In November of 2022, MySanAntonio.com released a story titled “California-based winery to build $5M Fredericksburg facility.” Immediately, the article was posted on Texas wine-related social media accounts. There was a week-long debate online about why this addition may or may not be bad for the industry. The arguments on both sides of the fence are intriguing to me. So, I set out to get more information.
I got the scoop from winemaker Kevin Sass of Halter Ranch Vineyard and Winery. He said, “The Halter Ranch Estate in Paso Robles, California, has a rich human and agricultural history dating back to its first indigenous inhabitants, the Salinan people. In 1880, under the ownership of San Francisco businessman Edwin Smith, the mountain valley produced some of the very best grain and livestock on California’s Central Coast. In 2000, Swiss entrepreneur, philanthropist, and world-leading land conservationist, Hansjörg Wyss, acquired the legendary land and envisioned Halter Ranch as an homage to his mother, Alice, and a haven for the natural world to flourish and deliver exceptional, timeless wines. Today, the estate spans 2,700 acres with 90% left as a wildlife and oak woodland preserve reflecting our commitment to protecting California’s native biodiversity.”
The estate vineyard was first planted in 1996 and has expanded to its present 200 acres. The steepest, south-facing slopes reach an elevation of 1,950 feet and give grapes strong sun exposure. This is where twenty grape varieties are planted. There are another 10 acres of walnuts and 17 of olives. All are farmed organically.
A new production facility utilizing a multi-level gravity flow system was completed in 2011. Gravity flow allows the winemaker to handle the fruit in the gentlest way possible by preventing the pressures created by pumping to move the wine from one tank or barrel to another. Energy efficiency and sustainability are evident throughout the winery with night air-cooling, natural lighting, and 20,000 square feet of caves. The limestone of the hillside, along with the concrete walls of the cave, stabilize the temperature at 56° while maintaining ideal humidity for wine storage.
Instead of a standard tasting, consider booking a two-and-a-half-hour winery and cave tour, or take in the entire farm as you are driven around the property with stops to take in the view and enjoy a wine paired with cheese. There is an airstrip for private planes to land with advance reservations. Special events include a train tour of the estate with a twilight dinner overlooking the pond or a springtime dinner seated on the beautiful, covered bridge.
The estate property boasts a nature-to-plate restaurant to showcase seasonal fruits, vegetables, and flowers, all raised in the estate garden with sustainable methods. Local produce, honey, cheese, meats, and more are sourced to provide a truly unique lunch or dinner. Halter Ranch is truly full-service, as several options are available for overnight accommodations. The experiences at the estate are centered around the appreciation of what nature has to offer.
The Halter Ranch Estrella location in Paso Robles offers tastings on a walk-in basis with optional lunch and dinner services. Or venture to Southern California and visit Halter Ranch Temecula. This wine region just outside of San Diego boasts nearly 50 wineries. Hart Winery was founded in 1980 by Joe and Nancy Hart, pioneers in the region. The couple’s two sons were running the winery, and in late 2022, the estate was purchased by Halter Ranch including eight acres of grapevines, the winery, and the tasting room.
The first vines were planted at Hart in 1973 and the winery has remained a cornerstone of the region. Halter Ranch intends to honor the traditions of Hart Winery and has no plans to change the feel of the property. The tasting room will undergo renovations this year, including expanding indoor and outdoor seating and installing a chef’s kitchen so the same farm-to-table experiences at the Estate in Paso Robles can be created using local ingredients from Southern California. The intimate tasting experience and the enchanting small-town feel of the growing region will be honored.
At the same time Hart Winery was transitioning, plans were already well underway for a Halter Ranch tasting room in the Texas Hill Country. The team at Halter Ranch is well aware of the long history of grape growing in Texas. They see the Fredericksburg wine region as young, vibrant, and unique. The energy, creativity, and innovative winemaking style gives the long-term potential for growth of the region as a whole and of the Halter Ranch brand.
The property on Highway 290 is 10 minutes east of Fredericksburg and encompasses 32 acres of beautiful oak trees. I’ve seen dirt being moved and am told construction is making slow progress, with completion expected in late 2024. The plans show 13,000 square feet for wine tastings and dining to showcase the existing Halter Ranch portfolio of wines. Halter Ranch maintains a strong membership of Texans in its wine club. They hope their model of sustainability in the winery and the vineyard will be a draw to this new tasting room.
Sass knows that every region is different and expects to be part of our growing wine community. There is huge potential for the growth of their brand in new ways because Texans love wine! He says, “Our goal is to find an organic wine grower in Texas that we can partner with and create a beautiful product that expresses authentic Texas terroir.”