Sunset Savor the Central Coast is a special autumn harvest festival celebrating the region’s the food and wine. Part of what makes it exceptional is the Adventure Tours that take place prior to the weekend’s main event. This year it was outdone with the Ultimate Wine Experience at Halter Ranch: Vineyard Hike, Cave Tour & Harvest Lunch giving one a glimpse at a very unique winery experience. It was enhance by the picturesque setting, the views, nature itself and the terroir.
Halter Ranch Winery occupies 1000 acres and is located on Adelaida Road on the west side of Paso Robles. A butcher named Edwin Smith originally established the ranch in the 1880s. At the time the property consisted of 3600 acres, which were used for growing produce and raising livestock. Smith built a Victorian home that burnt down in 1885. He rebuilt and lived in the home for about 12 years. In the 1900s the estate was broken up into several parcels and in 1943, the MacGillivray family purchased some of the property and were the first to plant grapevines in 1996. In 2000, the current owner, Hansjörg Wyss purchased 900 acres of the ranch, including the historic farmhouse.
Our winery tour began with a vineyard walk that included the ranch’s old barn structures. Our guide Lucas Pope, vineyard manager escorted us on our hike. Our stroll through the vines led us to a higher elevation and offered an optimal view of the layout of the various vineyards. Although we did not climb to the highest point, some of the 280 acres of vineyards reach an elevation of 1750 feet. Since nature plays a vital role in Halter Ranch’s winemaking practices, the vineyards are separated into separate sections that border wildlife corridors.
For Halter Ranch the utilization of green principles are incorporated wherever possible. The winery became a part of the SIP Sustainability and Practices program in 2008. They integrate this program into their regimens and almost every aspect of the winery. This program starts with farming the grapes with 10 tons of compost that is feed to the soils and vines.
As we continued our stroll through the vineyard we saw the Native garden that is planted to bring in good insects that play a positive role in nurturing the grapes. We also saw the incredible vegetable and fruit garden that employees of the ranch work and harvest. It became quite apparent that this garden brings unity and camaraderie to all those that work at the vineyard.
The winery features one of the oldest documented coastal oak trees. Estimated at 600 years old, this ancient tree is the theme behind Halter Ranch’s Ancestor wine and of course what better place to sample the wine than underneath the humongous branches of this lovely naturally sculptured tree. The 2012 Ancestor is a very floral blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Petit Verdot. The wine with its flavors of black fruit and violets has a wonderfully balanced, smooth and velvety structure. This flagship Halter Ranch wine is aged 16 – 18 months in French oak.
From the vineyard our tour ventured in to the recently built winery. This state of the art multi-level facility utilizes a gravity flow system. In keeping with their green practices, the winery has a built in ventilation system that acts like windows. It was here that winemaker Kevin Sass guided us through the winemaking process.
One of the highlights of our visit was a tasting in the caves. Here Kevin Sass presented tasting comparison tasting of the wine for the Côtes Du Paso. This was primarily a Grenache based blend of 51% Grenache, 24% Mourvedre, 19% Syrah, and 6% Tannat. A portion was aged in the barrel and another part in a concrete tank called the Hippo. It was quite obvious the difference. The barrel-aged blend was very bright, vibrant and fruity while the wine that had been aged in concrete had a flatter yet smoother quality and seemed less developed on the palate. It was an interesting experiment and it showed the different approaches Halter Ranch takes to create the highest quality wine. It will be interesting to see the outcome once the two aging vessels are combined into the final blend of Côtes Du Paso.
We had a delightful lunch in the old barn catered by Centrally Grown. Our tables were situated adjacent to Grenache Blanc and Marsanne grapes that were laid out on hay for the Vin de Paille wine. This is a dessert wine that is created in the Italian “Vin Santo” style but with Rhone varietals. Known as the straw wine because the grapes are laid to dry straw for about 40 days before it is pressed, fermented and aged in neutral French Oak. Our luncheon ended with a sampling of this very viscous creamy rich textured wine with flavors of peach and pineapple.
With a selection wonderfully prepared salads we were served the Halter Ranch Rosé, a crisp refreshing wine with nice acidity and minerality. This Rosé is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvédre and Picpoul Blanc. All grapes are grown specifically for this Rosé.
We also sampled the Côtes du Paso a nicely balanced blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvédre and Tannat.
The relaxed pace of the tour combined with the gorgeous clear skies, the exceptional food and wine helped bring together the essence of Halter Ranch and their philosophy of crafting estate grown wine using a combination of traditional, innovative and sustainable practices to create an impressive body of consistent wines.
This was one of the most outstanding Adventure Tours provided by Sunset Savor the Central Coast and will be a hard one to beat in 2015.
To learn more about or to visit this winery:
Halter Ranch Vineyard
8910 Adelaida Road, Paso Robles, CA 93446
Toll Free 888-367-9977
For general inquiries, tasting room and tour information contact:
Tasting Room Hours: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily
For more information on Sunset Savor the Central Coast and the Adventure Tours click here.
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