Tag Archives: wine barrel

Smaller 2014 Harvest? More Barrels Available?

The 2012 and 2013 grape crop production was huge and this year, many thought 2014 would bring yet an unusual third straight big vineyard haul. This is still possible but several factors that have changed the harvest process this year may reduce the tonnage for producing wine. And that may increase the likelihood of more used barrels becoming available.

California wine grapes on the vine

Wishful thinking on our part? Yes, I’m hoping for this potential bonanza of unneeded barrels, but it appears those hopes have some facts to back them up.

Leading up to 

To back up a moment, the season began with ideas of yet another larger than normal crop year. The combination of some spring rains just at the right time after another relatively dry winter, gave an early indication that production could be big again. After an earlier than normal bud break, early veraison happened in July and although that didn’t necessarily mean more and/or bigger grapes, it did offer an earlier timetable that for one, would mean earlier harvest and less chance of freezes or early Autumn rains that might create mildew.

Winemakers told us at Paso Wine Barrels that they were holding on to their neutral and used barrels in case a third-in-a-row big harvest occurred. With an earlier than normal picking period, wineries were busily processing their grapes – so we waited.

Raisin crop drying

At that same time, in the Central Valley, the raisin crop was off the vine. However, a smaller than expected yield – attributed mostly to drought and government induced water shortages – gave pause to the rest of the industry. It should be noted that farmers have been hit hard by the state and federal water regulations that have forced vintners in particular to use less water or just plain not grow some of their crops. Catch more of this insidious man-made disaster here.

Some farmers had a compressed harvest but one good spell of cooler than normal weather in August slowed harvest down for others, giving several winemakers a little break while allowing the grapes to mature, improving the quality. The little bit of rain that vineyards in the northern part of California received in mid-September was nowhere near enough or even on time to help improve growing conditions.

More barrels?

Filling wine barrel

How many barrels will be needed this harvest?

Now it appears that a lighter than normal crop set up, but with good quality grapes. Smaller berries are being reported and from a personal standpoint, I too have seen grapes from different vineyards and they appear smaller than normal. This decrease in grape crop tonnage from the past two years seems to becoming more obvious, which leads us to, well, us.

Barrels have been much harder to come by with vintners essentially hoarding them until harvest came through. I haven’t seen an abundance yet of request from winemakers to come pick up their barrels, but from all the current signs, it points to the possibility that more of the wonderful wooden casks that make our business possible, could be available soon.

I’ll let folks know as time goes on, but if we are right and a cornucopia of barrels flows our way, this will be good news for everyone who follows our little family-run company.

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

.

WineBarrelBizCard-background

http://pasowinebarrels.com/

 

Advertisements

Wine Barrel Beer

I’ve been a homebrewer for almost two decades and although I’m essentially a simple brewer by trade, many in the craft are more than a bit adventurous. That could be true with the microbrew world as well.

Wine Barrel Beer

Like the wine garagiste brethren, with that daring and bold streak, some homebrewers are actually going back to beginning – they’re brewing in barrels … mostly wine barrels to be specific. And to that point, more than a few folks have ventured my way, asking for wine barrels that they can use for aging.

Unique flavors

Looking for unique and distinctive flavors, these risktakers – meaning craft brewers – purposefully want to impart that tinge of wine aroma and flavor along with whatever the oak can still give off after several years as a wine producer. The part that is tricky for Paso Wine Barrels is we are receiving barrels that most wineries don’t want, and sometimes there’s reasons for why they don’t want these particular barrels.

Vintners typically hold on to wine barrels for roughly six years. This isn’t set in stone as some winemakers use barrels for only two or three years while other use them as long as they don’t leak or no longer offer any oak value.

Leakers

So you can see the situation arise where someone asks us if the barrels are still good – we don’t really know. What we do know though is whether they leak or not. No matter where you go to purchase your used barrel, just be aware that leaks are possible. Often I will go through a new batch of used barrels and sift out some that are obviously no good for holding water because maybe I can literally see through the seems in between the staves. Also, a decent leak can appear as major stains and let anyone who is looking know it likely won’t hold wine … or beer.

By the way, these circumstances offer one of the many reasons why barrels are getting harder to find. Combined with whiskey distillers, these groups are making wine barrels harder and harder to come by. Just a few short years ago, wineries were giving away their barrels, or selling them for a very nominal fee. That’s no longer the case as just about no one gives them away and some hold out for steeper and steeper prices.

Regardless, with wine barrels becoming popular with brewers, there appears to be many nuances that should give these whimsical crafters an abundance of capricious if somewhat volatile and fickle creations. Which means if you are a fan of home or craft brews, expect some wild variances and interesting flavors, to say the least. At 59 gallons a crack, homebrewers will be taking big chances – but than again, that’s part of what is so fun with garagiste and homebrewers as they experiment, while the rest of us might taste that rare flavor … and smile with amazement.

Here’s to homebrewers and down the hatch,

Daryle W. Hier

.

WineBarrelBizCard-background

http://pasowinebarrels.com/

 

 

Napa Earthquake And Wine Barrels

*Update at bottom

I’ve received some inquires regarding the Napa Earthquake and whether it was affecting us here at Paso Wine Barrels. The short answer is no.

Napa Earthquake wine barrels

The fallout from the damage which is over a billion dollars so far – mainly concentrated in the south end of Napa County – is still not known, but so far, the Central Coast of California has not been largely affected by the seismic activity north of the Bay Area.

With the damage to so many wine barrels, it has been wondered if there might be a shortage. However, many of the wineries had just recently done bottling to get ready for 2014’s vintage, so they had emptied the wine and most of those empty barrels, don’t appear to be damaged.

Again, reports are all still preliminary and much of what has been reported, doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of what real harm has been done both physically as well as monetarily.

Damage was very localized 

Also, those in other parts of the country or overseas speculated as to how the big tremor affected all our wine regions. To be clear, there was significant damage near or at where the epicenter (was not far from the Napa County Airport), but it shook only in the immediate area and was not widely felt. Being just north of San Pablo Bay, except for Vallejo, Sonoma and obviously Napa, not much in the way of damage was incurred. The Central Coast didn’t feel even the slightest whiff of a quake.

Napa Valley Grape - Ready For Harvest

Although harvest started early this season, percentage-wise, much of the berries have not been picked yet and that is some consolation for those in Napa. Luckily, a cooler than normal summer helped slow ripening … or we may have had a different story.

We will keep monitoring barrel needs, but it seems for now, there doesn’t appear to be much or any problem. Paso Wine Barrels will keep barreling away. 🙂

*UPDATE: As some had thought, once the devastation could be viewed more clearly, damage is not as bad as it originally was reported. Obviously there’s destruction, but as this story offers, things aren’t as bad as news services first noted.

Cheers,

Daryle Hier

.

WineBarrelBizCard-background

http://pasowinebarrels.com/

 

 

What To Do With Half Wine Barrels

“I give you one health in the juice of the vine, The blood of the vineyard shall mingle with mine; Thus let us drain the last few drops of gold, And empty our hearts of the blessings they hold.”

– Oliver Wendell Holmes

Used Half Wine Barrel

And what a wine barrel holds is up to your imagination.

The popularity of Paso Robles, which is now known as the number one wine region in world, has brought about empty wine barrels that need repurposed. Obviously, with a lot of barrels including half barrels rolling out of Paso Wine Barrels, there are folks who know what they want. However, for those that may need an idea or bit of information on how to use the half barrels, here’s a few thoughts on what you can do with a half barrel. Okay, maybe more than a few thoughts.

Sometimes known as a planter barrel, actually half barrels are occasionally used as tables or table ends. Whether you have a Decorative-type planter barrel or a more eclectic old used half barrel, that have a more rugged yet whimsical appearance, these half barrels have found their way into homes, offices, warehouses, commercial and industrial buildings as well as yards, atriums, courtyards, entry ways or any of assorted locations.

Half barrel - outside table

By the way, it’s not uncommon to use plastic or composite style barrels instead of the more authentic looking wine barrel – and we understand if you’re trying to save a little money. However, we’re talking about original former wine barrels that have produced some of the greatest wines in the world right here on the California Central Coast.

The more common use of a half barrel, regardless of its conditions, is as a planter.

Planter

Whether you’re a wine lover or not, wine barrels offer the big advantage over planting in mother Earth, with the adaptability of moving them; bringing them above ground and to the fore; and, maybe the biggest advantage, keeping your flowers, plants, herbs, vegetables or fruits away from pest.

Maybe the easiest things to grow and promote a plant above ground in a used half barrel is shrubs. Still, regardless of what you plant, these steps can apply.

Please note, as with anything you plant in a barrel, unless it will be indoors, we suggest the barrel have a handful of small holes drilled in the bottom of a half barrel. Also, you need to place a layer of ground cover fabric at the bottom of the barrel to prevent pests and weeds working their way up from below, plus it will keep roots from growing through the holes. You can also add a short layer of small rocks or pebbles on top of the fabric – figure one to two inches deep.

Place the barrel where you want and fill it about half full of soil (a mix of compost, potting soil, dirt). Move some of your soil to the sides and put your shrub in the middle, using the soil pushed aside to fill in around the shrub or plant. The barrel should have at least four inches of space between the soil and the top of the half barrel. Be aware that you can add more plants and more soil but being able to move the barrel in the future becomes harder to handle.

Barrel with rocks

With your soil mix, never go higher than about one inch from the top of the barrel. Be sure to water right after planting, ensuring the ground settles properly in the barrel. Be sure to tamp down the loose dirt. A good gauge of how much water to use is watch when moisture comes out around the bottom of the planter barrel.

Flowers can be done the same way and again, you can add more than one but remember to leave plenty of space between the plants so they have room to grow. Herbs are the same way and depending on what kind of herb, some can really become large plants, although because the barrel places restrictions on growth, they won’t tend to grow quite as large as normal.

Be careful

A tale of caution. Some of the barrels being sold at the big box stores are more worn and less likely to last very long. If you can, you should sand them down and maybe put sealer on so that they will last a bit longer. Again, some stores have whiskey barrels which have been used so much that they come apart very easily. Regardless, sealer is a handy addition especially when it comes to keeping away mildew. A customer who is a master gardener, told me if you don’t want to use a sealer, spray the wood with cider vinegar. It will kill any fungus that may be left over from residue wine.

If you don’t want to go to the trouble of sealing your barrel, Paso Wine Barrels has completely prepared Decorative-style barrels – both half and full that are sanded, stained, sealed and then varnish to give a more finished look. That will allow the barrel to last as long as needed while still offering an quirky and capricious appearance.

Half planter barrel - Marilyn Monroe Rose

Another insiders note for those you don’t have proper equipment and tools – hardware stores often have a rental fee system, so you can work your barrel anyway you want including drilling holes, without ever having to purchase tools and accessories.

Some time in the fall, when most plants stop growing or die – unless you live in climes that aren’t severe – you can take your old plants out and replant with fall flowers and herbs. Also you can plant a small Christmas tree – that’s something I’ve done in the past.

Trees can be fun

Which leads me to trees. You have to somewhat careful what kind of tree you want, because the half barrel planter will restrict growth to any tree. Smaller trees or dwarf trees are more ideal but again, because the development of the trees roots will be bound up, a lot of trees you plant will in affect be smaller than normal as a dwarf tree is.

I have a grapefruit tree that is in its sixth year and it can produce a couple dozen fruit. Here’s another insight that may help you. I didn’t want to over water the grapefruit because of the condensed area, but a couple of years weren’t very prosperous because the fruit would fall off before it could develop. I watered much more and the tree flourished. The point of the story is, because the bottom has drainage, you really don’t have to worry about over watering.

If you want to bring the soil up near the top, then use some mulch, so the top of the soil doesn’t dry up. Check with garden clubs or find a nearby master gardener for more information regarding care and what plants work best locally.

Another idea is you can purchase a used full wine barrel and cut a hole in the top and place a tree in it. Unless you want to move it with forklift, don’t fill it more than halfway with soil. Even then, you will need a handcart to move the barrel and tree. Some folks like to shift around trees in their yards and this is a great way to do it. It also looks cool when you change up your yards look.

Full Barrel with black hoop bands

Notice the logs underneath the barrel. Keeping the barrels off the ground can add extra years of service.

Regardless if it’s a full or half barrel, you might find placing logs, bricks or another hard surface underneath, could prolong the barrels for many years.

Note: I’m not a master gardener – although my uncle was – just someone who has been involved with gardening for quite awhile. If you want more precise information regarding tips on what you need to know about gardening, there are books galore and of course, as I suggested earlier, contact your local garden club.

Let this whole barrel thing be fun

Whether you want the grace and elegance of a decorative planter barrel or the obtruse but unique and eclectic old used containers, all styles of oak barrels will offer beauty that can only be had by the pureness of a oak barrel that used to produce great wines.

Less expensive than terra cotta planters, wine barrels in half or full form, are a great way to set off your yard, home, business or any place for that matter. For visual ideas on what you can do with a used wine barrel, Pinterest has dozen and dozens of pictures > go here.

Enough information, now it’s time to go out there and take advantage of the unique and distinctive look of a wine barrel. However, if you have questions, please feel free to contact me here on the blog, email or the several dozen other electronic ways to get a hold of me.

Thank God there is still something simple and solid, yet pure and real like a wine barrel.

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

.

WineBarrelBizCard-background

http://pasowinebarrels.com/

 

Wine Barrel As Rain Barrel

Everyone wants to be green – whatever that truly means – and one of the many ways to be thrifty, conserve and smart is to use a barrel to capture rain. Here in California, water is somewhat of a hard commodity to acquire, so folks in these parts are looking at how to capture rainwater to use in gardens and keep their green areas, well, green.

Wine barrel as rain barrelTo that end, have you ever thought about using a wine barrel as a rain barrel?  The obvious advantages of rainwater include that’s it’s free, but also the fact is rainwater can actually help improve the health of your gardens, lawn and trees. Rainwater is naturally soft and devoid of minerals, chlorine and other chemicals found in water produced from treatment plants such as city water. And did you know that during a one-inch rain event, over half a gallon of water can fall on just one square foot of roof? Yes, you read that right, just one square foot!

So what are you waiting for? Wine barrels as rain barrels is not a novel idea as people have been doing this for centuries. However, now that water rates have skyrocketed along with the idea of using safer rainwater over that of city water – it has become more popular than ever. Plus, a wine barrel will hold 500 pounds of water – that’s a lot of natural pure rainwater. On a side note, keep in mind old oak wine barrels are being used for so many other reuses, that they are becoming harder and harder to find.

Q: When does it rain money? A: When there is “change” in the weather.

Capture Kits

As far as how you can capture rain and use it as water for your gardens et al, there are several kits out there that you can do on your own. These do-it-yourself kits range in price from $20 all the way to well over $100. It all depends on how sophisticated you want to get and whether you can afford to make sure it’s self contained. Note that all these kits require you to cut into your drainage down spouts.

Rain Reserve's Complete Rain Barrel Diverter Kit  - Oatey's Mystic Rainwater Collection System

Rain Reserve’s Complete Rain Barrel Diverter Kit (top) and Oatey’s Mystic Rainwater Collection System (bottom) offer two different approaches to rainwater collection.

The lowest priced kit I found is made by Oatey called the Mystic Rainwater Collection System and the unit simply hooks to your downspout and a diverter hose goes into your barrel. You will have to figure out how to drill a hole in the top of the barrel and seal it if possible. These units usually don’t go for more than $40.

A more middle of the road kit that I personally thought was about right is Rain Reserve’s Complete Rain Barrel Diverter Kit. It’s a closed system and has a trick reservoir that will send water back to the downspout when the barrel is about to overflow – that way water doesn’t spill willy-nilly all over the place. A bit pricey, running up to $100, yet evaluated with other similar units, nothing compares to the quality.

The other way to go is shine the wine barrel and buy a all-in-one plastic barrel with the kit to go with it. They can be found for as much as $300 but I found one on Amazon for about $150. It isn’t as cool or natural looking, but is still does the job.

No gutters? No problem

Roof valleyNow some of you might be saying: Hey, I don’t have any rain gutters or downspouts on my home. This isn’t high tech but here are some tips.

Spray your roof with water – or watch the water running off the roof the next time it rains – note those points that are the heaviest. Another way is to look for where your roof comes down a makes a V – they call that a trough or roof valley – see the illustration above. An old fashion idea is to put a rope or chain on your roof on an angle and water will follow the rope – see where it comes off the roof and place your barrel there. With all these ideas, remove or cut the top of your barrel and place it where the heaviest drainage areas came off the roof.

By the way, there are kits that can add a second or even more barrels to your collection system.

One last add. There’s a company called RainSaucers and they sell a device that can be attached to the top of a barrel. To describe what they look like, imagine a dog shield collar – you know, those ridiculous things you put on your dog so they don’t gnaw on an injured area. Another description would be they look like a satellite dish. It widens the catch diameter immensely so you can place the barrel anywhere you want.  See video below for more info on RainSaucers.

Leakage

Now as far as another possible situation you could run into, some people might find they have issues with their old used wine barrel leaking. Here are a few different ways to solve this problem. First, take your barrel and fill with hot water – remember, these barrels may have been sitting outside drying up for quite a while. Once you’ve filled it up, keep water in it for the next couple of days. It should allow the oak to soak some of the water and naturally seal itself.

Another way to resolve leaking is if after you’ve tried keeping water in it and the barrel still leaks, use barrel sealing wax and while it’s full and leaking, take the wax and press it in to the crack or cracks that are leaking. Some folks will mark where the leak is, empty the barrel and proceed to heat the area and then press the wax in as tight as they can. You can use paraffin or bees wax.

Still a third way is to purchase a pond liner. They are heavy-duty rubber liners that you can press into the barrel and then cut the excess. I’ve not done this but have used pond liners in the past for a small waterfall and they last forever and are tougher than Kelsey’s nuts. Yes, this operation requires you removing the top of the barrel. Do this by removing the bands from that end of the barrel. The staves will pull apart a little bit and you can then remove the head. Be very careful not to let the barrel fall apart. It can get ugly.

Looking good

A last thought. These rain barrels don’t have to be eyesores or not meshing with the rest of the house and/or outdoor area. If you sanded, stained and sealed the barrel and then put a nice varnish on the outside, it would last much longer … indeed, they might never dry out. Plus, it would look great! Hmmm, I might know someone who does that – click on that barrel at the bottom of the page.

Rainwater_harvestingIf you research rain barrels at all, you’ll find an endless amount of information and products. If you want to stay natural, a wine barrel is the best way to go and what the heck, they look cool too. Consider the idea of decorating the used wine barrel – bring out your inner artist.  Or again, make it easy on yourself and purchase a Decorative Wine Barrel. One last item you might forget is a bung – don’t want to lose half your water.  If you missed it, I just wrote about a beautiful high tech bung plug now available.

As always, if you have a question, feel free to ask below, email me, give us a call, message me or the forty other ways people can contact me in this ever advanced modern era.

Now don’t dally, get yourself a wine barrel and rainwater harvesting system and make your garden happy, plus maybe you’ll save a buck or two along the way.

“Let the rain wash away, all the pain of yesterday.”

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

.

WineBarrelBizCard-background

http://pasowinebarrels.com/

 

HiTech Wine Barrel Bung

When one heads out west through the Straight of Juan de Fuca towards the Pacific Ocean from the Puget Sound, you will travel by a town called Port Angeles which sits at the northern edge of the Olympic Peninsula.  In an area they like to call ‘The Authentic Northwest’, you will naturally find boating, ferry’s, tankers and cruise ships.  Logging is obviously big in these parts as well but oddly enough, an invention very far from these activities called a HiTech Wine Barrel Bung for fitting in a wine barrel hole has been patented and is for sale.  Yea, how did this happen in the very far reaches of the Pacific Northwest?Lux Barrel Bung

The inventor is Don Corson, who is a winemaker and the owner of Camaraderie Cellars.  Although not yet readily available, the stylistic product is actually called the Lux Barrel Bung and does the job of closing the bung opening on a wine barrel.  However, it also does more than an efficient job than most bung stoppers as it combines the best that synthetics offer with the beauty of a glass stopper.  And the cool thing is this ornamental piece can be etched or engraved with a name.

Mr. Corson has been making wine for more than two decades and found that although glass barrel bungs are beautiful to look at, they don’t work very well.  It took him over two years of work  and designing the just recently patented bung that could efficiently plug the hole and fit in multiple sizes and shapes while still able to have an attractive glass stopper. As Don says on his website,

“The bung to me is like the wine I make. I won’t make a wine I’m not passionate about. And I’m not going to make a barrel bung I wouldn’t be proud to use myself.”

Lux Barrel Bungs in-a-rowGlass bung plugs are actually traditional and date back many centuries ago.  Because glass isn’t reactionary as rubber or plastic might be, it doesn’t impart reactivity to any product including wine.  As long as you don’t drop and break them, they can last much longer than their malleable opposites.  Silicone bung stoppers have become very common but this new alternative will likely be the rage with everyone wanting one for their barrels.  Plus, note that the silicone cap that the glass sits inside of has replacements, so if it wears out after some years of use, just replace the cap.

Mr. Corson told me he didn’t set out to get rich on his invention and therefore availability is very limited.  Again, these glass barrel bungs can be engraved, which makes them a great gift as well.  Certainly, the Lux Barrel Bung is precisely sophisticated in its overall performance as well as looks.  I want one.

You want one?  Go here to check them out.

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

.

WineBarrelBizCard-background

http://pasowinebarrels.com/

How A New Wine Barrel Is Made

We renew old used wine barrels into decorative better-than-new pieces that are made strictly to look at or as a table.  However, the original barrel has a completely different story to tell – before they become winemaker’s tool.

The great wines of the world have one thing in common – they began their life in a white oak barrel, created in one of the many cooperages of the world.  I find this particular video to be very informative and will show you in a relatively brief time, just how a barrel is made from the time it is a tree, all the way to when it’s time to put wine in them.

If you have any questions about wine barrels, feel free to contact us and we’ll try our darndest to get you the answer if we don’t know it.

By the way, keep an eye out for a multiple part story of a barrel during his time as a wine barrel as he travels nearly halfway around the world, only to be rescued by a couple of nice guys.  😉

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

.

WineBarrelBizCard-background

http://pasowinebarrels.com/