Monthly Archives: June 2014

Snake Wine – It Gets Worse

I don’t mean to creep you out with an eerie story, but with my ongoing learning of the wine culture, I find some of the more weird oddities of the world. Such was the case when I was looking into how other cultures make wine. The Vietnamese may have this one hands down. And this blows away eating the worm at the bottom of a tequila bottle.

Snake Wine


Yes, we all realize cultures can have vast differences but in certain parts of Southeast Asia, mainly Vietnam, they make Snake Wine. This particular type of rice wine is thought of as a medicinal cure for ailments of all kinds – I’m sure it would cure … or kill anything. Furthermore, the darn stuff is made with venomous snakes – usually cobras. But don’t worry, the rice wine alcohol (ethanol) dilutes and breaks up the poison, making it inactive. Wonderful.

Now, in a kind of strange doubling-down, the Vietnamese have conjured up Snake Bile Wine. No, I didn’t stutter, it is what it says. It’s weird considering the Vietnamese have snake wines, but they seem to have up the ante with this one. The black green bile taken from the gallbladder of a cobra in Vietnam is officially called Ruou Mat Ran.

Snake Bile Wine

You might be wondering if something got lost in the translation, but this is real and from where I’m standing, really disgusting. Scan Google for more information on this subject and you might find a few crazy stories about knocking back some nasty stuff called Snake Bile Wine. And no one appears to think it tastes very good or at best is bland. Bland? To each his own.

It’s not unusual for people to eat parts of the snake after the bottle is drank, but I would rather not. And as if one needed more reasons to stay away from this concoction, a story ran last year that a woman was bit by a snake after she opened the bottle to add more rice wine once it was empty. I’m sure the snake was feeling no pain but the lady had to go to the hospital to be checked out.

No animal is safe

Centipede, Scorpion, Seahorse, Whiskey

In case you think this is too out there, this region also produces scorpion rice wines as well as bees, giant centipedes, geckos and sea horses … oh my. Also, these same creatures can be found in whiskey (see picture at right). Ah, what heck, anything goes. By the way, here’s a video of a guy in Laos trying and not minding a shot of Snake Whiskey. This stuff is even available online.

The origins of these mixtures come from China some 3,000 years ago. During the Ming Dynasty, the medical uses of these brews were widespread and regularly used. The most common advantage of drinking this creation is that it helps with virility. Who needs Viagra guys? Serpent shooter coming up.

Creepy might be one way of describing this potion but for the people of Southeast Asia, there’s nothing strange or weird about Snake Wine. The Snake Bile Wine is more over the edge but at least you’re forewarned. Plus, now you have a great – if a bit disturbing – subject to talk about at the next party.

Additional sources: Washington Post

Down the hatch,

Daryle W. Hier



B-Town Barrel Fest

Can’t ignore a ‘Barrel Fest’, especially when it’s only two hours east of Paso Robles. Bakersfield will be hosting the B-Town Barrel Fest on Saturday (June 27th) at the Kern County Museum.

Anything that comes from the inside of a barrel will be there for tasting, including beer, spirits (i.e. whiskey), tequila and wine. By the way, this isn’t to be confused with the Bakersfield Craft Beer Festival.

There will be several tequilas on hand and well over a dozen beers. Margaritas and Bloody Marys will be on tap as well.

Good last year – Even better this year

A success with last year’s inaugural Barrel Fest, expect much the same including food, games, contests and other activities, comedians, plus live entertainment. Three local bands will perform — classic rockers Dust Bowl Disciples; La Marcha, playing salsa, cumbia and dance music; and Members Only, billed as the “ultimate ’80s band. Once again, it should be a fun time.

You must be 21 to attend and tickets go for $35. If you plan on going, go online and get your tickets electronically to save $5. The proceeds will benefit the museum. And note that your ticket gets you samplings, but the food is extra. The event runs from 6:00 pm through the evening.

With a park-like setting, the Kern County Museum is on Chester Ave across the street from Floyd’s General Store. They’re in the north central part of town off of the 204 (Golden State Ave) – also, if you know where the Sam Lynn baseball park is, they’re right next door. Stay cool.

Click here for ticket information.

Salootie Patootie,

Daryle W. Hier



All About Lavender

What is the fascination with lavender and why do we celebrate it? The purple colored ornamental flower has been used as a herb, for ages. How far back? To the beginning of time? Here’s a quick rundown on the amazing and ageless plant.

Lavender field

Lavender fields are a common sight in places like the California Central Coast

Lavender, which technically is called Lavandula, is a part of the mint family. Personally, I know of these plants having grown mint as a guard of the vegetable garden since it discourages pest – they are invasive though. The lavender isn’t as invasive and brings in beneficial insects while turning away unwanted pests. In fact, grow them around fruit trees, because they attract good bugs and deter the bad ones.  The plants are usually perennial, so you plant and leave them – although they do need trimmed in late winter or early spring. Once established, they grow for years with little care.


The name comes from the Latin word lavare which means ‘to wash’. The plant supposedly originated in the Middle East around the Mediterranean region, which may be why it does so well here in California. The plants can take harsh dry heat in the summer, yet withstand frost in the winter. Lavender is sometimes considered a drought tolerant plant and you can find it growing in the wild on the Central Coast of California.

As most of us know, the lavender fragrance is one of its biggest attractions. However, most importantly, the oils from this potent herb have been utilized since the beginning of time and later found their way into the Bible when Mary Magdalene cleaned Jesus’ feet. The medicinal uses of lavender’s antimicrobial essential oils are legendary. In China, it is utilized for almost anything to do with medical use due to its anti-inflammatory properties.

Lavender flower

Healing properties

The popularity of its essence is used for soothing herbal baths and the aroma has been said to be an aphrodisiac. Another use of lavender is as an insecticidal along with deodorant and disinfectant – potpourri has plenty of lavender in them. Part of the liquid generated from the plant is about one third of a type of alcohol that is non-toxic to humans, yet an antiseptic, but repels bugs such as mosquitoes and lice.

Still, its properties allow chefs around the world to flavor their dishes with both a great flavor and scent. Now, folks add lavender to enhance vinegars, honey and a host of other foods and fares. Far-reaching eats and drinks can be found with lavender including cookies and margaritas.

There are countless uses for lavender. And to help feature the soothing miracle herb, there are lavender events all-around the United States and many of them are here in California. They often will have exhibits featuring how the plants are cultivated and dried, along with how the oils are extracted.

Come see the magical herb

One of the fastest growing purple-shaded events is the Lavender Festival presented by the Paso Robles Main Street Association and the Central Coast Lavender Association. The annual celebration is located at the City Park in Downtown Paso Robles. This year you can enjoy the festivities on the second Saturday of July between 10:00 am and 5:00 pm.

Lavender Festival

Central Coast Lavender Festival

There are a plethora of lavender products and along with them, the associated arts and craft products you see at any Central Coast fair, including wine barrels and half wine barrels. Come on out and have fun finding out the wonders of lavender. As always, Downtown Paso is filled with gourmet restaurants and of course dozens and dozens of tasting rooms.

Additional sources: The Lavender Lover’s Handbook,

Au revoir,

Daryle W. Hier




Booze Or Poop

Ben Franklin had it right when he said,

“In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is freedom, in water there is bacteria.”

Booze or poop

Simple choice: Alcohol or E. Coli

Why was he right?

I was asked the other day if I couldn’t drink alcohol of any sorts, what would I do – what would I drink? A scary thought for sure being that I’m a homebrewer as a hobby and into wine barrels as a business. The same person said it wouldn’t be so bad because water is good for you and certainly there aren’t any scientist saying otherwise … or are they?

A chronicled investigation was done on water. In controlled experiments, researchers found that a person who drank 30 ounces of water a day took in two pounds of E. Coli a year.  E. Coli is most often found in body waste (otherwise known as feces or poop). Pardon my French but translated into simple terms, humans are drinking two pounds of crap a year. That’s not very healthy.

Superman equals Alcoholman

However, we have plenty of help to the rescue. Whether you are drinking wine, whiskey, beer or any other alcoholic beverage, they have all gone through boiling, fermenting and/or filtering procedures, plus alcohol itself naturally kills bacteria. So the moral of story is either you drink crap or alcohol; it’s your choice … and health that matters.

Poop or fart in a bikini

Stay thirsty … and healthy my friends.

We’ve all heard the stories about traveling by ship centuries ago and how some alcohol would be added to the water to keep it from being diseased. There are numerous stories of how people used alcohol to prevent or get rid of outbreaks like cholera by actually drinking booze on a regular basis. Such a dilemma.

By the way, this story has nothing to do with the popular book that came out earlier this year called Poop, Booze and Bikinis – which is a funny book on its own.

While some wish to disprove the positive affects of wine, beer et al, the reality is, it’s good for you and will likely allow you to live a long, healthy … and fun life. As with anything, moderation is the key when drinking alcohol. Stay healthy my friend.

So – are you a boozer or pooper?


Daryle W. Hier



L.A. Day Trip: Paso Robles

Forgot about this last month, but Automobile Club of Southern California (AAA) had a nice story on Paso Robles as an ideal day trip for those in the Greater Los Angeles area (source: Westways). Actually this is true for those in the Bay Area as well. In fact, since Paso is on the Central Coast, almost anywhere in the Golden State could view the idyllic rolling hills of the ‘Pass of the Oaks’ as a great day trip.Paso Robles roads - fall

As we’ve mentioned here on the blog in the past, along with the Auto Club article, the allure of Paso is the combination of a small town feel, but with much to do including food, wineries and boutiques stores. Now, with its designation as the number one wine region of the world, the popularity of the once small sleepy town, has brought Paso to the fore as a great travel destination.

The biggest draw of course are the wineries with upwards of 300 in the North County area. There’s always something going at the Paso Robles Event Center including the biggest little fair: the Mid-State Fair. Also, the Downtown City Park is busy almost every weekend – such as this Saturday’s Trading Day.

This year marks the 125th anniversary of the cities founding and there are constant celebrations and events commemorating the towns history. You can check with the Chamber of Commerce for more information.

The attraction and beauty of Paso Robles is unusual and unique. Whether you come to visit for the day or longer, when sitting at one of the many wineries, there’s a mesmerizing feeling that is both charming and elegant. As they say, “Come for the view, stay for the wine.


Daryle W. Hier




Racing Champ Scott Pruett Drives Just As Hard In Wine Business

Public figures appear in the wine business ever once in awhile, adding their name or cache to a wine or winery, but seldom do they become an active partner.

We’ve mentioned some NFL quarterbacks who are involved in the wine industry.  That their physical involvement may be more marketing than operational, still, they are engaged in the working of the business.  In the world of Hollywood, it isn’t unusual to see celebrities involved in some capacity with vineyards.

Scott Pruett - 10-time title holder

Scott Pruett – 10-time sports car champion.

The racing world includes some big names in NASCAR like Jeff Gordon who was born in Vallejo, which is just a stones throw from Napa.  Car owner Richard Childress has a successful wine making operation in North Carolina.  Then there is Scott Pruett.


Pruett may not be a household name with the general public but those in motorsports know him as a well respected multiple-time champion in the sports car ranks that may not have any parallel.  His talents and accomplishments are too many to name but let’s just leave it with the fact the hard working driver has 10 national titles in three different forms of professional sports car racing.  And he’s passionately working on an 11th title this season at the age of 54. Remarkable by any sporting standard.

However, the Roseville, California, native has taken up the business of being a vintner. More like it, he’s taken to his Sierra Foothill vineyard with the velocity of a racecar – and he’s now reaping the benefits of his driven passion of making wine. When Scott isn’t screaming around the track, he’s instead, out about among his Pruett Vineyard grapes which overlooks the American River in Auburn, California – just 20 minutes northeast from where he grew up.

Scott and Judy Pruett

Judy and Scott Pruett

When Pruett wasn’t racing, he was studying the world of viticulture and produced his first public release a few years ago. Auburn – in Placer County – is known for Syrah and Italian varietals. Scott and his wife Judy have a 50 acre property with three acres of vines which helped create a world-class red blend (75% Syrah & 25% Cabernet Sauvignon) that earned a 93 from Wine Spectator.  They’ve received more high marks of 93 from the respected magazine since.

It may be an odd and contradictory pairing what with someone who goes fast for a living, being heavily involved in the deliberate world of viticulture.  Yet, make no mistake, Scott is indeed involved in every aspect of the wine making.  His thirst for knowledge in the viticulture industry continues and with farming in the family blood, Pruett has proved that his passion for being the best in racing is naturally transferring over as a vintner.

'50 Buick Woody

Scott Pruett’s ’50 Buick Woody custom

More success

By the way, not be outdone by strange couplings, the Pruetts also have written successful children books. As a matter of fact, if you go to Amazon, under Scott Pruett’s name, you’ll find children’s books before you see anything about his racing exploits.  Yes, Scott’s drive to succeed touches everything he does. Even his ’50 Buick Woody hot rod called ‘Low Tide’ is a show-stopping beauty (see pic at above right).

Scott Pruett’s hard work and talents to make high quality wine shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows his driving passion. As a farmer, he’s found something that feels as natural as grabbing a wheel and turning left and right. A passionate learner who has taken to viticulture with a zeal only a championship driver could present, Pruett appears to be using his hard working habits to create a top flight wine.

A hard working talented champion in the fast-paced world of racing, is proving to be just as hard working and talented in a much more slower-paced world of the wine business.  Watch for Pruett Vineyards … if you can keep up.

Sources: Chip Ganassi Racing, Racing Reference, NostalgiaDr


Daryle W. Hier




Should California expand reservoir capacity by removing sediment?

No matter what your opinion is of the water situation in California, certainly the need for more capacity and production (i.e. desalination) is vital for a state that is home to roughly 40 million people and is for the most part a semi-arid region.

San Luis Reservoir

San Luis Reservoir near Los Banos, California, is the largest off-stream reservoir in the world

I have long wondered why more water capacity and retention plans weren’t created in the Los Angeles area, which I lived in for the better part of five decades. A handful of towns here and there did but most did not, expecting water to keep flowing from regions like the Southern Sierra and the Colorado River. Here on the Central Coast in Paso Robles, where I’ve now lived for seven glorious years, we too are working on garnering water from every resource available (go here and here for more on Paso’s water issues).

Sadly, politics plays a destructive part in the problem and in fact one of the reasons the San Luis Reservoir – which is the largest off-stream reservoir in the world – lacks water is due to pumping restrictions instituted by the federal government. Along with runoff from rain, San Luis gets water from the Delta and in-turn supplies much of the Silicon Valley with its drinking water.

Although state and federal politics get in the way, growing capacity is a viable option to help with California’s ongoing water problems and this blog (see below for full story by Jay Lund) offers some insight into how that may work and if it’s feasible. I believe everything must be done and expansion of current reservoirs through sediment removal should definitely be explored.


Daryle W. Hier



California WaterBlog

ShastaShasta Reservoir. Source: California Department of Water Resources

By Jay Lund

Removing sediment from reservoirs is often suggested as a potentially better way to expand storage capacity than raising dam heights or building new reservoirs. This is a natural notion to explore given the cost and likely environmental impacts of traditional expansions.

For perspective, the construction cost of conventional reservoir expansion is about $1,700 to $2,700 an acre-foot (af) of storage capacity. For example:

View original post 523 more words

Trading Day In Paso Robles


This is a quick note that Saturday, June 20th will mark the first weekend of summer as well as Trading Day at the Park in Downtown Paso Robles. What’s even more important is that Paso Wine Barrels will be there with all their barrels.Trading Day - Paso Robles

To find us, well, it’s easy.  Go to the Downtown City Park and the corner of 12th and Spring. There we’ll be with Decorative Wine Barrels, Staves, Planter Barrels, Hose Holders and more.  Now’s your chance to see these beauties in person.

Trading Day is a gathering that to describe it, is the biggest yard sale in San Luis Obispo County.  Furniture, memorabilia, arts and crafts will be exhibited, plus it’s free to the public. Also, there will be a Kids’ Flea Market, plus a Bike Rodeo, which is put on by the Recreation Enhances Community Foundation (REC Foundation). The REC Foundation is a non-profit fundraising corporation committed to creating enhanced programs, places, and open spaces for quality recreational experiences in Paso Robles.

If you live on the Central Coast or are visiting, this is no brainer – come on out.  It runs from 9:00 am until 3:00 pm and note that they have a special section in the middle of the park for kids to sell their wares.  You can call the Main Street Association at 805-238-4103 or email for more information.

Last year’s Trading Day.

And what’s best of all? Paso Wine Barrels will have a one-day special with reduced prices on some products.  Yes, we’re crazy and you will be crazy too if you don’t get out to the Park in Downtown Paso Robles on the first day of Summer!

As the Main Street Association asks:

‘Are you searching for that unique antique furniture piece or vintage memorabilia?’

Well, are you?


Daryle W. Hier



Wine Barrel As Rain Barrel

Everyone wants to be green – whatever that truly means – and one of the many ways to be thrifty, conserve and smart is to use a barrel to capture rain. Here in California, water is somewhat of a hard commodity to acquire, so folks in these parts are looking at how to capture rainwater to use in gardens and keep their green areas, well, green.

Wine barrel as rain barrelTo that end, have you ever thought about using a wine barrel as a rain barrel?  The obvious advantages of rainwater include that’s it’s free, but also the fact is rainwater can actually help improve the health of your gardens, lawn and trees. Rainwater is naturally soft and devoid of minerals, chlorine and other chemicals found in water produced from treatment plants such as city water. And did you know that during a one-inch rain event, over half a gallon of water can fall on just one square foot of roof? Yes, you read that right, just one square foot!

So what are you waiting for? Wine barrels as rain barrels is not a novel idea as people have been doing this for centuries. However, now that water rates have skyrocketed along with the idea of using safer rainwater over that of city water – it has become more popular than ever. Plus, a wine barrel will hold 500 pounds of water – that’s a lot of natural pure rainwater. On a side note, keep in mind old oak wine barrels are being used for so many other reuses, that they are becoming harder and harder to find.

Q: When does it rain money? A: When there is “change” in the weather.

Capture Kits

As far as how you can capture rain and use it as water for your gardens et al, there are several kits out there that you can do on your own. These do-it-yourself kits range in price from $20 all the way to well over $100. It all depends on how sophisticated you want to get and whether you can afford to make sure it’s self contained. Note that all these kits require you to cut into your drainage down spouts.

Rain Reserve's Complete Rain Barrel Diverter Kit  - Oatey's Mystic Rainwater Collection System

Rain Reserve’s Complete Rain Barrel Diverter Kit (top) and Oatey’s Mystic Rainwater Collection System (bottom) offer two different approaches to rainwater collection.

The lowest priced kit I found is made by Oatey called the Mystic Rainwater Collection System and the unit simply hooks to your downspout and a diverter hose goes into your barrel. You will have to figure out how to drill a hole in the top of the barrel and seal it if possible. These units usually don’t go for more than $40.

A more middle of the road kit that I personally thought was about right is Rain Reserve’s Complete Rain Barrel Diverter Kit. It’s a closed system and has a trick reservoir that will send water back to the downspout when the barrel is about to overflow – that way water doesn’t spill willy-nilly all over the place. A bit pricey, running up to $100, yet evaluated with other similar units, nothing compares to the quality.

The other way to go is shine the wine barrel and buy a all-in-one plastic barrel with the kit to go with it. They can be found for as much as $300 but I found one on Amazon for about $150. It isn’t as cool or natural looking, but is still does the job.

No gutters? No problem

Roof valleyNow some of you might be saying: Hey, I don’t have any rain gutters or downspouts on my home. This isn’t high tech but here are some tips.

Spray your roof with water – or watch the water running off the roof the next time it rains – note those points that are the heaviest. Another way is to look for where your roof comes down a makes a V – they call that a trough or roof valley – see the illustration above. An old fashion idea is to put a rope or chain on your roof on an angle and water will follow the rope – see where it comes off the roof and place your barrel there. With all these ideas, remove or cut the top of your barrel and place it where the heaviest drainage areas came off the roof.

By the way, there are kits that can add a second or even more barrels to your collection system.

One last add. There’s a company called RainSaucers and they sell a device that can be attached to the top of a barrel. To describe what they look like, imagine a dog shield collar – you know, those ridiculous things you put on your dog so they don’t gnaw on an injured area. Another description would be they look like a satellite dish. It widens the catch diameter immensely so you can place the barrel anywhere you want.  See video below for more info on RainSaucers.


Now as far as another possible situation you could run into, some people might find they have issues with their old used wine barrel leaking. Here are a few different ways to solve this problem. First, take your barrel and fill with hot water – remember, these barrels may have been sitting outside drying up for quite a while. Once you’ve filled it up, keep water in it for the next couple of days. It should allow the oak to soak some of the water and naturally seal itself.

Another way to resolve leaking is if after you’ve tried keeping water in it and the barrel still leaks, use barrel sealing wax and while it’s full and leaking, take the wax and press it in to the crack or cracks that are leaking. Some folks will mark where the leak is, empty the barrel and proceed to heat the area and then press the wax in as tight as they can. You can use paraffin or bees wax.

Still a third way is to purchase a pond liner. They are heavy-duty rubber liners that you can press into the barrel and then cut the excess. I’ve not done this but have used pond liners in the past for a small waterfall and they last forever and are tougher than Kelsey’s nuts. Yes, this operation requires you removing the top of the barrel. Do this by removing the bands from that end of the barrel. The staves will pull apart a little bit and you can then remove the head. Be very careful not to let the barrel fall apart. It can get ugly.

Looking good

A last thought. These rain barrels don’t have to be eyesores or not meshing with the rest of the house and/or outdoor area. If you sanded, stained and sealed the barrel and then put a nice varnish on the outside, it would last much longer … indeed, they might never dry out. Plus, it would look great! Hmmm, I might know someone who does that – click on that barrel at the bottom of the page.

Rainwater_harvestingIf you research rain barrels at all, you’ll find an endless amount of information and products. If you want to stay natural, a wine barrel is the best way to go and what the heck, they look cool too. Consider the idea of decorating the used wine barrel – bring out your inner artist.  Or again, make it easy on yourself and purchase a Decorative Wine Barrel. One last item you might forget is a bung – don’t want to lose half your water.  If you missed it, I just wrote about a beautiful high tech bung plug now available.

As always, if you have a question, feel free to ask below, email me, give us a call, message me or the forty other ways people can contact me in this ever advanced modern era.

Now don’t dally, get yourself a wine barrel and rainwater harvesting system and make your garden happy, plus maybe you’ll save a buck or two along the way.

“Let the rain wash away, all the pain of yesterday.”


Daryle W. Hier