What’s in a wine barrel? Well, according to Rendarrio Vineyards Winemaker Ryan Render, a whole lot more than Cab Sauv or chardonnay. Not only do folks purchase the barrels for a multitude of garden uses, but they also manage to craft gorgeous furniture from the reclaimed wood that you have to experience to believe. Plus: Did you know that a slew of modern brew masters love to age their beers in the toasted receptacles? From bookends and headboards to craft beer and coffee tables, the uses for Paso’s many Wine Country barrels, are only limited by your own imagination. Wondering how you can celebrate these utilitarian, decorative, and dynamic wine country vessels in your own life? Read on! Knock on wood, you’ll find a way.
“New” Wine Barrels
New barrels are a winemaker’s dream—a symbol of the promise of wine yet to come. Depending on the kind of barrel—American, French, or otherwise—and the toasting levels (yes, it’s exactly what you think of when you imagine your toaster setting), a barrel can impart a range of flavors and scents on the wine. Ever read “toasted vanilla” or “caramel” on the back of a wine label? Yep. That’s likely from the wood variety and toasting of the barrel.
Rendarrio Vineyards Winemaker Ryan Render of Paso Robles has two “day jobs:” 1) making wine and 2) selling 100 percent French Oak barrels produced by French company Tonnellerie Cadus. While his main customers are winemakers looking for premium new French Oak barrels with plenty of punch (all are seasoned for 30 months, offer a variety of grain varieties and forest locales), he fields other unique requests too. In fact, there is a growing sect of hip beer brewers calling up Render for these prized barrels, including Crux Brewery in Oregon, Revolution Brewery in Chicago, and Green Flash in San Diego. Keep an eye out for these emerging beers and take note of their distinct, New French oak-bolstered flavor.
Shouldn’t “new” always be better than “old?” Well, as it always is with wine, the answer is not that simple. Plenty of winemakers go crazy for used barrels, and I’ll tell you why. 1) not all winemakers want the heavy oak or toasted flavor that often comes from new barrels 2) more subtle wine varietals are allowed to shine in more neutral barrels and 3) used barrels can help cut way, way down on costs (and everyone loves that, especially the start-ups)! Used barrels sought out by winemakers have usually gone through a few vintages but are still in the prime of their lives, with plenty of love left to give. Creative craft distilleries like KROBAR in Paso Robles also enjoy using
used wine barrels for the making of their spirits, and plenty of brewers have been known to throw sour beers into used sauvignon blanc barrels or stouts into old Cabernet Sauvignon barrels to impart a unique “wow” factor. In other words: the barrel’s history (what it carried and for how long) may actually make it more valuable in the end.
Other Creative Uses
Very, very used barrels—barrels at the end of their lives both in flavor and utility—provide a fun and rustic canvas for creative crafters, furniture makers, and woodworkers of all ilk. These barrels are no longer suitable for the winemaking, beer brewing, or distillery world, so they are basically up for grabs to the general public, and oh how the general public loves them! Render sells these kinds of used barrels for anywhere between $50 to $100 (very cheap, when you consider the original price tag), and the possibilities are astounding. The best way to find out if he’s got any in stock? Stop by the tasting room and see. Most of these sales are casual and on a first-come-first serve basis. That being said, the next time you see a used wine barrel for sale at a garage sale, thrift store, or swap meet, scoop it up! You will be mighty glad you did.
Furniture and Home Goods
What?! Yes, reclaimed wine barrels can be transformed into a place to sit, a table to rest your feet on, or a rustic-chic light fixture that really ties the whole room together. A local friend of Render’s and owner of Wine Country Craftsman bends the old wood into exciting new forms, proving that even the metal hoops are made into chandeliers (you can view on in person at the Rendarrio tasting room). Head over to the woodworker’s online shop or Pinterest and see just how many uses you can find in your own home. And sorry in advance if you get lost in these inspiring photos. It’s just too fun to imagine the crafty applications. Hmmm…you really could use a new wet bar made of wine-soaked barrel wood…
Not only are wine barrels cut in half (or left intact) the perfect size for veggies, small trees, and even bushes of decorative flowers like lavender, they are designed to love your greenery from the inside out. Wine barrels are very good at handling moisture—they tighten and expand over and over again over the course of a single lifecycle—so they are perfect for retaining much-needed H20 during drought. Plus, due to the wood’s porous structure, the barrels retain warmth yet allow the contents to “breathe,” which could mean for more aerated soil and juicier tomatoes come summer. Bet you didn’t know a wine barrel could lead to a killer backyard bounty.
It’s a Brave New Barrel World!
Show us how you use your old wine barrels. Snap a pic on Instagram and tag @PasoRoblesWineries in your post. We’ll share on the blog!
Visit the Rendarrio Cellars Tasting room and neighbors Bodega de Edgar and Hug Cellars off 46 East
There’s a whole lot going on at Tuley Road in Paso Robles! Rhone house Rendarrio Cellars is expanding its tasting room this July and nearby wineries like Bodega de Edgar and Hug Cellars are offering up fun, energetic spring and summer tastings chock full of delicious new releases.
At Bodega de Edgar, get your fill of Albariño, red blends, Tempranillo, and Garnacha, to name a few. The ultra-boutique winery is lovingly run by a passionate and hardworking couple who love to meet new faces, so prepare to mingle and learn.
Known for their Bordeaux-style blends, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Merlot, Mourvèdre, Pinot Noir, Syrah, white blends, and Zinfandel, Hug Cellars churns out an impressive cluster of small lot, quality wines that shine with Paso beauty. Winemaker Augie Hug approaches winemaking with a measured hand, allowing each vineyard to express its own virtues. Taste for yourself and see what’s shaking in this eastern corner of Paso Wine Country.
This blog post was written by Hayley Thomas, food and wine writer for SLO New Times, Edible SLO, and PasoRoblesWineries.net. She can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Instagram @flavorslo.
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