2011 Côtes de Paso





In the bustle of modernity, among the massive number of humans and activities taking place at any given time across the earth, it is unlikely one wouldn’t find a day or even a moment in time that is not monumental somewhere from someone’s perspecive.  At the moment, in our small corner of the wine world, today and this moment are monumental because we are releasing the first core red wine made from start to finish in our new winery and entirely under the watchful eye and attentive hands of our winemaker Kevin Sass.  2011 Côtes de Paso is composed of 48% Grenache, 27% Syrah, 19% Mourvedre, and 6% Tannat.  It is a delightfully smokey exhibition of dark fruit and spice with the versatility we’ve come to rely on from Côtes de Paso.  To use Kevin’s terms, this wine is ‘dangerously juicy’.  For clarification, and before either descriptor incites panic, dangerous in terms of how easily it is to move through a bottle and juicy in a fruit forward, full bodied, but not sweet way.


The component tasting.

The component tasting.


Kevin and General Manager Skylar Stuck took the time on Tuesday to guide the staff through a component tasting of  the four individual grapes that make up 11 CDP.  Here are a few facts and notes gleaned from the experience:

-A portion of the Grenache in this wine was fermented in neutral oak barrels.  This unusual practice consists of removing the head from a group of barrels (in this case barrels that had been used at least once to insure the delightful fruit character of Grenache Noir would shine through) and crushing the grapes directly into them.  Punch downs are then performed, by hand, on each individual barrel for the duration of fermentation.  Each group of three barrels containing juice and must produces one barrel of finished wine.  While more labor intensive and delicate than fermentation in tank, we have found the effect of barrel fermenting a portion of the fruit for Côtes Red has a very interesting and (we believe) absolutely delicious effect on the final blend.  You may expect additional barrel fermented offerings, and additional coverage here on the blog as we move forward.

-Unlike 2010 Côtes de Paso, the Syrah portion of 2011 CDP spent a little time in new oak barrels.  The effect on the wine is some subtle smoke throughout, a little meaty character on the palate, and a hint of vanilla in the aroma.

-The Mourvedre used for this wine was from Block 15 which saw it’s third leaf in 2011.  This means it was the first year the vines produce fruit and is generally considered a benchmark year in terms of grape quality.

-Tannat in this wine offers some delightful fleshy fruitiness, in contrast to its typically very tannic and structural role in other wine regions, and some delectible earthy spice.

It may be obvious at this point, but we can’t help saying regardless, we are very excited about this wine and about the opportunity to share it with you.  SO!  If you’re interested in experiencing it, swing out to the tasting room any day of the week between 11 and 5 and come prepared to be blown away in the most positive sense of the phrase.

As always thanks for reading, happy Thursday, and cheers:


Côtes de Paso

Let salivation commence.

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:  http://www.pasoforkandcorksfest.com/

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:  http://realmendrinkpink.org/the_party.html

Organic Discussion in the HRV Tasting Room


Organic Discussion - Halter Ranch Vineyard

Spring blossoms


I recently had a conversation in the tasting room with a very pleasant and well spoken group of customers who were interested in the role of organic certification in wine.  After discussing I was left with the sense that both sides of the conversation were left a bit confused as the result of impressions we each held about the truth and meaning behind certification.  What follows is an exploration of the distinctions between organic, biodynamic, and or sustainable.  You will find that I have bias toward one of the programs, and this is something I am willing to both admit and accept.  I welcome commentary so please don’t be shy about offering your own opinions, questions, or suggestions in the comments section following this post.  (more…)

Tasting 2012 Rosé and 2011 Synthesis

2012 Rosé

2012 Rosé preparing to enter the line up


Our 2012 Rosé is unique in the history of HRV pink.  It represents one of only 2 wines we’ve produced that come in at less than 14% alcohol (the other being 2009 Cabernet Franc).  The shift toward lower alcohol and higher acid in the rosé is intentional.  We have found it maintains its delicious bright red fruit character quite well while the bracing acidity provided by Picpoul Blanc makes it even more delectable with food.  We cannot wait to share it with you.  In the meantime here are our notes:

2012 Rosé is composed of 68% Grenache, 15% Mourvèdre, 12% Picpoul Blanc, and 5% Syrah.   Immediately the nose is bright and bursting with red fruit in the cranberry, raspberry, and strawberry spectrum.  On the palate the texture is light but mouthfilling with that thirst quenching quality rosé has the potential to achieve so welll.  Acidity is present but not overwhelming.  As the wine opens notes of passionfruit, guava, grapefruit, and sour cherry begin to emerge.  A delightful cranberry grapefruit zip swoops in on the finish leaving the palate fresh and awaiting the next sip.   (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…)

Kubota and Clemens – Activity in the Vineyard

Green From 52 - Kubota

Vineyard activity from the pinnacle of Block 52


Wednesday morning we took an opportunity to get out into the vineyard with Lucas and see how work among the vines is progressing.  The cover crop creates a striking canvas of underlying green throughout the vineyard in distinct contrasted to the various shades when the vines are active and despite chill season, the hearty aroma of fresh growth fills the air.  We are currently in the process of pruning and performing weed mitigation throughout our plantings.  At the moment 70% of the vineyard is composed of mature, fruit producing vines, the other 30% is still making its way toward the point where usable fruit will be produced (we begin harvesting fruit once a vine has reached its 3rd leafing).   (more…)

Introducing Kendall Carson


Kendall Being Awesome



Kendall joins the Halter Ranch team after spending the past 7 years at Edward Sellers.  She brings with her a wealth of knowledge and customer service experience from her diverse career as a membership coordinator and promoter in both the wine and golf industries.  Kendall will be succeeding Tony Quealy as our wine club and event manager given Tony’s move to grace the tasting room with his managerial skills.  She has worked previously for Mission Hills Country Club, Kraft Nabisco, Edward Sellers, and as a consultant at courses in Southern California and Phoenix.  Her husband John manages both Hunter Ranch and La Purisima.

When asked about her interest in wine prior to working in the industry, she gets all dreamy eyed and relates a story about the first variety that provided an absolutely sublime experience, a Barbera from Inglenook.  She began in the industry by working with Diane in the tasting room at J. Lohr where she acquired the knowledge and experience to get the Ed Seller’s tasting room off the ground for their initial release.  While at Edward Sellers she did a bit of everything including but not exclusive to: becoming certified and driving a forklift, punching down and pumping over tanks, organizing events, running the tasting room, and managing the wine club.

Kendall first experienced Halter Ranch and our wine back in 2005 and 2006 when Mitch, Leslie, and Kolynn were pouring the first few vintages of HRV wine (2002 Syrah, 2002 Ranch Red, 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon) on the newly remodeled Victorian porch. While a fan of Halter Wines overall, she is particularly excited about the Cotes de Paso program (both Rouge and Blanc) and the 2010 Syrah (Viognier coferment!).

Kendall is eager to contribute her expertise and creativity as Halter Ranch continues to grow and we are absolutely ecstatic to have her on board.  If you have not checked out the events schedule for the year, take a peek here, the line up is already (perhaps not surprisingly) looking stellar.


A Western Screech Owl Graces Halter Ranch

Roger's Screech Photo

Courtesy of Roger Zachary


Each year around this time we welcome a hearty group of bi and monoculared guests as part of the Morro Bay Bird Festival.  Roger Zachary of Atascadero and our own Mitch Wyss lead an Ornithological tour of the Halter Ranch property.  This year was particularly special in that the group caught a lucky glimpse of the fairly common, but rarely seen, Western Screech Owl among many other beautiful avian tenants (some migratory, some temporary, and some more permanent).  Though we were able to capture a shot of the owl above with Roger’s help, we would highly suggest experiencing some of his photos here as they are quite diverse and beautiful.   (more…)

Paderewski Festival Finale Vibrates Through the HRV Barn

We were pleased and privileged to host the 2012 Paderewski Festival Finale on Sunday



This past Sunday the Halter Ranch Barn proved itself an excellent venue for instrumental performances.  A chill hung still in the air from the frosty evening preceding as three young Polish musicians warmed up pre-performance on the Yamaha baby grand temporarily gracing the western edge of the old Smith barn. (more…)

Ancestor Dinner 2012 – Celebrating the Flagship


Follow the tealights…toward Ancestor


Each year in October, once the Vin de Paille has been laid out in the old Smith barn, we hold a dinner celebrating the season and the offical release of Ancestor.  Our flagship blend is comprised of the winemaking team’s favorite lots (individual portions of the final blend, fermented separately) from the vintage in which it is produced.  We have produced an Ancestor each year since its first incarnation in 2003.  2008 is the current vintage and it is comprised of 25% Petit Verdot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Syrah, 15% Merlot, and 12% Malbec.  Chef Jeff Scott captained this year’s dinner, consisting of a four course meal paired with Halter Ranch wines, peaking with the 2008 Ancestor.  What follows is a photo journal of the event. We’d suggest pairing the experience of viewing this post with a glass of 2010 Cotes de Paso Rouge, but that’s just us.  It might be equally appropriate to pull the cork on an Ancestor from your cellar for conceptual symmetry. (more…)

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