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I recently tasted a “wow!” wine, a wine that greatly impressed at first sip. It came from a winery new to me, Halter Ranch. Yes, a ranch. When most Arizonans think of ranches, we think of livestock, not wine, but Halter Ranch is broadening my thinking.

Halter Ranch is located near the small city of Paso Robles in California’s Central Coast region, that lengthy stretch of wine country between San Francisco and Santa Barbara. The first grapevines were planted in 1996 (it’s easy to forget how young many California vineyards are). In 2000, the land was purchased by Hansjorg Wyss, with the intent of producing world-class wines. 

Today, nearly 300 of Halter Ranch’s 900 acres are planted in grapes. There are an impressive 20 different varieties. Most are either Bordeaux varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec, or Rhone varieties such as Syrah, Grenache and Viognier, but others include Zinfandel and Tempranillo. The intent is to produce small crops of intensely flavored fruit using sustainable farming practices ... in other words, quality and care, not just quantity.

Here are several Halter Ranch wines that I’ve enjoyed lately, including the wine that originally caught my attention. All four reflect the focus on Bordeaux and Rhone grape varieties.

Halter Ranch 2012 Rose “Paso Robles” ($19): This Rhone-inspired blend of mostly Grenache and small amounts of Mourvedre, Picpoul Blanc and Syrah has eye-catching color and taste bud-catching flavors. This dry wine features a hint of rich fruit and refreshing acidity, making it a great food wine, especially when paired with lighter dishes.

Halter Ranch 2012 white blend “Cotes de Paso Blanc, Paso Robles” ($28): Another Rhone blend, this fine wine is approximately half Grenache Blanc, accompanied by Roussanne, Picpoul Blanc and Viognier. I enjoyed its strong, full-bodied character and suite of flavors different from most white wine blends from California. Plus there’s smooth texture, excellent balance and a lengthy finish. Serve with chicken and seafood. 

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Halter Ranch 2011 red blend “Cotes de Paso, Paso Robles” ($32): This is the highly impressive wine that introduced me to Halter Ranch. It’s a Rhone blend of half Grenache, along with Syrah, Mourvedre and Tannat. Rich fruit, satin-smooth texture, light tannins and intriguing complexity carry through a very long finish. This engaging wine is ideal for sharing this coming Valentine’s Day. And I expect you’ll join me in saying, “Wow!”

Halter Ranch 2010 red blend “Ancestor, Estate Reserve, Paso Robles” ($50): “Powerfully refined” may be an oxymoron for many wines, but not for this wonderful Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Malbec. It features exceptional fruit, moderate tannins, smooth mouthfeel, great depth and an extended finish. This vintage of Ancestor is expected to arrive in Arizona soon.

John Vankat’s Pine Wine appears every month and his Wine Pick of the Week is published every Wednesday. Unless otherwise noted, all wines can be ordered from local wine stores, although prices may vary. John can be reached at

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