Monthly Archives: January 2015

Paso Robles Weather

Some people love to hear about weather and others kind of shrug. Still, the year-round weather in Paso Robles is unique with a different take on four seasons.

The weather on the Central Coast of California is varied in and of itself. There are the somewhat damp and foggy beach areas with the cool Pacific Ocean holding temperatures down while the Santa Lucia Range keeps the inland areas such as Paso Robles relatively warm and dry.

The assortment of micro-climes within this region, especially for San Luis Obispo County, vary widely and make this entire area weather distinctive. For instance, the south facing beaches such as Avila Beach have their own tiny zones, being warmer by 10 degrees or more over their neighbors just south of them such as Pismo Beach. San Luis Obispo which is only a handful of miles inland from this same beach area, has some of the mildest weather in the country.

As the crow flies 30 miles north of the city of San Luis Obispo on the other side of the Cuesta Grade sits Paso Robles. Mild isn’t in its repertoire, with cool wet and sometimes cold temperatures in the winter, Paso ends up with hot dry summers … and heavy winds thrown in at times during the first half of the year.

Winters are cool and wet

Paso Robles Flurry

Although Paso is certainly cold enough in the winter, snow is rare.

The winter year starts off in January with mostly cloudy wet weather and cold temps of 20 and 30s for lows and highs ranging from 40s all the way to 70. February offers little change from January except maybe slightly more rain, but not quite as cold temperatures. March can indeed roar in like a lion with cool rainy climes, however as spring eases into the mix, wet weather lightens and 70s become more regular with lows in the freezing range rare.

With Irish-like hills everywhere and some vineyards starting to green up as well, April offers up a unique range of weather not seen with any other month. The temperatures have warmed regularly into the 70s with occasional 80s popping up for highs. Lows have crept their way up into the 40s. Daytime temps bump up early in the day but strong fresh winds from the southwest blow cool air from the beaches inland and keep highs from being warmer than they otherwise would. By the end of April with its lively colors, showers are few and far between.

Windy season

Spring is often called the windy season for this region and May is no different. The difference from April though is the temps have notched their way up into 80s on a more regular basis – lows are still in the 40s. As the golden hillsides show up, June sees the incessant wind but potentially has the first 100s poking onto the scene. Lows are in the upper 40s to low 50s and the infamous Paso Robles diurnal can really show itself this time of year. For instance, personally I remember several years ago, a June day roared up to 106, but the low was 44 – a difference of 62 degrees. As a note, when in Paso, be prepared clothing-wise for wide ranging temps like this in a single day.

Summer in Paso Robles

July brings on the heat. 90s and 100s are the norm, with temps as high as 110 possible. The winds start letting up some by mid-summer and actually, August is almost a dead-ringer for July. Only difference between the two hot summer months is lesser winds for August. September ushers in some vague changes as the heat lessons slightly with more diverse highs ranging from 100 down to 80.

Fall starts hot but cools dramatically at year’s end

As the Autumn hues become vibrant, October starts off as a still warm part of the year, but ends with cooling temps that can see lows sporadically in the 30s. November strides in with cooler weather as highs struggle to stay in the 70s with lows regularly in the 30s. Thanksgiving has shown to be warm certain years with bright sunny temps, but then again, other years have seen cold conditions as winter makes an early entrance. With color gone from most of the Paso area, December is considered the coldest month of the year as the rainy season begins. Temperatures can see 20s for lows, and even teens can make an appearance. Highs range in the 50s and 60s.

That’s a trip around the year in Paso Robles. Winter offers mostly cold and wet weather transforming into a drier climate with a windy but relatively mild spring. Summer is hot and dry as is early fall before giving way to a cooler end of year.

Lately the weather has been dominated by a lack of rain with drought, and average-wise, temperatures have been warmer. Regardless, hope this gives a quick synopsis of weather in wine country on the Central Coast.

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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Washington: Bringing Water To The Mountain

The Red Mountain AVA (American Viticultural Area) is a small but Red Mountain, Washingtonburgeoning wine region in southeastern Washington state. However, with growth and new plantings comes the need for water. In a region that is stark in comparison with the rest of the state – whose nickname is the Evergreen State – this semi-arid area needed more water for irrigation. That has been accomplished with the Kennewick Irrigation District (KID).

As part of the larger Yakima Valley AVA, this particular appellation near Benson City, is a hot-spot for new vineyards. In-turn, this necessary water has been diverted from the Yakima River to Red Mountain and the $19.2 million project will increase the popular wine growing area by more than 1,750 acres.

With Red Mountain rising to the west, the Yakima and Snake Rivers join the mighty Columbia River in the Tri-Cities area (Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland). The region has a lot of outdoor activities and the Tri-Cities has already been noted for its solid economy and a great place to raise a family. Now this water project should make it a boom area.

Yakima Valley, Washington

Washington’s Yakima Valley

If you were wondering, the name Red Mountain describes the color of the mountain in the spring and early summer when an invasive bunchgrass known as drooping brome, flowers with a rusty hue – the mountain also is pocked full of sage.

Unique weather

The relatively sunny weather with vast diurnals not unlike Paso Robles, offer the grapes the ability to present great and intense flavors. Most vineyards of the very young 14 year old Red Mountain AVA are south facing. Almost desert-like, the days can be hot in the summer, but the nearby Yakima River helps to moderate the temperatures plus cool air heading downward from the mountain top in the afternoons keeps the vines from wilting. This breeze or air current also keeps the grapes from frost in early spring and fall.

At the southeastern end of the Yakima Valley, Red Mountain is certainly the smallest appellation in the state, but is already the most well-known wine growing region in Washington. Acknowledged mainly for its reds, Cabernet Sauvignon is the most widely grown and although less fruity than other Cabs in the state, they tend to be more structured and therefore age better – this isn’t unlike Cabs on the Central Coast.

Col Solare Winery

Col Solare Winery is considered by some the top wine producer in Washington.

The Kiona and Col Solare Wineries originally established vineyards here with Ciel du Cheval infamous for their grapes and Col Solare renowned for their wines. With notoriety, the wines created on Red Mountain are some of the most expensive from the state of Washington. That isn’t likely to end anytime soon with this new water project sending water costs soaring. It’s estimated that the assessment cost per acre from KID to the farmers will be roughly $50 a month.

KID was developed six years ago to improve water needs and expansion. Bringing the water to Red Mountain will produce more of the best Washington has to offer when it comes wine. Fans of vino around the world will surely look forward to and welcome such expansion.

State of Washington - Red Mountain AVA

State of Washington – Red Mountain AVA

 

Saluti,

Daryle W. Hier

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Santa Lucia Range

Living in wine country gives you a different perspective on geography. Or maybe more noticeably, the topography of land often dictates what you can or can’t do with an area as far as farming goes. When it comes to the California Central Coast, there’s no more dominant presence than the Coastal Range, which essentially is the Santa Lucia Range of mountains.

Santa Lucia Range - Coast

The Santa Lucia’s create a barrier between the cool Pacific Ocean and the inland valleys, such as the Salinas Valley and in our particular area, Paso Robles. Although the mountains top out at just over a mile high, the several mile wide range that runs roughly northwest to southeast, is enough to affect weather patterns and growing climates quite drastically. In fact, no other coastal region in the U.S. has as dramatic a rise in elevation as the Coastal Range does.

Named by explorer Sebastian Vizcaino of Spain, a little more than 400 years ago, the Santa Lucia’s run from Monterey Bay in the north, down to San Luis Obispo in the south. With its famous cliffs and panoramic views, one of the more famed scenic roads, Hwy 1, runs roughly along it’s western edge and also one of the most famous tourist stops in all the world, Big Sur, envelopes much of the northern and western parts of the Santa Lucias.

The highest point in these mountains is Junipero Serra Peak at 5,857 feet and smack dab in the middle of the Coastal Range – as the crow flies, maybe 10 miles west southwest of King City. During the winter, snow can be seen around the long relatively flat summit on a regular basis.

Not a lot here, plenty to see

Junipero Serra Peak

With Junipero Serra Peak in background, the Ventana Wilderness is a prime region within the Santa Lucia Range.

The Santa Lucia Range is sparsely populated and actually is made up of mostly state and national forests along with the nations largest Army command post (Fort Hunter-Liggett). Part of the Los Padres National Forest’s Ventana Wilderness encumbers a large portion of the Santa Lucia mountains.

The terrain in certain parts of the range, especially in the northern reaches, are incredibly rocky and shear. As such, the area is difficult to traverse with very few trails. The region is subject to earthquakes and the unsteady nature of the rock formations make climbing in the Santa Lucias quite a task. Pines, redwoods and oaks – such as dominate Paso Robles (‘pass of the oaks’) – are common throughout these mountains.

Wildlife abounds

Mountain lions are regulars in the Santa Lucias and now bears have worked their way up into the southern sections of the range, mainly in San Luis Obispo County. With almost no population, there is a lot of wild life throughout this pristine and rugged part of California. There are also indigenous trees found only in these parts, such as the Santa Lucia or Bristlecone Fir along with the Monterey Pine.

Big Sur

Big Sur encapsulates just part of the wonder that is the Santa Lucia Range.

The region is distinct with climes such as the Monterey Bay and Big Sur with their cool foggy weather set off against its southern neighbors like Paso Robles with their relatively dry and often hot days. In fact, its the Santa Lucia Range that filters the cool Pacific Ocean from the interior valleys, making for such unique diurnals.

Some consider the Santa Lucia Range to contain at least half of all plant life grown in California. You likely won’t find anywhere else in the Golden State the combination of flora from the ‘two Californias’ (drier southeast versus the wetter northwest), as it’s not unusual to see Yuccas growing right along side Redwoods, especially in the Ventana Wilderness.

Enemy is fire

And speaking of Ventana, fires have damaged large portions of the Los Padres National Forest due in part to the governance from the state and more importantly federal agencies. Without proper care and management of this exceptional expanse of wilderness, brings devastation with total lack of conservation in mind. Deficiency of fire suppression in the Coastal Range has brought hellacious fires that consumed and produced huge loss of wildlife over the past decades, including a couple of raging infernos in June of 2008 that burned about 200,000 acres.

Big SurStill, tucked between the giant metropolitan population bases of the Bay Area and Greater L.A., this vast countryside has somehow stayed unspoiled. The region is rough and rugged while also being gorgeous yet delicate. With endemic fauna and inimitable beauty, the Santa Lucia Range offers one of the more exclusive regions rising up along the Pacific Ocean … or maybe all the world.

Additional sources: Cal FireCalifornia’s Wilderness Areas the Complete Guide Mountains and Coastal Ranges

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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This Year’s Top Three Wine Travel Destinations In U.S.

When it comes to wine destinations, there are all kinds of places folks might think of. Certainly most of California could be considered in the forefront of thought when traveling. And in fact wine travel in the Golden State is wide open with a plethora of great wine locations to visit.

However, there are many great places to enjoy wine in the United States. As far as Wine Enthusiast magazine is concerned, the top three places to go are the Finger Lakes in New York, Orlando, Florida, and Mendocino, California.

Finger Lakes

Finger Lakes

Just as Paso Robles was last year, the Finger Lakes region (New York) became the current top wine region in the world. Upstate New York has produced some of the great Riesling’s on the planet, and now the rest of the world is finding out what experts have known for years. However, the aromatic grape isn’t the only reason folks come to this part of the Empire State.

The Finger Lakes has long been a popular tourist destinations. While now being acknowledged as a promising wine-producing destination, the region also has a blossoming food culture. Combine this with some impressive natural beauty with the many Finger Lakes and four distinct seasons – it’s no wonder why the area was well thought-of as a top wine travel destination.

Orlando

Orlando without doubt comes to mind when thinking travel. Heck, say just two words: Disney World, and it’s obvious why people would want to come to Florida. Also, let’s face it, Florida is on many folks minds when thinking of travel, including warm sunshine and a multitude of things to do.

However, wine destination? Isn’t this place for kids? In short, a grand assortment of top-notch eateries just outside of theme parks has helped put the popular tourist destination on the wine travel map. And don’t forget the fact the place is a golfers dream. No, there aren’t very many wines from the Sunshine State though there are many boutique vinos available and the overabundance of prime restaurants have more than their fare share of great wines to pull from.

Mendocino

With some of the most stunning coastline anywhere in the world, Mendocino jumps up on this list as already excellent wine region with splendid and magnificent views. Relaxing environs everywhere you turn offer a distinct calm and restful place that few destinations in the world can present. In other words the Mendocino region is laidback.

Infamous redwoods give way to a spectacular coast with dramatic sights that will leave you breathless. Cool weather wines like Pinot Noir along with Champagne (oops, sparkling wine) are in abundance – as is marijuana. Did I say it was laidback? Less than three hours north of the Bay Area, the region should be on anyone’s agenda if you’re into wine and travel.

In Vino Veritas,

Daryle W. Hier

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New Wine Barrel Artists

Just as our business came from a simple idea with no thoughts of a business, so too have these brand new artists and parents, with a another take on making wine barrels into art.

A year ago, Monte and Melissa Martella of Livermore, California, were awaiting the birth of their first child with no plan on creating a business. Yet, shortly after the birth of their daughter Audrina, with Monte staying home to care after both the Melissa and the newborn, he took a some old wine barrels and made a rocking chair out of the wood.

Then Monte created an American flag that has become a focal point of the new entrepreneurial project. Like our story, plus showing people on Facebook their work, there was a clamoring for the new products that has led to a booming business of sorts, taking old wine barrels and making art of all different types. Martella’s Wine Barrel Art Shop (Etsy) is now something the two teachers do in their spare time.

The idea of making art and products out of wine barrels isn’t new, but the Martella’s have a twist on the idea and offer both products they make or something a customer might custom order.

They work with other artists and one company will be reproducing the popular American flag, exactly to Monte’s specifications. And note, every other flag will still be produced by the Martella’s.

Check them out.

Additional source: Martellas.com

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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What Is The Best White Wine?

A lot of talk about red wine dominates our blog, but I realize, white wine is just as popular and in fact in some cases, is more popular than reds. I don’t personally have a great palette and it seems when it comes to the lighter shades of vino, my taste buds lack any real interest. Still, it’s easier on a hot day to uncork a nice white wine than heavier reds like Zin, which I love.White wines: keep these affordable winners, from both the New and Old World, chilled for any occasion.

But enough about my thoughts: what is your favorite white wine varietal?

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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The Whistler Tree

I was reading about yet another article on the cork versus screw cap debate – which I too have opined – when a comment about one particular cork tree producing 100,000 corks in a year, caught my interest. I had heard about the oldest cork tree but didn’t pay close attention until now.

The Whistler Tree

The Whistler Tree is the most famous and prolific cork oak in the world.

Amazingly, the oldest known cork oak tree is called the ‘Whistler Tree’ and does indeed produced that much cork … and more.

A renewable resource and naturally biodegradable, cork comes from the bark of a particular evergreen oak (quercus suber) and has been used as wine stopping material for nearly five centuries – corking bottles to keep microorganisms from ruining wine. Western Mediterranean climate seems to benefit cork and as such, rows and rows of groves in places like Spain, Algeria and most notably Portugal have produced a vast majority of the somewhat spongy stuff.

That brings us to the Whistler Tree; the oldest recognized cork oak in the world. It is 231 years old, which is well beyond the age of most cork oaks lifetime. Typically, a cork tree lives about 200 years. The rich fertile region and stand the tree grows in is a vast open countryside called Alentejo with its characteristically warm dry Portuguese climate. More specifically, this particular forest of cork oaks is near the Sado River, not far from the countries capital city of Lisbon.

Cork is not harvested every year and in fact in younger trees, there’s a dozen years or so between harvests. Once they’re as old as the Whistler Tree, the dark grey cork is harvested every nine years; so, the next harvest will be in the summer of 2018. It should be noted, the thickness of the bark cut off is roughly two inches.

Cork Oak grove in Portugal

Cork Oak grove in Portugal

Its record-breaking haul happened in 1991 when well over a ton of bark was taken from the giant tree. The Whistler Tree’s haul in 1991 was as much as some cork oaks produce in a lifetime. It’s estimated that the famous tree will have produced over a million corks for a final tally.  By the way, if you’re wondering why it’s called the Whistler Tree, it’s because of the hundreds of songbirds that use the tree as a home. Also, the reason they don’t cut above a certain height has to do with laws prohibiting the length that can be cut off.

One last tidbit, you may never have heard or even thought of. As a renewable resource, because cork oak trees are regularly harvested, the tree uses additional carbon for restoration of its bark over that of an unharvested oak.

So drink up and make sure you ‘pop’ that cork – you’re keeping our air cleaner.

Additional sources: Cork: Biology, Production and Uses, Cork Oak Woodlands on the Edge

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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