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Mikel Olsten . . . Dam Fine winemaker!

In this blog I decided to focus on our assistant winemaker Mikel Olsten, who also happens to be our longest standing employee. I have wanted to write about Mikel for quite some time, and over the weekend I finally had a perfect opportunity to chat with Mikel and get the full story about how he met Niels and Bimmer and eventually came to work for Castoro Cellars.

It turns out; Mikel met Niels and Bimmer while playing on a co-ed softball team in SLO called “Foul Play” around 1980 or 81. At the time, Castoro was barely an idea being hatched and their relationship mainly revolved around “Foul Play” and the notorious post game get togethers. While playing on the team, Niels and Bimmer had mentioned they were looking to move out of their current place and into a place with more garden space, and as it turned out, Mikel had a rental unit next to his house that had just what they were looking for. In 1983, Niels and Bimmer moved in and Mikel became their landlord, starting what would become a long-term relationship between friends and families.

At the time, Niels and Bimmer were in the beginning phases of Castoro Cellars and Mikel was working carpentry and construction, building homes from start to finish. Niels had begun to do some private label work for local restaurants and from time to time would need a hand labeling the bottles. As a good neighbor would (and budding winemaker), Mikel always helped out when he could, and Niels never seemed to be short on things that needed to be done. Mikel had been making his own wine with grapes from the backyard since 79 and naturally was quite interested in what Niels and Bimmer were doing. At one point, Mikel met Tom Myers (our current winemaker), who at the time worked with Niels at Estrella winery. Tom told Mikel “you seem to be quite into this; maybe you should try making wine with wine grapes!” Mikel did just that and in 1985 won a gold medal at the Paso Robles mid-state fair for a red table wine.

Eventually Mikel began working for Castoro Cellars half time, which seemed to always be more like full time, and in 1987 became Castoro’s first full time employee. Having studied Biology and Chemistry at Cal Poly, winemaking was right up Mikel’s alley and Castoro seemed to be a perfect fit. When I asked Mikel what has kept him around so long he said, “I always liked the family-oriented philosophy of Castoro and liking the people I work with and for are big reasons I made a career of it. I also like that each day presents new challenges that need to be tackled and there never seems to be a shortage of projects to work on.” Mikel also told me that working with Tom Myers has been a real pleasure over the years. “There is always something new to learn from Tom, even 20 years later!”

Anyone who knows Mikel knows how well he fits into the Castoro family. On top of knowing how to do just about everything out at the winery, Mikel also knows how to enjoy life. In his free time you’ll find him riding his 2007 Black Triumph Bonneville motorcycle up HWY 1 or cruising down the ski slopes in Mammoth. Being a fresh Grandpa, Mikel told me he can never spend too much time with his grandson Corbin who turns 1 this year.

To sum it all up Mikel told me, “I get up in the morning and I can’t wait to get to work. It’s that kind of job.”

We sure have appreciated having Mikel working for us over the years, and as long as he wants to keep working we will keep him busy!