Tag Archives: Bordeaux

Bernie The Barrel – Part 1


As evidenced by our adage at Paso Wine Barrels of ‘all barrels, all the time’ along with maybe too many ideas in our heads, this fictional yarn is about French barrels that make their way to the Americas. This may eventually be a book, but we wanted to offer our fans and readers a first look – chapter-by-chapter.

Bernard, or Bernie as he becomes, has a long journey ahead of him with ordeals underlying the predicament with wine barrels – they are attractive to start and help make great wines, but then after their use, most anything can and does happen to these once beautiful crafted oak barrels. We chronicle the life of this majestic and beautiful French oak wine barrel along with the trials and tribulations over many years. Also, this tale will take into account his other wine barrel friends and a near death experience with a dramatic rescue that could save his life.

Ron Hier wrote the main story with Daryle Hier helping and adding to the tale. Daryle and Jo Hier are the editors. Follow along and hopefully you’ll have fun and learn a little something about the world of wine barrels … from the barrel’s perspective. 

In The Beginning

South of Paris, among the principal stands of oaks in the middle of France and the French forests, are some of the best white oak trees in all of Europe, if not the world. To the west near the Atlantic Ocean on the Garonne River is Bordeaux, one of the larger cities in France but more importantly one of the great wine regions of the world.Bordeaux_France

It is here that Bernard the wine barrel was born in a cooperage (barrel manufacturing plant). At that same time, three other barrels: Henri, Francois and Mael were also born. Bernard’s first words to his friends was “Bonjour mes amis, je suis Bernard le tonneau de vin” or “Hello my friends, I am Bernard the wine barrel.”

After he was made, upon examination Cooper (the fellow that was in charge of building Bernard) declared him another handsome French made oak wine barrel, with all of his parts in good shape. His staves were beautiful, his head, chime and croze (very end of the staves), all in good order, with his steel hoops fine and his stave joints perfect.

Shortly after final inspection, Cooper built a fire inside of him (don’t worry it’s okay, this happens with most new barrels and it doesn’t hurt), it’s called “toasting” and according to Cooper it made Bernard a better barrel capable of producing beautiful wine. Said Bernard after the extraordinary process, “Look at me, here I am a brand new barrel and I’m already toasted.”

He was indeed a new and beautiful barrel but as it was for all other wine barrels, they don’t stay in the cooperage very long and Cooper was getting ready to send them away soon. Bernard said the four friends should call themselves the Four Musketeers – “One for all, all for one” he encouraged, along with “En avant”, meaning onward.

These French oak barrels were very fine and tighter than other white oaks, giving the qualities that ensure flavors to a wine that are more subtle, yet silkier than other countries and regions. The Musketeers were all synonymous in their quality, great-looks and noble pride as French oak barrels and that wherever they were going, they would try to stay together and always keep themselves presentable and make France proud – but this would be easier said than done.

Excited about the idea of being part of another great Bordeaux wine,Barrels_onracks France would not be these particular barrel’s final destination. Bernard was stacked in a warehouse on end with a bunch of other barrels and after looking around, much to his surprise, his friends, Henri, Francois and Mael were not there. He knew then that the Four Musketeers were separated and had not even had a chance to become close friends.  What now?

Great wines are made in oak barrels and great wine is likely in the four Musketeers future. Still, Bernard and friends would discover soon enough that they were in for quite a world-wind ride, creating fine wines as some of the best oak barrels on Earth. But what awaits in a new world?


Ron and Daryle W. Hier






The World … And Paso’s King: Cabernet Sauvignon

‘Cab is king.’ That is not an uncommon sentiment and many in the world of wines wouldn’t disagree.

Let’s get this out of the way first. I’m not an expert on wine. I have many friends in the abernet_sauvignon-wordpressbusiness who are very knowledgeable in wines and although I’ve been involved with every aspect of grape growing, winemaking and even bottling, I’m simply a novice learning the ropes. Ask me about football, motorsports and of course oak wine barrels and you’ll get a much more informed opinion.

One of the most popular grapes in the world including Paso Robles, Cabernet Sauvignon or cab for short, is a rich, persuasive, hearty and commanding wine that has stood the test of time. Again, I’m no expert but good cabs age well in the bottle and unlike say a zinfandel, which is my favorite varietal, they can get even better as the years roll on.


The French, and especially the Bordeaux region, consider the grape their domain and though I’ve had very few cabs from France, they are without question the epitome of quality when considering the best wines can be. However, California has a meritage – which my expert friends say is similar word for heritage – the grapes are strictly Californian and follow the French model of consistencies. Do I know what that means? Not exactly, but you get my drift. By the way, California only has one heritage grape and that is Zinfandel. I just threw that in to confuse so I’m not the only one … confused, that is.

Great wines from the Bordeaux region in France have created legendary vintages.

Great wines from the Bordeaux region in France have created legendary vintages.

France produces the most cab with Chile and the United States battling for the second spot. The grape can be grown in many types of regions (even deserts) and therefore has a wide and varied flavor. With a relatively dark brooding cast, experts will often say it has a black cherry and spicy plus peppery taste.

You can pair it with steak or cheeseburger – hey, I told you I’m a novice who is a home brewer. Still, I’ve had a few burgers and brews in my life, which IS something I know. Along with barbecued beef, pizza can go very well with cab as well.

People who are novices like myself, might ask if Merlot and cab come from the same background. Both varietals originally come from the Bordeaux region of France, but I do know enough to say they aren’t the same grape, yet you might find that lighter cabs have some similarities to Merlot. Personally I like big reds so cabs and high octane Zinfandels are great and pair wonderfully with meaty dinners.

A ‘did you know’ about cab is that although it was considered its own grape for centuries, it was recently discovered that it actually is a hybrid of Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc, created some four centuries ago. Here’s another interesting story I just saw that most folks won’t know. Former NFL star quarterback for the New England Patriots, Drew Bledsoe, under his companies name Doubleback, has a Top 100 cab (source – Fox News) grown in Walla Walla, Washington.  Ah, wine and football in the same sentence – you won’t find that too many times.



Paso Robles was a hidden treasure but growing worldwide notoriety have brought the region and its wines to the forefront.

Gary Eberle helped focus attention on the cabs of Paso and they are the most widely planted grape in the Paso Robles AVA – the world’s number one wine region. Only Napa Valley bests Paso Robles as the biggest producers by region. Cab’s love the Paso diurnal, which is one of the most diverse in the world and coupled with a unique terroir, produced some great wines. Because of the relatively lack of rain Paso receives, unlike Napa or Sonoma, cabs can be controlled better on the Central Coast, creating world renown vintages. Variable and distinctive micro-climates offer contrasting flavors, giving vintners original and unique cabs.

Typical of the area, the Paso appellation has been creating better and better wines with cab leading the way. The innovative talent, terroir and weather have helped craft enormously powerful cabs with a heartiness that rivals any other wines of the world including Bordeaux and Napa Valley.

Barbequed ribs go great with Cab.

Barbequed ribs go great with Cab.

Paso Robles’ Cabernet Sauvignon have been widely known as maybe the best value wines in the world. However, with the advent of Paso’s worldwide notoriety, the rich and ripe big red cabs here on the Central Coast might find themselves as some of the premier wines in the world, period.

Now I need to grab a delicious local cab, get out the barbeque and cook up some ribs.  Or better yet, burgers … make those Kobe burgers.


Daryle W. Hier