THE ROOTS OF HALTER RANCH
Written by: WRNews Staff - March 2009
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Paso Robles,Ca.- In the Adelaide of the late 1800’s there wasn’t much out in the hills west of Paso Robles. Now, there’s a lot going on in the neighborhood,but you can do as much or as little as you like. My suggestion is to lay claim to a rocking chair on the porch and contemplate how great life in wine country can be.
Whether it’s 2009 or 1885, the butter colored Victorian - along Adelaida Road on the westside of Paso Robles - is a graceful and inviting landmark, an enduring link to the pioneers of the region’s past and those of the present. Its current caretakers like to describe Halter Ranch as a new winery with a rich history. And, it’s true. Around every corner, down every path there is much to discover on the 900 acres, including the opportunity to explore a place where peace and quiet allow the mind to wander and relax.
Its roots stretch back to Paso Robles pioneer Edwin Smith – a San Francisco wholesale butcher who became a farm producer and livestock dealer and invested heavily in silver mining. The mansion built in 1881 – burned down – and was rebuilt in 1885.
The MacGillivray Family acquired 1200 acres in 1943 and farmed it for more than fifty years and introduced the first grapevines
In 2000, Swiss-born businessman Hansjörg Wyss fell in love with the Paso Robles area and bought 900 acres of the original ranch. Committed to quality and intent on producing the best possible grapes and wines, he - and a select group of employees - renovated the historic barns and farmhouse, focused on developing the vineyard now at 250 acres with twenty different varietals and set in motion plans for a new state-of-the art winery. In effect, they are writing a new and appropriate chapter for this historic property.
Wine lovers who admire a good back story to go with an exceptional wine will be charmed by the Halter Ranch Ancestor. It’s a complex wine - a blend made in limited quantities from the finest of the estate vineyards: Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot , Malbec and Syrah it all adds up to a red with substantial character, as it should be, since it carries the name of one exceptional tree.
Wine grower Mitch Wyss,“At Halter Ranch we farm 250 acres of wine grapes. It’s a 960 acre ranch we have essentially our own valley here in the Adelaide. We farm 20 different varieties of grapes; mostly reds, but also six different varieties of whites also and we planted them on the north slopes.”
The valley and slopes that make up Halter Ranch Vineyards are as picturesque as any wine country painting and a fitting gateway to the Ancestor Tree.”
Mitch, “We’ll look at the ancestor tree which is a coast live oak that has been recorded by the American Forestry Association as the largest Coast Live Oak in the world.
It’s that tree ahead of us on the first hillside and it’s the ancestor oak. It’s named in honor of this sense of place and the people who have lived here before us.”
Live before us...as in hundreds of years. This tree is likely 3-hundred to maybe 8-hundred years old.
“So they take three measurements. They take the width of the trunk, the spread of the branches and the height and they give it a number. And it’s a championship tree right now.”Mitch
Despite lightning storms or drought-come what may - it still stands and flourishes and with an official designation to mark its accomplishments. The vineyards here at Halter Ranch are a crossroads of wildlife, a place where sustainability is more than a catch phrase.
Mitch “We have left all our Oak trees. We cut down no Oak trees on this ranch at all. And they are pockets of diversity within our vineyards. So, if you look around our vineyards you will see several major Oak tree communities. And that adds a lot more. Studies have indicated that there’s a lot more bio-diversity. There’s a lot more bird species in vineyards that have Oak trees and quite frankly they were here first so we can work around them a little bit.”
The limbs stretch up to the sky and then dip to the ground. The branches are more like tree trunks than limbs. Walk inside the canopy and it’s like entering a tent.
Mitch “ Yes this tree is absolutely amazing. When I first came into this tree it was a hot day in the summer and it was forty degrees cooler underneath the tree. It’s just an amazing individual.”
“It’s 28 feet around the bottom of it, the circumference of the trunk. It’s 120 feet from tip to tip and it’s 55 feet tall, so. That’s the measurement. And they give numbers to all of them and it becomes a championship tree if it’s big enough.”
“If there’s a soul to this ranch and it’s probably growing right here underneath us. Right here – this tree.”
To learn more about Halter Ranch and its wines visit www.halterranch.com
kbertsch - March 20, 2009 - 11:37 AM
This is beautiful! I can't wait to visit here.