Tag Archives: wine country

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.


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.


Daryle W. Hier






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?


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?


Daryle Hier




About Zinfandel

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that we would keep updates on the small crop of Zinfandel we would be helping with and wouldn’t you know it, we got busy and forgot.  However, what I can do is let you in on some simple basics about this particular grape varietal.

By the way, the crop we will be helping do the crush on is still on the vine – yes, you heard Zinfandel grapes right, our friend ran into some problems with using a particular facility to do the crush and it set him back a couple weeks.  Still, although there’s some raisining going on, the winegrower wanted a high octane vintage, and he’s got it now.  If you’re not aware, the longer the grape is on the vine, the sugar content will likely go up and in-turn raises the alcohol level.

Anyway, back to the dynamic Zinfandel grape.  First, if you’re wondering where the name came from – well, no one really knows. Except that it is used primarily in the United States.  It’s generally agreed the grape originally came from the region surrounding the Adriatic Sea, such as the countries of Italy and Croatia.  However, don’t get into an argument about it because there’s not enough information out there to suggest where the varietal actually first started.  You will also here that the grape is genetically the same as Primitivo, which derives from Croatia.

Zinfandel, or Zin as fans of the wine call it, was introduced in the United States nearly 200 years ago.  In the mid-1800s, the grape arrived in Sonoma and Napa regions of California.  Here’s an interesting tidbit:  Zin was part of the the first wine boom during the late 1800s and was the most widely grown vine in California.  In short, Zinfandel is an American product and essentially a California grape.

Disappeared, then reappeared white

For reasons that aren’t necessarily clear, but due in part to Prohibition, Great Depression and World War II, wineries closed and the Zinfandel variety did not surface again in any regularity, becoming almost lost in history.  While connoisseurs of the varietal look down on it, White Zin brought back the grape from obscurity.  White Zin is pink, lower in alcohol and easier to drink, becoming a popular inexpensive alternative.  They make White Zinfandel by taking the skins off just after the crush, offering up a lighter wine for the general public to enjoy.  Its said that one in ten bottles of wine sold in the U.S. are White Zin – multiples times more than its red brother.

As the wine boom started up in the 1990s, varietals of all sorts became popular including a resurgent Zinfandel.  Zin, which is typically picked during normal harvest time (September/October), often is used for port and can be picked later for a late harvest version.  Another little tidbit is that vintners often used Petite Syrah to top off or even mix with Zinfandel.  Petite Syrah offers an inky color to Zin and makes it appear more full bodied.

Only  Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon are are more popular than Zin.  Red Zinfandels are widely known in the Paso Robles wine region of the California Central Coast.  The grape loves the huge temperature diurnal in Paso Robles, or Paso as it’s called locally.  Temperatures in Paso can often hit the 100s in the summer but cool off to a cool 50 at night.  Paso Roblans are very territorial about their Zin – check out the YouTube video that became a video hit.

Zinfandel has a relatively thin skin, which can make it tricky to grow.  Known for their higher alcohol levels, not all wine enthusiasts gravitate to Zin.  However, fans of Zinfandel are extremely loyal and fervent in their admiration for the wine.

Regardless, Zinfandel will always be America’s wine and can be drank with almost any meal, although consider it with a big meaty meal.  Zin is a diverse wine that can be made into many assorted types of wines. Just be aware when foreign based Zin’s are sold here in the U.S., they aren’t Zin but likely Primitivo.  Again, beware.

Remember to look in your stores for great Zinfandels from Sonoma, Napa, Amador (gold country) and of course Paso Robles in the northern region of San Luis Obispo County … Zinfandel, Paso’s wine.


Daryle Hier