Silicon Folly: Roll out the barrels

Editor’s Note: This column was written before outdoor dining was shutdown county-wide Sunday night – but take-away remains open, so give a nod to a lonely wine barrel as you pick up from restaurants downtown this week.


For miles around you’ll hear them
sing …
Roll out the barrel, we’ll have a
barrel of fun
Roll out the barrel, we’ve got the
blues on the run
Zing boom tararrel, ring out a song
of good cheer
Now’s the time to roll the barrel,
for the gang’s all here!

You may remember when State and Main streets were closed off Thursdays through Sundays to give restaurants and merchants an opportunity to bring customers closer to their cash registers in the early confusion of COVID-19. Open Streets were great for the summer, but these restaurants needed to adapt to the cold season.

The city of Los Altos, working with the Los Altos Chamber of Commerce and the Los Altos Village Association, reached into the creativity barrel for another concept of community commerce, and it seems to be moving in the right direction. They decided to roll out the barrels, more than 200 of them, if you care to count.

We are talking about serious oak wine barrels from Silver Oak winery in Napa Valley provided through the generous connections of a downtown property owner.
Just in case you were wondering, the deal was the inspiration of city staff to make it easy, affordable and creative for downtown dining. Restaurants rolled with the barrel concept and customized with their own decks, trees, plants, lights and much more.

Serious oenophiles would know that each barrel contains approximately 60 gallons of wine, which can fill 300 bottles or 25 cases. Serious crushers can tell you that 1 ton of grapes yields roughly 60 cases or 720 bottles.

Wanna buy a nicely aged oak barrel with a quality vintage? It should keep you smiling for months, but you’d be looking at $10,000 to $15,000 a barrel.
Empty wine barrels can run from $50 to $150; if you are looking for vintage barrels, they might cost $250 and up. If you really want to spice things up, a new American oak barrel is $395, and a French oak barrel could run you $900.

If you are thinking about walking away with one of the downtown barrels when no one is watching, they are all heavily weighted down with concrete and sand to the tune of around 500 pounds. Hello, hernia?

The good news is that if we ever get a total freeze of our downtown streets, we can be the first Silicon Valley community to stage our own Los Altos Barrel Jumping competition. Remember ABC’s “Wide World of Sports”?

Andy Dolich operates Dolich & Associates, a sports consultancy in Los Altos.

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