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.

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Useful Analogies

 

Analogies - Halter Ranch Vineyard

Extracting More Flavor and Texture

 

In the tasting room we often use analogy to convey method when describing the winemaking process.  The following two analogies were provided by Winemaker Kevin Sass and General Manager Skylar Stuck.  They describe how Barrel Fermentation and Cap Management work using similar concepts in coffee and tea preparation.

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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

 

 


Ancestor Dinner 2013

Halter Ranch Vineyard

2011 Ancestor Estate Reserve

 

Each October we choose one evening to pause harvest and dress up the old Smith family barn for the Ancestor Release Dinner.  This past Saturday marked the presentation of the 2011 vintage with a delectible coursed meal provided by Lido.  We have made the Ancestor Estate Reserve each year since 2003 and it typically is composed of our most concentrated and expressive red lots.  The 2011 blend is 49% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Petit Verdot, 6% Malbec.  It spent 14 months in French Oak.  60% of the barrels were new and 40% had been used to age wine at least once previously.

As a vintage, 2011 is particularly exciting as it marks the first year we made wine in our new gravity fed winery with Kevin at the helm.  Due to cool weather throughout summer 2011, we made only 324 cases of this absolutely delicious wine.  As a result, it is available only to Wine Club Members at this time.

What follows is a photographic journey through the appetizers, courses, and wine at this year’s Ancestor Dinner.

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Night Picking – A Journal in Photos

Picking - Halter Ranch Vineyard

Cool Grapes

 

This is just a taste of the awesome activities we partake in late at night during harvest season.  Welcome to the latest update on our staff vineyard project.  The three teams–New Kids on Block 3, Oscar’s Grouches, 21 and Holding–have all successfully harvested their respective vineyard blocks as of this morning. (more…)


Fermenting in Barrel

 

Halter Ranch Vineyard

Arnaud guides Block 8 Syrah berries into new French oak.

 

Since the 2011 vintage a portion of Syrah and Grenache have been sorted and crushed directly into French Oak barrels, some new (which means freshly toasted and constructed from the cooper, as yet untouched by wine), some neutral (neutral means that the barrel has had wine in it over the course of at least one year–this is our definition, some winemakers distinguish between barrels that have been used just once and those that have been used 2 or more times).  These special Rhone lots go through both primary (yeast eating sugar to create alcohol) and secondary (acetobacter eat malic acid-the variety of acid that comes from fruit-to create lactic acid-the type of acid associated with dairy, red wine, and some white wines) fermentation in barrel. (more…)


Block 11 Historical Society

IMG-20130912-00768

 

Last Thursday we harvested Block 11 Syrah which is one of two remaining blocks from the 1996 MacGillivray planting four years prior to Halter Ranch becoming Halter Ranch.  The pick began at 12:30 am on Thursday September 12 and carried on until 6 am.  12.2 tons of fruit were delivered to the upper crush pad at a temperature of 52 degrees Fahrenheit.  8.5 tons of Syrah from Block 11 were destemmed and combined with 1.5 tons of Viognier from Block 35 and will comprise our Syrah/Viognier coferment for 2013.  The remaining syrah clusters were destemmed and will be fermented separately.  Beyond the excitement of being one of the first red blocks to be harvested this year, 11 is special because it represents an abundance of both Paso Robles and Halter Ranch history.

In the middle of Block 11 sits the Ancestor Oak.  This ancient Quercus agrifolia (Coast Live Oak) is one of the two largest trees of this particular variety on the planet.  Rows of vines were planted in a radius around this huge tree to twelve foot spacing.  The wider rows in this block allowed the MacGillivray family to drive their normal (as opposed to vineyard specific) tractors up and down the block.  Syrah planted to 11 is the Estrella clone which originated in the vineyard of same name on the east side of Paso Robles.  The cuttings themselves were sourced from the now famous James Berry vineyard back in 1996.  Jim Smith gave the MacGillivrays permission to take cuttings from his vines prior to pruning.  Due to the cost of rootstock and grafting, the cuttings were planted on their own roots as opposed to being grafted to new world rootstock.  A quick aside: due to the risk of soil bound pests such as phylloxera most plantings of the last century are grafted to the root portion (rootstock) of vines from the new world that has resistance to said pests and is acclimated to the soil on this side of the Atlantic.  In Block 11’s, cuttings from the established James Berry vines were not grafted, but stuck directly into the soil to sprout their own roots a testament to the vigor and enthusiasm of grapevines!

Expect to see Block 11 as one component in our core Syrah for 2013.  Given the history and high fruit quality from these 17 year old vines, this block  may eventually join the ranks of our reserve line-up alongside Ancestor, Tempranillo, Block 22 Syrah, and Block 41 Cabernet Sauvignon.

 

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Coveting Cotes de Paso

 

Cotes de Paso - Halter Ranch Vineyard

Covetous photo courtesy of Sarah Forstner

 

There are moments with a glass of wine when I’ll be sipping along my merry way and all of a sudden a certain clarity will enter the scene.  As if a group of notes in a musical piece all suddenly meld into one unified tone that causes the world to vibrate with exuberance.  What I’m really saying is, sometimes about halfway through a glass of wine I’ll realize that the experience has transcended the normal level of enjoyment and achieved the sublime.  Before I get carried away in amorphous and esoteric description, let me provide some context.  (more…)


What’s Happening

Happening - Halter Ranch Vineyard

Fog from Lion’s Crown

 

As usual there is a lot happening at the ranch this week.  What follows is a quick photo journal highlighting a few of our multitudinous activities as we prepare for harvest 2013 and other Fall events.  The photo above was taken during a recent outing with Lucas pope onto the wildlife and oak preserve just north of our vineyard.  This 1300 acres maintains habitat for indigenous wildlife.  Access to this land for deer and other critters is provided via a network of wildlife corridors through the vineyard.  (more…)


Halter Ranch Vineyard – Frequent Questions

 

Thanks Madelyne! - Halter Ranch Vineyard

The Old Victorian Farmhouse from Adelaida Road

 

Every few months we tasting room and tour staff accrue a group of  questions that crop up repeatedly in our interactions at Halter Ranch.  The following post is devoted to answering the top 9 of these questions so that they are accessible in the e-sphere.  For the record, we love being asked and having the opportunity to answer questions about this wonderful place and the philosophy behind it, so please keep asking and we’ll keep doing our best to provide answers! (more…)

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