Author Archives: PasoDr

About PasoDr

I'm Daryle W. Hier and co-owner of Paso Wine Barrels. We take old used wine barrels and bring them back to life as a full-sized Decorative Wine Barrel. Structurally unchanged, the recrafted barrels are sanded, stained, sealed and varnished to give them a new furniture-like luster with an artisan touch that becomes the talking point of any room or area they are in. We also, make assorted wine barrel stave products including racks.

Paso Robles: Top Wine Country Travel Destination

One of the older established online travel sites, Orbitz, has a list of places their editors say are the top destinations. This year, they have 17 different regions to visit and only one is in a wine country vicinity: Paso Robles. In fact Orbitz listed Paso as the number four most exciting and amazing places to travel to … in the world.

bon-niche-cellars_PasoRobles

Yes, the sleepy little town I fell in love with decades earlier is now a wine enthusiast’s nirvana. Located halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, Paso’s small town feel has largely been kept intact. Nestled in the eastern hillsides of California’s Coastal Range, this Central Coast diamond has become a highly sought after travel destination. Orbitz states the over 400 wineries now spread all over the northern reaches of San Luis Obispo County:

“Produce some damn fine varietals”

From it’s many tasting rooms to Victorian style buildings to “a perfectly walkable downtown”, there’s certainly plenty to enjoy in this remarkable vacation destination. Rolling hills may obscure the many wineries, but being in close proximity to town yet offering a faraway feeling, are some of the many reasons to visit Paso Robles, according to Orbitz’s expertise.

Hotels range from luxury accommodations to the more typical arrangements. Also, foodies shouldn’t be alarmed because this town has more than its fair share of great restaurants. So the next time you’re looking for that unique cozy charm of a small town, yet the extra amenities of a larger city, Paso Robles should be number one on your list of amazing places to travel.

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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Old Bank Barn As Winery

Driving about here on the Central Coast in wine country, there’s plenty of new and old blended into the scenery along the rolling hills of Paso Robles. Yes, the booming vineyard business has greeted us with new modern and fancy buildings and tasting rooms. And yet there are unique and distinctive farms and barns that have given me new appreciation for the old history of the region.

sleeping_lady_winery-bank_barn

Diamond in the rough

This brings me to an interesting story of a barn up in Napa Valley (near Yountville) that may be the only one of its kind. The historic building was built in the late 1800’s and could end up being the only bank barn as a winery.

Built into the side of a hill, bank barns are peculiar in that they have two levels reached from ground level, making it easily accessible. Construction of these unusual buildings is more expensive than a normal flat building, but they offer multi-level advantages including entry to an ‘upper’ floor from the ground. The descriptive word ‘bank’ stands for a slope.

What’s old is new

This particular barn will be restored by Napa Valley’s Sleeping Lady Winery, who is a successful vineyard in their own right.  The 3651 square foot barn will be a winery and includes a tasting room, fermentation area and barrel storage. A covered outdoor crush pad will be added as well.

sleeping-lady-vineyard

In helping to give significance and preserve this old barn, a local councilwoman, Juliana Inman, did some research that discovered this is one of only two bank barns listed with the state of California. They have to follow state guidelines for preservation and restoration of this historic site.

Napa certainly has a nugget to check out, when Sleeping Lady Winery is finished with their restoration here in the Golden State.

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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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

Cheers,

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.

Cheers,

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”

Cheers,

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.

Remedies

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

Cheers,

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

Worlds_largest_wine_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

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Renovated Used Wine Barrel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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