The long and winding road that leads to Halter Ranch Vineyard is graced with wineries and vineyards, a ranch or two, an olive grower plus it’s lined with a canopy of oak trees; all things comprising the very essence of North SLO County agriculture.
Halter Ranch Vineyard : The Horse Connection
Halter Ranch Vineyard gets its name from the owner’s Mother’s side of the family, however one could also say it’s a nod back to the very beginnings of this property. The first owner, Edwin Smith, was a horse racing enthusiast and kept a stable full Thoroughbred horses in the barn where halters were used to lead the horses out of the barn.
Turning onto the Halter Ranch Vineyard property off Adelaida Road in Paso Robles, the first thing you’ll see is the landmark Victorian home originally built by Edwin Smith in 1885. Glance around from there and in the same vicinity you’ll see two barns – the main barn and another barn with an attached silo. These buildings remind us again that horses and livestock once graced this property.
Be Transported to the New Vision
A custom-built covered bridge transports you from the horse and livestock beginnings to the new vision: A state-of the-art wine processing facility alongside the beautiful new tasting room. The tasting room showcases vineyard views which backdrop the bar counter where samples are poured and delights discovered.
Take a Tour or an Excursion
Here we met our guide, Brice, for the pre-arranged Winery and Caves tour. We walked along the winery’s path of grapes corridor, flanked on one side by a limestone retaining wall – limestone pulled from the very heart of the property and put to functional and decorative use.
As we appreciated the lines and design of the new processing facility and tasting room, Brice told us the current owner, Hansjörg Wyss, is a native of Switzerland. Wyss chose to echo Swiss chalet design components into these buildings.
Since he was starting fresh with the wine processing facility design and construction, Wyss toured many top-notch wineries in France, Spain and Portugal gathering the best ideas to incorporate into his fully-sustainable wine making process.
Choosing grape varieties which enjoy the limestone-enriched soil and the Paso Robles climate the vineyard features 13 grape varieties with the majority being Bordeaux, Rhone and Tempranillo. The wine making process starts with hand-picked grapes, followed by a gentle pressing of the grapes for the juice, then incorporates gravity flow throughout the journey where the juice is captured and rests in French oak wine barrels.
The wine barrels are left to rest in what’s known as the Caves, an underground series of tunnels all housing the next vintage of wine waiting it’s turn to be processed into bottles. It’s cool, quiet and clean down here. The lighting also casts a dramatic light over the barrels.
Nearing the end of the tour, we stepped out of the Caves onto the back patio of the Tasting room. Here we learn more about the different varieties and how they are blended together to make the wineries selections. Sampling the latest and longstanding offerings finishes off our tour.
Horses Past and Horses Present
Horses may have been a thing of the past for Halter Ranch Vineyard, but they actually still grace the vineyards as Central Coast Trail Rides offers guided trail rides here using their horses. Brice also mentioned cattle are welcome to graze the vineyards in the winter where they often discover wineskin deposits left to mulch back into the soil. The cattle gravitate to these delicacies and then can be seen staggering happily away.
Experience Halter Ranch Vineyards in Many Fun and Educational Ways
Halter Ranch is not just a wine tasting; it can be an experience. Several different tour options turn a wine tasting into an educational and fun adventure.
Wine and Caves Tour
The complimentary winery and cave tour that my husband and I enjoyed runs every day, but you need to sign-up ahead of time. The Winery and Caves tour ends in the tasting room where you will enjoy the winery selections for the tasting room fee.
Barrel Tasting Tour
You’ll not only see the highlights of the ranch but you’ll taste the winery’s ancestor label right where it was inspired under the Ancestor Tree. Your tour will end in the processing facility and tasting room. Sign up and pay ($55.00/person) for this unique experience in advance. The Excursion tour runs daily at 10:00 am.
Halter Ranch Vineyard keeps its connection to the past which includes horses by maintaining the two barns for special events, yet is very focused on the future as it develops world-class wines in a state-of-the-art processing facility. Go enjoy the experience.
Photos (except where noted): Sharon Jantzen