Tag Archives: Wine

What Is Your Favorite Wine?

We had an election and brought to mine that I somehow never thought to ask what peoples favorite wine is. Considering we’re in the number one wine region in the world, the least I could do is engage folks by asking what their favorite varietal is. I don’t want to sway the vote, so I won’t say which is mine. I think if you’ve read enough of these posts, you probably know. Now vote.Wines on store shelf.

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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B-Town Barrel Fest

Can’t ignore a ‘Barrel Fest’, especially when it’s only two hours east of Paso Robles. Bakersfield will be hosting the B-Town Barrel Fest on Saturday (June 27th) at the Kern County Museum.

Anything that comes from the inside of a barrel will be there for tasting, including beer, spirits (i.e. whiskey), tequila and wine. By the way, this isn’t to be confused with the Bakersfield Craft Beer Festival.

There will be several tequilas on hand and well over a dozen beers. Margaritas and Bloody Marys will be on tap as well.

Good last year – Even better this year

A success with last year’s inaugural Barrel Fest, expect much the same including food, games, contests and other activities, comedians, plus live entertainment. Three local bands will perform — classic rockers Dust Bowl Disciples; La Marcha, playing salsa, cumbia and dance music; and Members Only, billed as the “ultimate ’80s band. Once again, it should be a fun time.

You must be 21 to attend and tickets go for $35. If you plan on going, go online and get your tickets electronically to save $5. The proceeds will benefit the museum. And note that your ticket gets you samplings, but the food is extra. The event runs from 6:00 pm through the evening.

With a park-like setting, the Kern County Museum is on Chester Ave across the street from Floyd’s General Store. They’re in the north central part of town off of the 204 (Golden State Ave) – also, if you know where the Sam Lynn baseball park is, they’re right next door. Stay cool.

Click here for ticket information.

Salootie Patootie,

Daryle W. Hier

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Do Grapes Flower?

Never let it be said that I’m any kind of expert when it comes to the world of winemaking.  I’ve always made sure whenever possible to remind folks about my constant learning – my knowledge of vines and wines before I moved to the Central Coast was close to nil.Dork

Still, I’ve come a long ways and have had the ability to see and be apart of the entire process of grape growing and winemaking. Yet, I’ve never really thought about whether grapes pollinate because: well, I’ve never really seen anything resembling a flower on a grape vine before. So the question: Do grapes flower? Well, actual grapes don’t flower, but of course the cane’s shoots and therefore the initial buds and vines do flower … but you might never see it.

My father and I are helping a widow – and friend – care for her tiny vineyard (see more here). We had to figure out how to turn the water on for the drippers and while I was looking at the tiny clusters on the vines, I noticed they looked odd. I didn’t take a long time to study these somewhat wrinkled berries as I was busy trying to get the timer working.

Afterwards, I was back on my computer looking for answers to what might have been a problem with these little crinkled grape clusters. For mid-spring, we had an unusually hot week here in Paso Robles with temps in the 90s including one blistering 98 degree day plus, I was worried due to the fact the vines hadn’t been watered in almost two weeks.

What are those tiny things?

Maybe not watering that long did affect the vines but regardless, a long story short, the mysterious looking clusters were without a doubt flowers I was peering at. Grapes don’t have a long flowering period and in fact the whole thing can be over and done within a week’s time, however, these were flower buds, indeed readying to be grape clusters.  Yeah, I’m a dork.Grapevine flower buds

It may appear naive and somewhat silly to consider it a surprise that grapes flowered, nevertheless I had never seen them and don’t recall anybody telling me the process. I asked a couple friends here in Paso but they were not sure about flowers so I’m not the only one who is uninformed about the development of a grape.

The dilemma is the tiny grape clusters and their flowers. The understated if not downright obscure flowering of a blooming grape vine is vague and almost indistinguishable from the early grape cluster stage. It should be noted like many fruit, these tiny berry flowers usually self-pollinate and fertilize themselves. Also, bud break off the new shoots in North America usually occurs in March and takes almost two months before the flower clusters begin. Obviously, in the Southern Hemisphere, the calendar would be inverse.

There you have it. You may never see this almost minuscule process, but it is certainly not insignificant. Depending on the particular varietal and climate, this very short course of action takes place in April and May. Yes, there is a smell; so, if you ever are in a vineyard during spring, take a whiff and check out flowering on grape clusters.

And you’re now smarter than I was.

PS: Check out our May Special – Get the world’s best with an incredible value if ever there was one.

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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Wine Industry Struggling?

One of the oldest adages is that alcohol – or more directly in this circumstance, wine – is recession proof.  Is that true or is the wine industry struggling?

The general thinking is when times are good, everything in an economy Grapebin-Portugal_EU_Winedoes well, but when there is a dip in the markets, consumers will cut back on all but the necessities.  However, booze has always been a staple of recessional or depression oriented times because folks need an outlet of entertainment and products such as wine are considered as important enough as staples that people aren’t willing to give them up.  That’s why business portfolios often will have ‘sin’ stocks in alcohol related industries.

Here in the United States and for that matter, the rest of the world has been in an elongated recession – depression for places like Detroit and parts of Europe.  This troublesome trend has reared its ugly head and affected many aspects of society and shall we say … egads … the wine industry?  How could this be?

Top down

Some would say that even the alcohol oriented business is susceptible.  And recently, the biggest news yet seems to agree with that assessment, because the largest wine company in the world, Treasury Wine Estates has been hit hard and as such, will be slashing jobs and costs (source: Sydney Morning Herald).  Here in the U.S., Treasury Wine owns California based Beringer Vineyards, which is one of the oldest wineries in California.

Beringer Vineyards

Beringer Vineyards is one of the oldest in Napa Valley but they along with their parent, Treasury Wine, are struggling.

An interesting side note to the troubles at Treasury Wine is the fact that last year, the company destroyed older and aged wines.  Yes, that’s right, the company felt compelled to destroy large amounts of wine because they felt there was too much wine on the U.S. market.  Net profits for the company had tanked and in-turn, their CEO was pressured to leave.  By the way, most of the wine destroyed was from Beringer.

This is an odd situation because if you’ve paid attention to the news in the wine business, there appears to be a shortage in wine supply.  I’m not an expert in this field but still, destroying wine because you have too much of it in a certain markets doesn’t mean it couldn’t be sold somewhere else given the supposed world-wide scarcity of wine.  Yes, this information is contradictory and we may not know the exact answer, but my thought is if an extended recession has forced the largest wine producer to destroy wine, a shortage is a bit far-fetched.  And a report just came out saying Bordeaux wholesalers feel the market is soft (source: Harpers) and that “current demand is ‘dead’”.  Ouch!

I do know that while the U.S. and China are consuming more wine year-in and year-out, Europe, where the biggest consumers were based, has shown a fairly sharp decline in wine consumption.  With poor economies in much of Europe, it would seem obvious that wine consumption is being directly affected.

The South American wine industries have suffered due in part to the world-wide recession and high inflation.  Argentina in particular, has seen inflation raging and therefore has instituted price controls.  The country has surged to the left politically in the past decade with government intervention at every level.  Politics may be one of the problems with the wine industry but there’s another issue: demographics.

Competition & other issues

There are a myriad of alcohol drinks that wine is competing against.

There are a myriad of alcoholic drinks that wine is competing against.

The beer industry has seen a shift from standard beers like Budweiser, Coors et al, to microbrews.  That shift is also impacting the wine industry (source: London Wine Fair).  Young adults aren’t enamored by wine and there’s seems to be a detachment and “an overall lack of engagement”.  Hard booze such as multiple flavored vodka’s have also become popular with the young adult population.

Other problems like China which has too seen a drift into a flat pattern of wine drinking after a steady climb up, is also affecting wine industry.

California has its own problems with drought and a lack of support from state and federal regulators who have hurt farmers recently with peculiar rulings that have exasperated the water situation.  The lack of farming has led to a drastic increase in unemployment as well as hammering the economy as a whole.

So while the wine industry struggles against a constant recessional pounding, they’re also being attacked by other liquors that appeal more to younger generations, while governments confound the problems further.

We hear so many positive stories about the wine industry especially here in the Paso Robles where we garnered the top spot as the number one wine region in the world.  However, troubles loom and even the winery business world needs to look deep as the situation maybe emerging that indeed the wine industry is struggling.

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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Water Versus Food?

The state of California is in a severe drought and though we just had a drenching rain on Super Bowl Sunday, the fact is one storm does not end what still is the driest year on record.  Governor Jerry Brown declared a state-of-emergency and then to exacerbate the situation and make matters worse for farmers, specifically in the San Joaquin Valley, the state has cut off all water from the State Water Project.

Essentially, the Governor and state of California are saying ‘you’re on your own’.  And yet this serious situation doesn’t appear to be making the major headlines with the media who seemed more concerned with toilet fishing in the Olympics than a major food source being driven to the brink.

Farmers still taking the brunt

Delta smelt

Farmers helped build canals for their farms that eventually the endangered delta smelt now inhabits.

Many cities across the Golden State will be hamstrung for water, but those feeling the pinch the most will be farmers.  The region had been already hit hard when water restrictions were imposed to purportedly save the delta smelt that had worked its way into farmer’s canals.  That created unemployment figures that in some areas were 50% and produced losses in the billions of dollars for the state.

The San Joaquin Valley is or at least was considered one of the most productive food regions in the United States if not the world.  However, the valley has been devastated economically by the supposed dangers to the smelt.  Now, with the state denying farms any water at all, the likely destruction of farmland could be catastrophic.  It should be noted that even with the cuts, Fresno County still leads the nation in farming.

The San Joaquin Valley is a large representation of what is going on all over California.  With only urban cities receiving limited deliveries of water, farming communities as well as small towns could be left without.  The state is leaving waters in reservoirs for fish to survive but not farmers.  As was mentioned in our story last week, cities all over the state our nervously looking for water such as what sits underneath the Paso Robles ground water basin.

Pulling out

Ironic sign for farmers

Ironic sign for farmers

Nut farms which use more water than say vegetable crops will see owners prone to pull the trees for crops that don’t require as much water.  Such may be the case with grapes as well.  Vineyards are more efficient than nut trees but vintners are getting anxious and in some small instances, vines are being pulled.

Concerns of Californians are all about the lack of water.  The question though has to be asked as to whether some fish and urban populations should take more of the brunt of this problem or are we going to risk farms and food instead.

Although there are questions about just how much more storms are is in store for the state, even if the rest of winter was steady with rain, major issues will continue, as sides are being taken between water and food … and farmers.

Mahalo,

Daryle Hier

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Terroir?

If you happen to be associated in any way with the wine industry, you probably have come in contact with the word ‘terroir’.  Generally, I knew the word and its basic understanding … or so I thought.

The large rolling hills on the Croatian peninsula of Istria in the Northern Adriatic Sea, offer a unique terroir for wine making.

In normal terms, the word as I knew it stood for a type of geography and lay of the land, so to speak.  I looked the word up and although I was right in the simplest sense, the word means much more than I realized.  Merriam Webster calls it a ‘taste of the earth’.  Simply stated, that’s about right.  However, what does it really mean?

Well, you’re not going to get very many folks agreeing on the exact meaning but we’ll give it a try and maybe in the end, you’ll be a little wiser when you describe to your friends what it means.  By the way, its origin is French and it’s pronounced ‘tear wahr’ as in going on a ‘tear’ and armies going to ‘war’.

Any in case, the word has gone through a transformation of sorts.  Before the last decade or so, the word was given to mean more about wines or any beverage (or food for that matter) that had an earthy tone or taste to it.  This could be good or bad depending on exactly what was being described. Recently though, it now pertains more to a descriptive nature regarding a region, terrain, weather or soil conditions and types.

Descriptions

For instance, a terroir’s region or terrain might be rocky, or high in elevation as compared with another terroir which may be in a valley with much fauna.  A terroir’s weather could be hot and dry or cool and damp.  If a ground composition is a sandy terroir, that would be in comparison to a clay-like terroir.

Think of a terroir as the filter for what a vine works through.  A terroir’s soil along with the temperature and terrain can affect a wine grape and make it taste decidedly different than a same grape in an entirely different environment … or more accurately, a terroir.

Note that I’m no expert – just someone who has thoroughly researched wine barrels and with that exercise combined with being in the middle of wine country has brought many of these descriptions dealing with terroir, to the forefront.

File:ViñedoCafayate.jpg

A mile up elevation-wise in the far northern reaches of Argentina, lies the Calchaquí Valley with a particular climate that helps to produce great wines from its distinctive terroir.

So you see it’s a combination of factors that give each terroir its uniqueness or character.

The precise and distinctive locality of a region including the topography and weather of a place differentiating from other places, producing a certain quality and personality, if you will – is in a word: terroir.

Hopefully that didn’t confuse you, but in fact, now gives you a leg up on family, friends and cohorts.

We often use the term here in Paso Robles, because certainly we have a distinctive terroir what with a vibrant soil and inimitable terrain combined with a huge diurnal (the difference between high and low temps in a day – we’ll have to have a quick dissertation soon on that term too).

All these differing attributes collective with changing environs and climate make for distinguishing features in terroirs all across the world.  And now you know the rest of the story … or most of it anyway.

Check out these books on terroirs of France and America:

Terroir: The Role of Geology, Climate, and Culture in the Making of French Wines

American Terroir: Savoring the Flavors of Our Woods, Waters, and Fields

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   

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