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.


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.


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…)

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 Holiday Hike Up Block 50 Grenache

Trekking upward between Grenache and Mourvèdre


I began my trek up Block 50 Grenache / Mourvèdre around 4:19 pm just over an hour before our staff holiday event in the northeastern most barrel room of the new winery.  The windchill was already up (or down depending on how you define things) and shadows were growing long.  My first impression of this planting took place just after the vines were put in the ground this May past, and my thought at the time was “so steep!”.  This assessment was no less accurate on foot seven months later and I could feel my chest tightening as my lungs filled with chilly air.  The reward upon reaching the top was more than worth the effort and nearly beyond description (though I will still try of course).   (more…)

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.

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