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Halter Ranch Grenache Blanc. Photo via Facebook/Halter Ranch
Halter Ranch Grenache Blanc. Photo via Facebook/Halter Ranch
ColumnsFood & WineTaste of Wine

Temecula Wine Tour: Halter Ranch

Frank and I were long overdue to visit some Temecula wineries, starting with Halter Ranch Temecula, formerly Hart Winery. Part 2 will feature Marshall Stuart Wines. Part 3 will be Falkner Winery and Pinnacle Restaurant.

The late Joe Hart and his sons are known for their passion for farming and winemaking combined with a love for their craft. After Joe’s passing, his family made a hard, bittersweet decision to sell. With numerous offers, they ultimately chose to sell the property to Swiss entrepreneur Hansjörg Wyss, owner of Halter Ranch in Paso Robles.

Halter Ranch Paso is a sprawling 2,700-acre estate against the Santa Lucia Mountain Range. Wyss preserves the natural environment while producing exceptional terroir-driven wines. Established in 1996, the vineyard spans 200 of the 2,700 acres and is strategically planted on steep slopes at 1,950 feet elevation.

In 2011, Halter Ranch completed a state-of-the-art production facility with a gravity flow system for gentle fruit extraction. The winery’s energy efficiency is enhanced by night air-cooling, natural lighting, and expansive caves covering 20,000 square feet for stable wine storage.

View of Halter Ranch Temecula vineHalter Ranch Temecula vineyard. Courtesy photoyard. Courtesy photo.
Halter Ranch Temecula. Courtesy photo

Wyss’s ethos of nature, preservation, and quality wines, led by winemaker Kevin Sass, was likely the driving factor in selling Hart Winery to Halter Ranch.

In 2011, Sass joined Halter Ranch as a winemaker after his 11-year period at Paso’s Justin winery, where he started as an intern and progressed to grower relations manager before assuming the role of Justin’s winemaker in 2006. He leads winemaking at Halter’s Paso, Temecula, and Hill Country, Texas, locations.

Roselle Hochstrasser, a server formerly at Hart Winery, and business manager Tessa Piercy guided us through an impressive lineup: whites and a rose, then eight reds. We began with the 2021 Grenache Blanc (92%) with hints of picpoul blanc (5%) and viognier (3%). Its refreshing palate showcased melon, Meyer lemon, honey, and cream. Next came the 2021 Viognier (100%) with white peach, apricot, and subtle pear notes.

The 2022 Grenache (86%) Rosé, blended with 11% picpoul blanc and 3% mourvedre, offered flavors of dried mango, passion fruit, apricot, watermelon, and a citrus finish. These selections set the stage for the array of reds to follow.

Outdoor patio at Halter Ranch Temecula. Photo via Facebook/Halter Ranch Temecula
Outdoor patio at Halter Ranch Temecula. Photo via Facebook/Halter Ranch Temecula

Our first red was the 2020 Barbera (100%), now sourced from Temecula due to glass wing sharpshooter insects, replacing the onsite estate-grown fruit. It’s one of the three estates for Temecula-sourced reds retained from Hart Winery. The black cherry, cocoa, and vanilla flavors were assisted with American oak aging.

The sangiovese also receives American oak treatment, while all other wines are aged in French oak. Next, we enjoyed the renamed Chaparral blend, formerly Tres Hermanos Rhone Blend, paying homage to Joe Hart’s sons — Jim, Mike, and Bill — who worked at the winery. This delightful wine comprises 70% syrah, 25% grenache, and 5% mourvedre, offering a palate of cherry, clove, and a hint of caramel.

The Cotes de Paso (Rhone) shares similar fruit to Chaparral but with different percentages — 70% grenache, 15% syrah, and 13% mourvedre.

The standout reds of the day were the 2019 Estate Syrah (100% syrah), featuring a delightful blueberry palate enhanced by notes of clove and pie spice, evoking the aromas and flavors of a blueberry pie. Following that, the 2019 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (75% cabernet sauvignon, 20% malbec, 5% petit verdot) showcased a palate of blueberry, raspberry, and cocoa with velvety tannins.

(Left to Right) Server Roselle Hochstrasser and Tessa Piercy of Halter Ranch Temecula. Photo by Rico Cassoni
Roselle Hochstrasser, left, and Tessa Piercy of Halter Ranch Temecula. Photo by Rico Cassoni

The 2019 Ancestor Blend (60% cabernet sauvignon, 23% malbec, 17% petit verdot) stood out with its added richness and complexity, offering a blueberry, blackberry, and dark cherry palate. It was my top choice of the day.

We ended the tasting with the 2020 Place of the Sun, previously the estate Driveway Red, a 40% cab sauv, 38% merlot, and 22% cab franc blend with cherry on the palate that is influenced by local Eucalyptus on the nose. Our final wine was a 2020 Tannat (100%) Reserve. The 40% new French oak imparted a caramel, surprisingly soft finish for Tannat fruit that can impart strong finishes.

Halter Ranch is successfully preserving Hart wines and introducing Halter’s terroir-driven Paso wines in Temecula. The winery’s Temecula location is open daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., offering weekend food and live music on Saturdays. For more details, visit Special thanks to Roselle and Tessa for their time during our tasting.

— Story by Rico Cassoni

Wine Bytes

— Sal Ercolano, owner of San Diego’s Butcher Shop, is hosting a Cakebread Wine Dinner at 6 p.m. on Aug. 3. Guests will experience an evening with wines from Napa Valley paired with executive chef Brian Gist’s culinary creations. The cost is $120 per person and includes tax and gratuity. RSVP at

— Experience the “Sip the City” tasting festival from 5-8 p.m. on Aug. 12 in Escondido. Taste 14 local San Diego urban wineries, meaderies, and cideries, savor bites from California Poppy and enjoy live music at Escondido City Hall’s outdoor venue. Tickets are $79 per person. Guests will enjoy unlimited tastings, light appetizers, music, local vendors, and more! Purchase your favorite craft wine, cider, or mead at the onsite SIP San Diego shop. Acquire tix at

Rico Cassoni is the executive producer for Taste of Wine and Food. Founder/Advisor Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. Frank and Rico are two of the leading reviewers on the web. View their columns at Reach them at [email protected].

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