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Niels Udsen Paso Robles Wine Industry Person of the Year!

A couple of months ago, Bimmer Udsen found out that her husband and co-owner of Castoro Cellars winery had been selected as the 2009 Paso Robles Wine Industry Person of the Year, however she needed to keep the news a secret from Niels so the presenting of the award would remain a surprise.  In the months and weeks before the award ceremony Bimmer worked hard to keep the award a secret and proceeded to invite members of the Castoro Crew to the ceremony and of course ensured that her two sons would be attendance.

As the date approached Niels remained oblivious and everything seemed to be in place for a good surprise . . . . but then it started to rain and snow in the golden state.  Niels is an avid skier, as is the whole Udsen family, and during the week leading up to the award ceremony the whole family was enjoying some time up in the mountains at the Kirkwood Ski Resort.  As the storm got stronger and the snow began to dump Niels suggested the family stay longer, perhaps through the weekend.  At that point Bimmer reminded Niels that they had two tickets to the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance Ball on Friday and they needed get back.  Niels, who had forgotten about the ball entirely said, “We don’t need to go to that we went last year and this year it is snowing so we have a good excuse to miss it.”  At this point the family knew they were going to have their work cut out for them if they were going to get Niels back in time for the Ball.

Fortunately, due to bad weather, the mountain closed down and Niels decided it was excusable to head home to the land of no snow.  When Friday night rolled around Niels still had no idea he would be receiving any kind of award and he was unaware both of his sons were secretly changing into formal attire at the house next door with plans of surprising him at the event.  When Niels arrived at the Ball he was surprised to see so many people from Castoro at the event but he was easily convinced that is was because there were extra tickets given out this year due to a lower than usual attendance.  Then, Luke and Max arrived along with Luke’s girlfriend Lauren and Niels began to suspect something was up, however once again he was easily convinced it was a last minute thing because of the extra tickets.

At this point everyone around the table was struggling to keep the smirks from their faces.  Could Niels truly be this oblivious to what was going on?  YES.  It wasn’t until they began to announce the winner that Niels’ face turned red and he realized what had just happened.  It was truly a sight to see and there couldn’t have been a more deserving winner of the award.  Niels has done so much for the Paso Robles wine industry and community over the years and many people thought he must have already received the award, including himself.  He admitted afterwards that he didn’t suspect he was receiving the award because he thought he had already received it.  In his defense he had won a similar award before but it was presented by the Paso Robles Mid-State Fair not the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance.

To say the least, spirits are high at Castoro Cellars and we are all proud of Niels for the recognition he has gotten for all of his hard work over the years.

Til’ Next Time


From the Berry to the Bottle

Blog 1/9/10

Like any process people take pride in, the making of wine is a very intricate and time consuming process.  The journey from the berry to the bottle can be long and challenging for some grapes and rather short and easy for others, which is one of the many reasons winemaking is such an exciting challenge.  In this blog I want to focus on the final aspect of wine production, bottling.  Bottling is a very technical and amazing process that most people, unless they have spent some time at a winery, brewery etc., haven’t experienced.  Bottling is the final stage for a wine before it reaches the dinner table and let me tell you, it is quite a fascinating stage.

For the past few days I have had the opportunity to work on the bottling line at Castoro Cellars and it is truly amazing how much wine can be bottled in a single day.  On a good day of bottling at Castoro 2,200 cases of wine are produced.  That is 26,400 bottles a day and roughly 75 bottles a minute when the line is running optimally.  Watching this process unfold and being a part of it is really a crazy experience.

At the beginning of the day, around 6am., the bottling line is sterilized and prepped for the day’s bottling while the glass is organized and made accessible for bottling.  Once the line has been sterilized the next step is setting up the labeler, which is actually one of the most technical aspects of bottling.  The labels are kept on spools inside of a machine that dispenses them appropriately onto the bottles when the bottles trigger a laser sensor located on the machine.  Every different wine bottled has a different label and often uses different glass, which makes the labeling process very complicated.  For every wine there are specific placement specifications for the labels and getting them to be exactly where they are supposed to be can be tricky when the bottles are flying by at 75 to 80 bottles a minute.

Once the wine has been connected to the bottling line and all the materials are ready to go the bottling day begins.  At Castoro, the bottling lines are completely contained within mobile trailers much like the ones you see on the freeway towed behind semi trucks.  At the back of the trailer there is a loading dock where pallets stacked with boxes of empty wine bottles are loaded onto the trailer.  Once the empty glass has been loaded the empty bottles are put onto a conveyer belt that sends the bottles through the line on their journey to becoming a finished product.  On the journey through the line the bottles are gassed with nitrogen (to remove oxygen), filled with wine, corked, capsuled, labeled and finally put back into boxes and loaded onto a fresh pallet to be stored in one of our warehouses to await distribution.  The process is in essence a giant circle in which the empty glass is taken from the warehouse loaded into the bottling line, sent through the line to be put back into the warehouse as a finished product.  It is truly a fascinating process to experience and we are very fortunate to have an excellent bottling crew at Castoro who bottle fine wine day in and day out.

For more information on bottling at Castoro Cellars visit

Happy 2010,