WineGuyMike: Mission Sustainable with Halter Ranch Vineyards & Winery


Halter Ranch Vineyard in Paso Robles, California.

Successful Swiss-born businessman Hansjörg Wyss is a man with vision and a man on a mission–of sustainability that is. A devoted philanthropist and land conservationist, Wyss is also the founder of Halter Ranch Vineyard in Paso Robles, California. The vineyard is committed to environmentally-friendly, sustainable, business practices and has achieved the highest level of sustainability certification in the wine industry.

Paso Robles AVA supports the growth of more than 40 different varietals.

Paso Robles AVA (American Viticulture Area) is located in the Central Coast Region of California, halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Highway 101 runs north and south right through the Paso Robles AVA. This area supports the growth of more than 40 different grape varietals. The Bordeaux and Rhône grape varietals, plus a handful of others, produce many of the area’s outstanding wines.

The Paso Robles AVA has the greatest daily temperature variant of any viticulture area in California. Within this AVA there are many distinct microclimates, diverse soil composition and a long growing season. Halter Ranch Vineyard is located west of Highway 101 near the western boundary of the Paso Robles AVA. The Halter Ranch vineyards are influenced by cool ocean breezes from the Pacific Ocean to the west and elevation from the Santa Lucia Mountain Range to the east. Halter Ranch vineyards are planted to south-facing slopes rising to 1,800 feet of elevation, thus creating nearly perfect terroir and producing grapes of intense varietal character.

The renovated Smith farmhouse.

Halter Ranch Vineyard dates back to 1880s and was part of a 3,600-acre holding owned by successful San Francisco businessman Edwin Smith. Smith built a grand house on the property and began dealing in farm produce and livestock; he also invested heavily in silver mining. Smith was an avid horse-racing enthusiast, keeping a private box at Tanforan Race Track and a stable of thoroughbreds on his estate.

The estate was broken up in the early 1990s, and in 1943, the MacGillivray family purchased 1,200 acres. The family farmed the land for the next 50 years and began planting grapes in 1996. In 2000, Hansjörg Wyss purchased 900 acres of the ranch, renovated Smith’s historic farmhouse, and enlarged the vineyard to its present 250 acres, leaving nearly 750 acres unfarmed, supporting the ranch’s natural habitat and old growth oak groves.

State of the facilities compliment the wold-class grapes grown by Halter Ranch Vineyard.

New state-of-the art facilities have been built to complement the world class grapes grown by Halter Ranch Vineyard. The new winery is multi-level and utilizes a gravity flow system, which allows the winemaker to handle the fruit in the gentlest way possible with no pumping from the de-stemmer, to the tanks, and ultimately the barrels for aging.

Halter Ranch adheres to the Sustainability in Practice (SIP™) Vineyard Certification Program. SIP™ certification assures that a vineyard practices integrated farming and is committed to environmental stewardship, equitable treatment of employees and economic viability. SIPTM requires even more stringent farming practices than two of the other certification programs, the USDA Organic Program and Biodynamics. (Chart link);

Head winemaker for Halter Ranch Vineyard, Kevin Sass.

Led by Kevin Sass, head winemaker for Halter Ranch Vineyard, the philosophy is simple. Grow premium grapes, incorporate Old World technique and New World technologies, handle fruit gently and produce elegant Bordeaux and Rhône style wines. Mission sustainable, mission accomplished.

Last year, Halter Ranch founder Hansjörg Wyss contributed $35 million to the protection of 1 million acres of grasslands in Western Montana. Gov. Brian Schweitzer commended the Halter Ranch owner for his contribution (Read More) and has been seen enjoying Halter Ranch wines at various gubernatorial events. The Halter Ranch wines will be available for purchase in Montana in the near future.

I have reviewed three of the Southern Rhône Valley style wines from Halter Ranch Vineyard. All three wines were outstanding and beautifully made, holding true to the Old World style in which they were crafted by winemaker Sass. See this week’s wine reviews  and to learn more about wine visit WineGuyMike’s website.

Photos courtesy of Halter Ranch Vineyeards and Winery.

From my table to yours,



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