Tag Archives: Paso Robles California

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

http://pasowinebarrels.com/

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Current History of Paso Robles

Part 3 of 3

In our two earlier stories (see related articles below), we talked about the beginnings of Paso Robles with its connection to the mission and then how the town morphed from the Wild West into a growing viticultural area by the 1970s.

Paso Robles’ roots were still in ranching, but the land was found to be worth more growing grapes than growing grass for cattle and horses.  The soil was learned to be extraordinary and the vast diurnal between day and night time temperatures made the grapes exceptional.  Thus, the current boom blossomed.

Soil & climate made for a boom

Ranches and orchards once dotted the landscape as much as vineyards do now.

Ranches and orchards once dotted the landscape as much as vineyards do now.

I recall visiting Paso Robles in the ‘80s many times and although it was becoming obvious that big wineries were moving in, there was still vast lands that hadn’t seen grapes – or at least not yet.  That would continue to change as the town once more became a destination for visitors, whether it was for a day or a week.  The population of the town was still only 9,000 30 years ago, yet a decade later had more than doubled in size to 19,000.

About 20 years ago, the wine businesses got together and formed the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance (PRWCA) to help market the wine commerce under one umbrella and put the word out that Paso Robles was an authentic producer of different kinds of high quality wines.

Not to be outdone by the wineries, California Central Coast olive orchards have continued to expand their breadth and now have a widely popular Olive Festival every August.

Earthquake slowed but didn’t stop growth

The San Simeon earthquake of 2003 destroyed much of the old downtown buildings.

The San Simeon earthquake of 2003 destroyed much of the old downtown buildings.

The little city took a setback and no one who lives here will forget the San Simeon earthquake (just west of Paso) that had its tenth anniversary just before Christmas of 2014.  The 6.5 temblor damaged much of downtown and lives were lost with century old buildings demolished in the process.  Interestingly enough, the hot sulfur springs that had dried up many years prior, reemerged after the earthquake creating a sinkhole that only just recently was finally covered.

It should be noted in one year, from 1999 to 2000, the city had ballooned from roughly 21,000 to 25,000.  Except for a lull in ’09 during the height of the Great Recession, Paso has grown steadily passing the 30,000 mark in 2012.

#1

The area continues to be the fastest growing wine region in California and the Paso Robles AVA (American Viticultural Area) was recently named the world’s top Wine Region of the Year.  It’s estimated that there are 32,000 acres of vines growing in the Paso AVA with roughly 300 wineries.  It should also be noted that due in part to drought coupled with the increases in vineyards, water has become an issue in the area.

Paso Robles AVA

Paso Robles has quite a history and the town has changed a lot, yet kept its small town charm.  If you like the California Central Coast and love wine, scenic drives or just a quiet serene place to relax, the city that was originally established in 1889, has everything you need.  Or as they say: ‘Come for the wine, stay for the view’.

Sources: City of Paso Robles, The California Directory of Fine Wineries: Central Coast: Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles, PRWCA, Paso Robles (Images of America)

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

http://pasowinebarrels.com/

The Earliest Years Of Paso Robles’ History

Part 1 of 3

Paso Robles, California, is growing in popularity, especially in regards to the wine industry and in fact was just named the top wine region of the world (see related articles below).  Wine has been a part of the history of El Paso de Robles, but the early beginnings of the town had as much or more to do with ranching, farming, orchards and hot springs.

File:MissionSanMiguelFrontOuterWalls.jpg

Mission San Miguel Arcangel

Centered roughly halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, the town is only a handful of miles from San Miguel, home to Mission San Miguel, which is part of the California Spanish mission trail.  It appears the mission and the area of Paso Robles were created about the same time.  The name of the town comes from Spanish meaning ‘The Pass of the Oaks’ and is situated about 20 miles from the Pacific Ocean in northern San Luis Obispo County at the very southern edge of the Salinas Valley.  The Salinas River runs right through the middle of ‘Paso’, which it what locals call the town.

Wine & Inn

The San Miguel Mission Franciscans planted vines from the outset for sacramental reasons but eventually used some of the production for export.  Paso was little more than a watering hole on the way to or from – along the 600-mile El Camino Real – but it was a watering hole in more ways than one, as the town sat over hot springs.  Bathhouses were created (first by the Franciscan priests) and became somewhat popular throughout the 19th and early 20th Century.  The first El Paso de Robles Hotel (later reincarnated as the Paso Robles Inn) was built in the 1860s.  It should be noted that the Salinan Indians were the first to discover the hot springs and informed the padres about its healing affects.

Current train depot in Paso Robles, California.

As part of a 26,000 acre Spanish land grant, the region was mostly ranchland in the 1800s.  The first post office was established in 1867 and later the town was incorporated in 1889.  James Blackburn and Drury James were the founders of the town, starting a health resort due to the hot springs (sulfur spring baths).  The first trains starting coming through the area in 1886 with the town becoming a stopover for the rich and famous.

The 19th Century was a prepubescent time for Paso Robles during the Wild West and more would be in-store as these earliest of years for Paso would actually offer a glimpse into what the town would become.

Watch for more here very soon, as the story continues …

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier 

http://pasowinebarrels.com/

Zinfandel

Zinfandel grapes are one of the most common grapes in the North County area of Paso Robles.

Zinfandel grapes 9-24-2013

In the coming weeks, we will be commenting on this particular varietal because we will be helping do a crush of several tons of the beautiful grapes.  It loves our weather and arguably is one of the more beautiful berries.  

Oh, and we love it too.

In Vino Veritas

Daryle   

PasoWineBarrels.com