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Castoro in the “Gourmet Ghetto”

Located in the heart, of what is affectionately know as the “Gourmet Ghetto” in Berkeley CA, is a restaurant known for introducing authentic, “Spanish Tapas” to the San Francisco Bay Area. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the neighborhood, it lies on the North side of Berkeley and boasts a wide variety of restaurants, cafes, bakeries and boutique shops. The neighborhood got its’ start in the late 60s with the opening of the first ever Peet’s Coffee and the now infamous Cheese Board Collective (both still in business). Shortly thereafter, Alice Waters started an American food revolution when she opened the restaurant Chez Panisse. Waters was one of the first Chefs to adopt a philosophy of fresh, local and organic food, inspired by the Provence region of Southern France. Over the years, Chez Panisse has come to be known as one of the top restaurants in the United States with reservations booked months in advance.

Directly next door to Chez Panisse is César, an open air bar known for a wide array martinis, cocktails, wines and tapas. Before meeting with Richard Mazzera (owner and founder of César) I really didn’t know anything about the history of the place but I had a feeling it would be a good fit for Castoro wines. As I began opening bottles for Richard to sample, he jumped right into the story of César and his connection with Chez Panisse. As it turned out, Richard had been the manager, or as they called it in the 60s “director of reality,” for Chez Panisse for over 30 years before opening César. The building that is now César used to be a storage building for Alice Waters and Chez Panisse, before Richard and his partners were able to convince her that the one thing the “Gourmet Ghetto” lacked, was a good old fashioned (upscale) watering hole. Since Chez Panisse only served beer and wine in a more formal setting it made perfect sense and has been a neighborhood staple ever since.

As I listened to Richard tell the story of the neighborhood and his days working for Alice, I really connected with his philosophy of good drinks and ever changing Tapas. He told me he wants César to be a place you can feel comfortable just ordering a beer or glass of wine while you read a book, or for Tapas with friends and family. If you ask me he has done just that!

César is now pouring the Castoro Cellars Reserve Viognier and Zinfandel Zinfusion (great choices). Recently my girlfriend and I had a chance to sit down for some Tapas and a glass of Viognier, and let me tell you now, it did not disappoint! The place was packed as usual and Richard was casually walking from table to table, making sure everyone was enjoying their time at César. If you find yourself in the “Gourmet Ghetto” with a thirst that needs a quenching and a hunger that needs to be tamed, this is truly the spot to be.

Till next time,




The Kirkwood Inn est. 1864

If there is one thing to know about Niels (owner/co-founder of Castoro Cellars), it’s that he loves to share his wine, especially in places that are fun to visit and that he loves to be. One of these places is a place that is very dear to my heart as I can remember going there since I was a wee lad. The Kirkwood Inn, located on Hwy 88 in the Sierra Nevada Mountains is a true piece of American history. The Inn was established in 1864 and was part of the rout taken by “snowshoe Thompson” the man who delivered mail on skis in the winter from 1856-1876 and is credited as the “Father of California Skiing.”

Since I was old enough to walk my parents have taken my brother and I up to Kirkwood to be outdoors and to learn to ski, snowboard, fish, hike and backpack. Most recently we all headed up to Kirkwood to “deliver wine” to the Kirkwood Inn and head into the backcountry for a few days of backpacking at Showers Lake. For any of you who have been backpacking, you understand the importance of a good hearty meal upon returning to civilization. In Kirkwood there is one place to go for just that, the Inn.

After showering up and reacquainting ourselves with society (technology) we headed over the Kirkwood Inn to deliver wine and have ourselves a delicious meal. Having been regulars at the Inn for years the welcome is always warm and the staff never seems disappointed to see their “Dam Fine Wine” hand delivered by Beaver himself! (Especially when he brings t-shirts, hats and corkscrews)

As usual the food was great and the atmosphere was one of a kind. The old log cabin style building makes you feel as though you stepped back in time upon entering and the dimly lit space seems as though it could still be lit by kerosene lanterns. In the winter months, depending where you sit, you can feel the ice-cold breeze through the cracks in the walls, a constant reminder of the authenticity and history of the Kirkwood Inn.








A New Look for a New Label!!

As we all know, time has a tendency to fly by, especially when you’re having fun. In the wine business we work very hard but we also know how to have fun and that fun makes time fly by (in a good way)! For us at Castoro the time has come to make some changes and for those of you who follow us on facebook or twitter you probably know by now that I am referring to our labels and logo. (Don’t worry we’re not dropping the beaver!!) For a long time we have been discussing updating our labels and logo but the sheer amount of work involved in the process had been stifling our motivation. It’s a lot of work!

After multiple rounds of design ideas, concepts and endless e-mail threads we have settled on a new label and logo that we feel sticks to our roots while keeping things fresh, new and interesting. The label is printed on sustainably produced paper that has a very nice texture with foil and embossing on the name and logo. We decided to stick to our roots with the copper capsule and incorporate that feel into the label, which I think came out very nice. The labels also carry the “Estate Grown” designation on all wines, something we are very proud of since we didn’t own a single vineyard when Castoro was founded in 1983.

We are still putting the finishing touches on the Reserve labels but I can assure you they are looking pretty snazzy! All in all we are very excited about the new look and hope you are as well. Sometimes all you need is a little change to keep things fun and exciting so keep your eyes peeled for the new label, grab a bottle and please let us know what you think! We appreciate and truly value your input.




Noeteca, Best Wine Bar in San Francisco!

Tucked away in the heart of San Francisco’s Noe Valley, is a place the SF Guardian dubbed “The Best Wine Bar” in San Francisco. Noeteca, located at 1551 Dolores street, is truly a neighborhood hot spot and hidden gem. The bar/restaurant itself is fairly small and is surrounded by homes (not other businesses), making it feel very personal and connected to the neighborhood.

I visited Noeteca for the first time a couple weeks back while working on a sales trip in San Francisco. The wine rep I was working with took me there for lunch because they had been serving our 2009 Reserve Syrah with great success and might be looking to add some more wines to their list. After having a delicious lunch, we poured a wide array of Castoro wines for the manager/wine buyer Alex and chatted about wine, food and food and wine. He was very nice and very engaged in the story of Castoro as were we in the story of Noeteca. After tasting through the wines, Alex decided to add the Muscat Canelli to the dessert wine list (a very good choice if you ask me). As we finished up our lunch and said our thank you’s, something told me I would be coming back sooner than later.

Lo and behold, a couple weeks later, one of my girlfriend’s best friends was coming to San Francisco for a week (she lives in China) and wanted to meet up. After sending e-mails back and forth we decided to meet her and her boyfriend for dinner in the city the night after they arrived. Since they were relatively unfamiliar with the area, it was our duty to find a good spot for dinner. After brainstorming for about 30 seconds I knew exactly where we were going . . . Noeteca!

When we arrived, the small restaurant was quite packed with couples and groups of friends winding down the day with delicious entrees and full glasses of wine. While waiting for a table to open up we all ordered a glass of wine and started catching up. Before too long we had been seated and orders had been placed. The food was fabulous and the wine, 2009 Castoro Cellars Reserve Syrah, couldn’t have been a better match! After dinner we topped off the evening with dessert, accompanied by a glass each of Castoro Muscat Canelli.

All in all the experience was great and I highly recommend this San Francisco gem to anyone who finds themselves wandering the Noe Valley. If you’re lucky they may still be pouring Castoro but even without it this place is well worth the visit!







Heading North? Better head to Mazzi’s

This past weekend I had the pleasure of heading up to Eugene Oregon to enjoy a few days in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. This time of year (for the most part) the weather is gorgeous and the landscape is incredibly green and lush. When you come from a relatively dry state like California, it almost doesn’t seem real to be in a place so green with forests full of ferns and hills with more trees than some counties back home.

On this last trip I was up visiting with my girlfriend’s family for her brother’s Birthday and a cousin’s wedding, both of which worked out quite well. Ryan is indeed a year older and the bride and groom both said, “I do.” Having lived there in the past, while working for Castoro, I had gotten our wines into a handful of restaurants and shops, which is really a challenge in a state that makes great wine of its’ own. As I moved away most of the accounts moved on, mainly due to distribution challenges that are far too boring to detail in this blog! One spot, however, has continued to carry Castoro and we couldn’t be more thankful.

Mazzi’s Italian restaurant, established in 1970, is one of the oldest and longest standing restaurants in Eugene. I remember going there on one of my first trips to Eugene, with my girlfriend and her family and them telling me stories of how they have been going there as long as they can remember. After moving up there, naturally, I decided I’d try and see if they were interested in Castoro. You may think it’s a shoe-in since Castoro is Italian for “beaver” but Eugene is Duck country and Beavers aren’t always welcome! On my first trip in we talked about the winery and tasted through the wines and they told me they would think about it. After a couple more drop-ins they decided to give the wines a go and ordered Fume Blanc, Cabernet and Zinfusion. Mason, the bartender and manager eventually fell in love with the Cabernet and to this day recommends the wine to patrons every night.

On this past trip, we all went to Mazzi’s on Friday night for Ryan’s Birthday, and of course there was Mason behind the bar pouring two full glasses of Castoro Cabernet as we walked to our table. The two of us caught up for a bit at the bar and the mutual respect couldn’t be more evident. We appreciate their business and support and in turn they appreciate great wine at a great price! If you like a family atmosphere and traditional Italian cuisine you can’t go wrong at Mazzi’s. The food is great and you can tell the people take pride in their work.

If you ever find yourself up that way I highly recommend stopping in, grabbing a glass of Castoro and, if the weather permits, sitting out on the patio for a lovely dinner. If you get a chance, say hi to Mason and tell him how much you love the wine! (You may have to act fast as it comes highly recommended!)