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.

A Fourth In the Wild

Halter Ranch Vineyard



Today as I wound my way toward the ranch I turned a corner and startled a red-tailed hawk as it was picking a young gopher snake up off the middle of Vineyard Drive.  It flew in front of my car and the snake slipped from its talons, falling into the brush along the roadside.  As we prepared for the day a full grown bobcat wandered nonchalantly across the lawn directly in front of the tasting room and made its way down into the creek.  This was the first time any of us had seen one in the flesh.  While making our way back from feeding and watering the chickens we startled a barn owl on the covered bridge.  It flew to a nearby oak branch and gazed down at us as if to say “I am incredulous at your being here.”

In the wake this third wildlife event, I realized that human activity along Adelaida Road and Vineyard Drive was at probably about 10% of what it normally would be due to the holiday.  Two additional realizations immediately struck me.  First, it is amazing how quickly wild things appear even during the briefest respite from humanity’s noise and presence.  Second, such moments are becoming exponentially more scarce, and so today is very special beyond it being special for cultural reasons. I cannot help but gush at the astounding beauty in the quiet of this mostly wild ranch and the beautiful creatures we share it with.

And so I will unabashedly say, our wines and doors and eyes and minds are open on this fine Fourth. A happy one to all.  If you catch a moment and the inclination, sneak away from the beaches and explosives for a time–back to whatever wild place is nearest, maybe with some wine in hand–to take a quiet, respectful look at all the other living things that are celebrating today.

Lessons in Shoot Thinning and Fruit Selection

Shoot - Halter Ranch Vineyard

Eusebio Working Magic


During our weekly visit to Block 33 Merlot as part of the HRV Special Projects Program vineyard foreman Eusebio Rico and viticulturalist Lucas Pope offered us advice and lessons as the processes of shoot thinning and fruit selection begin.  We watched Eusebio work a few vines to see how it’s done.  While his hands flew across the trunk removing leaves, unwanted clusters and shoots, he gave us a quick rundown of which clusters to keep (the more developed, evenly spaced, and sun protected ones taking priority) and which leaves to remove.  (more…)

Halter Ranch Special Projects Division


Block 33 Merlot

Looking down the rows in Block 33 Merlot


As we alluded to on our facebook page earlier this week, new and exciting special projects are underfoot in the vineyard.   The tasting room and winery staff have split into three teams (each headed by a member of the winery staff) and each team has been assigned a few rows from three different portions of the vineyard (Team A Block 21 Cabernet Sauvignon lead by Darren, Team B Block 3 Malbec lead by Molly, Team C Block 33 Merlot lead by Oscar).  Each team will take their rows through the winemaking process from shoot thinning, through fermentation, and finally to blending.  All squads will have access to assistance and advice from viticulturist Lucas Pope, winemaker Kevin Sass, and vineyard foreman Eusebio Rico, but the idea is that final decisions and methods will fall upon the squad itself to enact.  (more…)

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…)

Vineyard Updates and Sustainable Thinking


Sustainable Farming - Halter Ranch Vineyard

In Row Tilling


Spring is upon us!  Oak trees are in bloom, lupins now grace our upper hillsides, and other flowers have begun to peek around the edges of the ranch.  In the vineyard we are through primary pruning with the exception of Block 5 Syrah, Block 26 Sauvignon Blanc, and Block 35 Viognier which we will leave partially pruned with a mind toward mitigating potential damage from late frost.

In preparation for budbreak, which has already started at some of the higher elevation sites throughout the vineyard, we’ve begun mowing and discing under the cover crop to provide a healthy injection of water and nutrients for the awakening vines. Additionally we continue our program of in-row tilling (covered last month on the blog here) to mitigate competitive (weed) growth in the immediate vicinity of the vines where the discs and mower do not reach.  These practices allow for the elimination of applied fertilizers and weed control.  The significance of this minimalist approach cannot be overstated in its effect on the health of the vineyard and the quality of resulting wines.  It is the habit of grapes to exhibit the various unique qualities of the site on which they are grown (see terroir) and it follows that any manipulation of that site has the potential to alter for good or ill, the character of the resulting wine.

For more on sustainability and sustainable farming check out SIPcertified.org

Earth Day, Farms, and Forks


Green Horizon - Earth Day

The Green Ranch


The horizon looks increasingly green as Earth Day 2013 approaches…

Beyond our participation in the main event, Halter Ranch will be hosting the Farm to Fork tour and dining experience on April 19 from 6-9 pm.  Our own Kevin Sass will be leading guests on an educational journey through our sustainable vineyard and winery.  The idea here will be to convey, to the best of our ability, the combination of beauty, terroir, specificity, history, philosophy, and approach that make Halter Ranch Vineyard so special.  The journey will be capped off, or topped off if you like, with a multi-course meal prepared by Tom Fundaro of Villa Creek.  Expect some stellar pairing interactions betwixt HRV wines and chef Tom’s stupendous cuisine.

Why attend this event, or celebrate Earth Day through this festival you might ask?  Beyond the reasons above, what body in physical space could possibly compete with our planet when it comes to order of importance?  The sun and moon might be high on the list given our little Third Rock’s codependent interaction with them, but it would be difficult to argue they deserve more attention.

As we’ve expressed in a few previous posts, wine may be considered the sensory exemplification of our planet’s interaction with the sun and moon, given it is essentially the result of natural process that would not exist without these relational physics and the interactions of starstuff that drive them.  So, with this in mind, how indeed could we not spend at the very least one day a year paying homage to our vibrant host planet and the natural happenings round which we base our lives.  While we’re at it, why not indulge in a delicious glass of wine (perhaps even a few!) and a plate (or three!) of scrumptious locovore-type eats?  Why not indeed.

For tickets click here.


Wining Philosophical

Philosophical tanks, barrels, and bottles - Halter Ranch Vineyard

The Halter Ranch Headspace


There is a phenomenon within the tasting room which results from the tendency of particular patrons to wax philosophical across the tasting bar in the interest of fomenting discussion.  This post is a sort of homage to said patrons as the discussions they incite are often profound and quite memorable.  So what is it about fermented grape juice that inspires humans toward the cerebral?

It would be inaccurate to imply the only effect of wine is to inspire the mind toward the cerebral, or to lubricate dormant thought process, more accurately it probably functions to…inspire…a variety of behaviors positive, cerebral, and otherwise. For the sake of this article, we will focus on its talent for extracting deep brooding thoughts and encouraging conversation of the conceptually wandering kind.

On that note, let’s take a brief trek back through time to the underpinnings of modern philosophy.  Plato and Aristotle sit across from one another brooding.  Each holds in hand a clay goblet filled with, what else, vino. In this past era wine is generally stored and served from cool clay vessels and is probably sweeter than the majority of modern vinified offerings.  (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…)

Native Plant Discoveries – HRV Vineyard Hike Round Two

Underway - Native

The (big!) tour group makes its way across our covered bridge.

Congregation at Club Mitch

Mitch performs a mini quiz session at the main irrigation pond.


This Saturday past we embarked on the second vineyard hike of 2013.  This time, Leslie and Mitch led us up the airstrip, around the pond, through the new plantings, and back in a mock figure eight pattern to arrive at the tasting room.  Along the way we were treated to an abundance of wildlife and absolutely gorgeous warm weather.  (more…)

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