Monthly Archives: August 2014

New Malibu AVA – Yes And No

There are many reasons I left the confines of Greater Los Angeles, not the least of which is its traffic, congestion and its multiple pollutions. Another is its Machiavellian politics.

L.A. Freeway traffic

A great achievement in the far western regions of Los Angeles County is Malibu, where many of Southern Californians elite live. From beautiful south facing beaches to grand hilltops, with unencumbered views of much of the urban setting to the east and Pacific Ocean to the south, unveils itself as somewhat removed with its relatively quiet and mostly serene landscape that Malibu offers.

Yes, but no

The supposed accomplishment Malibu attained was its own AVA (American Viticultural Area) in the Santa Monica Mountains – quite a triumph for what seemed an out-of-the-blue feat. Ah, but Los Angeles style politics rears its ugly head often and this time, to the dismay of wine lovers, Malibu may have their own AVA, but they can’t do any growing.

Yes, this twist of fate is not unusual in the Golden State, and really is just another day in the life of Southern California’s gross underbelly. What the County is doing is under the guise of coastal protection and saving water, requiring so many hoops for farmers to jump through, that they won’t be able – or want – to grow grapes for wine consumption.

Without going into this convoluted political world, anyone in the Malibu AVA will have to go through a huge permit system and involves not only the malevolent L.A. County, but also the equally treacherous and unelected Coastal Commission – an autonomous and Anti-American body that has harmed Californians for many decades.

No grapes, but everything else?


Now, the crazy part of this is if you want to grow vegetables or fruit trees, there’s an easier path to gaining permits, but if you grow grapes, well, sorry, go to the end of line buddy – and this is a line that doesn’t move. Realize that most of these other foods require more water than do grapes, especially using drip irrigation, however, that doesn’t matter.

The arguments made against new plantings – and existing ones as well – was based on archaic information, but that matters not at all. Horse ranches are allowed even though they cause erosion while vineyards do the opposite, still facts don’t mean a thing in the Machiavellian world of Los Angeles County style politics.

As the son of a former Los Angeles Fireman, I know that vineyards are routinely suggested as good firebreaks, which is important in the hills around Malibu, as this region is notorious for many giant brushfires over the years. Senseless, is the thinking, or lack thereof, of the political machine in Los Angeles County.

A real head-pounder

Again, if water shortages are the reason for not allowing vineyards, why allow anything else? That is the world of Los Angeles politics and why many of us have left. Does this sound insane? Yes, it is absurdly insane. Yet, insanity runs a muck among those that live in much of Southern California.

Malibu Vineyard - water color

If L.A. County ruling holds, the only pictures of Malibu vineyards will be paintings

I feel for Malibu and those that worked so hard for their own AVA. However, there shouldn’t be shock or even dismay at the way the County has intervened and short-circuited the potential for growing great wines.

Vineyards had a long history in Malibu, until Prohibition ended that run. Over the past half century, small vineyards have popped up again, but just like Prohibition, these new regulations might end Malibu’s winemaking history again.

“Politics have no relation to morals.” – Niccolo Machiavelli


Daryle Hier



Classic Cars Invade Central Coast – Labor Day Weekend

This is a fun event and adds a lot of class to Paso Robles. A car show at the park is always a treat. Check it out.

The Nest

Once again, classic cars will grace the city of Paso Robles this Labor Day weekend, with the Paso Robles Classic Car Weekend event scheduled for two days, August 29th and 30th (Friday and Saturday). Net proceeds will go to local charities.

Golden States Classics Car Show - Downtown Paso

The Golden State Classics Car Club puts on the event with help from the city of Paso Robles. The club was founded in 1986 by nine individuals interested in preserving and enjoying all types of antique classic, and custom cars, and trucks. There are now 120 members in this family-oriented car club organized for the purpose of promoting interest in the preservation, and/or modification of all classic automobiles and trucks. The Chamber of Commerce had helped organize the show in the past, but Golden State Classics Car Club and the city will co-host the event this year.

Friday night, starting at the Paso Robles Event Center from 21st Street…

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Yea, Labor Day – Boo, Labor Day

Celebrated on the first Monday of September, this upcoming weekend is Labor Day, which is generally regarded as the final hoorah for summer – a bittersweet even melancholy period of the year, if you ask me.

Yes, I’m a big fan of summer and technically we have almost an entire month of summer to go before fall officially starts.  Still, once Labor Day passes, the clock begins to tick around here on the California Central Coast. You start noticing the shadows getting longer and although Septembers in Paso Robles are very capable of being downright hot, there’s also the knowledge that cooler mornings will be with us anytime.

There’s good to be had 

Don’t get me wrong, I love Paso Robles and fall brings some of the grandest and most picturesque times of the year. Having come from Los Angeles, where there really aren’t seasons and autumn’s color changes are faint at best, the rich and vibrant transformations in the Paso landscape including the beauty of a turning vineyard are quite spectacular.

However, that also means the end of hot temperatures and these past few years has been a bit of a conundrum. Winter and spring were warmer than normal and that was great and in fact there wasn’t that blustery spring we can get; but, when summer arrived, that perpetual late spring weather of mostly 80s and wind took the, well, summer out of summer.

This year, I’ve been hoping for a last stand by summer to give a shot of 100s, which can happen on Labor Day – that’s a good thing, as far as my opinion is concerned. And that leads us back to Labor Day where we will have plenty of tourists in town, getting one last little vacation in before returning to the rat race that is either the Bay Area or Greater L.A. I so, don’t miss that.

Come on in, comrades

Labor Day (also commemorated in Canada) is an almost Un-American celebration, since it’s dedicated to socialists movements dating back roughly 125 years ago. However, it’s an excuse for folks to stream into the Central Coast looking for wine tasting, a bit of entertainment and maybe even a trip to our beautiful coastline and beaches. Our accommodating and ever-growing hotels will be readied. Overall, it’s a relaxing place to be whether you’re visiting or living here.

College football season is starting which is another good and bad thing all rolled up in one. Like my father mentions during summer, when I remind him that the football season is getting closer, that’s not a good thing because it means the end of summer is coming – he’s a fanatical fan of summer like I am … or probably more so.

With harvest-time here, the final long weekend of the year is nearly upon us and with one last stab, summer will hopefully give everyone in the U.S. a warm and friendly sendoff. Enjoy yourself – I will try to do the same – but the mix of pleasure and surrendering of summer is on my mind.

“Sorrow and scarlet leaf, Sad thoughts and sunny weather. Ah me, this glory and this grief Agree not well together!” – Thomas Parsons

Salootie Patootie,

Daryle Hier


Renovated Used Wine Barrel




Napa Earthquake And Wine Barrels

*Update at bottom

I’ve received some inquires regarding the Napa Earthquake and whether it was affecting us here at Paso Wine Barrels. The short answer is no.

Napa Earthquake wine barrels

The fallout from the damage which is over a billion dollars so far – mainly concentrated in the south end of Napa County – is still not known, but so far, the Central Coast of California has not been largely affected by the seismic activity north of the Bay Area.

With the damage to so many wine barrels, it has been wondered if there might be a shortage. However, many of the wineries had just recently done bottling to get ready for 2014’s vintage, so they had emptied the wine and most of those empty barrels, don’t appear to be damaged.

Again, reports are all still preliminary and much of what has been reported, doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of what real harm has been done both physically as well as monetarily.

Damage was very localized 

Also, those in other parts of the country or overseas speculated as to how the big tremor affected all our wine regions. To be clear, there was significant damage near or at where the epicenter (was not far from the Napa County Airport), but it shook only in the immediate area and was not widely felt. Being just north of San Pablo Bay, except for Vallejo, Sonoma and obviously Napa, not much in the way of damage was incurred. The Central Coast didn’t feel even the slightest whiff of a quake.

Napa Valley Grape - Ready For Harvest

Although harvest started early this season, percentage-wise, much of the berries have not been picked yet and that is some consolation for those in Napa. Luckily, a cooler than normal summer helped slow ripening … or we may have had a different story.

We will keep monitoring barrel needs, but it seems for now, there doesn’t appear to be much or any problem. Paso Wine Barrels will keep barreling away. 🙂

*UPDATE: As some had thought, once the devastation could be viewed more clearly, damage is not as bad as it originally was reported. Obviously there’s destruction, but as this story offers, things aren’t as bad as news services first noted.


Daryle Hier





Small Multi-Gold Winning Vineyard Available

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” – Thomas A. Edison

The genius of Mr. Edison was right, however what is not made clear sometimes is how often opportunity knocks with grand offers … but is not always taken advantage of. That advantage is front and center.

In the number one wine region in the world sits a tiny but hugely successful vineyard that has produced multiple medals over the last few years including Double Gold at the prestigious International Wine Competition. The man that made this small but powerful vineyard was Luis Nunez who sadly passed away this past Easter Sunday.

The unique if heartbreaking situation has turned into an opportunity of a lifetime for some fortunate person or persons who don’t miss on this grand offer. The widow of Mr. Nunez, Blanca Trujillo Nunez is making available those award-winning grapes to whoever comes along and simply pays her water bill and a nominal fee for the grapes. That’s it, a simple lease and you have in your hands some of the most remarkable Zinfandel grapes … maybe in the world.

The only reason I use such grandiose verbiage is because these vines are still young in the big scope of things and Mr. Nunez wasn’t always able to have ideal circumstances to produce the wine. This was in part due to his lack of funds and being a newcomer to the garagiste winemaking world. In fact, not every vintage made it, with Luis having to occasionally sell his beauties to other winemakers, who happily used the wine to blend with theirs.

The quarter acre sits on a hill with stunning views overlooking Paso Robles and has an ideal terroir. The land is terraced giving each vine excellent light and wind plus the clay-based soil grows incredible plants. I know because of having a successful garden near his beautiful vineyard and can tell you the composition is as good as it gets.

The situation is unusual and a heck of a story, but regardless, if you’re interested, you can contact me and I can give you Blanca’s contact information.

“Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson


Daryle Hier



Cooling Slows Early Harvest

“Events will take their course, it is no good of being angry at them; he is happiest who wisely turns them to the best account.” – Euripides


The great Greek writer might not have been talking about wine – or maybe he was – but in any case, the quote may be profound for those vintners in California who have been frantically readying themselves for early pickings. As it appears now, an interesting turn of weather has slowed down the harvest season in wine country.

As we mentioned late last month, veraison – the process of grapes turning color – was happening earlier than it had in quite some time. This was in part due to drought and a warmer than normal spring. In-turn, farmers started moving up vineyard processes like bottling to empty barrels for the early harvest and crush. However, that frantic pace has slowed some, what with a mild summer, especially over the past month or so.

Late Spring forever?

We noticed it here in Paso Robles where it seems we’ve been in a perpetual June-type system with a little marine influence in the mornings, accompanied by clear warm days, but followed by very windy conditions in the afternoon into evening. Normally, August would be a drone of clear warm mornings together with hot, dry, hazy and calm afternoons – offering up temperatures mostly in the 90s and 100s.

Grape harvest

Such is not the case and the cooling has slowed grape ripening down to a crawl. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as experts say it’s allowing the grapes to mature, adding quality to what seems is yet, another large harvest. The past two years have brought bigger than normal yields in the vineyards of California and now a third year-in-a-row appears likely.


The harvest season is still ahead of schedule but winemakers can catch their breath as the grapes establish their flavors. I’ve talked with some of those winemakers and the harvest is still earlier than normal but with currently more moderate weather, they are easing into the picking season, rather than scrambling.

Maybe Euripides was right and wisdom tells us that everything will happen in due course … so why not be happy. Let’s face it, the end result is more great California wine.


Daryle W. Hier