HAT Ranch History

Tim and Helen Harless, Founders

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The HAT Ranch Name

On September 16, 1901, Jacob “Jake” Charles Frison arrived in Tensleep Valley, Wyoming in a covered wagon from his former home in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, driving thirty-eight head of cattle. There had been no roads, only trails. A 69-day journey was required to make the start of a new life in a place where he could settle permanently and raise his growing family. Like many original settlers, Jake had to turn his hand to various things in order to subsist. He worked hard and eventually had built an outfit running over seventeen hundred head of cattle.

Described as having a common policy of loyalty, honesty, and personal endeavor by those who knew them, the Harless family is proud to take the HAT Ranch name from their great-grandparents, Jake and Margarette Shields Frison, who created the HAT Ranch homestead as a farm and ranch in 1902. Inspired by their pioneering ancestors who set out to make a new life in the Great Northwest, they have followed suit by choosing Idaho as their winemaking homestead, the great new frontier of the wine industry. 

Our Winemaker’s Story

For Tim Harless, the making of premium wines is a natural consequence of a life-long love of exploration, experimentation, and artistry.

In 2002 an interest in wine developed after visiting Into the Glass Wine Bar & Texas Café. After being exposed to multiple varietals and noting the distinctions between the wines he was tasting, Tim became increasingly impressed with, and intrigued by, the world of wine. He made a hobby out of learning about the world’s wine regions and studying the characteristics each region instilled in its wines. His passion for wine continually increased, leading Tim to begin Viticulture & Enology training through Grayson County Community College. He was so engrossed that he pursued ways to use his vacation time to develop internships for himself in California’s wine country.

Tim’s strong interest in winemaking is also supported by his Bachelor’s of Science in Aerospace Engineering, giving him a strong eye for detail and the technical aspects required to make great wine. Helen’s two-year experience managing the wine cellar and organizing tastings for Wine Spectator magazine, which exposed her to the world’s top wines, made her the official “palate” for the winery, able to distinguish the subtleties of any wine’s character. Together they knew they had a shot at producing some great wines. 

Choosing the right region to open HAT Ranch was not easy. In between flights as a commercial airline pilot, Tim immersed himself into research of the various US wine regions. Finally, he and Helen decided to make their new home in the Snake River Valley American Viticulture Area. Specifically, Tim says they “chose the Sunnyslope Wine Trail because it had the grape growing conditions, a strong winemaking community, and a group of already established tasting rooms,” all essential for exposing wine consumers to his new wines. Helen agrees and feels “so passionate about our life choice to be here among great people who are going to drive the success of our local industry.” 

Soon after HAT Ranch was established in 2011, Tim met John Danielson of Vale Wine Company. They became friends and Tim discovered that he liked the quality of John’s wine, so asked John to consult as Tim produced his first HAT Ranch wines. That turned out to be a wise decision, as HAT Ranch Winery entered its first wines into a regional competition, bringing home the gold medal for its 2011 Chardonnay and the silver medal for its 2011 Riesling. From there, Tim produced more wine and the following year led to entering the 2011 Tempranillo, which won a gold medal, and the 2010 HAT Trick Red blend, which won a bronze medal in the Great Northwestern Wine Competition.

When the opportunity to grow became available, HAT Ranch founders Tim and Helen took over production of Vale Wine Company in January 2014. Inspired by John Danielson’s commitment to premium quality traditional varietals, Tim and Helen added the brand to complement the HAT Ranch brand’s pioneering heritage of offering artisan blends, lesser known wine varietals, and hand-produced small lot wines. Both labels will continue to seek the best grapes the Snake River Valley has to offer to continue premium wine production. HAT Ranch is excited to preserve their newly established tradition of producing a strong family of great wines.

Also in 2014, Will Wetmore joined the winemaking team. This bright Biologist quickly and expertly learned and applied the skills of winemaking to the HAT Ranch and Vale wines, and has now become a principal part of the winemaking team. He has also started his own label called Veer Wine Project.

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  1. […] legacy, but instead of continuing farming and homesteading, his journey led him to the “great new frontier of the wine industry“. He was inspired by his family’s pioneering spirit to start a new life and journey out […]