Tag Archives: California Central Coast

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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California Wine Month

Everything and everybody has a month nowadays but certainly wine should have at least one month in California considering the growth of the industry here in the Golden State. September has been Wine Month in California for 10 years now and here are some reasons to celebrate aged and fermented grape juice.

Harvest

Indeed this time of year is the most active along with being the most important season when it comes to wineries. This is harvest season and vineyard and facilities don’t have a busier time than the picking, destemming, crushing, pressing, fermentation and finally storage period of the year. This is immediately followed by harvest festivals and dinners.

It’s a great time of year for customers or fans of wines to meet the winemakers while having a little fun either helping with harvest and wine processes or enjoying the beautiful view of a vineyard with vines full and lush. The saying goes: ‘Come for the view, Stay for the wine‘. Often wineries will have special events including concerts and of course, who can go to wine country without wine tasting.

Commemorating the states huge investment in the wine industry with its own month is the perfect example of just how important vinification is in California. Producing upwards of 90% of the United States wine production is impressive in itself.

As a major food supplier to the U.S., California also is one of the food destination regions in all the world. A signature example of that is the just concluded Savor The Central Coast in Santa Margarita. The event celebrates food and wine merging two activities that are a huge draw to the area.

Paso Robles, on the California Central Coast, was named the world’s number one wine region. Like the Savor event with food, entertainment is becoming more and more the norm in wine country. For instance Crosby Stills and Nash are performing September 30th at the Vina Robles Amphitheater. The spectacular center is in its second season.

Number 1

As the number one agriculture in the state, viticulture brings in over $50 billion a year from nearly half a million acres. $3 billion in taxes are generated and the wine business has created well over 300,000 full-time California jobs (source: PRWCA).

From the North Coast highlighting Napa and Sonoma, out to the Sierras, down through the Central Valley and across to the Central Coast and beyond, the array and variety of grapes and wines from California is unmatched in the world.

If you missed it, you don’t have to only come here in September and in fact, once Harvest is done, as briefly mentioned before, festival and dinners, mostly in October, adorn hillsides after valleys after hillsides throughout the state. And the change of colors starts to appear in fall giving the countryside, in almost any wine region in the state, a golden glow, showing once again why California is such a special place … and surely offers another reason to call it the Golden State.

Cheers,

Daryle W. 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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All About Lavender

What is the fascination with lavender and why do we celebrate it? The purple colored ornamental flower has been used as a herb, for ages. How far back? To the beginning of time? Here’s a quick rundown on the amazing and ageless plant.

Lavender field

Lavender fields are a common sight in places like the California Central Coast

Lavender, which technically is called Lavandula, is a part of the mint family. Personally, I know of these plants having grown mint as a guard of the vegetable garden since it discourages pest – they are invasive though. The lavender isn’t as invasive and brings in beneficial insects while turning away unwanted pests. In fact, grow them around fruit trees, because they attract good bugs and deter the bad ones.  The plants are usually perennial, so you plant and leave them – although they do need trimmed in late winter or early spring. Once established, they grow for years with little care.

Origins

The name comes from the Latin word lavare which means ‘to wash’. The plant supposedly originated in the Middle East around the Mediterranean region, which may be why it does so well here in California. The plants can take harsh dry heat in the summer, yet withstand frost in the winter. Lavender is sometimes considered a drought tolerant plant and you can find it growing in the wild on the Central Coast of California.

As most of us know, the lavender fragrance is one of its biggest attractions. However, most importantly, the oils from this potent herb have been utilized since the beginning of time and later found their way into the Bible when Mary Magdalene cleaned Jesus’ feet. The medicinal uses of lavender’s antimicrobial essential oils are legendary. In China, it is utilized for almost anything to do with medical use due to its anti-inflammatory properties.

Lavender flower

Healing properties

The popularity of its essence is used for soothing herbal baths and the aroma has been said to be an aphrodisiac. Another use of lavender is as an insecticidal along with deodorant and disinfectant – potpourri has plenty of lavender in them. Part of the liquid generated from the plant is about one third of a type of alcohol that is non-toxic to humans, yet an antiseptic, but repels bugs such as mosquitoes and lice.

Still, its properties allow chefs around the world to flavor their dishes with both a great flavor and scent. Now, folks add lavender to enhance vinegars, honey and a host of other foods and fares. Far-reaching eats and drinks can be found with lavender including cookies and margaritas.

There are countless uses for lavender. And to help feature the soothing miracle herb, there are lavender events all-around the United States and many of them are here in California. They often will have exhibits featuring how the plants are cultivated and dried, along with how the oils are extracted.

Come see the magical herb

One of the fastest growing purple-shaded events is the Lavender Festival presented by the Paso Robles Main Street Association and the Central Coast Lavender Association. The annual celebration is located at the City Park in Downtown Paso Robles. This year you can enjoy the festivities on the second Saturday of July between 10:00 am and 5:00 pm.

Lavender Festival

Central Coast Lavender Festival

There are a plethora of lavender products and along with them, the associated arts and craft products you see at any Central Coast fair, including wine barrels and half wine barrels. Come on out and have fun finding out the wonders of lavender. As always, Downtown Paso is filled with gourmet restaurants and of course dozens and dozens of tasting rooms.

Additional sources: The Lavender Lover’s Handbook, About.com

Au revoir,

Daryle W. Hier

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Is There A Water Shortage In Paso Robles?

This is just food for thought and by no means am I an expert on the water situation here on the California Central Coast … just someone who makes extremely unique wine barrels but now finds himself as a concerned citizen who would like to see all the information laid out on the table.

As almost any Californian can tell you, we are in a severe drought.  In a two-year period in Paso Robles, we’ve had about five inches of rain and over the last year, it’s less than two inches.  Heck, the way the news Drought-soiltalks about it nationally, I’d be surprised if not most of the country and even the world knows we have had a lack of rain in the Golden State for the past couple of years.

This is of a major concern for the folks in the North County area of San Luis Obispo County, sometimes generalized as Paso Robles.  Recently named the world’s ‘Wine Region of the Year‘, Paso Robles – or Paso for short – vineyards have become serious business here in wine country.  However, like any other farmed product, grapevines need water.

Unilateral emergency dictates

With a sudden sense of urgency, near the end of last summer, the San Luis Obispo County Supervisors voted autonomously for what was essentially a two-year emergency moratorium on new vines being planted, which some feel was warranted.  Technically, a grape-grower can plant new vines but there’s a ’1-to-1′ ruling that states a new vine can only be planted for every one that is taken out of the ground.

Now there’s good news in that the value of property will go up because if anyone wants to expand, they will have to buy someone else out.  I’m sure those who are in the real estate business are happy as well as those land owners who want out.  Still, it affects the industry negatively due to the fact nobody can expand, in-turn stifling business in what was the ever-growing Paso viticultural business.

Extra water?

All of this created by the lack of water – or at least the supposed lack of water.  See, the Paso Robles water basin is the largest natural underground aquifer west of the Rockies.  Yes, we are in a drought and we just came out of another drought just a handful of years ago.  The underground reserves are down which might be of some concern.  However, why is the county trying to set up a water district with an idea being that they would be a water bank for outside water agencies?

PRGroundWaterBasin

The Paso Robles Ground Water basin running essentially with the Salinas River is the largest underground aquifer in the West.

As a citizen who figures that sooner or later the city and county will be restricting our water usage to conserve water so that we don’t run out, will we be selling that same water to other districts desperate for water?  There is seemingly a detachment from logic that says if indeed San Luis Obispo County is in need of restricting citizens water usage so that we don’t run out, that we can’t turn around and sell what extra water we do have to some other place in the state.  Unless of course, Paso has more water than the political lords are willing to let on.

Again, I’m ready for conservation modes and in fact we already have certain restrictions on water use in the city of Paso Robles that says we can only water three times a week and other relatively common sense approaches to water usage like not letting a hose run without a shutoff nozzle.

The title question of the story: Is there a water shortage in Paso Robles? – Isn’t being directly answered.

Trampled rights?

Already the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors is undermining land rights by infringing on a property owners’ rights to his or her own water.  Further, the city of Paso Robles has stopped any new drilling for water within city limits, even though the land owners have a right to the water below them.  Some have fought back and you can go here for more on that (or an additional source: Cal Coast News).

Water gushing How this turns out, I don’t particularly know but at the very least, more information should be made public – yet that doesn’t appear to be the case.  Something else to consider is who’s to profit from selling our underground water if indeed it is sold to outsiders?  Are some of the power brokers in the county vying for a huge payoff at the expense of local citizens?  There are extremely desperate communities in need of water during this drought (see San Jose Mercury News) and they might go to any length to get it.

This doesn’t feel right.  In a day and age when there’s little or no transparency within federal, state and now local governments, just exactly what is our water situation?  I would hope more citizens start clamoring for additional information on just what is happening behind closed doors along with what subversive politicking might be going on.  Even then, we may not be getting the truth … but the truth is what we need to pursue.  Is there a water shortage in Paso Robles?

What do you think?

Cheers,

Daryle Hier

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Paso Robles Water Problem … continued

This might be the Wine Region of the World, but even in a paradise like the Central Coast of California, there are tribulations that can threaten the livelihoods of its citizens.

It appears the water problems with Paso Robles are set to be managed.  According to the Paso Robles Agricultural Alliance for Groundwater Solutions (PRAAGS), they’ve proposed a special water district be formed to manage the ground water basin.  Elections would be required.  Go here for more on the latest from PRAAGS.DaouVineyard.adj

As was mentioned in the last post on this subject, a combination of a semi-arid region, drought, an escalation in the population along with huge growth in farming (wineries), has left the ground water levels dangerously low.  However, politics has tried to rear its ugly head and create a situation that could turn into a quagmire.  The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors instituted a temporary ordinance (initially 45 days, but now two years) that required any pumping of groundwater for new crops had to be offset by an equal amount of watering of other crops turned off – a ruling called the 1-1 ratio.

Now is seems all sides are willing to come to the table to stabilize the water problems, but the sticking point may be simply: Who will be in charge?

Political body VS courts

That’s what Cindy Steinbeck of Protect Our Water Rights (POWR) has presented. Steinbeck representing a group of local farmers, sued the county to retain their water rights under California law – it’s more complicated than that – so that there can be an equitable and fair agreement for all concerned.  In its simplest form, POWR wants the courts to decide how the administrating of this new water district works rather than a political agency.  Go here for her latest on the management of a new district.

What does all this mean?  As I’ve said many times, I’m not someone who can come up with the proper answers, but I do know that using our water issues as a political football is wrong.

I would suggest other regions with similar situations arising due to their growth in the wine business, be aware and attentive of this kind of problem – especially in California or other areas with a semi-arid climate and limited water.

Agreements can be made by all sides but making politics out of this issue needs to be kept at bay … I hope.

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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Paso Robles Water Problem

First, I have to say that this problem has bubbled or maybe more appropriately gushed to the surface and if you live here in this great paradise now known as the world’s top Wine Region of the Year, you’ve probably heard more about than you care to admit.  So have I.waterdrop

Still, there it sits staring you right in the face.  Paso Robles and the entire North County of San Luis Obispo have water issues that we can’t ignore.  However, the problem is what to do?

Being honest, I have to admit, I’m not the guy who will come up with an answer here.  What my concern is, the politics of this problem appear to be outweighing actual functional debate as to what we can do about the lack of water.  Outside influences such as national news organizations either have no clue to what is going on or slant their views politically to aid a certain bias.  Even local news outlets can’t always be trusted as they too have a political bent to their coverage of the problems.  You will hear there is dialogue but then new groups are created because they didn’t have a voice.  So just how much dialogue is there?

Desert

If you’re not from California, you must understand that a large part of this state is desert or desert-like (semi-arid).  I’m originally from Southern California so I know that the Greater Los Angeles Area is a mostly semi-arid region that acquires most of their water from the Owens Valley east of the Sierra Nevada and also the Colorado River.  In a much smaller sense, the situation is similar for Paso Robles and sources of water come from different areas.

Paso Robles sits on the backside of the California Coastal Range and by the time the storms work their way across these mountains, they’re wrung out and we end up receiving less rain than you would expect given our location just 20 miles from the Pacific Ocean.  This past year, we received four inches of rain – that’s right, just four inches.  The drought has hurt our ground water levels and ratcheted up the pressure to do something now before later.

Up until the last 40 years or so, drought wasn’t as big a problem as folks relied on ground water from wells to supply the needs of citizens whether in town or rural.  However, the city has grown exponentially since the ‘70s while the farming or more accurately winemaking has exploded.  That growth needs water but we are sorely lacking in its supply.  It should be noted that grapes take less water than other traditional crops – for whatever that’s worth.  And still, the ground water levels are dangerously low.

http://www.steinbeckwines.com/

Large farms like Steinbeck Vineyards & Winery, which have their own water, produce needed jobs and income for the region.

The county placed restrictions on water usage but farmers who supply their own water needs with wells are fighting for control of their water.  Yesterday, lawsuits were filed against San Luis Obispo County for that exact claim.  Many entities battling for restrictions were surprised by the lawsuits – so the question there is: Were they engaging in dialogue or weren’t they?

Fighting back

Said Cindy Steinbeck, who was among the plaintiffs of the lawsuits, and is part of Steinbeck Wines a seventh generation vineyard,

“I’m convinced that fighting for my rights is the right thing to do, and I believe that as our seven-generation family stands up for our rights we are fighting for all other landowners in the Paso Robles groundwater basin as well.”

Earth has shown over and over that it can fix itself when no one thinks it can.  However, we must be stewards and not wasteful, drought or no drought.  Supply and demand should be part of the regulator for what happens going forward.  If water is too expensive, people will do with less or pay a premium for it.

Farms in this region like Steinbeck Wines have somewhat insulated and steadied this town from the vagaries of a Great Recession.  Whether we like it or not, this is a company town in that how goes the wine industry, so goes our local economy.

Careful what you wish for - or as another saying goes:  You reap what you sow.

Careful what you wish for – or as another saying goes: You reap what you sow.

Yes, Paso Robles has a water problem, nevertheless are rash rulings the answer?  Again, I don’t have those answers but until a fair and equitable agreement can be reached by all parties, we endanger the reasons we all live in this little paradise on the Central Coast of California.  What’s fair?  That may be the $64 million question but regardless, we must be cognizant of and balance everyone’s needs.

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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