Santa Maria Sun / Cover Story
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 32
Eco-art: Santa Maria craftsman makes wine barrels into beautiful furniture
BY AMY ASMAN
Jose Pedro Meza Santos has intimate knowledge of wine’s lifecycle. When he moved to the United States from Mexico 27 years ago, he picked grapes as a field hand. Four years and several college courses in English later, he served as floor supervisor at winemaking plants for Cambria Winery, then Meridian Vineyards.
But when Meridian shut down its Santa Maria plant and moved north to Paso, Meza decided it was time to try something new. He stayed close to his wine roots and started selling wine-barrel planters at festivals and at roadside stands.
“I’d be selling planters to other people who would make furniture out of them and I’d always say, ‘Someday I’m going to do that. Someday I’m going to do that,’” he said.
About five years ago, Meza finally made good on his promise.
Now, with the help of his family, he makes and sells all kinds of furniture assembled from used wine barrels. He owns a store in Solvang and, starting this month, he’s selling pieces at his workshop in Santa Maria.
“You could use the barrels as planters, but furniture will last forever,” Meza told the Sun while on a tour of the workshop.
Here are some of the pieces he makes: Lazy Susans, cutting boards, platters, wine racks, chairs, benches, bistro tables, and stools. He also makes decorative crosses and wine carriers.
“People like to give those as wedding presents,” he said of the carriers.
When the barrels get to the workshop, Meza and his employees open them up and leave them to dry—for one year.
“If you don’t let it dry long enough, there will be too much moisture in the wood,” he explained.
After the drying time, the craftsmen scrape about a quarter inch off of the insides to get rid of any still damp, unusable wood. Then they take the barrels apart and use the pieces to make furniture. The wine stains give the wood a beautiful burgundy finish, which is advanced by a mineral oil and Vitamin E polish.
Meza said his favorite pieces to make are the wine racks, “because I like to drink wine. I make a little bit of wine, too. Not for commercial use, but for personal use.”
Most of the pieces he makes are custom orders.
“A lot of ideas come from my customers,” he said.
Now take a peek inside Meza’s workshop and see how those ideas come to life.
PHOTOS BY STEVE E. MILLER
VIDEOS BY STEVE E. MILLER