Category Archives: History

Worlds Oldest Barreled Wine – What Is Old, Is New Again

In search of older used barrels that have outlived their life, it’s not uncommon to see some vintners hold their wine in barrels for up to a decade … or more. Most of the barrels we receive at Paso Wine Barrels are six to eight years of age. Wine might be stored in a barrel for that long or possibly two or even three vintages could have been processed through a particular wine barrel. However, there’s one wine that is a bit older than that – say about five plus centuries older.

Hospices de Strasbourg

Hospices de Strasbourg

Cave des Hospices de Strasbourg

Near the border of France and Germany on the Rhine River in the Alsace region, at the center of the European Union in Strasbourg, France, is the oldest wine known to exist in a barrel. It is a cellared 1472 vintage white wine stored at the Hospices de Strasbourg. The reason I bring this story up is the fact the wine has been transferred from a nearly 300 year old barrel into a new one because the ancient barrel was starting to leak. For the record, the wine was transferred one other time, in 1718.

The cool damp caves of the Hospice hold giant wine barrels that to this day produce high caliber white wines. Renovated roughly 20 years ago, the Hospice (also known as a hospital) has cared for the wine, in its caves, throughout its history. This particular 1472 vintage is topped off a few times a year – because wine evaporates (called the ‘angel’s share’) – but otherwise has survived the test of time. These very old caves under the Hospice were built in 1395. Yes, it goes back to medieval times. Interesting side note, people back in the day, would pay for medical aid by bringing wine or even vines to the hospital.

Still fine after all these years

The acidic wine has been tasted only a few times through history with last being when eastern France was liberated from Germany in 1944. A typical light white wine with 9.4% alcohol and golden amber hue, it is said to still have a fine bouquet. When tested in 1994, it was stated the wine had aromas of:

“vanilla, honey, beeswax, camphor, fine spices, hazelnut and fruit liqueur …”

This is the almost 300 year old wine barrel that housed the oldest barreled wine before being replaced recently.

Personally, it’s hard to believe a wine can be aged that long and have anything left that resembles wine, let alone still offering a good aroma. One of my friends in the wine business, who has a bit of a stubborn streak, continues to hold on to dozens and dozens of old barreled wine here in Paso Robles that’s going on two decades of aging. So maybe 543 year old wine from 1472 is possible. Yet, what about oxidation?

Regardless, this extremely old egg-shaped barreled Alsatian wine exists in Strasbourg. Built by experts from the famous Radoux cooperage in Cognac, the new approximately 120 gallon container will continue preserving the legendary wine safely until – When? I don’t know. Maybe when we have the next World War … ?

Additional sources: Michelin Green Guide Alsace Lorraine Champagne, Hospices de Strasbourg

Sante,

Daryle W. Hier

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Cash On The Barrelhead

There are thousands of idioms spoken and we here at Paso Wine Barrels use many of them. From ‘a dime a dozen’ to ‘you can’t take it with you’, there are thousands with meanings for each of them. However, since we use the term here – literally as well as figuratively – the unique phrase we’re talking about is: “Cash on the barrelhead”.

Old shipping barrels

In its simplest form, which you may know, the most straightforward meaning of ‘cash on the barrelhead’ is paying for something with cash at purchase. But what would be the fun with ending it there?

Up until maybe the last century, products often were transported long distance using barrels, especially shipping waterways and overseas. Certainly liquids such as wine and beer are obvious but also honey, spices and many types of foods were also contained in wooden barrels.

As the ancient cultures learned long ago, it’s easier to roll products from point to point rather than lifting boxes or any other odd shaped item. So the barrel became a simpler and standard way of transporting goods.

Table

Credit wasn’t widely used until banking became a way of paying for services or merchandise. So when something was shipped into port and a barrel of product was for sale, unless there was credit, you paid for the goods right then and there with cash laid down on the ‘barrel head’.

Cash on the barrel head

To maybe pinpoint the definition a little more, although history is murky here, the most common thought is that in the American West, barrels were commonly used as tables – when they were not able to contain products effectively. When services or merchandise were offered, the transaction would commonly be for cash only placed on the table, i.e. barrel or barrelhead.

There’s a similar term that’s more international: ‘cash on the nail’. A nail, in long ago times, was a small table in front of an exchange outlet. Without going into another big explanation, to pay ones debt promptly or on the spot, they paid cash on the nail.

There you go. A little bit of knowledge on a typical idiom that not everyone knows about … but now you do.

Cheers,

Daryle Hier

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Happy Halloween

Ah, those days as a child when nothing really mattered – except to have more pounds of chocolate than anyone else. Yes, life was simpler then.

Happy Halloween - Wine barrel style

From All Souls Day, to All Saints Day and finally Halloween on October 31st, has progressed (or regressed) into a modern day phenomenon like most holidays with the actual meaning being almost lost along the way.

Halloween developed in the Celtic region a millennium ago with the Christian tradition of souling, where prayers for the dead were traded for a cake that was similar to fruit cake – yea, a lot of jokes come to mind. Later the beginnings of Halloween as we know it with children going door-to-door and saying ‘trick or treat’ evolved in places like Great Britain. Poor children went from home to home asking (or begging, as it were) for food in return for once again souling.

It’s been said the practice here in the United States is a century old, but history doesn’t actually tells us much about trick or treating until the Depression era and mainly in the Western United States. Regardless, kids still are begging for treats today.

Stay safe and hopefully you will have a great evening – we here in wine country will be wet … but were not complaining. Although I’m sure there will be some children none too happy. I leave you with this Celtic saying:

“From ghoulies and ghosties – And long-leggedy beasties – And things that go bump in the night, – Good Lord, deliver us!”

Slainte,

Daryle Hier

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Historic Cayucos Pier To Be Rebuilt

The relatively unknown and quaint little town of Cayucos has been around for almost a century and half. It’s 138 year old wooden pier is nearly as old but had been closed recently due in part to its age, lack of maintenance and storms. Although technically owned by the state of California, the County of San Luis Obispo operates the pier along with being responsible for repairs. It appears those repairs will be made.

Cayucos Pier - Morro Rock

Cayucos Pier with Morro Rock in the background

The County Board of Supervisors voted for approval to spend nearly $2 million to rebuild and repair the aging pier that is one of the oldest structures on the California Central Coast. Several hundreds of thousands of dollars had already been spent from different entities including donations, to keep the venerable pier from coming apart. Pilings are missing and structural braces are bent or broken under much of the revered pier. Due to safety concerns, the pier has been closed since last summer.

And it should be noted that there’s over a quarter of a million donated dollars that will be used to keep up the repairs in the years to come.

Small town, big history

With less than 3,000 citizens, the sleepy small town of Cayucos is unincorporated and sits on the Pacific Ocean about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Located at the northern end of Estero Bay, the area is more of a south facing beach than west and therefore is typically warmer than their compadres to the south in Morro Bay – which is roughly 10 miles away. Including Morro Rock to the south, the views are stunning and lucky for them, Cayucos is one of the those beach towns that never grew up. To the east, Whale Rock Reservoir sits just above the town.

Cayucos, CA

Cayucos – viewed from the pier

The Cayucos Pier was built in 1876 by the cities founder, Captain James Cass, who was originally from New England (go here for more on Cass). Considered a shallow bottom pier, it’s now nearly a thousand feet long.

Construction should begin next month with completion by May of 2015. The pier was repaired after major damage in the 1980’s and again a decade later. It’s thought some of the wood pilings could be over 130 years old – much of the pier will be demolished with new timber pilings added.

Source: KCBX-FM

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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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.

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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Snake Wine – It Gets Worse

I don’t mean to creep you out with an eerie story, but with my ongoing learning of the wine culture, I find some of the more weird oddities of the world. Such was the case when I was looking into how other cultures make wine. The Vietnamese may have this one hands down. And this blows away eating the worm at the bottom of a tequila bottle.

Snake Wine

Elixir

Yes, we all realize cultures can have vast differences but in certain parts of Southeast Asia, mainly Vietnam, they make Snake Wine. This particular type of rice wine is thought of as a medicinal cure for ailments of all kinds – I’m sure it would cure … or kill anything. Furthermore, the darn stuff is made with venomous snakes – usually cobras. But don’t worry, the rice wine alcohol (ethanol) dilutes and breaks up the poison, making it inactive. Wonderful.

Now, in a kind of strange doubling-down, the Vietnamese have conjured up Snake Bile Wine. No, I didn’t stutter, it is what it says. It’s weird considering the Vietnamese have snake wines, but they seem to have up the ante with this one. The black green bile taken from the gallbladder of a cobra in Vietnam is officially called Ruou Mat Ran.

Snake Bile Wine

You might be wondering if something got lost in the translation, but this is real and from where I’m standing, really disgusting. Scan Google for more information on this subject and you might find a few crazy stories about knocking back some nasty stuff called Snake Bile Wine. And no one appears to think it tastes very good or at best is bland. Bland? To each his own.

It’s not unusual for people to eat parts of the snake after the bottle is drank, but I would rather not. And as if one needed more reasons to stay away from this concoction, a story ran last year that a woman was bit by a snake after she opened the bottle to add more rice wine once it was empty. I’m sure the snake was feeling no pain but the lady had to go to the hospital to be checked out.

No animal is safe

Centipede, Scorpion, Seahorse, Whiskey

In case you think this is too out there, this region also produces scorpion rice wines as well as bees, giant centipedes, geckos and sea horses … oh my. Also, these same creatures can be found in whiskey (see picture at right). Ah, what heck, anything goes. By the way, here’s a video of a guy in Laos trying and not minding a shot of Snake Whiskey. This stuff is even available online.

The origins of these mixtures come from China some 3,000 years ago. During the Ming Dynasty, the medical uses of these brews were widespread and regularly used. The most common advantage of drinking this creation is that it helps with virility. Who needs Viagra guys? Serpent shooter coming up.

Creepy might be one way of describing this potion but for the people of Southeast Asia, there’s nothing strange or weird about Snake Wine. The Snake Bile Wine is more over the edge but at least you’re forewarned. Plus, now you have a great – if a bit disturbing – subject to talk about at the next party.

Additional sources: Washington Post

Down the hatch,

Daryle W. Hier

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20,000 Tweets And Counting

Twitter is and probably will always be a unique and unusual platform in the social media realm. I first signed up for it right after they started but after several months of trying to figure out what to do with it, I closed my account. I opened it back up a few months later as a political outlet, but that soon was tiring and didn’t help me with anything businesswise, so I abandoned it again. In early 2009 with others telling me I needed to be on Twitter, I gave it a try once more. 20,000 tweets later, I’m still using it. What this means I’m not quite sure, but regardless, that’s a lot of 140 character statements over five plus years. Yeah, I’m tired just thinking about it.Twitter logo

Twitter is a messaging platform – they call it a micro-blogging service – that allows a person or business to follow someone’s tweet who might be like-minded or interesting. If in turn the other person likes you, they will follow your tweets. In a most basic breakdown, Twitter isn’t unlike Facebook but without all the clutter. Another way to look at it is Twitter is for the shorter attention spans than those on Facebook, Google+ or most other social medias.

Many reasons

To think I started out on Twitter – the third time around – with a race marketing angle, changed to a drag racing approach, all along it was an outlet for my sports writing and then made a u-turn into the wine barrel business. That’s a whole story unto itself.

Regardless, I took up Twitter full-time, so-to-speak about the same time I started writing professionally. Yet, let it be said, writing a story or article isn’t anything like sending a quick sentence off using no more than 140 characters. However, I learned early on that Twitter forced you to put thoughts down in a micro-quip. Writers will understand that it’s easy to drone on about something without getting right to a point – Twitter helped me quite a bit in that regard. Not that Twitter is necessarily a great place to brush up on your pinpoint writing. Often words are reduced to abbreviation or just left out for the reader on the other end to figure out.

Twitter logo (bird)By the way, you could estimate that I’ve written roughly 2.8 million characters down on Twitter, which calculates out to easily over half a million words written (five is the average characters for a word). I should note that I’ll talk about almost anything on Twitter, whether it’s about the Central Coast, sports, my business, wine, politics or anything else. I’m probably more diversified in my comments on there than any other social media.

Competition

Instagram has come along as the image dominated Twitter. What Twitter has done with words, Instagram is short and sweet with sometimes nothing more than a picture.  Facebook owns Instagram.

It always appeared that someone was coming along to replace Twitter. Remember MySpace? Yeah, I was on that before any of these other social medias; but, it became apparent it was too sleazy and most of the people using it were just into music. Twitter and Facebook replaced MySpace and so did I. I exited MySpace, closed the account and then showered. Bleh!

20,000 Leagues Under The Sea

Twitter’s Fail Whale wasn’t exactly like Jules Verne’s whale – which was actually a submarine.

Facebook and later Google+ were supposedly going to knock out Twitter, but the tweets just kept on coming. While Facebook and Google use algorithms and reduce who sees your timeline – you’d be surprised at how few of your friends actually see your status comments – on the other hand, Twitter shows everything and has kept its platform simple, while properly monetizing the business, all-the-while keeping their program straightforward.  Twitter has their fair share of ‘Fail Whales’ along the way, but overall they’ve kept the system working well.  If you’re not familiar, a picture of a Fail Whale came up on the screen as a nice way for Twitter to say the system is down.

20,000 more?

For now, I’ll keep using Twitter and at some point in time, in all probability, use it for advertising as well. You can check me out at @PasoDr and whether I ever do another 20,000 is questionable, but likely I’ll always use Twitter in some fashion or form.  Plus, I like the number – 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea by the great French writer Jules Verne is one of my all-time favorite books, along with being one of the first novels I ever read.  I know, you’re confused by what the heck any of this has to do with my narrative.  Hey, the book can be confusing too.

Anyway, I’ve written thousands of articles so my tweets don’t amount to nearly as many words.  Still, speaking of novels, you know how many I could have written using those 2.8 million characters on Twitter?  Mon Dieu!

Sante,

Daryle W. Hier

PS: Check out our May Special – Get the world’s best with an incredible value if ever there was one.

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Bobby Unser’s 1981 Indy 500 Win Cost Him Career

Warbirds, Wings, & Wheels

Great show at the Estrella Warbird Museum and Woodland Auto Display in Paso Robles, Ca.

An incredible show here in wine country brought IndyCar legend Bobby Unser to our little neck of the woods. It was this past Saturday and the name of the extravaganza was Warbirds, Wings & Wheels. There were so many cars and planes of all sorts. Check out more about Unser’s story along with the other stars of the show – planes and automobiles.

The Nest

Bobby Unser Three-time Indy 500 winner and two-time series champion, Bobby Unser

You would think that winning the most famous race of all – The Indy 500 – would have kept one of the sports elite and successful drivers going for more, but Bobby Unser’s victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway would be his last.  To add more oddity to the situation, Unser wasn’t declared the winner of the race until October of that year, roughly five months after the race ended.  On top of that, the victory had tied him for second on the all-time Indy 500 winners list with three.

I’m talking about Bobby Unser for a variety of reasons but primarily because one, we’re in the month of May leading up to qualifying and running of the ‘Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ and two, I saw the legendary driver in person with the car he won Indy back in ’81 (he…

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The Hier’s Say Goodbye To Best Friend: Luis Nunez

Life will throw you curve balls, but as any good baseball hitter knows, you must stay in that batter’s box and not bail out. Another saying goes, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. However, to end this cliche meltdown, let’s just say the show must go on. That’s what our number one fan and best friend would have said – of course, he would have said it with a big voice and typical New Yorker accent – that was Luis Nunez.

Ron Hier, Luis Nunez and Daryle Hier

Ron, Luis and Daryle

Regardless of any quirks, idiosyncrasies or foibles, Luis was first and foremost mine and my father’s best friend – in fact we called each brother – and in essentially the truest sense, we were.

New Yorker

He was born July 29th 1950 in Queens, New York, and although he adopted California wine country as his own, there was no denying where he was from. His greeting, ‘Eh, how ya doin’ was unmistakably New Yorker through-and-through. Luis’ father was Puerto Rican and his mother was from the Dominican Republic but they settled in New York City. She would perish in an airliner crash in 1970 while Luis’ father – an Army veteran – passed away in 2003.  Rose, Luis’ sister, lives in Puerto Rico.

Luis joined the U.S. Army as well and after several years of service – including in Texas where he started his first family – being stationed at Fort Ord in the Monterey Bay area, he became a local police officer. From there, Luis moved into corrections for the state of California and spent well over 20 years moving up the chain of command before retiring some eight years ago.

His time in the California Department of Corrections was not without a huge bump in the road when Luis found out he needed a heart valve replacement. He had the heart surgery 15 years ago and along with a pacemaker, was able to go back to work until retirement.

Wine

His enthusiasm and passion for wines and Paso Robles started well over 20 years ago and escalated to the point of buying over a half an acre lot with a beautiful house and property sitting on a hill in Paso Robles, California. Enticed by a friend Michael Bono, Luis’ eagerness to be a part of the wine culture led him to plant nearly 200 Zinfandel vines on a quarter acre of land in his backyard. Knowing very little about farming and grapes, Luis’ passion led him to associations like the Independent Grape Growers Paso Robles Area (IGGPRA), where he would glean information from an assortment of great vintners. With that, Venture Vineyards was born.

VentureVineyardAnomalyHowever, it was his meeting up with Steven Christian and Christian Lazo Wines that brought about the ability to make wine … excellent wine at that. Steve and his wife Lupe Lazo helped Luis by offering their facilities. With Steve’s know-how as an excellent winemaker, Luis’ first crop – the vintage was called Anomaly – in only its second year and entered into the huge Orange County Fair, won a Bronze Medal. Interestingly enough, his label won a Gold Medal. It should be noted that Alex, Luis’ youngest son, came up with the original design for the label.

Over the handful of years, with lean times in part because of the ongoing Great Recession, Luis wasn’t always able to create a vintage every year. However, from his 2010 harvest, he would offer up the Shark and long story short, the vintage won several medals including at the prestigious International Amateur Wine Competition last year (2013) where he won a Double Gold. You can go down to the related article below for information on the achievements of Luis Nunez and his wine. Another note is that Frank Grande of Falcon Nest, would also help Luis along the way.

A year ago, Luis had built a wine cellar by friend Chris Andrews who Luis learned about through George, an old compadre from his working days. Sitting in the cellar are four barrels of 2012 Zin – to be called the Bullet – that’s ready for bottling in about four months. There is also a barrel and a half from his 2013 vintage that didn’t have any particular name but the ‘Rebel’ was one of the ideas. What happens to Luis’ dream of these wines and his vines may go with Luis to that happy vineyard in the sky.

Luis Nunez' The Shark had many medals and not to be outdone, the label is also a Gold winner.

A Double Gold vintage, but not to be outdone, the label is also a Gold winner.

The wine industry may not have known of the tiny little plot of grapes called Venture Vineyards, but in a relatively short period of time, Luis was able to create a multiple gold-winning wine that was about to come to market this year. That likely won’t happen and it’s a shame because if this vintage was going to continue in the tradition of the others, although minuscule boutique in size, it would have rocked the world of wine – at least here in Paso Robles, which is the world’s Wine Region of Year.

Together

Luis taught us Hiers a lot about wine. When we moved up here seven years ago – and we shouldn’t admit this – boxed wine was our preferred method of drinking vino. Add to that the fact Two Buck Chuck was a regular in our arsenal … the poor guy must have shook his head many times – but never in front of us. We evolved and although we don’t have the instincts of a great winemaker like Luis, we have improved over the years. What we learned was invaluable.

Our threesome got together so many times for ‘vino and gars’, it’s mind-boggling.  Luis called our get-togethers ’round table meetings’ – we will miss those immeasurably. We also had so many dinners at each others place – let’s just say there were times when we ate with each other more times during a week than not.  We can thank my mother Jo for many of those dinners.

Luis was at times bombastic, passionate and loved standing out in front of his vines, barking for anyone who would hear, ‘my vines, my wine’. He let you know he loved Paso, his Zin and make no mistake, he could walk the walk and talk the talk. However, underneath the artificial bravado was a man who wanted what was best for everyone around him. It wasn’t unusual for him to expound on how strong his daughters Nicole and Bianca were and how proud he was of them. Luis very much wanted his family together and recently, they had become closer which is actually what made him tick, no matter the pacemaker or pig valve.

Luis leaves behind six adult children: Anthony, Damien, Nicole, Alexander and Bianca, a wife Blanca and sister Rosalie.

The windy fresh spring air blowing right now and creating a clear deep blue sky this season, offers up that life continues. And that’s how will we approach this. This Saturday (April 26th), here in Paso Robles, is the Vintage Sidecar Rendezvous & Recycled Treasures & Antique Motorcycles – it’s a motorcycle show along with an arts and craft fair. We will be there on 12th and Spring, so come on by and say hello. You won’t have the pleasure of meeting Luis and his introductory ‘Eh, how ya doin’, but his spirit will certainly be there.

In fact, I can hear him now: ‘Eh, how ya doin?’ Ah, my brother, we’ve been better, but we will improve as time heals all wounds … yet, we will never forget you. Manana my friend, manana.

Saluti,

Ron and Daryle W. Hier

Related article: Luis Nunez and Venture Vineyard Zinfandel – Updated

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50 Years Ago – The Biggest One

I love history so when I saw this anniversary, I had to write about it.  As someone who was born and raised in Southern California and lived through several big earthquakes, it’s hard to quantify or qualify what a magnitude 9.2 earthquake means.  In Los Angeles, they always talked about the ‘big one’ but nothing remotely close to a 9.2 ever hit the Greater L.A. area in the five decades I lived there.File:AlaskaQuake-FourthAve.jpg

However, that’s exactly what occurred 50 years ago today just east of Anchorage, Alaska.  It’s simply called the Alaskan Earthquake or Great Quake and is the largest earthquake in the history of the United States.  It happened on Good Friday, March 27th, 1964, but there was nothing good about it.

3 minute shake

It hit at 5:36 pm and shook the earth for three minutes.  I can remember earthquakes that may have rumbled for no more than 30 seconds so three minutes would seem to be forever and likely there were folks praying a lot, figuring this was it, considering it WAS Good Friday.  The fact that ‘only’ 139 died from the results of the quake – mostly because of the tsunamis – is in large part because there just weren’t that many people living in the region (less than 100,000 for the area).  Again, most people died because of tsunamis that rose as high as 220 feet above the normal sea level.  No, that’s not a typo (source: state of Alaska). It’s was nearly as tall as the 22 story Conoco-Phillips building in Anchorage – currently the tallest building in the state.

Felt thousands of miles away, it should be noted that Anchorage had 11 aftershocks of 6.2 or greater … the first day!  It was at least a year later before the aftershocks subsided.  The ground literally sucked in and ate up what was above it, while at the same time, land shifts measuring 20 feet or more were pushed in the air.  Fissures both moving up like new hills appeared and yet cracks too deep to see down were everywhere.  What was at one time, submerged ocean bottoms became cliffs rising above the new shoreline.  And still other areas that once sat above the coast were now underwater.

Our own reminders

On the California Central Coast, a little over 10 years ago, our town suffered through the San Simeon Earthquake which registered 6.6 magnitude.  It devastated older portions of the Downtown area of Paso Robles here in wine country.  When you consider how many multitudes more powerful the Alaskan earthquake was, it’s hard to imagine that anything would have been standing – older buildings or not.

We had another anniversary recently with the strongest earthquake in California over the last couple of decades, the Northridge Earthquake, which occurred January 17th 1994.  It was a 6.7 and happened at 4:30 in the morning when a vast majority of Californians were asleep, which made it more dangerous and deadly.

In Paso Robles, we’re less than a half an hour’s drive from the big daddy of all faults: the San Andreas.  Running southeast to northwest, it runs in the center of the state from the Imperial Valley near the California and Mexico border at the Salton Sea, through the Southern California deserts and mountains and inland Central Coast, right to San Francisco and then along the coast of Northern California before ending just south of Eureka.

Shakin’

File:Kluft-photo-Carrizo-Plain-Nov-2007-Img 0327.jpg

Yes, you can see the San Andreas Fault. This is in the Carrizo Plain less than an hour east of Paso Robles.

An area some 20 miles east as the crow flies from Paso called Parkfield, has a massive amount of instrumentation for research of the San Andreas (source: USGS).  Parkfield has very few residents because the place shakes constantly.  Parkfield had a 6.0 almost 10 years ago.  Do these things happen in 10 year increments?

When the ‘Big One’ will happen on the San Andreas is still uncertain.  Most believe that the Southern California portion of the massive fault is where the spot for the big one will occur next.  Regardless of the speculation, anyone in California should be diligent and aware of just what might or will likely happen.

History repeats itself and earthquakes are no different. I’ll continue to contemplate and try wrapping my mind around what a three minute quake registering 9.2 is like. The Big One? The Alaskan Earthquake was the biggest … so far.

Salootie Patootie,

Daryle W. Hier

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