Putting tasters in the heart of the vineyard

It's all about the view and the wine

After years of planning and building, the new tasting room at Halter Ranch Vineyard finally opened on Feb. 23 and has been a big hit with Halter Ranch wine club members and new visitors alike.
Tasting Room Manager Tony Quealy said that long-time wine club members who were accustomed to the quaint charm of Halter Ranch’s old, 900 square-foot tasting room situated in a barnyard next to a historic Victorian-era farmhouse, were apprehensive about the new 2,300 square-foot space located across the property’s famous covered bridge in the middle of a vineyard.
“Then they see the view and they see that the idea of the building was to get them up into the vineyard and make them a part of it and they fall in love with it,” he said. “And then there’s also been an overwhelming response from new customers who walk in and say that it’s just absolutely breathtaking. So it’s been great, we’ve been receiving some great compliments.”
In 2011 the team at Halter Ranch began working with San Luis Obispo architect Mike Peachey on a design that would showcase the tasting room’s view of the massive vineyards at Halter Ranch including 600 square-feet of windows situated on the east side of the building.
“It’s all about the view,” Quealy said. “For the past 10 years in the previous tasting room down in the barnyard, the vineyard was always on the other side of the bridge,” he said. “So the heart of the project was on the other side of trees and you couldn’t really see. So the idea was to get them across the bridge and into the heart of the vineyard.”
The tasting room was constructed using mostly oak with walnut added as a contrasting accent, adorned with hand-cut stonework made from calcareous limestone taken from the Halter Ranch vineyards. The stone was cut and placed by Paso Robles mason John Elwood, who spent more than five years working on the project.
“We wanted to bring the elements of the outdoors indoors so there’s a lot of open wood, a lot of wood incorporated in general,” Quealy said.
Another important aspect of the design was to keep the floor plan open and airy.
“Space,” Quealy said. “That was the idea behind it. We’re coming from a 900 square-foot tasting room. On weekends we’d be two or three people deep and that’s not the experience we wanted to create or give our customers.”
The new tasting room can comfortably handle 70 people and the adjacent indoor-outdoor patio and back patio can accommodate another 110, effectively quadrupling the number of customers that Halter Ranch can handle.
“We’ve jokingly said ‘build it and they will come,’” Quealy said. “And they are. We’ve seen a big increase in traffic.”
Quealy said that the winery is in the early stages of planning small musical performances and is also looking into providing very limited food pairings when they’re new commercial kitchen comes online, but the focus will always be on the wine, he said.
“We’ve always focused on the wine and the experience,” Quealy said. “We may entertain some outdoor events, but our first and foremost will always be our customer service and the experience of our guests. We won’t sacrifice that.”
As for the old tasting room, Quealy said that it will be repurposed and reopened at some point, possibly as a location were visitors can purchase picnic provisions.
“One of the aspects that people loved about the old tasting room was the picnic area,” he said. “They love to picnic under the trees, so we may do a bigger cheese case, have a lot more pre-made salads, charcuterie, cheese… and we’ll let people come down there and buy a bottle or a glass of wine and just picnic. We want people to be able to come here and enjoy the space.”
Halter Ranch Vineyard is located at 8910 Adelaida Road, Paso Robles. The tasting room is open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 805-226-9455 or visit online www.halterranch.com.