Monthly Archives: September 2014

Peachy Canyon Winery – One Of Paso Robles’ Premier Producers

We don’t normally do stories here on individual wineries because one, we’re not necessarily here to promote one winery over another and two, I’m not exactly a wine expert so my taste are truly my own and don’t reflect an experts more in-depth knowledge. Ah, but with that said, this particular establishment has always had a soft spot with us.

What do we like … it’s a lot

Peachy Canyon Westside Zinfandel 2011

The power of Paso Zin reaches across the Pacific with Peachy Canyon’s 2011 Westside Zinfandel

Why is that? Before moving here permantly, going back well over a decade ago, we use to visit Paso Robles and one of our favorite wines became Peachy Canyon Winery. My parents used to come up here regularly from Los Angeles and Peachy Canyon was usually on the list of revisits.

The company has also been a supplier of a lot of barrels to Paso Wine Barrels this past year and we’ve developed a good relationship with the company thanks in part to their assistant winemaker Brian Pruett. By the way, Brian always seems busy doing quite a variety of things around the winery.

One other reason that Peachy Canyon Winery has been a favorite of ours is that they specialize in Zinfandel. As you may or may not know, we are particular fans of Zin and therefore the quality of wines at Peachy Canyon was a natural for us.

The Becketts

In any regards, the business was originally established by Doug Beckett along with his wife Nancy. Doug was born in West Virginia but went to school and lived the first part of his life in San Diego. The family moved to Paso Robles in the early ’80s and by the end of the decade, the Becketts were in the wine business.


Sitting just west of Paso Robles – their tasting room is off 46 West not far from the 101. They have established quite a set of vineyards with production of nearly 100,000 cases a year. Yes, their Zins are great but don’t take my word for it. Wine Enthusiast recently rated their 2011 Zin a 90 and the California State Wine Competition awarded the 2011 Zinfandel with a 95-point rating and the prestigious Best of Class. Also, that same Zin was chosen over 1,000 other wines as Japan Airlines choice of red wine on their airline business flights. Said Doug Beckett of the partnership:

“With this partnership, Peachy Canyon and Japan Airlines will together bring the finest of the Paso Robles, California AVA to clients both in the sky and around the world.”

World-class winemaker

Though the entire Beckett family has been very hands on with their vineyard, two years ago they hired world-class wine producer Terry Culton, formerly of Adelaida Cellars, to be Peachy Canyon’s winemaker, with son Josh Beckett stepping away from winemaking duties but still staying on as a consultant – and no, this isn’t the same guy who pitches for the L.A. Dodgers.

Peachy Canyon Winery

It’s obvious that Terry and Brian are doing one heck of a job for the Becketts so far. It should be noted that Peachy Canyon also has an excellent Petite Sirah from 2011 and a 2012 Viognier. Peachy Canyon wines are sold in 49 states and internationally as well.

A pioneer in Paso Robles’ infamous Zinfandel, the Becketts, Peachy Canyon with Terry Culton leading the way, are certainly front and center when it comes to being one of the premier wine producers on the California Central Coast … and the world.

Additional source:


Daryle W. Hier



Paso Robles History: Farmers Alliance Building

A large reinforced concrete grain mill has stood on little more than an acre of land in Paso Robles for almost a century. It was built by local almond orchard farmers to help process a booming industry that had created a self-proclaimed Almond Capital of the World. Called the Farmers Alliance building, it holds a lot of history and thanks to a city that wants to preserve its heritage and a company willing to work with state historical standards, the past and present live on.

Farmers Alliance Building rundown

Farmers Alliance Building was rundown and an eyesoar for decades.

After the Civil War, a large group of small and hard-pressed farmers (caused by drought in the MidWest), along with ranchers, formed a national populist organization named the Farmers Alliance, which was started as a way of uniting non-land owning cultivators against the railroads. They had strong family bonds and believed in mutual cooperation.

In Paso Robles, the Paso Robles Almond Growers Association (PRAGA) was formed (it was a co-op) after the turn-of-the-century. By the beginning of the Roaring 20s, a building was needed by a burgeoning industry that had escalated to the point of having more acres of almonds planted than anywhere else in the world.

Almonds to grain

Almond Ad 1919 - Paso Robles

Almonds were king in Paso Robles during the first part of 20th Century

However, with the advent of the Great Depression, production was down and the building was eventually sold to the Farmers Alliance Business Association (FABA) to process grain. They continued ownership of the popular pink building for several decades but with smaller ranches moving in along with the advent of grape-growing, the need for a grain building waned and the organization finally dissolved in the mid-’70s.

Having been unused for almost 30 years, it was believed that food and supply chain Smart & Final purchased the property, but the deal never came to fruition, in-part due to our current Great Recession. One of the oldest commercial buildings in town, the place was run-down and an eye-soar with weeds, a faded rusty exterior along with broken concrete and dirt.

However, just about four years ago, Ray and Pam Derby of Derby Wine Estates bought the property from Smart & Final knowing the historical ramifications. With that, a renovated building with enormous local history was preserved with a new chapter. Derby Wine Estates is composed of three properties throughout the North County area of San Luis Obispo County. They were leasing a facility but now produce their wine at their new property.

Heck of a project

Derby_Wine_Estates - Farmers_Alliance

After three years of reconstruction, the Derby’s have done an excellent job of keeping the originality of the building intact including the tower that stands in the middle of the building. The remodel is both a production facility and a tasting room and yet at a glance, it doesn’t look much different than it did many years ago. The tower now has been converted into a VIP lounge called the Almond Room.

At first just grape growers, the Derby’s have been producing their own wine for nearly a decade and now are generating their wines from the former Farmers Alliance Building. It officially opened in April of this year.

The building stands for anyone to see from Hwy 101, as a legacy of a bygone era. From almonds to grain and now finally grapes, this institution of a building’s legacy appears set to continue being a part of the heritage of Paso Robles for years to come.


Daryle W. Hier




Cal Poly Producing

There is a giant and spacious campus on the California Central Coast that is home to one of the top state universities in the United States. Roughly halfway between the metropolis’ of San Francisco and Los Angeles, the school sprawls next to hillsides in the northern part of the city of San Luis Obispo as California Polytechnic State University or Cal Poly for short.

Less than 10 miles from the Pacific Ocean, Cal Poly was established 113 years ago as a vocational or trade school. In the early years of the Great Depression, the state changed the precepts to a technical school. Not long after WW II, Cal Poly began offering Masters degrees.

Big school, big coast, big boasts

The expansive school, nicknamed the Mustangs, is in fact the second largest university or college in California with 9,678 acres. It’s always ranked as one of the Top 10 universities in the West and this past year was rated #1 architecture program in the country. Overall, the prestigious and renown U.S. News and World Report’s America’s Best Colleges guidebook ranks Cal Poly as Best in the West with the #1 engineering program in the country. It goes on-and-on. It is quite a school.

Whether it’s the mild climate, the attraction of nearby beaches, beautiful crystal clear air, the laid-back small town atmosphere or the majestic morros (hilltops) called the ‘Nine Sisters’, the spectacular landscape of the Central Coast seems to serve and add to the quality of learning.

Though not a powerhouse by anyone’s imagination, Cal Poly’s sports produce quality athletic squads.

Sports are all quality level but if you’re expecting a school like USC or UCLA, this isn’t it. Their football team is a decent Division 1AA team that makes the playoffs more so than not and their basketball team, which was always so-so, made the NCAA’s this past year for the first time. Their baseball team has been to the playoffs recently.

Wines where it’s at

However, to those who are in the industry, Cal Poly is now becoming a leader in producing high quality graduates in the wine industry. Their viticultural department has created longstanding and steady flow of vintners, managers and vineyard careers. To be more precise, the College of Agriculture, Food & Environmental Sciences gets students ready to succeed in the ever-growing wine industry.

Although the California Central Coast as a whole, is well-known and produced a plethora of wine, the North County of San Luis Obispo – Paso Robles – is the world’s number one wine region. This has created a demand, which has given students an advantage of being wanted and needed when they earn their degrees.

Cal Poly makes their own commercially produced wines.

Cal Poly teaches their students all facets of a multidimensional industry, including growing the product, making the product and of course marketing the product. Whether the student wants to farm grapes, make wine or manage and market, all aspects are covered.

Producing ready-to-go graduates 

President of Cal Poly, Jeffrey D. Armstrong, may have said it best:

“In today’s work, college graduates must be able to work creatively and think critically across multiple disciplines. Cal Poly’s graduates can – and do. Employers love our graduates, because they have two hands on the problem and two feet on the ground. They’re ready to contribute on Day One.”

On a personal note, I knew little about the school before I moved here from Los Angeles several years ago. By following sports, that was about the only thing I did know. Now having been around the region for a little while, I can appreciate the quality of schooling and why students want to be here on the Central Coast. When I’m at wineries, it’s a common site to see Cal Poly Mustang clothing being worn, as the influence is palpable.

With about 20,000 students, the school has formed a backbone of high standards that will help assist and shape today and tomorrow’s society in oh so many ways. Those same students are likely drawn by the beauty of the area along with so many activities like biking, surfing or an abundance of hiking to keep the mind fresh – all combined with a topnotch university gives Cal Poly a special place in the hierarchy of higher learning.


NOTE: In the fall of 2014, listed amongst public universities, Cal Poly in the Top 15 for earnings made after they graduate. As the number one rated state school in California, Cal Poly graduates were averaging $56,200 early in their careers and $100,100 average during the middle of their careers.


Daryle W. Hier






Wine Barrel Beer

I’ve been a homebrewer for almost two decades and although I’m essentially a simple brewer by trade, many in the craft are more than a bit adventurous. That could be true with the microbrew world as well.

Wine Barrel Beer

Like the wine garagiste brethren, with that daring and bold streak, some homebrewers are actually going back to beginning – they’re brewing in barrels … mostly wine barrels to be specific. And to that point, more than a few folks have ventured my way, asking for wine barrels that they can use for aging.

Unique flavors

Looking for unique and distinctive flavors, these risktakers – meaning craft brewers – purposefully want to impart that tinge of wine aroma and flavor along with whatever the oak can still give off after several years as a wine producer. The part that is tricky for Paso Wine Barrels is we are receiving barrels that most wineries don’t want, and sometimes there’s reasons for why they don’t want these particular barrels.

Vintners typically hold on to wine barrels for roughly six years. This isn’t set in stone as some winemakers use barrels for only two or three years while other use them as long as they don’t leak or no longer offer any oak value.


So you can see the situation arise where someone asks us if the barrels are still good – we don’t really know. What we do know though is whether they leak or not. No matter where you go to purchase your used barrel, just be aware that leaks are possible. Often I will go through a new batch of used barrels and sift out some that are obviously no good for holding water because maybe I can literally see through the seems in between the staves. Also, a decent leak can appear as major stains and let anyone who is looking know it likely won’t hold wine … or beer.

By the way, these circumstances offer one of the many reasons why barrels are getting harder to find. Combined with whiskey distillers, these groups are making wine barrels harder and harder to come by. Just a few short years ago, wineries were giving away their barrels, or selling them for a very nominal fee. That’s no longer the case as just about no one gives them away and some hold out for steeper and steeper prices.

Regardless, with wine barrels becoming popular with brewers, there appears to be many nuances that should give these whimsical crafters an abundance of capricious if somewhat volatile and fickle creations. Which means if you are a fan of home or craft brews, expect some wild variances and interesting flavors, to say the least. At 59 gallons a crack, homebrewers will be taking big chances – but than again, that’s part of what is so fun with garagiste and homebrewers as they experiment, while the rest of us might taste that rare flavor … and smile with amazement.

Here’s to homebrewers and down the hatch,

Daryle W. Hier





Central Coast 2014 Fall Forecast

Summer gave us a little of everything including a rare thunderstorm or two. It was mild overall and in fact, as I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, it seemed we were in a perpetual June all summer long with warm but windy conditions.

With summer sadly coming to an end soon, it’s time we looked at harvest time and fall. I’m not a weather forecaster and don’t play one on television. However, I’ve had an interest in weather for quite some time even though I lived most of my life in the Greater Los Angeles area, which really doesn’t have a lot of weather … or seasons.

Now that I’ve lived in Paso Robles for several years, with tie-ins to the wine business, weather has mattered more. The forecast here is a compilation of several other sources that know much more than I … although a tidbit of my own observations may sneak in.

Actually, fall doesn’t start until late Monday night at 10:30 p.m. on September 22nd. So essentially fall starts with the first full day on the 23rd, which is still three weeks away.

Ease into Fall

While the rest of the country will be seeing the onset of winter-like conditions in the fall, weather experts have vacillated on how much of an affect if any, El Nino will have this winter in relation to the West Coast. Whether the strength of it will be worth noting or not is debatable but since El Ninos don’t tend to have a lot of effect on fall, we’ll figure the norm for Autumn rains.

13th Street - Paso Robles

Parts of the Salinas River can’t be seen – but floods have reached the 13th Street bridge in Paso Robles.

September will likely see a slow but steady drop in temperatures with some saying we may have seen the last of real hot weather. September, and even the first half of October, can bring heat to the Central Coast, but unless something unusual occurs, we’ve seen the last of big heat. That means no more 100’s in the North County or 90’s in the inland areas. The beaches could still see some 80’s and much of our beach areas receive their clearest and warmest weather in late summer and early fall, however, don’t expect a lot of good days remaining in that regard.

Nothing spooky

October won’t look much different than September – just cooler. Again, this period of the year can sprout a little heat wave and there’s nothing to say we won’t have some more days that lean towards the hot side, but as we get closer to Halloween, the weather will cool down. High temperatures will be at or slightly above normal with beaches and inland areas in the 60’s and 70’s while the North County will hang on to the 80’s. Lows will be the usual 50’s for almost everyone with North County dipping into the 40’s and maybe some 30’s too.

I might note that because of the drought situation, some of the colors we get, especially in the North County, will be earlier than normal. In fact, I’ve already seen the first signs of color change on some trees – something we don’t normally get until late September or early October.

Mild Thanksgiving … but December?

As November hits us, the usual temperature drop continues, but nothing extreme this year. Also, don’t expect much more moisture than usual, even if the threat of an El Nino is real. Mild is the word heading into Thanksgiving.

The last few weeks of fall might see average to little more than normal rainfall heading into winter. December is generally considered the coldest month and that will likely be the case this season. In other words, unlike the rest of 2014, December should be normal with cool days and cold nights and at least a couple rain storms.

Again, all I did here along with my own experiences is compile information from multiple sources. Overall, fall should start out average with moderate temps and little rain, It will continue to be normal temps through the middle of Autumn, followed by cold wintry-like weather in the final stages before winter.

A third year of drought would not be pretty. We need rain on the Central Coast and throughout much of the Golden State. It’s still questionable if that will happen, but we can hope for the best. That’s my forecast – nothing exciting, however December could bring us some changes … hopefully for the better. And let’s hope everyone has a great harvest.

It is only the farmer who faithfully plants seeds in the Spring, who reaps a harvest in the Autumn. – B. C. Forbes


Daryle W. Hier