul Blanc

Picpoul Blanc being dumped into the bladder press

 

This growing season has been a contrast to last year, even as the drought continues. Last year we had the coolest May on record causing poor fruit set and lower crops across the region. That, paired with very low rainfall early in the spring, lead to less overall growth for the vines. This year, rain came late in spring and filled the soils as the growing season started, driving vigorous growth in the vineyard. The temperatures have also been above normal with more than two consecutive weeks above 100 and daily average highs in the 95 plus range most of June and July. All the signs point to an outstanding vintage in the fields and winery.

LUCAS POPE, Vineyard Manager


Q & A with Vineyard Manager Lucas Pope

This spring we were humbled to receive the California Green Medal: Sustainable Winegrowing Leadership Award for Environmental Stewardship. The award is given to the vineyard or winery that best demonstrates Environmental Stewardship. A commitment to the land is a core value here at Halter Ranch and thanks to the dedication, hard work and passion from our vineyard team this honor demonstrates our way of life. At the helm of our 14-person vineyard team is vineyard manager Lucas Pope. We sat down with Lucas to get an insider’s scoop about the inner workings of vineyard life at Halter Ranch plus learned a few fun facts.

Vineyard Manager Lucas Pope

Vineyard Manager Lucas Pope

How long have you been the Vineyard Manager at Halter Ranch?

I started April 1, 2012 as viticulturist and moved into the vineyard manager role in 2014.

Tell us about your team?

Our vineyard team includes 14 skilled and nurturing men and woman: Nick Painter – Vineyard/Production, Eusebio Rico – Vineyard Supervisor plus 11 men and 2 women who are full time, year round employees of Halter Ranch and work tirelessly to ensure vineyard health and sustainability.

What do you love most about the Halter Ranch property and your job?

The natural beauty that I am surrounded by here at Halter Ranch, my office has the best view. I work with a great team of people who are focused on the common goal of making the best wines possible from our site.

Challenges in the vineyard? Tell us about some.

The past few years we have been dealing with drought conditions which have left the vineyard very dry. We have had to come up with practices to conserve water in the vineyards while at the same time receiving lower than typical rainfall totals. We are fortunate enough to be able to use the newest tools on the market to monitor the vines water use and irrigate more accurately based on the plant’s needs. That has given us a water savings of 50% over past years , which equates into more than 4 million gallons a year!

Another large challenge has been to source the very best plants for our redevelopment. Nick Painter and I have been spending days at a time at the nursery selecting and testing our new vines to insure we get the best possible plants in the ground to insure we continue to improve.

Tell us something someone may not know about the Halter Ranch Vineyard?

Of the 2,000 acres that is Halter Ranch, 1,600 acres have been left as native vegetation. So many acres are being planted around the area and our owner Hansjörg Wyss has carved out a large portion of land to preserve as part of Paso Robles in its natural state.

If you had chosen a different career what would it have been?

I always dreamed about working on race cars as a kid, still think that would be fun!

Favorite activity outside of work?

Spending time with my family outdoors. Could be the beach, concerts in the park, or hiking,….

Best Halter Ranch food and wine paring, go!

This being summer, I tend to think about cooking over an open flame. Right now venison burgers with local avocados and home cured bacon paired with Halter Ranch Rosé or CDP.

Congratulations to Lucas and his team. What a great honor to commemorate your dedication and hard work at Halter Ranch!


Beat the Heat! – Q & A with winemaker Kevin Sass

Kevin

As I’m sure many of you are already well aware, it has been a little toasty here in Paso Robles, with temperatures in the triple digits. With this heat wave the first thing that comes to mind is what effect this will have on our vineyard (besides how soon we can open the next bottle of Rosé). We have the same questions you do: Can grapes get sunburnt? If so, what kind of sun lotion should we use? Or maybe, do they like to sunbathe? I bet they’re thirsty; will they be able to get enough water? We turned to our Halter Ranch winemaker Kevin Sass for all the answers.

It’s been over 100 degrees for several days, does this hurt/burn the vines? 

The vines don’t get hurt, but they have a tendency to shut down and stop photosynthesizing. Much like we do when we can’t sweat to cool ourselves down.

How do the high temperatures affect a vintage? 

Depending on how exposed your clusters are to the sun you can have “bleaching”, where the grapes skins get burned and don’t accumulate color. As a result those grapes are usually sorted out on the sorting table, but for people who don’t sort, it can impart unripe flavors. Luckily, we keep a close eye on protecting our vines.

Do you need to irrigate the vines more during these hot days? 

No, at this point we still have active growth from the 16 inches of rain that we received. This heat (when less than 100) will help slow down the vines and start them to think about ripening grapes and not reaching for the sky with their shoots. It can be helpful in many ways….

When do you expect veraison in the vineyard this year? 

We are looking to be three weeks from now until veraison.

What is your favorite ‘hot day’ activity when you aren’t at Halter Ranch? 

Drinking Rosé (Including ours!)

Still have some unanswered questions for Kevin? Come on into the Halter Ranch tasting room and ask us. And don’t worry we have the air conditioning cranking.  As always, we hope to see you soon!

-Halter Ranch

 

 


Our New Tasting Room

TR Exterior right2

We are thrilled to announce that the doors to the new Tasting Room are now open!

Nestled between blocks of Cabernet, Syrah and Grenache, the new tasting room features floor to ceiling windows with sweeping views of the estate vineyards. The main tasting room has a large, open floor plan with multiple tasting bars to give everyone a little more elbow room. There are two smaller tasting rooms to accommodate private events and group tastings. A commercial kitchen was installed to expand our food and wine experiences. To the back of the tasting room is an indoor patio with a large fireplace and a variety of couches, chairs and tables. The outdoor patio is just as inviting and features teak tables and chairs, a large fireplace, a pizza oven and an oak pit Santa Maria-style barbecue. On the other side of the patio are two large wooden doors that open to the underground caves leading to the winery.

TR Interior H1The inspiration for the design of the tasting room came from the local rustic cabins and barns with various uses of wood, cedar siding and rusty metal roofing. Owner Hansjörg Wyss carefully hand-selected all the artwork for the tasting room. While his passion for architecture led the design process, the entire Halter Ranch team was involved. Hansjörg felt that each person brought a unique perspective and point of view with regards to what was important for guests at Halter Ranch.

This week, we welcomed our first guests to the tasting room. They came by car and by bicycle to check out our new space. We look forward to welcoming you too – just follow the signs past the barnyard and across the covered bridge – keep an eye out for the chickens crossing the road as they think they have the right of way. We are open daily from 11am – 5pm.

Wessel Group1  Bikers  Bailey_Dykzeul_Richardson

 


A not-so-typical President’s Day Weekend

We just experienced the most amazing Presidents Day Weekend. The combination of a holiday weekend coupled with Valentines Day and the warm weather makes me think Halter Ranch is just the perfect spot to be. It’s not always 70 degrees here in February though. Since the inception of Halter Ranch in the year 2000, there have been two snow storms. Oddly enough they both happened on President’s Day weekend – once in 2006 & then again in 2009.

Enjoy the photos of Halter Ranch under a dusting of snow.

DSCN5870.JPG DSCN5920.JPG DSCN5936.JPG DSCN5881.JPG DSCN5884.JPG halter ranch


Winter in the Vineyard

The vineyard is beautiful after the welcome December rains. The cover crop is sprouting and the hills are green with winter grasses. WinterSunrise GreenVineyardFog Over Vineyard

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