Category Archives: Wine

Anything to do with wine

Grape Waste Not

A rambunctious early harvest has started here in wine country. The drought conditions have created another earlier than usual picking time as tons of wine grapes start the process of becoming wine. However, with all those grapes being crushed into juice, what happens with the rest of the parts of the grapes, often called pomace? Grape waste not.

grape waste

Piles of grape waste

When I first learned about the processes of making wine, I wondered what was done with all those stems, skins, seeds and sediment. I learned then that some vineyards discarded these solids without any reuse and made into piles to be trucked away to a dump.

I talked with some winemaker friends of mine in the business and found out that more and more are using the waste for an assortment of utilizations. In this day and age of businesses trying to be more environmentally sound, these developments and practices are becoming more rewarding than just making an effort. Troublesome pomace piles are becoming a rare site.

Piles of pomace for good

Now, understand that grapeseed oil has been around since ancient times. Still, the process of taking grape seeds and making oils out of them, had not been widely done until recently. Pomace is the solids or pulp of what is left after the juice is extracted from the grape. Ask those in the know and they will tell you that the pomace of grapes has more of the beneficial health benefits than the juice. These by-products include flour, oils and many other goods. Animal feed is also being produced from grape waste.

Destemming grapes – What to do with the stems?

Some vineyards are creating piles of compost from their pomace and then sell to farms or keep and better their own vineyard amelioration.

The by-product can be made into food preservatives and in fact is used to spray on raisins as a natural preservative while helping to retain or even improve their flavor. Pomace is rich in antioxidants, iron, fiber, protein, vitamin E and anti-bacterial properties, so with a high-smoke rate, when combined as an cooking oil, offers a wonderfully innovative and unique cooking spray, ideal for baking, grilling, sauteing or stir-fries.

Pomace power

Another use that has budding growth in popularity is grape waste as a biofuel. A few years ago, UC Davis started a research project on taking pomace, prunings and other vineyard winery waste to create bioenergy. Considering many vineyards discard their pomace at a cost, making biofuel for the wineries seems a economically feasible and sensible thing to do. With farms trying to be more sustainable, this is a logical step towards those goals.

Bioenergy can be created from pomace

Reuse of any product requires extra cost, but as more ideas are pushed into the mainstream of business, the making of grape waste as a viable option is possible. Combining the nutritive advantages with bioenergy, it appears the useful compounds of pomace’s future look great. With new options popping up all the time, disposing of this grape waste may not be a problem anymore, but an actual benefit.

Additional sources: The Encyclopedia of Seeds, UC Davis


Daryle W. Hier







These coat/hat racks are selling like hotcakes 

Where The Barrels Have Gone

Many have asked over the past months, why availability of used wine barrels has become poor, while prices have risen. The short answer is, well, there really isn’t a short answer.

To put it simply, several forces have been brought together to create this problem.

The most obvious answer to why there is a shortage of used wine barrels is due to winemaking, or rather the increased production and sale of wine, especially here in the United States. Wine consumption is at an all-time high in the U.S., therefore wineries are increasing output and in-turn retaining and using barrels longer. Add to that, the fact California grape productions has been huge over the last few years, which has vintners hedging their bets and holding onto barrels that would otherwise be retired. It’s a little more complicated than that, but essentially, barrels were being hoarded by wineries.

Spirit makers 

Now grape production has slowed a bit in California due to the drought, which we’ve discussed in prior stories. Okay, so where are those barrels? That’s another reason used wine barrels are more rare: spirit makers are buying up those used barrels from the Golden State for increased production of different alcohols including whiskey. Couple that with more craft brewers using more used wine barrels – like local brewery Firestone Walker – and voila, barrels disappeared from the barns of wineries at alarming rates.

Whiskey barrel with bottle lights

Barrels are used for a multitude of creations

These aren’t the only reasons that barrels are harder and harder to find. The furniture business has exploded with used wine barrels being taken apart to be re-crafted into a menagerie of furnishings such as chairs, which are extremely popular. Also, art-based fixtures like lighting and more simpler ideas such as pots and pan holders, plus more common uses like hat and coat hangers with staves have burst on the scene.

We at Paso Wine Barrels are always searching and sometimes we have to limit the sale of used barrels so we have enough to make our popular Decorative barrels. In two years, we’ve had a couple one-month spells where there weren’t enough barrels to go around. The industry will ebb and flow with availability a matter of timing as to who has barrels and who doesn’t.

A few years ago, it wasn’t unusual for used wine barrels to be free to pick up. Those days are long gone.

Additional sources: Wine Institute


Daryle W. Hier




Racing Champ Scott Pruett Drives Just As Hard In Wine Business


The recent announcement that Ford will be heading up a multiple car Le Mans team led by car owner Chip Ganassi and driver Scott Pruett, is great news for the automobile world.  And speaking of Pruett, Scott has proven to be a winner at just about everything he does, including in the wine industry. See more about this incredibly driven person …

Racing Champ Scott Pruett Drives Just As Hard In Wine Business.


Daryle W. Hier


Paso Icon Back In Control

The history of winemaking on the California Central Coast, goes back centuries to when the Mission era started. However, Paso Robles as a major player in the wine industry wasn’t established until the 1970s. Look up any historical accounts of what made this region prosper and become the wine region of the world, and just about all would agree former Pennsylvanian Gary Eberle was the iconic pioneer who help promote Paso to its now high-standing in the world of wine.

Still, even as the founder and general partner, Eberle wasn’t wanted in his own business and lost control of Eberle Winery about 18 months ago. Ironically, the California State Fair Winery Advisory Task Force gave Eberle a lifetime achievement award this year. Regardless, other part-owners of Eberle Winery wanted to grow the business at a faster pace, so with that Gary was kept on as a figurehead (“brand ambassador”) but otherwise booted out of running his namesake company. That sad situation has changed.

The eponymous creator of much of the early vino fame in Paso Robles lore, has regained control of Eberle Winery. Gary and his wife Marcy took majority ownership of the famous eastside vineyard this week.

Paso Godfather

Little more than three decades ago, Eberle helped create as one of the founders, the Paso Robles AVA in the North County region of San Luis Obispo. Considered the ‘Godfather’ of Paso wine and an important voice for the area, the iconic figure will now once again lead a great winery into the future.

And Eberle Winery is fun place to go to. They have great scenic views, usually free tastings and most importantly, cave tours. A must see. Look for the boorhead logo to find their award winning wines.

So good news from the Central Coast as all is now well again. I mean what were they thinking? Sheesh!


Daryle W. Hier











Col Solare Winery

What Goes On Inside A Wine Barrel

Ever wonder what is going inside a wine barrel? Creating wines is an art and science. Nuances of all sorts are working to form a vintage and maybe the most critical time is when the juice of the wine grapes is aging. However, what is actually going on and does anybody really know? We just might find out.


A new company called Watgrid from Portugal analyzes the purity of water. They have taken a lot of that same technology and applied it to wine. The product is called Winegrid and its aim is to analyze in real time, maturation and fermentation processes.

Winegrid sensors – made of stainless steel, glass and fiber-optics – are placed inside the dark recesses of a wine barrel and relay information back instantly. By having a constant reading of what is occurring, a winemaker can reduce their costs, while improving the quality of their vino. Usually, samples are taken out almost daily and studied by a lab. That time-consuming practice would be eliminated.

Starts in Bordeaux

The folks at Watgrid have met with barrel makers (cooperages) to get their input and see about integrating the Winegrid system into barrels. In-turn, they’ve contacted wineries, and one has said yes, to this newest technolgogy: Chateau Lynch-Bages. Lynch Bages is in an area of Bordeaux, France, that amongst many well-known vineyard estates in the region is the infamous Chateau Lafite Rothschild.

Known for their excellent terroir, the 220 acre Lynch Bages estate is a famous winery themselves dating back to the mid-1700s. Lynch Bages 2015 vintage will be one of the first to test the Winegrid technology. They will monitor the wine to watch it evolve, measuring fermentation, color, temperature, along with sugar and alcohol levels. By the way, Lynch Bages is updating their facilities with the help of famous architect IM Pei’s sons.

The equipment will also be used in larger vats as well, since the wine is originally placed in steel vats before moving over to oak wine barrels. We shall soon hear about what goes on in the dark mysterious interiors of a wine barrel. And maybe learn more than anyone ever knew? Who knew wine barrels could be so interesting. 😉


Daryle W. Hier








California Wine Sales Are Up, But Tariffs Could Change That

The news from the Wine Institute was very good with sales of wines from California up in volume and value. However, a ruling by the World Trade Organization (WTO) could put a crimp in future growth for the Golden State.

According to the Wine Institutes’ figures, California wine shipments in the United States were up 4.4% in 2014. The value of those shipments is estimated to have been $24.6 billion, which is up 6.7% from 2013. Also, domestic and international combined wine sales improved 3.7% year over year.

Though drought has made life tougher for California winemakers over the past few years, Wine Institute President Bobby Koch said:

“California has had three excellent harvests in both quantity and quality in 2012, 2013 and 2014 and these vintages are receiving global recognition.”

Oh no, Canada

Still, not all the news is good in California. The WTO sustained a ruling regarding meat-labeling rules complaint by Canada that may likely lead to a trade-war – at least in North America. The ruling that was upheld, states that both Canada and Mexico can add duty tariffs to products including wine. Exports of vino in California would suffer, so the U.S. wine industry is asking Congress to intervene.

Ironically, California wine sales topped the one billion dollar mark this past year in exports to Canada, making them the single biggest consumer of U.S. wine. However, those sales could see a tumble if the presumed taxes from Canada increase substantially.

NOTE: Congress has made a move to help winemakers in U.S. Click here for more.


Daryle W. Hier







Romantics Love Paso Robles

Personally, I’m not the most romantic guy. Sitting at the 50 yard-line at Lambeau Field in Green Bay is what is romantic to me. Still, after almost a decade of living in Paso Robles, and more than 40 years of visiting this unique Central Coast town, I’ve come to realize there is some special qualities about El Paso de Robles (pass of the oaks).

Look out Paris

However, don’t take my word for it. The relatively new women’s online magazine Bustle, states Paso Robles, California, has little equal when it comes to being a great, if unexpected, romantic getaway … in all the world.

The magazine asks: What Are The Most Romantic Cities? Wine country on the Central Coast may not be the first idea that comes to mind when thinking romantically. I mean, wasn’t this a dusty little out-of-the-way town between the giant metropolis’ of Los Angeles and San Francisco? The history of this area, is more about cattle, grain and almond orchards than anything quixotic, like say Paris. Well, Paso Robles has no airs about itself and certainly will never be like the ‘City of Light’, but that’s part of the attraction to this still somewhat quiet little town.

From wine-tasting, bike-riding, cultural attractions and the ever-present rolling hills and back country, the delightfully reserved atmosphere makes Paso Robles, or Paso as locals call it, the magical place that others are starting to find out about. Or as Bustle states:

“Known for its warm hospitality and rolling hills, Paso Robles is an unexpectedly romantic city and the perfect destination for romantic getaway.  Whether interested in outdoor recreation, wine tasting or cultural attractions, Paso has a plethora of activities for you and your partner to do together. Nestled in the Santa Lucia Mountains of the Central California Coast, the city is home to expansive vineyards ideal for an afternoon bike ride or culinary treat. Couples will love strolling through the beautiful City Park – complete with majestic oaks and a picturesque gazebo – before enjoying an intimate dinner at one of Paso Robles’ renowned restaurants. “


Paso is ranked number two behind the oldest city in the United States, St. Augustine, Florida. Rounding out the top five are: Galena, Illinois – San Sebastian, Spain – Galway, Ireland.

The news and entertainment online magazine was started the year before last by Bleacher Report founder, Bryan Goldberg. Very briefly, I wrote for Bleacher Report, which is a website for sports. Maybe there’s some odd symmetry here, but I digress.

The website states that everyone has the own idea of perfection in what a romantic place would be, whether it’s:

“… beautiful cafes, the castles and landscapes that seemingly time has forgotten. Sharing a bottle of wine in a classic European city or in the rustic American woodlands can make you forget time as well, and just spend some time enjoying together.”


There are dozens and dozens of bed and breakfasts location in Paso as well as hotels. The Paso Robles Inn is one of the most historic landmarks in town and offers all amenities, while sitting across the street from the cities main park. The Hotel Cheval offers quiet elegance in the middle of town, while La Bellasera at the south edge of town, gives you a head-start towards all of the hundreds of wineries in the region.

Hotel Cheval is a beautiful little hotel sitting right in the middle of downtown Paso Robles.

Paso is located nearly four hours north of Los Angeles and nearly that far south from San Francisco. It sits right off Highway 101 and is about 20 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean in San Luis Obispo County.

I should note my parents vacationed in Paso on their wedding anniversary for years before finally moving here permanently.

Unpretentious by comparison to much more popular wine regions like Napa and Sonoma, this mainly untapped vacation destination, which was voted the number one wine region of the world back in late 2013, is comparatively untapped by travelers. However, as accolades and notoriety such as this latest tribute, will likely make Paso more popular in the years to come.

What Are The Most Romantic Cities? It appears romantics love Paso Robles.

Source: Bustle


Daryle W. Hier



No More Wine Barrels?

The world has existed with some form of wine stored in a vessel to age vino since biblical times – we’ve talked it about it the history of wine barrels in the past. The wood and eventually oak wine barrel has been around for 20 or so centuries and this past century, it became almost an art.

Wine Barrels - stacked.adj

Might this picture not exist in the future?

The ease of moving wine or any food product in a barrel was also of help. However, with wines popularity and the fact that some wines like whites, don’t necessarily need oak, steel and even concrete vats have been used for storing and aging wine. Using oak chips to impart aromas and flavor has become part of the aging process as well. But oak may not be needed anymore. Egads!

Trick yeast

Technology may eliminate the need for the oaking process, when researchers in Spain found using aromatised yeast brought similar influences without oak itself. Yeast is what makes grape juice into wine.

Yeast making beer.

Now breaking the long history of winemaking is slow and sometimes even an impossible breach. Yet, these same scientist from the University of Madrid have been able to offer up this new procedure without the long waiting times that wine takes to age. This might sound blasphemous to stalwart vintners and wine experts, but the fact remains, this breakthrough gives winemakers the potential to infuse a vast many other flavors and smells that invariably could explode the range of wines that might be produced.

This revelation is huge and although more research will be needed to back up these claims, it’s obvious that this science of yeast imparting a taste difference, is only going to grow. As a homebrewer, I understand the value that yeast brings to the table when making beer. So to contemplate how a yeast cell can be infused with other flavors, which in-turn makes changes to the process of winemaking, is definitely a game-changer.


Wine during fermentation – it might not need to be aged in a wine barrel.

Whether this slows down or ultimately replaces the need for oak wine barrels, remains to be seen. A new barrel can easily run a $1,000 and they’re only good for half-a-dozen years or so. You can see why this may be the start of big changes in the wine industry.

Barrels be gone?

With the international growth of wine consumption, oenology departments all over the world are probably working on research towards this same goal of yeast replacing oak barrels. Too be sure, research in the wine industry is far from agreeable. In fact, to get anyone in the world of vino to agree on absolutes, well, there are no absolutes in this industry.

So, is this inevitably going to happen? Hard to say, but my money is on a slow change, typical in the world of winemaking. Hopefully I’ll be gone or too old to be concerned about such changes. In the meantime, there will always be wine, regardless – Salute!

Source: University of Madrid


Daryle W. Hier



Do You Wine Taste?

Wine tasting has been taking off for some time and even regions where there aren’t vineyards, have wine tasting rooms to learn and enjoy the latest wines.

However, not eTobin_James-wine_tastingveryone has the luxury or convenience of sauntering down to the local wine tasting bar and saddle up for a sip of vino … or more. So with that we ask, have you ever done wine tasting and if so, how many times? Or are you a regular on the scene of any and every wine tasting opportunity that comes across?

Let us know and share with your friends, family and colleagues. We want to know: Do You Wine Taste?


Daryle W. Hier








250 Years And Still Going: Hennessy

A premium brandy, cognac is a bit more pleasurable and usually better refined than brandy. Cognac comes from a certain appellation or wine-growing zone specifically in a west-central region of France. There, for 250 years, nearly half of all cognac has been created and sold by Jas Hennessy & Company … and they’re still going strong, with one big reason that might surprise you.

Started in 1765 by an Irish naval officer (Richard Hennessy) who served under King Louis the XV of France, originally Hennessy was a distiller of brandy. Brandy is usually made from fruit other than grapes, whereas Cognac is made from specific vineyards in the Cognac region of France. Just like Champagne is made from a particular area of France and no other sparkling wine can be called Champagne, so too with Cognac.

What it is

To be simply defined, cognac is a better quality than other brandys with an alcohol rating of 40%. The Trebbiano grape, also known as Ugni Blanc in France, is the primary varietal chosen. Dry, with high acidity, the yellow-toned Trebbiano doesn’t have a prominent name and is often used to blend with in wine-making; yet, its acidity trait offers cognac the perfect balance.

Made similar to wine to begin with, the Trebbiano grapes are pressed and allowed to ferment for a couple weeks. Afterwards, Hennessy takes the relatively weak wine and distills it twice in copper stills into a colorless 70% alcohol creating a unique alchemy. Then it’s placed in oak barrel casks for at least two years, before it’s bottled and sold, gaining complexity and naturally its silky bronze color. The art of aging is maybe the ultimate skill required to make excellent cognac.  Just like its wine counterpart, cognac loses water and alcohol to evaporation so by the time the cognac is ready, it’s down to 40% alcohol (80 proof).

An interesting twist in the world of alcohol, is the relationship between cognac and Port (or Porto). Port officially comes from only Portugal but in any regards, the process of making port is the enhancement it goes through to become more than a sweet or late harvest wine. Port is a fortified wine that goes through all the same processes that wine does but has brandy or cognac added when it is ready to be barreled. This gives port a symbiotic relationship with cognac where both are wines made into dessert liquors. There are many combinations of wines and mixes – go here for a list of some drinks mixing cognac. All I can say is yum and where are the cigars.

Back to business – corporately controlled by Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH) with world alcohol beverage giant Diageo owning a minority stake, the cognac maker is doing well. Of the major cognac producers, Hennessy’s is arguably the most distinct and innovative of the French distillers. While all the cognac makers are profitable, Hennessy is going strong. And why is this particular niche booze arena flourishing? Hip hop.

Huge with rap community

Yes, although the industry as a whole has profited from spirits upward trend worldwide, cognac has received an unlikely bounce from a demographic not thought of in the high end booze market. Still, the hip hop world has been mentioning different cognacs including Hennessy dozens of times in their raps for 20 years or more, including the late Tupac Shakur. It’s urban legend notwithstanding, Cognac appears to be above the hip hop demo what with poor and middle class young people, not capable of spending money on a high quality liquor. Regardless, the essentially free publicity has helped the cognac makers immensely.

Once thought of as an upper end type drink only for the rich and sophisticates, Courvoisier, Martell, Rémy Martin and of course Hennessy have more than gotten the attention of the general public eye and its hip hop crowd. And Hennessy has furthered the hip hop connection having sponsored events such as an exhibition of different rap artists, the year before last. Currently, if you go to Hennessy’s website, rapper Nas is front and center and the latest to promote the brand in one of their commercials.

Rapper Nas is the latest hip hop celebrity to help promote the Hennessy brand.

Oddly enough, the French are not all that cracked up about their own cognac, and in fact, are more apt to be drinking out of a good single-malt scotch glass, rather than sipping cognac from a snifter. Another peculiar twist to Hennessy – and typically French – the company made sure to let everyone know their cognac was vegan-friendly.

Hennessy’s cognac has been drank by Czars over two centuries ago, by young hip hop fans nowadays and everyone in between. The spirit found its way onshore of the United States more than 220 years ago. Americans are its biggest fans and young and old, rich and poor enjoy imbibing in the esteemed hard liquor. Hennessy’s legacy has proven itself for 250 years and counting, still going strong and maybe more popular than ever before.


Daryle W. Hier