A Walk Through the Caves with our Winemaker

 

Halter Ranch Vineyard

In the Caves

 

It has been an eventful week in westside Paso Robles:

This past Wednesday our accountant Julie Whitmore had the privilege of setting the final stone in the rock facing around our eastern cave entrance.

 

Caves - Halter Ranch Vineyard

Julie places the final stone

 

We achieved a full inch of rain with Superbowl Sunday’s storm and now we only need about 25 more to reach normal rainful.  Keep up those dances and downpour wishes for us!  According to local weather guru John Lindsey, our next opportunity for some serious rainfall is late next week.

Given how busy our schedules are, it is not often that I get to tour the caves and taste through upcoming vintages with Kevin. As such, when the opportunity presents itself I fall deep into ‘sponge-mode,’ absorbing as much information as possible to share in the tasting room and here on the blog.  Much of the discussion on this latest venture into the caves centered around the inherent variability throughout winemaking and the ways we account for that variability from vintage to vintage.  As the process begins in the vineyard each spring, every condition from the angle of sunlight, to the number of leaves on the vine, to the specific conditions of the ecosystem in and among the vines affects the final wine.  The more time I spend in the industry the more I become hyper-conscious of the vast potential for variation wine to wine and vintage to vintage.  Kevin opened by stating that vintage variation in the vineyard, coupled with experimentation in the type of oak and other fermentation vessels we use, accounts for the particular style, or more accurately, styleof wine we produce each year.

 

Caves - Halter Ranch Vineyard

Blurry Thieving

 

As I accompanied Kevin and two industry guests through the caves and listened to him articulate the fact that barrels also have a massive potential to impact the wine and huge variance themselves between forest of origin, cooper (who made them), their size, the thickness of the staves, and their toast level. Potential for variation encourages innovation both with a mind toward keeping a degree of consistency in style from year to year and in making slight changes toward continued honing and improvement of the wine we produce.  I suppose what I’m saying is that the more time I spend in the industry, seeing different choices and the effects of small details in the wine, the more I appreciate a wider variety of wine, and the more I want to share that variety with others.  Kevin states openly that a huge advantage of our operation and the philosophy behind it is the fact that we have the resources and the desire to make and wide variety of wines and to present them to our customers.  I find myself thinking that this honest truth, this innovative mindset, is a major part of what makes Halter Ranch and our wines so exciting.  In that spirit, having tasted a few of our upcoming vintages, I absolutely cannot wait to begin sharing them as it seems that with each year the overall message becomes a little more deliciously clear.

As I was typing this I received a phone call from Lucas out in the vineyard informing me that a pair of Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) were gracing the Halter Ranch Pond.  Fifteen minutes after the phone call, I caught these quick shots:

 

Caves - Halter Ranch Vineyard

At a Glance

 

As always, thank you for reading and check back next week for a look at a new and unique piece in the vineyard.  Cheers til then!

 

Halter Ranch Vineyard

Eagle In Flight


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…)


2014 in the Vineyard

The Vineyard

View of our Vineyard from the Ridgline

 

During last week’s excursion Lucas and Eusebio discussed plans for the vineyard as we begin the new year. Contained herein is a summary of their discussion with clarification of viticulturalist lingo.

As of Monday we began the process of pre-pruning the vineyard.  Pre-pruning is when we trim down the mass of canes left from last year’s growth to prevent entanglement when the vineyard team begins more detailed pruning in the coming months.

On our younger head trained plantings of Grenache, Carignan, Tempranillo, and Tannat, which account for about 1/3 of the planted acreage, we applied some water and allowed an abundance of growth in 2013 to encourage them to establish a substantial root system.  As we prune these adolescent vines for 2014, we will cut all that abundance back to just two buds, this way the vines may focus a maximum of nutrients into a minimum of buds, shoots, leaves, and, finally, fruit.

In our more established plantings, the remaining 2/3 of our 281 acres, we will be delaying primary pruning in the hope of pushing budbreak beyond April frost. There is a degree to which we are at the weather’s mercy once the vines begin awakening in early Spring.  Typically we begin pruning in early to mid December, this year we’ve waited until January to see if it is possible mitigate that risk.

Check back next week for a new culinary masterpiece and pairing.  In the meantime, happy January and cheers!

 

Where's Eusebio

Hiking on the Ridgline

 


Return to the Wild

Halter Ranch Vineyard

The Wild Side

 

14 months later, we finally ventured back into the wild side of Halter Ranch with viticulturalist Lucas Pope and vineyard foreman Eusebio Rico as our guides.  The goal on this excursion was to document the locations of our wildlife cams to give context to the photos we’ve begun posting here and on facebook.  Additionally Lucas and Eusebio wanted to check the status of a well on the old Curran property which is part of the 1300 acre oak and wildlife preserve on the northeast end of the vineyard.

 

Halter Ranch Vineyard

Old Power Lines

 

While en route we discovered the skeleton of a wild pig, revisted the old harvester from last year’s explorations, and examined the state of flora and fauna after another distinctly dry year.  Below are some photos and thoughts from the adventure. (more…)


Wine Resolutions for 2014

 

Resolutions - Halter Ranch Vineyard

A Hearth-y Happy New Year!

 

Here published are 14 wine resolutions for 2014.  Sourced from the diabolically wine-centric brains of our very own staff.

1. We resolve not to judge a wine by its alcohol content or any other attribute prior to actually trying it.

2. We resolve to refrain from purchasing half bottles as they are too tempting to drink all by oneself.

3. We resolve to drink more dry Rose.

4. We resolve to refrain from purchasing ‘critter label’ wines purely based on the fact that critters are cute, and instead to fulfill our critter cuteness needs here and here.

5. We resolve not to acquiesce to the notion that a wine is better because it is uniformly composed of a single variety (i.e. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon).

6. We resolve to keep our minds and palates open to new and wondrous tastes despite not being certain whether we will like them or not.

7. We resolve not to influence our wine tasting fellows with normative terminology when they are in the midst of a fresh tasting experience.

8. We resolve to drink more Champagne and less soda.

9. We resolve to sip and fully experience, rather than simply drink.

10. We resolve to drink wine with food.  After all, nutrients are best absorbed when liquids and solids are consumed in concert.

11. We resolve to remember that while wine is how we make our living, we need not approach it as if it is work.

12. We resolve to remember to drink what we like and not feel guilty about it.

13. We resolve to continue finding new ways to share our fascinations and foster fascination in others.

14. We resolve to incite joy by keeping glasses, both real and proverbial, topped off and raised high.

Check back next Wednesday for more wildlife photos and vineyard updates with Lucas. If you feel so inclined, do share your wine resolutions for 2014 in the comments below. We would love to read them. Cheers and happy nearly new year to all!

 

Resolutions - Halter Ranch Vineyard

Huzzah!

 


New Wildlife Photos

Wildlife - Halter Ranch Vineyard

That is indeed an elk.

 

An aspect of our sustainable program are the wildlife corridors kept intact by installing an extra 16000 feet of fencing when the vineyard was planted.  The corridors allow deer and other fauna to get through the vineyard to 1300 acres of oak and wildlife preserve that remain undisturbed but for the occasional exploratory trip from our staff to insure no humans are occupying the back portion of the property for sinister purpose.  Recently Lucas Pope installed wildlife cameras at 2 watering holes within the preserve.  Included here just three out of 350 photos taken by one of the two cameras over the past 6 weeks.  Most of what we have seen thus far are deer and birds, but as you can see, a few more rare and shy critters have made appearances as well.   (more…)


Halter Ranch Vineyard on PBS with Original Fare

Halter Ranch Vineyard

Click the Photo to visit Original Fare

 

Original Fare is a PBS sponsored YouTube series revolving around farm to table cooking.  We were offered the privilege of hosting creators Kelly Cox and Lucas Longacre onsite for a few days while they produced the show linked to the photo above.  Beyond the fact that it provides great information about Halter Ranch, the video offers an excellent quick but complete look at the various stages and processes of harvest.  Check it out and let us know what you think on our facebook page here, Google+ here, and Twitter (@halterranch).  Also please go check out Kelly and Lucas’s Original Fare website and the PBS Food YouTube Channel.


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. (more…)


This is the End…of Harvest 2013

On the night pick - End

 

The time has come to don our raincoats, spread straw on our roadways, and batten down the hatches for winter.  Another picking season has just passed and with the first rain we feel the slight sting of a hard earned harvest complete in concert with vast anticipation for the delicious wine that will result.  All sentiment aside, last Thursday night marked the final picking push as we near the end of Harvest 2013.  We currently have six stainless steel tanks filled with Cabernet Sauvignon undergoing primary fermentation.  All red Rhone varieties are now in barrel. Overall we brought in 460 tons of fruit from the ranch this year, selling 60 to other producers and keeping 400 tons to take through fermentation ourselves.  As a vintage 2013 looks absolutely stellar.  We were able to take all 17 varieties under cultivation to ideal ripeness without any significant rainfall or other grape-threatening weather. Keep an eye here for additional updates as we near the end of fermentation and move on to barrel ageing.

In the meantime check the rest of the post for a series of photos from this year’s pick.

(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

 

 

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