Wine Notes: Changes afoot at Halter Ranch

Viticulture director is retiring as winery plans a big boost to its production

Special to The TribuneAugust 16, 2012 

With a new winery, recently planted vineyards and changes in its team, Halter Ranch Vineyard is poised to more than double production over the next few years.

This harvest, the estate winery on Adelaida Road west of Paso Robles plans to crush enough for 15,000 cases, said Leslie Wyss, director of operations. Its gravity-flow winery, which opened in August 2011, has a capacity for 50,000 cases.

“Now that we have a new winery, we’ll be increasing production,” she added. “When our vineyard is in full production, it’ll be around 35,000.”

This year, Halter Ranch planted 35 acres of new Bordeaux and Rhône grapes. With 19 different varietals, vineyards now cover nearly 280 acres of the 1,000-acre ranch.

The new winery covers about 34,000 square feet. An additional 20,000 square feet of caves should be complete in September.

After a dozen years cultivating Halter Ranch Vineyard’s property west of Paso Robles, Mitch Wyss, Leslie’s husband, is retiring as viticulture director.

“I now have the best of both worlds,” he said. “I am still involved promoting the ranch and working on special projects, and yet I’ve stepped aside from the rigorous daily demands of farming.”

He has been with Halter Ranch from the beginning, when Swiss owner Hansjörg Wyss purchased the property in 2000. The two are not related.

Winemaker Kevin Sass will oversee production, including viticulture, Leslie Wyss said. Vineyard foreman Eusebio Rico and newly hired employee Lucas Pope will share day-to-day vineyard management duties.

“Halter Ranch has been our life,” she added. “We live here on the property. As long as we’re around, we’ll be associated with Halter Ranch.”

Wine auction event in Paso sells out

In its continual effort to refine and refresh its slate of public events, the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance has sold out its newest fundraiser.

The Paso Robles Wine Country Auction will be Saturday at Summerwood Winery & Inn on Arbor Road; 250 attendees are expected. The “garden party”-style brunch was created to make the live auction a stand-alone event.

In recent years, the Wine Country Auction was added to the Zinfandel Festival, which is held in early spring. And for a couple of years, it moved to the Wine Festival in May, said Christopher Taranto, marketing director for the trade alliance.

The proceeds help fund grants to San Luis Obispo County organizations that support health care, education and other community services.

Meanwhile, another wine country event that was previously suspended seems gone for good.

Crave was a fall wine-tasting event in San Luis Obispo geared toward drinkers ages 21 to mid-30s. Last year, officials said it would take a year off to return in 2012.

Similar themes may be incorporated into out-of-town marketing efforts, Taranto said. But San Luis Obispo won’t see a revival of Crave.

“It’s not happening in 2012,” he added. “We’re done with that program and moving forward.”

‘British Invasion’ coming Aug. 25

Vina Robles Winery is flipping back to the 1960s at its fourth annual “British Invasion” on Aug. 25.

The event benefits Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Luis Obispo County and Woods Humane Society.

Entertainment ranges from live music featuring classic British hits to a car show and an airing of the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine.”

Doors open at 5:30 p.m.

Tickets are $25. See www.VinaRobles.com or call 227-4812, option 1, for details and tickets.

Raven J. Railey’s Wine Notes column is special to The Tribune. Have a suggestion for Wine Notes? Email rrailey@thetribunenews.com or call 441-4556.

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