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The Noisy Stage of Winemaking

Squash, Bang, Vroom, Click, Swoosh, Ping! The noises of harvest are loud, many and constant around here. From the moment the grapes come in and Sherrie or Jamie, the dynamic enologist duo, tests them for sugar content, we hear the sounds of hard work and wine making. Check out Jamie looking cool with her shades on using the, as Sherrie calls it, stabber to suck grapes out of the bins. It works just like putting your finger on the top of a straw to suck up soda, but instead of spitting it at your siblings they are creating a diverse sample from each bin to get a more accurate read.
After taking the initial °Brix the grapes are gently unloaded into an auger. White grapes head straight to the press and the red grapes are put through the de-stemmer. Below is a picture of Max, demonstrating with ease, how to unload the grapes from the bin into the auger using a giant hydraulic crane. He is unloading the Blind Faith Vineyard Syrah that just came in today. It has great color and aromas of dark berries and plums.
Next we see Bill and Chris manning the de-stemmer and apparently having a great time doing it. Here in this giant mysterious spinning cylinder, grapes are thrown to the side through small holes while the leaves and stems are caught and sent out the other end. At the bottom of the de-stemmer Chuy and Ken strategize about how they are going to get all this work done and keep their hair from falling completely out. Tom then takes into account sugar content, acidity, varietal and many other factors as he chooses a tank for the red grapes. The must will ferment with the skins in order to absorb that rich red color we all love and crave and the tannins that give us the drying sensation on our tongues I find addicting.
White grapes enjoy a different fate, heading to a bladder press directly from the bins where they are robbed of all remaining juice. The press inflates the bladder inside, squeezing every last drop of liquid out of the grapes into a hopper underneath. The juice then sifts through a series of filters at the bottom and once again Tom sends them to a tank for fermentation. In order to empty the dry stems and skins out, however, someone has to climb in the press, scoop them out by hand and rinse it down from inside. Someone call Mike Rowe because it’s a dirty job, and below Max, Wes, Pat and Malek are doing a dam good job proving it. The whole press cycle takes about 4 hours to complete, but the end result is well worth the wait and the work.
For a brief update on grapes we received more Sauvignon Blanc this week as well as Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon from our Blind Faith Vineyard. Tom was most excited about the Blind Faith Syrah for its rich dark color, perfect sugar content and high acidity likely to follow in the grand footsteps of past Blind Faith Syrah Reserve Vintages.
As the process continues so will I, but not till next week.
Bye for now and thanks for reading,





On the Road with a New Label!

Being involved with marketing and sales for Castoro Cellars has me on the road a lot, and for the most part it’s great, because I get to travel our beautiful state and familiarize myself with areas I may otherwise never visit. Lately my travels have been especially fun because I have been taking our new labels on the road with me everywhere I go. Whenever you embark on something new, whether it is labels, a haircut or even a recipe there is always an element of risk involved. Are people going to like it, am I going to look silly, will people rebel? You never really know until you put yourself out there and see what people have to say.

For me this has been a wonderful experience. I’ll admit, at first it was a bit intimidating because we put so much work into the new labels, with meeting after meeting and design after design. Once you finally have it on the bottle it almost doesn’t seem real and you have a special attachment to it because you were a part of its creation. The first few times I showed the label to customers and sales reps, I was really nervous, not because I thought they wouldn’t like it but because I wanted them to love it!

Now that the labels have been slowly circulating for over a month, I feel nothing but eagerness to share them because the feedback has been great all around. I have shown the wines in restaurants, retail stores and to long time customers. The reaction I get most often is “classy” or “elegant” and that is just fine with me! Our wines have been and will always be a great value and now you can take home a “classy” bottle of Estate Grown, award-winning wine for the same great price it has always been!

See you on the road,






Juice, Juice and More Juice!

We have grapes coming out of our ears here at the winery and finally some of those grapes are red. We kicked off our red harvest on Tuesday with a fresh, plump truck full of juicy Syrah from both the Shell Creek and Vista Grande Vineyards. This dark skinned beauty is bound to produce a wine powerful in flavor; matching its smooth, award winning predecessor the Syrah Reserve 2010.

The first of our Chardonnay from the east side of Paso was quick to follow from our Hog Heaven, Blind Faith and Stone’s Throw Vineyards. Due to their high acid content, these grapes look eager to make a crisp, irresistibly delicious wine. We also imported new French oak barrels to give the Chardonnay the light buttery smoothness it deserves. I attached some pictures of the sexy new barrels to the blog for your viewing pleasure.

Next came the Muscat Canelli grapes, tasting of peaches and sure to be fermented into a sweet summer favorite and a most important addition to the white blend that dances in your mouth, Tango!

Gewürztraminer, hard to pronounce, but extremely aromatic, was the most exciting grape that came in Friday. Sherrie said she knew it was good before even tasting it because it filled the air with the scents of flowers and hints of ginger. I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty darn tasty to me. Sherrie also referred to the sample of Pinot Grigio grapes we received as very cute; however, I’m not sure if cute grapes make good wine. That debate is still up in the air.

Also on Friday, to finish off a great week, came the first growth Petite Sirah grapes which Niels said were bursting off our Blind Faith vines in ripeness. These young vines produced a limited yield of super dark grapes with perfect sugar content. This should create a fantastic wine rich in dark berry flavors and full bodied. Also, the deep tannins will allow for extended aging.

Next week it looks as if we are getting more Muscat Canelli, Chenin Blanc and the first of our cute Pinot Grigio. Until then, this is all the grapes have to say!
Thanks for reading,






Downtown Oakland is a place that often gets a bad wrap, especially from those who have never been there. Although there is a rough side to areas of Oakland there are also areas that are overflowing with art, music and cultural diversity. Recently, Castoro Cellars Chardonnay was taken on by-the-glass at a restaurant in downtown Oakland called MUA. If any establishment embodies the cultural movement underway in Oakland, MUA is the spot.

The restaurant is located in what used to be some sort of industrial warehouse and has used that edge to its advantage. It feels almost as if it is a cross between an upscale restaurant and a nightclub, as a matter of fact that is exactly what it is! The building is two stories and has numerous tables upstairs and downstairs with three separate bars. One of the bars even has a lounge area with leather couches and chairs surrounding small round tables.

As my friends and I ordered drinks and food we found ourselves to be very fascinated with MUA. About ten feet from our table was a DJ accompanied by a guy playing live upright bass over the tracks she was spinning. It was pretty crazy and really cool. It made the dining experience a little more exciting and gave the place a very unique energy.

The food was an assortment of small plates and main courses, all of which were very tasty and creatively put together. We ordered a variety of plates including butternut squash mac n’ cheese, crab cakes, burrata cheese with portabello and a good old fashioned Angus burger. Not to mention some delicious 2010 Castoro Chardonnay!

All in all the experience was great and very unique. If you ever find yourself in Oakland with a sense of adventure I would highly recommend giving MUA a try. You may want to make reservations, as this place tends to be very packed!








Lazy Locals 2012

This past Sunday at Castoro Cellars we hosted our final Lazy Locals concert for the summer of 2012 and what a successful summer series it was! For those of you who may be unfamiliar, “Lazy Locals” is a free outdoor concert series we do in the summer, featuring local talent, and plenty of wine, all in a beautiful setting. Concertgoers often bring blankets, picnics, friends and family to make for a memorable Sunday afternoon.

This past Sunday, the Lazy Locals concert was especially memorable for me because I was fortunate enough to play it! As many of you know, I have been performing and writing music for years and have occasionally entertained at various Castoro events. For the past few years the idea of playing a Lazy Locals show had been tossed around but it had always been a challenge for me to get my band together. This year it worked out and we had an absolute blast!

My band was able to come together from far and wide (Sacramento, Los Angeles, Berkeley and Petaluma) and it was really special as we rarely are able to get together these days. In all honesty it was probably the best setting to get together in as the weather was perfect, the wine was flowing and the crowd was very kind.

After our three hour set we enjoyed visiting with folks from the crowd and tasting through the wines in the Tasting Room. Can’t beat that Whale Rock Chardonnay and Zinfandel Zinfusion!! Wow!

Thanks to all of those who came out and make sure to check back next summer for a whole new line up of Lazy Locals shows.








Harvest Lunches!!

Mmm Mmm! There’s nothing like home cooking, especially when it means a free lunch. As truck after truck enters the gates, with grape filled bins, the smiles on our faces begin to appear. Not only is it the sight of plump, ripe, SIP certified Sauvignon Blanc grapes coming in from our Dos Viñas Vineyard, but also the thought of lunch just a few hours away on the company tab.

During Crush, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday Niels and Bimmer like to sit down with the entire Castoro Crew for a big, family style meal. This past Wednesday was the first one of the year and Holy Cheese with some Castoro Zin was it good. We all take turns cooking for the 40 plus crew members and this year Cindy stepped up to the plate to get us started. As a little background, Cindy is our accounts payable department and let’s just say, you better pay your bills or you’re going to hear about it over and over again. She may even show up at your doorstep, and if she does, invite her in because wow can she cook.

Cindy cooked for two days straight, staying up till the wee hours of the night to make us all home-made pulled pork sandwiches, complete with her own special BBQ sauce and freshly cut coleslaw. This is of course, always served with a tall glass of grape juice fresh from the cellar. She set a standard that will be hard to beat and I don’t know how I’ll compete with that when it’s my turn to cook in late October.

Today, after receiving the last of the Sauvignon Blanc grapes from Dos Viñas, we were blessed with a BBQ feast from none other than Niels and Bimmer themselves. Not only do they make dam fine wine, but they can also grill up a storm. This storm included moist chicken breasts, BBQ beans, oven baked squash topped with cheese, and a salad with tomatoes and cucumbers freshly picked from their garden. As Cindy would say, “it’s now Nap:30 time,” because I’m so full, I’m falling asleep writing this blog.

The kicker was the 4 layer chocolate cake and the “harmonious” song to celebrate Mikel’s birthday. I won’t mention his age but he’s been at Castoro since the very beginning, and this place wouldn’t be what it is today if it weren’t for everything he has done. Also, although Mikel probably enjoyed it, I don’t think Castoro will be getting a record deal any time soon.

My mind keeps drifting off to what Monday’s lunch has in store for my stomach so that’s all for now. Once again thanks for reading,





“Thin Air” Chili Cook-off

Across America, Labor day is looked at as a weekend to kick back, hit the mountains, rivers, beaches or maybe even the sofa and just enjoy a little extra time with friends and family. For Niels, Bimmer and friends, Labor Day means it’s time for the “Thin Air” Chili Cook-Off in Kirkwood! For the second time in three years the Castoro Crew entered the contest, poured wine and made the most of a beautiful mountain weekend.

This year our theme was “Peace, Love and Chili” to pair with our 2011 Harvest tie-dye t-shirts. The Chili itself was based on traditional recipes, fresh ingredients and a little Whale Rock Zinfandel. Most of the produce used in the chili came straight out of Bimmer’s home garden, making it fresh, organic and delicious. The chili was finished off simmering with Whale Rock Zin and a touch of dark chocolate! It was really, really good stuff!

All in all, the contest had 12 contestants, multiple breweries and a handful of wineries in attendance, not to mention the backdrop of Kirkwood Mountain. Sounds like heaven right? (Well it was pretty darn close!) After tasting through all of the Chilis, beers and wines it was pretty tough to say whose was the best, especially since they were all pretty good. (Might be the beer talking)

In the end, we didn’t win best Chili but we did win Best Booth and that says a lot about our spirit! We had a great crew and people really enjoyed stopping by to try our wine and our Chili. Maybe next time we’ll win the big prize, in the mean time, we’ve already started planning our next recipe!





From the first time I stepped in the tasting room just over a year ago things have been changing here at Castoro. Most significantly for me has been my position with the company. I have gone from part-time intern at the tasting room, to harvest worker, to cellar hand, to forklift driver and most recently marketing and sales. With that title, among other responsibilities, comes blogging, something I have never done before.

So here I am on my blogging debut, thinking about what to write and what seems most significant at this time is to talk about the changes I have witnessed in the past year and the changes that are undoubtedly coming with harvest upon us. Some of these changes are updates to adapt to the age of smart phones, social media and digital, well everything, while others are necessary additions to keep up with the ever evolving wine industry, the seasons, and a result of company growth. Over at the tasting room there are now Ipads on the counters complete with a Castoro app, and many new faces including Jim, Matt, Angela and Rhiannon. If you haven’t met them, go say Hi! The tasting room is now also following a recent wine tasting trend by providing wine on tap for events, and last but not least we have a new orange mascot, Vincent the cat.

The most notable change, however, is the introduction of the new logo and with it the much anticipated and awesome new Castoro label. I am extremely excited about it and so far it has been released on the Fume Blanc, which has been changed to a Sauvignon Blanc, the Cabernet Sauvignon, the Zinfandel and very soon the Chardonnay will get a makeover as well. Luke and Bimmer are also working on modernizing, while Luke, with a little help from me, is keeping the world well informed through Facebook, Twitter and any other new social media source that pops up.

As Castoro adopts a new image, the grapes for our 2012 harvest are ripening up and the first of the Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc grapes are rolling in. From what we have seen so far this is going to be one incredibly juicy and tasty year for wine. The hoses are clean, pumps are working great and new tanks were just installed to house the incoming juice. Everyone is pumped up and ready for things to get a little crazier around here, so stay tuned as the work picks up and more changes unfold here at Castoro.
Thanks for Reading,