Our local cooper, Bernandino, has over 20 years experience making barrels and learned his trade in Napa Valley. We’re so lucky to have him!














I finished paying for and picked up my last barrel. It was the only new one I bought. The other three are reconditioned, heavy toast French oak barrels from local cooper, Bernandino Guttierez. I chose a heavy toast for the Grenache and Mourvédre because a heavy toast seals the grain for less wood extraction and more emphasis on fresh fruit which is the style I’m looking for in these wines. My long awaited new barrel came from Radoux, a well-known barrel making company in Napa Valley. I chose it for the Syrah which is the most tannic, robust wine I’m making by myself this year and will age for 9 to 12 months, though I think it already tastes pretty good. The barrel maker says of my choice: “Appalachian oak barrels have pepper and spice and a long, lemon cream finish.” Medium plus toast is described as “The apex of aromatic potential, adding pronounced vanilla, sweet chocolate, maple syrup and spice.” Wow. Right? Barrel shopping is like a trip to the pâtisserie and makes my mouth water!

My little rental house in Baja California, Mexico

Originally my plan was to put all the barrels in the spare room of my little rental house where I can keep them cool and dark. Unfortunately the first barrel I brought home fit through the front door (thank goodness) but not through the interior door to the spare room. So by default it ended up in my unfurnished living room with two others. The weather is changing and a chill is setting in. Autumn temperatures are lovely during the day and very cold at night. I have no heat in my house except for a fireplace. If I continued to keep my full wine barrels in the living room then I would not be able to use the fireplace because the heat and dryness would not be good for the wine.

I really love my fireplace. Now all I need is an over-stuffed chair and a cup of hot spiced wine!










Rather than buy a parka and fur boots to keep myself from hypothermia this winter I got the idea to call my friend, Chico, a local carpenter and see if he had any ideas. It’s really hard to measure the width of a barrel because the ends are smaller than the middle, but he figured that if he took the door molding off that the barrels would fit through the doorway to the spare room. A few days ago he came with his helper Toño and a borrowed wine pump because full wine barrels are next to impossible to move– even empty barrels take two people (that’s one reason why my back has gotten stronger and my shoulders are crying).

A wine pump is on my wishlist!

Long story short two barrels fit through the door after the molding was taken down. Yay! The other two didn’t. Grrrrr. Nonplussed, these two guys set to work taking one of the windows out of the spare room in which to heave the barrels through! This was no easy feat because there were 3 or 4 different types of screws and nails covered in paint and caulking that framed the window …. Ugh. Plus it’s one thing to lift a barrel a few inches off the ground to move it around but they had to lift those wine-soaked puppies waist high to get them through the window! But they didn’t give up.

These guys are my heroes!









Getting those barrels through the window was a heroic feat, the wine is in a much better place for the winter and I’m relieved that I can use my fireplace and open the curtains to let the sunshine into my primary living space! However when it comes time to bottle the Grenache and Mourvédre in the Spring we’re going to have to take the window out again ….

Hunkered down for a long, chilly winter in Casa mi Cava




Categories: Mexican Wine


susan mahalick · October 26, 2012 at 9:46 pm

I am awaiting the tasting of your first vintage. As promised there will be a dinner party at my house to celebrate, along with the winemaker as a guest to explain the process and emotional ups and downs of winemaking.

    valleygirl · October 26, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    It will be a festive and celebratory occasion!

nadean · October 27, 2012 at 3:56 am

Gorgeous! Have been following your path with the first barrels. Now, I’d like a glass of the Syrah please! I’ve forwarded your blog on to my mother who is also enjoying it very much. Interesting to hear how the bottling and labeling goes. And then…..??

    valleygirl · October 27, 2012 at 4:43 am

    “And then … ” precisely! Since this all came together rather quickly, I’m now working on a marketing plan. I can most likely sell everything that I produce locally, however I am looking into exporting as well. Lots more to learn! It’s wonderful hearing from you, Nadean. Thank you so much for staying in touch. Hi to your mom!

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