Wood Bung Plug

Wood bung plugIf you’re not familiar with this term used in the world of wine, the bung hole is simply the hole on the top of a barrel. It-turn, the bung hole is covered with a bung or bung plug – similar to what a cork does. Other names like stopper, cork or taper can be used to describe a bung.  The bung plug typically can be made out of almost anything including plastic, rubber, glass, silicone and of course wood.

There are advantages to each product such as the fact that rubber is easy to manipulate and move, while plastic is cheaper, glass looks the best and silicone might breath the best. These different attributes are important, and maybe there’s a little bit of all of them in wood bungs.

Wooden Bung Plug

The wood bung plug that is offered here is two inches in diameter on the outside or top of the bung, and roughly one and three quarters inch on the end or inside. Though each is handmade and therefore unique from each other, they are about an inch and a half long. Paso wine Barrels came up with the size based on the typical wine barrel bung hole, which is an inch and seven eighths to just a hair shy of two inches in diameter. The inch and a half is long enough to be able to grab hold of to pull off, yet not too short that you can’t get a hold of it to take off. Note, a typical wine barrel capacity is 58-60 gallons or about 225 liters.

To make this unique bung plugs, a two inch pine dowel is cut about an inch and a half long. Then its sanded until the taper will fit a test bung hole. Roughly an inch of the bung length has a taper. The edges and ends are sanded, then stain and sealed with a dark cedar tone. This offers a longer lasting and better looking bung plug. Unlike glass, wood does have a little bit of breathing ability and yet is more natural than plastic, rubber or silicone. If you’re interested in a truly working bung plug to make beer, wine or spirits, there is the ultimate plug called the LUX bung. Click here to check out a story done on it a couple years ago.

Other than staves, the wood bung plug is the single most popular item sold at PasoWineBarrels.com. Every state in the union has one and its popularity continues to grow.

LUX bung plug

Decorative barrel with LUX bung

I’m sure some of you including millennials have been snickering while reading, thinking the whole time about the term bung hole; but, this discussion is only talking about barrels and not butts.

Many holes in containers like barrels, are universally made to two inches, therefore Paso Wine Barrels bung plug can used in many different applications, including the larger alcohol related barrels like puncheons, casks and tun. So, whether you’re looking for a bung stopper, cork, taper or whatever you may call it, this is the bung plug for you.

“I find friendship to be like wine, raw when new, ripened with age, the true old man’s milk and restorative cordial.” – Thomas Jefferson


Daryle W. Hier






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Amazon Handmade

At the end of this summer, we will have concluded our third year of being in business as Paso Wine Barrels. As a tiny spec in the world of retail and not yet big enough for a storefront, we’ve tried to get our products in front of the public through a website and at arts and craft shows. We found Etsy’s online arts and craft site to be a decent way to show our wares to link-minded people, but poor customer service and in turn a battle with management ended our relationship. We’ve also used eBay and of course Google ads, but we hadn’t felt we were getting enough eyeballs on our unique wine barrel merchandise.

We seriously thought of more arts and craft and shows along with fairs and other types of festivals, however a road show that included 100 plus pound barrels being loaded and unloaded, didn’t appeal to us. And quite frankly, our sales online were easier and more profitable than selling on the road.

Amazon is by far the most powerful retailing entity there is and in part, I believed might have been controlling those eyeballs we needed, which may have been hurting our chances of more sales. Enter Amazon Handmade.

Amazon without all the costs

Essentially, it’s a online storefront for artisans and craftsmen to sell their wares through Amazon without listing fees. The reason for this arm of Amazon existing is probably to grab business from Etsy, which had the corner-on-the-market in the arts and crafts online industry.

They contacted me with an invitation, probably because I used to be an Etsy account, so we decided if you can’t beat them, join them. If you think Walmart is bad for small business, you ain’t seen nothing until Amazon gets through wailing on your ass – pardon my French. I wanted the monster on my side, so I signed us up early this year and within a month, we had more sales on Amazon Handmade than our website.

Here’s a fact or two to consider why Amazon can bring that kind of boost to sales. Over 50% of consumers say they do most of their shopping on Amazon, plus a quarter of a billion people are active users. Those are formidable numbers.

So you’re wondering if there’s a catch. Sort of. The downside to signing up with Amazon is quite formidable as well. Simply stated, Amazon makes more per item of what we sell than we do. Believe it or not, Amazon can get more than 50% cut of every sale. Acknowledging that isn’t the norm, still you can see why Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon, is now pushing for the top spot as the richest man in the world.

So is it worth it?

For now, it’s worth our while because we can’t get nearly as many eyeballs on our arts and craft products for our own website, than what Amazon produces.

There are stories out there saying the behemoth that is Amazon, can be slowed down. That’s not our concern right now and though business kind of comes and goes, we’ve had pretty good luck with Amazon Handmade, which is saying something in these Great Recession days.

Time will tell how long this will last … but hey, in the meantime, check out our tiny Paso Wine Barrels niche on Amazon Handmade.


Daryle W. Hier






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El Nino Conclusion: Godzilla Got Tamed

We were told by every weather prognosticator this side of Toyko, that 2015-2016 winter season would be one to remember as the Godzilla of all El Ninos bore down on the Golden State. The result? Meh.

Godzilla is leaving - was he ever here?

Godzilla is leaving – was he ever here?

With the middle of spring in California, the forces of nature turn as the winter half of the year gives way to summer-type weather. The current week should offer up everything, with highs already hitting the 90 mark. Lows have been in the 30s, which isn’t unusual this time of year. By Friday, wine country should see a bit of rain – something we haven’t had a tremendous amount of, even though El Nino was suppose to rage with a wrath of moisture.

Not much to talk about

We noted three months ago that winter had done its usual thing, but no big rains had come our way. The same forecasters who bellowed about El Nino coming out of the sea with monster like vengeance, proclaimed March would make up for a less than destructive Godzilla. But no, there wasn’t much to say about wet weather last month other than a sprinkle or light shower here and there on the Central Coast. As April wanes, so does the intensity of rain and ultimately, this year likely will go down as nothing more than a typical season of weather … at best.

The warmer-than-normal Pacific Ocean, that is suppose to fuel El Nino’s watery devastation, is fading away. In fact, folks at the National Weather Service see a distinct possibility of La Nina moving in next fall. La Nina is El Nino’s alter ego where the surface water temps switch to cooler than normal and in-turn creates colder and drier than usual winters in California.elnino-lanina

Rain, but enough

It should be stated that our Californian brethren to the north have received above average rain, which is good for our reservoir system. However, the Sierra Nevada snow pack, where we get a majority of our water from, did not quite reach their average, especially in the central and southern sections.

Weather people got it wrong again and with it the drumbeat of drought will continue in wine country. Conserving water will persist throughout the coming year, which would make five straight years of deficient water capacity in California.

As I’ve mentioned before and Blue Oyster Cult put simply and accurately:

“History shows again and again
How nature points up the folly of men”


Daryle W. Hier






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White Oak Is Good For Much More Than Wine

The white oak tree (quercus alba) is most famously known as the hard wood that oak wine barrels are made from. I believe the Irish called the oak, ‘fine tree’. And besides the fine affects it has on wine, the benefits of quercus alba are numerous.

Old White Oaks can be as wide as they are tall.

Old White Oaks can be as wide as they are tall.

Note, I’m not a doctor and didn’t play one on television. Still, the natural components of the white oak tree – which really isn’t white, but instead is a pale gray or tan – as a health benefit, are widely known within certain herbal and alternative medicine practices, and its advantages may go back thousands of years. The bark, acorns and even leaves are where a majority of these benefits come from. I’ve also thrown in other advantages the white oak has given us.


In circles of natural medicine, the quercus alba bark has been widely known for its herbal remedies. The chemical compounds – called tannins – of white oak offer most of the benefits associated with this famed oak species. Taken internally after the bark has been charred and steeped in liquid, offers temporary relief from nausea, diarrhea and internal bleeding. Along with these problems, medicinal uses include helping with kidney and gallstones, plus a wide assortment of ailments like hemorrhoids and dysentery.

Externally, as an styptic, it can help coagulate bleeding or other discharges like wounds. A tonic, or tea of the white oak bark can be used for the mouth as well, such as gargling  for a sore throat, canker sores and for brushing your teeth. Also, when made into a tea, helps with mucous congestion. It even can be used as a wash for acne.

Along with the bark, Native Americans had a variety of mixtures using White Oak acorns.

Along with the bark, Native Americans had a variety of mixtures using White Oak acorns.

The tannins from the white oak have helped as an anti-bacterial fighter. When used internally, it helps with kidney and bladder issues such as urinary tract infections. The acorns meat turned again into a liquid form, have been used for millinias as a tonic in fighting malnutrition. Not only are the tannins important, but this almost steroid-type tonic includes B12, calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and sulfur.

Native American Indians from here in California used the acorn meat as part of a flour mix that created a common and healthy food staple. Because of the white oaks anti-inflammatory qualities, these same Native American used its properties, in an extract, as a remedy for bites such as from venomous snakes.

Physical uses

Including all the herbal remedies the white oak offers, the tight course veins of the quercus alba make this hard wood ideal for rot and water resistance. In ancient times, the hardness lent itself nicely as a weapon and for boat-building. Speaking of weapons and boat-building, the most famous naval ship in America, Old Ironsides (otherwise known as the USS Constitution), was made of white oak. The infamous ship was in service during three centuries!

White Oak has many uses such as boatbuilding and includes making all types of furniture.

White Oak has many uses such as boats and includes making all types of furniture.

The wood is widely used in flooring, cabinet and furniture manufacturing due in part to it’s hardiness and natural beauty. Actually there are more benefits than listed but too many to really do the great tree justice.

So although the barrel business knows full well how great quercus alba is for winemaking, certainly the grand white oak is an important and vital tree for so many more reasons.

Salute to quercus alba!

Sources: Missouri Botanical Garden, Encyclopedia of Life, Natural History of the Oak Tree


Daryle W. Hier






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And The Newly Crowned Largest Wine Barrel Is?

With time, records will fall, so as far as the largest wine barrel is concerned, a newly crafted 300,000 liter oak barrel made in the south of France, holds the peculiar notoriety of now being the largest oak wine barrel of its kind in the world.

A very large barrel


To be specific, the barrel was made – and finished this month – in the province of Languedoc in Saint-Drezery, France for the Chateau Puech-Haut estate’s owner Gerard Bru. The barrel weighs a total of 44 tons or 88,000 pounds. It’s about 40 feet long and 20 feet high. I don’t think we can get it in the back of our Durango. Sadly, Mr Bru says the colossal barrel won’t be used for wine, but instead will be an attraction and likely events could be held inside. I’m certain of that.

Over five tons of steel were used as hoop bands and I believe half a forest was cut down to make this enormous contraption. Actually, it was estimated that 40 tons of oak were used to create this massive hulk of wood and metal.

Chateau de Puech-Haut

Chateau Puech-Haut

Based in the huge grape producing region of Languedoc, the winery itself sits in an important winemaking center that dates back over a couple millenniums ago. The vines here are considered the oldest in France and probably were planted by the Greeks during their Classical Period in fifth century BC.

Beats the Tun

If you were wondering, the largest wine barrel was formerly the infamous Heidelberg Tun, which is cellared several hundred miles north at Heidelberg Castle in, you guessed it, Heidelberg, Germany. It held 58,500 gallons, when it was new in 1751, but because of shrinkage, now is about 57,800 gallons. It was originally used for actual wine storage, but now resides as another tourist attraction. There’s a stairway that leads to a dance floor on top of the Heidelberg Tun barrel. Can you just imagine those crazy Germans doing their Schuhplattler in lederhosen … on top of a wine barrel?!

The Chateau Puech-Haut has many other larger than life wine barrels and some of them have been adorned with art and exhibited globally. Seguin Moreau and surely other cooperages, make giant barrels and casks on a regular basis.

Chateau Puech-Haut - barrel-storage

Inside Chateau Puech-Haut wine barrel storage facility.

It is said that no poem was ever written by a drinker of water; so, in the land where troubadours first emitted their poetic songs, I leave you with this great poem called: ‘We Have a Huge Barrel of Wine But No Cups’ – which doesn’t sound like a problem. Here’s to you Gerard Bru.

“We have a huge barrel of wine but no cups, that’s fine with us. Every morning we glow, and in the evening we glow again. They say there is no future for us. They are right; which is fine with us.” – Rumi (13th Century Persian poet)

Additional source: The Cooper and His Trade

Salootie Patootie,

Daryle W. Hier


Renovated Used Wine Barrel








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California Wine Production Drops Again, But …

The Golden State generates over 90% of all wine produced in the United States. So sometimes numbers have to be put in prospective. Still, the wine grape tonnage created in California for the 2015 season dropped a second year in a row, according to the just released California Grape Crush Report.California_Grape_Crush_Report-2015

We at Paso Wine Barrels keep tabs on statistics like this because it can affect our business, whether the winery crop production is high or low. Until just recently, it was difficult to find used wine barrels, because crush reports over the past few years have been high. After two back-to-back record breaking years in 2012 and 2013, wineries were leery and caused vintners to essentially hoard their used wine barrels in case the next year was the same as the last.

Drought tough to beat

Drought has gripped California for five years and that finally slowed down grape-growers who saw a dip in 2014, but still it was a very strong output. So some wine-makers relinquished their barrels, but most held steady figuring to wait one more year. That year was this past season and the grape crush is the lowest it’s been since 2011.

However, the amount of wine produced last year was average by comparison to past seasons during the 21st Century. Therefore, even though production was down 5% year-or-year, California is still the fourth largest wine producer in the world behind France, Italy and Spain – and we’re neck-and-neck with Espana. In other words, the wine is still flowing big time in sunny California.

If California was its own country, it would rank fourth in the world - maybe third - in wine production.

If California was its own country, it would rank fourth in the world – maybe third – in wine production.

Those in the industry will say that they needed a breather because there was too much bulk wine available, which can drive prices down. Yet, the world as a whole is drinking more wine, but not producing enough of what the demand wants. Hard to know for sure how that works out considering the elongated Recession is gathering up steam for another big hit economic-wise.

Chardonnay down, but not out

Although the cost of grapes in California is down a bit overall, for some varietals like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, prices have already increased, due to very low tonnage in 2015. So yours truly tries to pinpoint wineries who concentrate on those varietals. Locally, we had bouts of shatter on the Central Coast, which significantly reduced overall grape production. Simply stated, shatter is when the young grape cluster flowers are stressed to the point they fall off the vine. We knew it wasn’t going to be a good year and last harvest offered a glimpse into the troubles we were heading towards.

Chardonnay still leads the way as the number one varietal in California.

Chardonnay still leads the way as the number one varietal in California.

A few stats of interest from this harvest report show the leader with more than one-in-six grapes is Chardonnay. Cabernet Sauvignon is still king, at least among reds, and second place in the state. By the way, Thomson Seedless was the leading varietal regarding raisin production. Well over half a million acres in the Golden State have grapes growing on them.

A final report will be out in about a month with the complete rundown of all that is known of last years grape crush. Only five other years in state’s history of wine production had higher tonnage. So yes, the crush is lighter than the previous three years, but perspective will tell you that the wine industry is doing just fine in California.

Additional source: Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia


Daryle W. Hier


Renovated Used Wine Barrel








Get these already popular barrels now! 

One-of-a-kind Coat And Hat Rack

Sometimes we come up with ideas based on what we personally need around the shop or home. We needed a couple of spots where we could hang coats during the winter and all our assorted caps and hats. This particular need and idea isn’t unusual and certainly others have made coat and hat racks – heck there are hundreds of them for sale.

Extremely unique coat and hat rack

Extremely unique coat and hat rack

Ah, but with that said, I looked around trying to find a handmade coat rack that was constructed strictly from a used wine barrel. Lo and behold to my surprise, I couldn’t find a coat/hat rack that was made only with wine barrel parts. Specifically, a used wine barrel stave and hooks made from hoop bands.

Nothing like this

Yes, you can find staves made into an assortment of products including coat racks. For instance we make one of these out of a barrel stave, but with three two-pronged brass hooks purchased from an outlet store. However, they are always made using store-bought hooks or other a sundry products made into a holder.

Now, it isn’t exactly easy taking a hoop band, cutting pieces off and then shaping them into a hook. Still, there are folks out there who have the ability to make things into almost anything you can imagine. Yet, the simple thought of creating a hook out of a hoop band from a wine barrel, obliviously didn’t happen.

So here you have it. We take a used wine barrel stave with all it’s inimitable appearance and sand it down just a bit to smooth out the roughness, but keeping the distinctive patina. We drill two holes on each end about 32 inches apart so it can be screwed into a typical wall which has 16 inch centers (the beams behind the wall). We then apply a single coat of sealer and stain – let dry – then cover with a coat of varathane to add a bit of shine to what is an unmatched coat and hat rack. We screw on five hoop bands which have been shaped and curved into a hook. These hooks are sanded down to take off any blemishes or sharp edges, while still maintaining the rugged look of a used wine barrel band. coat and hat rack with cap


Since each one is handmade, you will have the only one like it. These unique and apparently rare coat and hat racks will be the talk of the town almost as much as a piece of artwork.

Incredibly priced below $45 with free shipping – because we don’t know any better – they are available in limited supply right now, but over time, we will produce more. Check them out here: I don’t believe you will find anything else like it.


Daryle W. Hier


Renovated Used Wine Barrel








Get these already popular barrels now!