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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MidWinter El Nino Update

A lot of ominous story lines were written about the coming monster El Nino for the 2015/2016 winter season. Those of us in drought-stricken California were bracing ourselves for an onslaught of rain that may not have had an equal. Well, there’s a bit of good news and bad.

Cold – No big rains

In Paso Robles, we awoke to plenty of icy conditions in December of 2015.

In Paso Robles, we awoke to plenty of icy conditions in December of 2015.

The good news, to some degree, is the otherwise normal winter we’ve had here in the Golden State, especially in wine country on the California Central Coast. December started off with its usual cold snap that had us regularly in the 20s with several icy mornings. Day time high temps hovered barely in the 50s, but otherwise there was a little cold rain here and there – that was it.

As the holidays slid by, the temperature started warming up and with it, more rain. It might sound counter-intuitive to think El Nino and its rains would drive temperatures up, but rather than getting storms from a normal northwesterly track out of the Pacific Northwest and Canada, El Nino draws warmer climes from the Central Pacific. By the way, our mountains – the Sierra Nevadas – have been hammered with snow this season, which is definitely a good thing, considering Californians get a majority of their water from the mountain snow runoff.

This is suppose to be a huge El Nino year, however it hasn’t been the typical drum beat of a driving rain storm after driving rain storm. We have received an average amount of rainfall, which has made it easier on the land, so as not to wash away and erode the farms and vineyards of its valuable soil.

Currently, we just had a mini gullywasher and are expecting showers near the end of the week. Yet, the last week of January looks relatively warm and sunny with highs possibly reaching 70. Heck, get the suntan lotion out, it’s summer! Yeah, not so fast.

About that bad news

Godzilla

As January folds into February, which is our wettest month, there are plenty of signs the Godzilla of all El Nino’s is coming onshore. The first full week of 2016 saw a modest set of back-to-back storms reminiscent of El Nino. According to NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory climatologist Bill Patzert, the the rest of winter and likely the first part of spring are going to bring us monster rains (source: L.A. Times). Or as Mr. Patzert puts it of the earlier storms:

“That was a trailer for the movie.”

Essentially what will be happening is the jet stream will come down on to the southern half of California and started sucking every storm from the Central Pacific and tropics in what we call the ‘Pineapple Express’. Think of it as a river of storms pulling moisture all the way up from Hawaii to California.

Whether we receive the predicted record-breaking numbers of rainfall with help from the Pineapple Express, remains to be seen, but regardless, we will see an increase in precipitation over the next couple months.  And with that, should tamper down the drought conditions along with greening up our beautiful rolling hills of Paso Robles.

Personally, I’m not a big fan of rain – I grew up in L.A. I’d look terrible in heels, so I’ll clink my beer mug or wine glass because I’m thinking suntan lotion … I’m thinking there’s no time like summer, there’s no time like summer, there’s no time like summer.

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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Wine: Where It All Began, Sort Of

Mount Ararat - Armenia

Casual conversations among wine drinkers sometimes leads to where did it all begin. Okay, maybe my interest in history leads to that conversation. Still, where it all began is interesting thought regarding wine.

When, then where

Maybe the better question could be when did winemaking start. I’m not going to get into the exacts of this because there are unbounded vagaries as to the who, what, when, where and how of wine and winemaking. It’s arguable, and archaeologically speaking, the history of winemaking is a bit blurred. However, sometime during the end of the Stone Age, or upwards of 10,000 years ago, may be where early man discovered the pleasurable magic of vino. The Bronze Age some 5,000 years later is when wine production probably began. It should be noted that theoretically, man discovered alcohol from watching birds eat fermented fruit and then becoming odd in their actions afterward.

Armenia-pottery-ancient

Ancient pottery from archaeological site in Armenia

While wild grapes can be found from Western Europe to China, the domestication of wine looks to have begun in the steppe region of Armenia (also known as the Upper Middle East). In these highlands, with the advent of pottery, wine production likely began. Less than 30 years ago, there were archaeological digs in this region that found 5,000 year old pottery remnants with a red hue, thought to be wine residue.

The trek that wine took went from Armenia and migrated south to Mesopotamia (Iraq) and west to Eastern Europe.

Its biblical background

From a biblical perspective, it’s suggested this Upper Middle Eastern plateau expanse could be where the Garden of Eden was located. Another tidbit is this area might have been where the first production of apricot brandy occurred. It’s well known that brandy was first regularly produced in large supply in Eastern Europe including the Black Sea Region, not far from Armenia. Geographically speaking, Ancient Armenia stretched from the Mediterranean to the Black and Caspian Seas.

Greek wall painting showing grape-vines trained over a trellis, then crushed in a vat. The Bible credits Noah with inventing wine.

Greek wall painting showing grape-vines trained over a trellis, then crushed in a vat.
The Bible credits Noah with inventing wine.

Noah was said to have planted a vineyard in this same area and made wine from it. This is the first written account of grape growing and winemaking. Mount Ararat, where Noah’s Ark landed, was in the middle of Armenia (edge of modern day Turkey). Although wine was produced mainly for royalty and dignitaries, some partook for sacramental, religious or spiritual occasions.

The Levant – a name that only recently starting making the news with ISIS (aka ISIL or Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) – is a region just south of Armenia and Turkey which is brought up as the earliest times of food … and of course wine production.

Other places

Others state that wine had its start in China some 9,000 years ago. However, this recipe was made from rice and not grapes. Archaeological sites from Iran, to Georgia and Greece show signs of domestic wine production dating back some 7,000 years ago. The earliest exporting of wine from the Levant was shipped to Ancient Egypt over 5,000 years ago. The Egyptians were thought to be the first vine pruners. Note that Ancient Palestine had wine, but it was date wine, made from date palms.

Oldest winery - Armenia

Oldest winery – Armenia

The oldest winery dates back 6,000 years to Armenia – a central and recurring place of reference when researching wine’s history. Yet, truly the Romans brought wine to the fore about 1,000 BC, creating a science and viniculture that is with us today. It is said the Romans created the wooden cask to carry products easily while keeping foods and drink protected, which also kept them from spoiling. Eventually the wooden cask for wine – or wine barrel – would be used as a regular container for vino.

The birthplace of wine might not be clear, and many cultures delved into making different forms of alcohol. Still it could be said that the highlands of Armenia are as good a place as any for where it all began when considering the beginnings of wine.

Sources: Ancient Wine: The Search for the Origins of VinicultureAlcohol: A History, University of Pennsylvania

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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The Worlds First Motel

On the event’s 90th anniversary this month, it seems only right to look back at the world’s first ever motel.

Postcard of the Motel Inn

The only way to travel prior to affordable automobiles, was by bus, train or ship. Considering the advent of mass produced cars at the turn between 19th and 20th centuries, combined with the improved development and true major production with much less cost created by Henry Ford and his Model T, travelers needed places to stay as they motored along the United States’ fledgling road systems.

And where else might the eventual first ever motel pop up, than in California where highway and freeway travel would be become a standard for the world.

The motel is born

The simply named Motel Inn (originally called the Milestone Inn), was built in San Luis Obispo as a natural rest point halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Businessman and architect Arthur S. Heineman, the owner, named it after his and his brother Alfred’s company name, Milestone Interstate Corporation, which was created as a venture to build motor courts up and down the West Coast.

The early years of the Motel Inn.

There were hotels and other temporary living quarters available to travelers including encampments, but nothing that truly accommodated tourist, vacationers and their cars. Also, the attraction of a more feasible way to lodge, made the idea grow. Thus, the ‘motor hotel’ was formed to meet the need.

Also known as the Milestone Mo-Tel, the red-tile roofed facility opened on December 12th in 1925. Built on the Camino Real and Highway 1, a traveler could park his car in a garage and slip comfortably into a nice and clean white stucco two-room with kitchen bungalow that slept at least four adults. A buck and two bits ($1.25) would pay for a nights stay. Comfort and convenience on the cheap – in the beautiful setting that is offered on the California Central Coast.

Stumble

The Roaring Twenties were in full swing and Heineman’s creation would appear to hit it out of the park like a Babe Ruth home run. However, he wasn’t able to find the financing for a proposed chain. Competition, the 1929 Crash and subsequent Depression nixed any expansion plans afterwards.

What’s left of the Motel Inn in San Luis Obispo – circa 1990.

Having changed hands several times over the years, the Motel Inn closed in 1991 and very little remains of the historic motel other than souvenirs at what now is the Apple Farm Inn right off U.S. 101 and Monterey Street. Earlier this year, there was a proposal by a couple developers to resurrect a newer version of the Motel Inn. 10 years prior another proposed concept to revive the infamous motel never left the drawing table.

Airbnb notwithstanding, having just traveled by car this past Christmas reminded me of the vast array of hotels and motels still being used with no end in sight. Mr Heineman’s vision was ideal but maybe – as many pioneering businessman find – his timing wasn’t right.

Whether the Motel Inn ever is brought back in some renovated form is not as important as the endearing and iconic accounting it brings to the history of automobiles and travel.

Sources: The End of the Road: Vanishing Highway Architecture in America, VisitSLO, San Jose State

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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Wine And China

The great experiment of Capitalism combined with Communism in China may be struggling. And with it, the sudden slowdown of wine consumption in China has followed.

Vineyard at Huadong-Parry winery, Shandong Province, China.

Wine and China intrigued me when I was contacted over the last couple years by some wine barrel import/exporters interested in buying up any and all wine barrels I could get my hands on. Part of the interest was coming from China. Of course, many others were also interested in used wine barrels, including furniture manufacturers, spirit makers and a sundry of beer producers – just to name a few.

Boom or bust?

The drought has brought a slow down here in wine country as grape crops have fallen off their high volumes of a couple years ago. Barrels are still in demand, but the market isn’t quite as tight as it was. And there has come a deafening silence from China.

Many folks including those in the wine industry thought that China would be a major boon to grape growers – and it was for a time – but now bottles of wine by the boatloads are languishing in warehouses or being sold off at fire-sale prices. The multi-billion dollar Chinese wine market has hit a big bump in the road.

Growth

Wineries and cooperages were popping up all over China with the idea being they could reproduce what the rest of the world was making to ease the extremely tight market their economy was creating. However, where once lay the Silk Road, now is lined with vineyards growing grapes that no one wants.

To be sure, the wine industry in China hasn’t stopped, but when heading fast and furious as the growth skyrocketed, now a more slower and moderate pace has taken hold. Award-winning wines have been produced from Chinese grapes and certainly a new influential and potentially dominant player in the vino industry is at hand. Still in its infancy, the once almost limitless development and expansion in China of wine has backtracked somewhat. Remember, wine is still a luxury in China.

In addition, the attitudes of foreign countries to China and their wine are still hard to get around. Although wine isn’t new to the Chinese people, this Asian region of the world was known for rice and not grape-based wines. This has made selling Chinese wines abroad more difficult.

A little side note. China’s first grape vines were planted in the late 19th century and came from none other than right here in California. The Chinese Civil War stunted any growth and then along with the Communist overthrow, the wine industry stagnated for decades.

Bigger or …

China is one of the Top 10 largest wine producing countries, and with its immense population and land size, will likely be in the top five before long – it may already be. The over-enthusiastic growth of wine in China will likely find a more moderate pace in the years to come – if we don’t plunge into a worldwide depression.

If the truth be known, the world has never really risen from the Great Recession and although China seems to have it’s own economy, its involvement with capitalism has brought it closer to the rest of the world. Yet, its burgeoning middle class is hungry for more – and that includes wine.

The future of wine and China is in balance just as the world economy teeters with a global depression. The fledgling Chinese wine market is here to stay as a major force; but, will it continue to grow and eventually dominate the industry as some expect?

Sources: International Business Times, Thirsty Dragon

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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Happy Thanksgiving From Wine Country

PR roads fallThanksgiving is a great American tradition and officially starts off our year end holiday celebration.

In Paso Robles this time of season, the Central Coast of California is stunning in its colors with the flowing vineyards of red, orange and yellow reminding all of us of what a beautiful place we live in.

I know some of you are already heading into the holiday rush; but, here’s hoping everyone including your family and friends have a fantastic day and celebrate all that is good with life and thank God we still live in a blessed land.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends, family, followers and social media folks.

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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Wine Region Of The Year Is Lodi

From a growing Central California Coast superstar to small but international star in New York to … Lodi? “Stuck in Lodi” might have a whole new meaning.

Lodi California

Paso Robles won as the top wine region of the world two years ago and New York, including the beautiful Finger Lakes District was the reigning winner, and now Lodi of the California Central Valley has been acknowledged as the current number one wine region by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. They beat such renowned locations as the Russian River Valley California, Sicily Italy, Marlborough New Zealand and Walla Walla Washington.

History

Lodi is more known to the public for a Creedence Clearwater Revival song from the late ’60s; however, going back to before Prohibition, grapes have been a part of the history of this low lying flat land at the northern edge of the San Joaquin Valley for a couple centuries.

Although it lies roughly two hours east of the Pacific Ocean in what normally is a hot almost semi-arid valley, actually Lodi’s weather is influenced by the Bay Area’s immense northern back bay and the many tributaries that run into it from the San Joaquin Delta. This allows for more cooling in the evenings along with the winds that drive that air east – in-turn giving wine grapes a larger diurnal with a needed respite from the hot summer days.

Mondavi's Woodbridge Winery helped put Lodi on the wine map

Mondavi’s Woodbridge Winery helped put Lodi on the wine map

Mondavi & more

Lodi is home to famed grape grower, Robert Mondavi, who is one of the more prominent and influential winemakers in the United States. The town now is known in part for popular events like the Taste of Lodi and Zinfest.

With over 100,000 acres and 750 growers, Lodi supplied many of the grapes, including Zinfandel, for other wineries outside of the region, but now has made a name for itself. And Lodi received this honor and acclaim in a year of continued drought and awful weather that included a devastating hailstorm this past April.

Lodi may have been previously known for their lower end and production wines. However, without any airs – similar to Paso Robles – the Lodi area has many rogue wineries where rules are thrown out and experimentation offers up great wines. The region also grabbed the attention of the wine bloggers conference, which will be in Lodi next August. So regardless of whether or not the area is as scenic as many of their California brethren, Lodi is becoming a destination stop for wine lovers. With this worldwide recognition by Wine Enthusiast Magazine, expect that draw to continue for years to come.

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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Grape Slowdown In 2015

We wondered aloud last year if the wine-grape harvest would be smaller, but it was another good crop like the last few bumper crop years. However, this season was different in many ways, and turned 2015 into a good quality, but poor volume year. And really bad in some locations.

Shriveled_up_grapes

There are many differing ideas as to why this year fell off so much, but the logical assumption is drought, and without going into the scientific minutiae, that rational conjecture would be correct.

Looks bad

The fall off looks probably worse than it otherwise would, due to the record-breaking pace California grapes produced this current decade. 2014 actually had dropped a bit from 2013 when California had a record-breaking year. Still, last seasons harvest still produced solid numbers heading into 2015.

Conversely, this year started off with a warmer than normal end of winter and first part of spring, which brought on early budbreak for most vintners. In-turn, May was an about face, as cool windy weather locked in, making for strained and unusual fruit-set – that’s where the grape turns from being a flower into fruit. Some fruit bloomed quickly into big berries, while others barely looked like a grape and more like tiny balls.

California wine crush reports aren’t all in yet, but it is becoming obvious that the volume of grapes is way down and some instances, only a fraction of what farmers were generating the last few years. Associates and friends of mine in the industry say that although the yields were down quite substantially, quality was good and in some instances, excellent.

Vineyard-dry-fall

Volume vs Quality

And thus is the ongoing battle between having high volumes versus high quality wine production. Due to the early pollination, the grapes didn’t sit through an entire summer of blistering weather, which gave them time to produce excellent quality grapes, even if there weren’t nearly as many as usual. Harvest was early last season, but this year was even earlier, which essentially eliminated any worry regarding premature frost concerns – although El Nino has kept an early fall warmer than normal. More will be known once the grapes are fermenting.

In the meantime, winemakers will fret over their small production hoping they can make what they have, work into a beautiful vintage – which sounds possible at this point. I wonder if low end vino will suffer while higher end wines do well in this kind of climate.

The states effects on this is also troublesome, keeping valuable water from farmers so that fish can flourish. A giant El Nino would be appear to be just around the corner and it likely will help this situation. Nevertheless, something will have to be done to change the adversarial position the government takes towards farmers.

Positive view

First-Crush-vineyard-barrels

Still, this shortage of California wine might finally mean that used wine barrels will become more available and we’ll be able to enjoy availability without the high costs associated with a very tight market. You wondered if I was going to say something about this, but actually, I can’t give an exact answer yet, but we’re hoping less wine means more barrels.

So if wine quality is up and used barrels are easier to find, this could be a win win for everyone. Let’s hope so.

Additional source: California Department of Food and Agriculture

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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Hearst Castle Is Crown Jewel Of California Central Coast

In San Simeon, California, the Hearst Castle sits on a hill above the Golden State’s Highway 1, which itself is one of the most beautifully scenic and stunning drives in all the world. With unobstructed views and towering nearly a third-of-a-mile above the Pacific Ocean, Hearst Castle is certainly a magnificent jewel and inspiring creation by a visionary: William Randolph Hearst.

Hearst was originally from San Francisco, and quite the successful newspaper mogul, who built the infamous sprawling countryside mansion nearly a century ago with the help of an incredible architect, Julia Morgan. The collaboration of these two creative minds and their relationship is a story itself and something we will probably write about later on these pages.

The ‘ranch’

Siting roughly halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, the nearly impossible construction of what was called La Cuesta Encantada (The Enchanted Hill), took an incredible amount of time, money and work. Engineering such a feat was an amazing accomplishment in and of itself, regardless of the fact that this out-of-the-way estate – or simply called the ‘ranch’ – is an exploit of unmatched beauty, elegance and charm.

The inside pool offers typical elegance and beauty of Hearst Castle

The showpiece is full of art and antiquities from all over the world, making this also an unbelievable museum. There are unique and dazzling pools to incredible artistic ceilings, both custom designed and brought in-tact from Europe. Rare works of ancient art are everywhere, which brings more history to an already historical landmark. Awe-inspiring vistas offered from many different views, make this special estate one for the ages.

Personal experience

I was recently able to see this must see jewel of the California Central Coast. I came away inspired by the breathtaking views, but maybe more so, by the creation of Hearst Castle and sheer determination it took to put logistics, manpower and a vision altogether and make it work. The tour starts at the bottom of the hill on a bus and winds up for several miles while the castle appears and disappears during the journey. Everyone’s taken for some kind of tour through the Hearst Castle area, which usually last 45 minutes, then you’re on your own until you want to leave on the many buses passing up and down the hill. Of note: I was interested to find out that the usual wealthy norms of the day weren’t practiced at Hearst Castle because of the more laid-back California mores, plus equality was relatively even-handed.

The Hearst Castle towers over the California Central Coast.

William Randolph Hearst never wanted the quarter-of-a-million acre ranch for himself and always shared the glamorous mansion with a constant flux of many guest, most of whom were famous in their own right. His goal was to have the property passed on to the state for others to to enjoy and that’s exactly what happened as a state park. Therefore, anyone who visits Paso Robles wine country, should take the time to drive out to the crown jewel of the California Central Coast and see this unforgettable man-made wonder.

Additional source: Hearst Castle: The Biography of a Country House

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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Renovated Used Wine Barrel

Get these already popular barrels now! 

Classic Cars Invade Central Coast – Labor Day Weekend

September 4th and 5th, check out the Paso Robles Classic Car Weekend.
There will be cruising Downtown on Friday night from 6 to 8 pm. Then Saturday, the City Park in Downtown Paso will have a cornucopia of vintage vehicles on display. Classic cars including Hot Rods will fill the park for delightful time from 9 am to 4 pm. The event is put on by the City of Paso Robles and the Golden State Classics Car Club. Net proceeds will go to local charities.

Go to the link below for more.

Source: Classic Cars Invade Central Coast – Labor Day Weekend