"Welcome to the Good Life. Well-Earned."

Interview By Lisa Gmur, CSW

O’Neill Vintners bought Robert Hall Winery several years ago and has put a great team in place. They have also really engaged with the hospitality industry making special wines for our channel. If you are not familiar with Robert Hall Winery, it’s located in Paso Robles, a hot, up and coming wine region that really needs to be more front and center and explored a lot more.

We talked with Caine Thompson, Robert Hall’s Managing Director, about all the exciting things happening at the winery; first and foremost, their commitment to healthy vineyards and farming.

Caine Thompson, Managing Director, Robert Hall Winery

The Interview

The Mark Wine Group

You have really taken organic and biodynamic farming to the next level and Robert Hall is now recognized as a global leader in regenerative farming and sustainability. Can you please elaborate on these initiatives?

Caine Thompson

At Robert Hall all of our estate vineyards are certified sustainable through California Sustainable Winegrowing Association (CSWA).

Recently, we’ve set up a large study where we are farming 40 acres under regenerative farming through biodynamic practices. This is the first study of its type anywhere in the world which is open up to the trade and customers so people can be part of the regenerative conversion journey.

It’s a three-year trial with seasonal field days being held with our consultant Philippe Armenier, explaining biodynamic farming and how to grow under these principles and practices.

Caine Thompson (L) and Philippe Armenier (R)

The Mark Wine Group

Wow! Philippe Armenier’s pedigree is pretty impressive.

Caine Thompson

Philippe Armenier is international renown biodynamics consultant. He’s originally from France and led his family estate, Domaine de Marcoux in Chateauneuf Du Pape, into Biodynamic farming.

Domaine de Marcoux is one of the world’s leading wine estates. Philippe now consults around the world to growers and wineries like us, that are converting to biodynamics.

The Mark Wine Group

I love that all of your vineyards are 100% sustainable accredited. How did you accomplish this?

Caine Thompson

We farm all of our estate vineyards (130 acres) under sustainable winegrowing principles and practices. We are accredited under CSWA and are audited yearly to maintain the certification.

Our vineyards are certified along with our winery as well. This ensures that our teams are producing wines while being mindful of the planet, monitoring and reducing electricity and water use as we strive to have as minimal impact as possible.

The Mark Wine Group

I am also really curious about your solar project.

Caine Thompson

We have a large solar installation being added to the winery that will offset almost all of our electricity needs which is a huge achievement. This will make us far more energy efficient while also lowering our overall carbon footprint.

Being energy efficient and striving to take care of our environment is at the heart of our sustainability program at Robert Hall. We believe that this is the right thing to do for our staff, our customers and our planet.

Conversion to Regenerative Farming through Organic and Biodynamics practices

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THE GOOD LIFE. WELL-EARNED.

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The Mark Wine Group

It’s such an important commitment and we love that you are doing this. And Robert Hall is about even more than growing grapes and making wine. Please tell us about your organically grown produce and your chef who is creating culinary adventures with your wines.

Caine Thompson

We have developed a wine and food paired tasting menu where customers can taste through 5 of our single vineyard cavern select wines, along with 5 paired local, seasonal and organically grown small plates prepared by our talented executive chef Michael Learned.

Michael went to culinary school in San Francisco at the Cordon Blue while also working under numerous James Beard Award winning chefs across the country.

Michael Learned, Robert Hall Winery, Executive Chef

The Mark Wine Group

I've heard a little about your vineyard adventures. Would love you to share some of the details so once everyone starts traveling again, we can start setting up some trade visits to Robert Hall Winery.

Caine Thompson

We are now offering Electric Vehicle vineyard tours of our regenerative farmed vineyards where guests can learn about what’s involved with this form of farming and biodynamic viticulture.

Guests get to tour the vineyard on the EV and taste varietals in the vineyard where they are grown. The tour includes a seated tasting in the vineyard under a 100+ year old oak tree with a paired food and wine experience.

The Mark Wine Group

Very Cool. I’ve heard your offering underground cavern tours as well?

Caine Thompson

We have some of the most extensive underground caverns on the central coast that we are now offering barrel tastings and tours from.

Guests get to go underground and taste from the barrel as the wines are being made, while gaining an understanding of wine making and the barrel aging process.

Robert Hall cavern tours

The Mark Wine Group

All of your initiatives are really amazing. And I heard a rumor that you are using biocontrol and drones for pest control?

Caine Thompson

Indeed we are! We are using nature to combat nature for pest control. There are a number of pests in the wine industry that are conventionally controlled using agrichemicals. The Mealy bug being one such pest.

With biocontrol we are identifying predators for such pests and then are using drones to disperse the predators via air. For mealy bug control were using the predator called mealy bug destroyer (Cryptolamus) that feeds on mealy bugs and which through biocontrol brings any mealy bug population into natural control and balance.

The Mark Wine Group

Wow! I am so very impressed with all these projects and I know our buyers will be too. Thank you so much for sharing all of this with us.

Caine Thompson

My pleasure. We look forward to hosting your buyers and showing off our winery and all of its many exciting parts.

REGENERATIVE VITICULTURE