Category Archives: Barrels +

All about wine barrels and relative items

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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Get this popular rare genuine coat and hat rack now! 

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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One-of-a-kind Coat And Hat Rack

Sometimes we come up with ideas based on what we personally need around the shop or home. We needed a couple of spots where we could hang coats during the winter and all our assorted caps and hats. This particular need and idea isn’t unusual and certainly others have made coat and hat racks – heck there are hundreds of them for sale.

Extremely unique coat and hat rack

Extremely unique coat and hat rack

Ah, but with that said, I looked around trying to find a handmade coat rack that was constructed strictly from a used wine barrel. Lo and behold to my surprise, I couldn’t find a coat/hat rack that was made only with wine barrel parts. Specifically, a used wine barrel stave and hooks made from hoop bands.

Nothing like this

Yes, you can find staves made into an assortment of products including coat racks. For instance we make one of these out of a barrel stave, but with three two-pronged brass hooks purchased from an outlet store. However, they are always made using store-bought hooks or other a sundry products made into a holder.

Now, it isn’t exactly easy taking a hoop band, cutting pieces off and then shaping them into a hook. Still, there are folks out there who have the ability to make things into almost anything you can imagine. Yet, the simple thought of creating a hook out of a hoop band from a wine barrel, obliviously didn’t happen.

So here you have it. We take a used wine barrel stave with all it’s inimitable appearance and sand it down just a bit to smooth out the roughness, but keeping the distinctive patina. We drill two holes on each end about 32 inches apart so it can be screwed into a typical wall which has 16 inch centers (the beams behind the wall). We then apply a single coat of sealer and stain – let dry – then cover with a coat of varathane to add a bit of shine to what is an unmatched coat and hat rack. We screw on five hoop bands which have been shaped and curved into a hook. These hooks are sanded down to take off any blemishes or sharp edges, while still maintaining the rugged look of a used wine barrel band. coat and hat rack with cap

Art?

Since each one is handmade, you will have the only one like it. These unique and apparently rare coat and hat racks will be the talk of the town almost as much as a piece of artwork.

Incredibly priced below $45 with free shipping – because we don’t know any better – they are available in limited supply right now, but over time, we will produce more. Check them out here: I don’t believe you will find anything else like it.

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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Renovated Used Wine Barrel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get these already popular barrels now! 

Racking Wine

The beautiful rolling hills of vineyards, always looking so enchanting. The wine business can look charming but there is a lot more that goes into making vines turn grapes into that great tasting liquid that grows ever more popular. To end up with that great looking glass of wine requires quite a bit of work. One of the usually unseen deeds that go unnoticed, except by those working in a winery, is the racking of the wine.

I knew a little bit about this before I ever moved into Paso Robles wine country. Being a homebrewer for two decades, when I first was introduced to beer-making, there were three rules: clean, clean and clean. I would transfer my five gallon wort (beer) into a carboy, to rinse the yeast cake or trub (sediment) from the bottom of the vessel, so that it can clear itself and maybe mature a little more before bottling. Making wine and racking is essentially the same thing.

After primary and secondary fermentation, wine sits in a oak barrel for a few weeks and then is racked – not all winemakers do this. However, almost certainly, some months later, vintners like to rack the wine. Vintners have different philosophies for how often but consider anywhere from three to six months, or maybe even longer. Figure a wine gets racked at least two or three times during its life in a barrel. Wines need rest and the less disruptions, the better.

Racking_wine_between_barrelsRacking process

When racking, it simply is moving the wine from one barrel into another – maybe a neutral barrel – to clear the wine after it settles. A racking cane is inserted into the oak wine barrel and placed right at the bottom, trying not to retain sediment. What is called off flavors created by lees can be imparted into the wine if not racked. Lees is the sediment, which mostly is yeast that’s left behind. It needs to be cleaned out, then that barrel can be reused again and even have the original wine transferred back in that same barrel. By the way, lees can be reused into making dough.

That’s what a neutral barrel can be used for. Neutral barrels are vessels that have been used to the point that they no longer are imparting any flavors into the wine, and therefore after being cleaned, are temporary containers used for racking purposes. Note sometimes, in bigger wineries, the barrels are emptied into steel vats before transferring back into the now cleaned barrels.

Cleaning

Having done this process a time or two, I can tell you it’s difficult work. Gravity-aided siphoning isn’t so hard, but to clean a barrel once it has been emptied isn’t necessarily fun. Typically, the barrels are rinsed initially with water and then cleaned with citric acid. There are barrel washing tools that blast the inside to help clean and then rinse the cleaning agents out – and likely more than once. Both hot and cold water may be used.

Cleaning_wine_barrels-hot_water

Cleaning wine barrels isn’t glamorous, but very critical nonetheless.

You’re probably wondering what happens after racking, because a certain amount of space inside the wine barrel is now open due to some of the product having been cleaned out. The wine barrel needs to be full, so the extra area is filled with top off wine – something I talked about earlier this year.

Wineries try not to splash the wine because they don’t want to aerate it; but, racking in the end is a much needed process in winemaking with the biggest result offering a wine that is clean with the debris left behind.

This time of year, with harvest already underway in some vineyards, racking is occurring with wine ready for bottling, being emptied and those barrels to be cleaned for the next vintage.

Not all of winemaking is glamorous, but here’s to racking, which helps produce a clean and sometimes clearer wine – the end result of all that behind the scenes hard work in the winery.

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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Renovated Used Wine Barrel

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get these already popular barrels now! 

NEW! Renovated Wine Barrel

It looks like a Decorative, but it’s not. This is Paso Wine Barrels newest version called Renovated. The Renovated wine barrels cost out about $50 less than a Decorative – yes, $50 less, yet don’t look remarkably different.

Renovated Used Wine Barrel

They are lightly sanded and stained with a sealer. Customers have wanted a barrel with a little more patina, showing off some of its uniqueness and this does the trick – plus that part about it being $50 less.

The barrel will make its first showing at the Olive Festival, Saturday August 15th (Downtown Park in Paso Robles). They will officially go on sale through the website August 20th at $175 – the first barrel available at the Olive Festival will be a one-day sale of $165.

Order now, because with request already coming in, there might be a backlog and wait.

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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Rustic_Stave-coat_holder