We’ve had the same vineyard team here at Tablas Creek for the last fifteen years. Neil Collins has overseen both the vineyard and the winemaking since 1998. He is assisted by Winemaker Ryan Hebert and Vineyard Manager David Maduena, both of whom have been here since our 1997 harvest.So it’s with some excitement that we introduce Levi Glenn, who joins us this summer in the post of Viticulturist. He brings a decade of experience managing vineyards in Napa and Sonoma, and has focused on converting vineyards from modern to biodynamic viticulture for the last five years. Plus, he’s got formal training, which none of the rest of us do, with a degree in Viticulture & Enology from Cal Poly. We couldn’t be more excited to add him to our team. He introduces himself, and gives a brief overview of shoot thinning, in the below video.

We took some close-up photographs of the shoot thinning process as well. The goal of shoot thinning is to select the two best shoots on each of the three spurs that we’ve left on each cordon. As our vines are pruned double-cordon, this means we’re selecting a dozen shoots per vine, each ideally with one cluster of grapes. These shoots are going to provide the photosynthetic capacity, as well as the grape production, of the vine for the year.

This process completes the effort that we begin with our winter pruning of taking a three-dimensional plant and turning it into something more two-dimensional so that we can better ensure even access to sunlight as well as better flow-through of air. Good air circulation reduces the potential for mildew or rot and allows whatever nutritional or antifungal treatments we think the vineyard needs to penetrate the canopy. On the left is an un-thinned vine, so bushy it nearly obscures Levi, and on the right a vine post-thinning, fruit exposed to the light:

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Shoots that don’t have fruit, that exit the cordon horizontally rather than angled up, or that are too close to a better shoot, are pruned away. Below, Levi points at the spurs that will be kept, with the others pruned away. In this selection process, we’re also thinking of the coming winter, when we’ll select three of these shoots per cordon to become the next year’s two-bud spurs.

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The process this year is more challenging than normal. The principal cause is our April frosts, which damaged many of the spurs that we left last winter and forced the plant to sprout from secondary buds that were not in ideal starting locations. A secondary cause was the wet, cool, late spring, which delayed us getting into the vineyard until later in the year, when the long days, the sudden arrival of warmth in June and the abundant ground water have combined to produce explosive growth.

Despite our late start, we’re more than 90% done with shoot thinning. One more photo will give you a sense of the progress: thinned vines on the row on the left, with bushy vines awating thinning further up the row as well as on the row to the right:

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Thursday: The Winery Team on Tour

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Wednesday:

With a mouthwatering theme! gamey: a wine with a distinct animal aroma, not necessarily in a bad way. Often characteristic of Syrah and Mourvedre. flabby: lacking in acidity, could be characterized by a lack of focus in the way a … Continue reading →

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Tuesday:

Keys to the new winery facility were handed over to the winery team by the construction crew as of yesterday. The excitement is palpable! After a full 2.5 years of anticipation, we will finally be moving into our new production … Continue reading →

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Monday: Just Photos: Triangular

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Sunday:We are back pouring in our newly remodeled tasting room! The weather is beautiful, our wines are showing wonderfully, and we finally have room to accommodate more of you! Come check us out!

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While musing on the concept of tannin and its role in making and drinking wine a few of us ran across an excellent article discussing tannin from the Connosieur’s Wine Blog. I’d recommend reading it from the source if you … Continue reading →b.gif?host=blog.halterranch.com&blog=20215195&post=606&subd=halterranch&ref=&feed=1

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Neil chats with Matt Brynildson Part IV:“the disappearance of real ales
English breweries buying back pubs
innovation of U.S. breweries vs. tradition of U.K. breweries”

Announcing part 4 of Neil and Matt’s conversation. In this edition of Conversations of a Winemaker, Neil chats with friend and local Brewmaster of the Firestone Brewery, Matt Brynildson. Tune in as they discuss aspects of wine and beer, both local and abroad. To view parts I, II, and III of their conversation, click here.
Check back soon for part 5!

To watch past episodes of Conversations of a Winemaker, click here or go to “Videos” on the main menu.

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I hate to dampen my general wine know-it-all credibility, but the last time I was in France, the Euro was just an exchange unit. The Franc was still the currency of notes and coins. My joy for and impression of the French was greatly increased upon receiving my first 50 franc note. What a country, the Little Prince right there in my hand. For whatever reason, my country would never embrace Maxon the 50, and I feel we suffer a bit for this. A culture that embraces the importance of its artistic contributions right along with the political is a grand and confident culture indeed.This image did its job, and I tracked down a different book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry at an English language book store and learned why France would hold this author in such high regard. I was forever changed by a quote I found in that book. A quote that I would suspect came from Japan or Sweden, but in fact was French. “Il semble que la perfection soit atteinte non quand il n’y a plus rien à ajouter, mais quand il n’y a plus rien à retrancher.” Translated in the book I read as “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” This hit home with my own fledgling design esthetic and is still with me now when I consider making white wine.

I get a lot of surprised looks and disagreement when I tell people during conversation that I feel making white wine is much harder then red wine. I don’t mean physically harder, as minus the punch downs, whites are quite a bit less taxing on the body. But as for making decisions that must be correct, whites are much more demanding. I’m not the type of winemaker who will go on and on about how my immense cellar skills will take terrible fruit and craft perfect wines. I am of the firm belief that the ceiling for the quality of a wine is set the second you pick it. My experience is that my chief responsibility as winemaker is to not allow the wine to weaken in my hands once I have taken on stewardship from Mother Nature.

With red wines, you can get away with not perfectly timing your pick. You can adjust the length of cold soak and fermentation based on the ripeness level of skins, seeds and stems. You can hit your wine over the head with oak to fill holes in the nose or palate. You can just let the fruit hang for a long time in the vineyard and call it your “big, heavy, ripe style” and no one bats an eye. Whites are not so. White wines are like an ink on paper painting or calligraphy, if your lines are not skilled and beautiful, there’s no distracting with pretty colors to hide this fact. Any mistake made in the vineyard or cellar is plain to see, smell and taste. White wines, and roses for that matter, are a stripping away of everything that is possibly superfluous, leaving only the purest form of the wine behind.

Because of this I take immense pride in our white wines here at Calcareous. In particular, I stress over our white Rhone blend more than any other wine. After years of trying various varietals, I have narrowed the blend down to a yearly mix of Viognier and Marsanne. The Viognier sees no oak, as it is settled, fermented and aged in stainless for its life in the cellar. The Marsanne sees a single new French oak barrel, the balance being fermented in barrels used at least two times before filling with Marsanne. The two components are kept separate until a blending takes place a month before bottling.

This month we released our 2009 Viognier-Marsanne blend, and I could not be prouder of the wine. It took home Double Gold at the San Francisco International, then popped up last week on Steve Heimoff’s top ten of the week posting (the second straight vintage of our flagship white that Mr. Heimoff has so blessed). I also could not be prouder of Paso Robles in general. The creation of more serious white wines coming from the area is as bold a declaration of vineyard and cellar quality as any other critique. In last month’s Wine Spectator article on exciting new California Whites, Paso Robles was probably the single region getting the most acclaim. Local white wine champions like Caliza, Denner, Tablas Creek, Terry Hoage and Villa Creek were all rightly given their due for showing we here in Paso Robles have more up our sleeve than just powerhouse reds. So enjoy the summer months with these fine examples of our craft in its purest form.

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As we posted this Tuesday past, the final passageway for our caves broke through on Wednesday with a celebratory toast. Below we will include a few photos, and links to a few videos of this momentous occasion! Keep an eye … Continue reading →

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Lateral removal is ramping up! We now have teams on block 6 Merlot, block 12 Cabernet Sauvignon, block 26 Sauvignon Blanc, and block 40 Cabernet Franc. A few other groups are dropping fruit on block 36 Counoise, block 37 Cinsault, … Continue reading →

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We are in the process of transferring the 2009 Syrah, Cabernet, and Ancestor from barrel to tank for bottling! This photograph is an accurate representation of the space our winery staff has been working in to this point. Serendipitously, the … Continue reading →

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We will be submitting our package of records, forms, figures, photos, reports, and projections to the third-party auditor this week for our 2011 Sustainability in Practice Certification. This submission is the product of months of hard work from our own … Continue reading →

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Midday on Wednesday July 13, the construction team will break through the final corridor in our wine cave system! Much work will remain to be done finishing and stabilizing the interior, but in terms of digging the cavern is virtually … Continue reading →

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As stated in previous posts, our vineyard is enthusiastically swelling with the summer warmth. This vibrant progress includes two of our most recent plantings, visible in this photograph. Toward the bottom left, that brown patch was recently planted to … Continue reading →

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The production team has been touring a few historic California wineries and fixtures of the industry since Wednesday to compare notes and prepare for the 2011 harvest in our new facility! Some highlights from their tour thus far: Wednesday: tour of … Continue reading →b.gif?host=halterranch.wordpress.com&blog=20215195&post=569&subd=halterranch&ref=&feed=1

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OCT 21,22,23 2011
Join us to celebrate Harvest Week-endFriday: Wine Club Pick Up Party
Saturday: Harvest Stew with Mashed Potatoes
Noon – 3
Sunday: Gourmet Burgers with Live Music
Noon – 3

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The expanded and updated tasting room is very nearly complete! We continue to pour in the old Victorian while the final nails, screws, wires, and switches are placed, but an outside estimate places us in the remodeled building by the … Continue reading →b.gif?host=halterranch.wordpress.com&blog=20215195&post=561&subd=halterranch&ref=&feed=1

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The vineyards this morning produced a most philosophical perspective in me. Sunrise amongst the greenery and expansive views sometimes bring forth thoughts beyond worries of heat stress and micro-nutrient uptake. My thoughts were constantly returning to what is this essence of wine that fascinates? Why don’t people spend weekends traveling the back roads of , books, and blogs have all been dedicated to idea that wine produces a unique signature of place, the terroir. But does a grape vine speak more to the terroir than an heirloom tomato or pasture raised beef? In this summer season of plenty, with the mantras of slow food and flavors of locality preached on each menu, you would be mad to suggest so. Any random combination of those offerings explains Paso Robles on the palate just as much as a wine can. So again I ask myself, why the captivation with this drink?

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The answer to these type of questions often lie in that time which formed my perspective, my youth. Maybe it’s the answer to the riddle the Jims () asked of me in childhood. I remember the strange anxiety that small skit created in me and my initial dawning of thought on the enigmatic complexity of life, time and space. This great mystery of the unflinching progression of things was always with me in quiet times. In order to remain calm, I convinced myself that there must be a path of grace () that could lead one away from fear and into understanding. Just because something is beyond comprehension does not mean one should recoil from it; the unknowable should be embraced. The wine we produce then is a product of that acceptance. The vintage is, in its essence, the capturing of the moment into some tangible state.

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There is something more to wine than mere ethanolic intoxication. The corked bottle represents a chance to return to a place and time, without trepidation that the past is lost forever. Wine with its intrinsic link between our senses and memory can provide a wonderful window unto personal contemplation and revelation.

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The idea of wine and the memory of my favorite wine experience are forever linked. This occurred on the island of Samos in the Aegean Sea. My future wife and I were enjoying a beach-front campground with a single little market from which to order our dinner. We sat eating a meal of fresh grilled octopus that neither of us would have ordered in different setting. Drinking a local wine, Samos Vin Doux (a fortified muscat!), that we picked off the shelf because it was the only bottle offered. Yet this perfect combination of all things new and beautiful along with the sun resting into the sea, created for us an experience that nothing could ever top. While not by any means the most technically superior wine I have ever had, it is perhaps the best wine I will ever drink.

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So maybe this isn’t madness, laboring as we do to create wine. As the spectre of harvest looms just weeks away and I prepare to be enveloped completely by its demands, these thoughts give me assurance that it is all worth it. That the sacrifices that must be made of time, energy, mind and family will be rewarded. The goal is sitting out there plain to see in my mind. For me it is the end of November, with fermentations few and a Thanksgiving table filled with family, friends, food, and of course, wine.

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