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Can You Dig It?

Have you ever seen a wall of grape skins 6 feet high and then crawled into a tank full of deadly CO2 gas, through an 18 inch hole, to shovel it all out. The guys out here do it every day during harvest, over and over again. Not to worry though, nobody is going to die at Castoro because we use every safety precaution possible to prevent an accident. They will, however, most likely be completely purple by the end of the day.

Once the red wine is done fermenting, it has to be drained out of the tank and separated from the skins and seeds. Below is an image showing the wine draining out through a spout and into a metal hopper with a giant strainer. The wine is pumped to a new clean tank and what’s left in the tank is a giant wall of skins and seeds that must be removed. The problem is that the only access to this wall, from the bottom, is a hole just 18 inches in diameter. The fermenting process has also created an excess amount of CO2 gas that can be deadly if inhaled for too long. Using shovels and pitch forks the cellar boys must dig a tunnel through the grapes in order to enter the tank. A fan is placed at the top of the tank to blow fresh air in and two guys are sent in the bottom equipped with oxygen monitors for extra safety. The tank is hot, the air is thick and the skins are sticky and moist, but it must be done because the next batch of juice is already ready for fermentation and we need the tank to complete it. The skins and seeds that were scooped out are loaded bin by bin into a press and squeezed of all remaining wine. Nothing goes to waste at Castoro.

Now for a grape update! The white wine grapes have all been picked and pressed, and we have just less than one quarter of the grapes left to harvest. However, that doesn’t mean things will be slowing down any time soon. When I talked to Tom he was really excited about our Late Harvest Muscat Canelli. The grapes were at a higher sugar level than Tom has ever seen at around 40 °Brix. This should create a wine with intense sweetness and ripe, concentrated flavors; a perfect topping for fruit salad, pancakes or sipped by itself after a meal. We also received a large amount of Cabernet Sauvignon and more Petite Sirah with a great inky color and aromas of plum and dark berries. The main crop of Zinfandel is still holding on due to the slightly colder climate of the organic Whale Rock Vineyard on the west side of Paso. This vineyard is also home to many other exciting varietals including the always interesting Carignane, my favorite Tempranillo and the dark fruit filled Primitivo.

That’s all for now folks, and once again thanks for reading!






Harvest Fest 2012!

Thanks to you we did it again! That’s right, another Harvest Festival in the bag and a Dam Fine time it was. Year after year the Harvest Festival grows and matures as an event and this year was no exception! We found ourselves surrounded by familiar faces and were fortunate enough to see many new faces as well.

As usual the weekend was packed with live music, great food, grape stomping, barrel tasting and a lot of Dam Fine Wine. We kicked off Harvest Fest on Friday night with live music by the Damon Castillo Band and they came to rock! The crowd was great and the music was all that we could ask for and more. On Saturday and Sunday, local favorites, Soul Sauce entertained festivalgoers from our outdoor stage, playing a wide variety of classic tunes.

Once again, the biggest hit, was the grape stomping. There is just something special about kicking off the shoes and having some good old-fashioned fun. Not to mention it is nearly impossible to keep from laughing as grapes explode beneath your feet and squirt juice just about every which way imaginable!

Thanks you all very much for being a part of the 2012 Harvest, we couldn’t do it with out you! This has been a crazy year but the grapes are looking very good and we are confident this will be a vintage to remember.

Till Next Time,




photo2-4 Copy


Let the Fermentation Begin!

In the last blog I left off as the tanks were filling with juice or crushed grapes and getting ready to change into that wonderful liquid we call wine. Don’t hold your breath though because it will be a long time before this must turns into something you can find in a wine glass at the tasting room.

Now before I even go into what happens next in this crazy process, I have to say that every winery has its own way of proceeding. The basic process of turning juice to wine is the same, but each winemaker has their own special additions, techniques and in some rare cases secret rituals to mold the wine into something incredible. I will explain how we do it here at Castoro, the correct way, haha, just kidding. All shots are called by our super star winemaker Tom Myers and followed precisely by his sidekicks all over the cellar. Think of it like Batman with a whole bunch of Robins running around fighting the crime that is unfinished and undrinkable wine.

The first decision Tom makes is which type of yeast to add to the must or juice. Yeast has about as many variations as there are grapes in the Paso Robles AVA. It can be anything from wild natural yeast to something mass-produced on a farm in France or Germany. When added, in the absence of oxygen and with the correct nutrients, the yeast will begin to eat the sugars in the juice, converting them to alcohol, CO2, and lees or sediment. The juice can be fermented till it is dry and no more sugar remains, or the process can be stopped to keep some residual sugar and create a sweeter wine such as our splendid Muscat Canelli. The higher the sugar content at the beginning the higher the possible alcohol percentage will be and Paso is known for its strong wines. In order to make sure those little living yeast organisms are healthy and performing at their highest level, yeast aid or nutrients are added as well. I attached some pictures of the yeast as well as the more powdery substance, which is the yeast aid. I could write a novel about yeast so I’m leaving you with that brief description and hopefully enough interest to read a little more into the fermenting process yourself.

For the production of red wine, the grape skins and seeds are still mixed with the juice while the yeast and aide are added. However, like ice the skins and seeds slowly float to the top and separate from the liquid. In order to mix the whole batch up, keep it uniform and prevent a hard crust of skins from forming at the top, the cellar boys use a technique known as a pump-over. This involves sucking the juice out of the bottom of a tank and pumping it through a hose back into the top to evenly disperse it over the skins. Pump-over times vary, but on average it is done for about 30 minutes twice a day until the fermentation process is complete. Below is a picture of Wes and Jim, managing the multiple pump-overs they just started after lunch. Red wine is fermented with the skins in order to extract the maximum amount of flavor and color for the end product.

Grape Update! The weather has been near perfect and that means ripe, juicy grapes, deep in color and high in sugar. Merlot, Syrah, Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes continue to flow in and we are finally seeing the first of our Zinfandel grapes go into the tanks. The best of the Zin is still to come, however, from our CCOF certified organic Whale Rock and Cobble Creek Vineyards. Both are located on the west side of Paso Robles. Our Whale Rock Vineyard has already produced a magnificent batch of Pinot Noir, riper and more flavorful than ever before. This wine will be sure to knock your taste buds back to life. We also received some Malbec grapes from our Hog Canyon Vineyard, which have, as Tom describes, a great mouth feel, rich tannins and ripe flavors.

That’s all for now, but I’ll be back before you can say “Saccharomyces cerevisiae” (One of the most common forms of yeast used in winemaking).

Thanks for reading,





Web Wednesday: YES Please!

At Castoro Cellars we love sharing our wine, after all, that’s why we started making wine in the first place (almost 30 years ago)! Since the beginning, owner/founders, Niels and Bimmer Udsen, have had a vision of bringing high-quality wines to the public at very reasonable prices. To this day that vision is being fulfilled and one of the best ways to experience this first hand, is to join our wine club or sign up for our e-mail list and reap the benefits of “Web Wednesday!”

Web Wednesday is a weekly special sent out through our e-mail list that is always different and ALWAYS a great deal! From library wines to new releases, there is something for everyone and you don’t have to worry about breaking the bank. Of course, the discounts are always deeper for wine club members, but even if you are not a member, they will blow your mind.

This past week, Chuck (our wine club manager) ran a particularly nice special in honor of the upcoming Harvest Festival and the reaction was amazing. So much so that the entire back room of our tasting room was filled head high with outgoing orders! (See Photo Below) To give you a taste of the special I will include last week’s below (note it has expired):

Thru Wednesday only receive 20% off or 35% off if you are an active wine club member (an active member is one who received the last scheduled wine club shipment), or 40% off if you are a Legacy Club member if you buy a case of the following reserve wines (the case can be mixed):

2011 Tango White Blend Regular price $22, non-member sale price $17.60, wine club sale price $14.30
2011 Rosato di Zinfandel Regular price $19, non-member sale price $15.20, wine club sale price $12.35
2007 Pinot Noir Santa Barbara Regular price $22, non-member sale price $17.60, wine club sale price $14.30 (only 7 cases left)
2006 Petit Verdot Stone’s Throw Regular price $22, non-member sale price $17.60 , wine club sale price $14.30 (only 10 cases left)
2010 Tempranillo Regular price $23, non-member sale price $18.40, wine club sale price $14.95
2006 Due Mila Otto Regular price $35, non-member sale price $28, wine club sale price $22.75


by purchasing the above case that entitles you to purchase as many additional cases as you want (and it can also be mixed) of the following wines at 50% off:

2010 Chardonnay Regular price $14, sale price $7
2008 Roussanne Reserve Regular price $19, sale price $9.50 (only 4 cases left)
2009 Viognier Paso Robles Reserve Regular price $19, sale price $9.50
2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Regular price $15, sale price $7.50
2008 Merlot Regular price $15, sale price $7.50 (only 5 cases left)
2010 Zinfandel Regular price $15, sale price $7.50


Not only that but I will throw in free shipping (except to Hawaii & Alaska). Packing material and any applicable taxes will be applied.

As you can see, that is a pretty amazing deal and each deal is only good until midnight on Wednesday. To receive our web Wednesday specials all you have to do is go onto our website and enter your e-mail to join our mailing list. If you love wine, it is well worth it and it’s a lot of fun because Chuck always mixes it up!

Till Next Time,




2010 Zinfusion “A Great American Value”

Every so often, a wine comes along that stands out among the crowd, sometimes for a given year and sometimes year after year. Luckily for us our Zinfandel Zinfusion Reserve has been the latter. Since we began making the Zinfusion blend almost ten years ago, there has not been a disappointing vintage. In fact, it seems to get better and better year after year, thanks to the hard work of our vineyard and winemaking teams.

Recently, our 2010 Zinfusion received some well-deserved recognition from Wine Spectator Magazine! In an article titled, “Great American Values” our Zinfusion was listed as one of the top 100 red wines in America under $20.00. That is pretty amazing, considering how many thousands of wines qualify for consideration in that category. Over the years we have always strived to bring high quality, affordable and accessible wines to the market and this is confirms we have done just that!

Our winemaker Tom Myers put it best when he said, “I want to produce the best wines I possibly can, but in the end, I wouldn’t feel good about making wines that only a small percentage of the population can afford. We produce honest wines that are an honest value. Our wines allow people to include quality wine in their daily lifestyle, without breaking the bank.” It is precisely this philosophy that allows us to produce wines like our Zinfusion.

If you get a chance, pick up a bottle of our 2010 Zinfusion as it is a very special vintage and is going faster than Lance Armstrong’s Tour De France titles (sorry Lance couldn’t resist). This wine is a blend of our Cobble Creek and Whale Rock Zinfandels with 14% Petite Sirah blended in from the Shell Creek vineyard, giving it great color, body and intense aroma. After the 2009 vintage I was convinced it couldn’t get any better and boy was I wrong!

Till Next Time,





Dam Fine Delivery Van!

As you may have noticed via Facebook and twitter, Castoro Cellars is now traveling/delivering in style! With the transition to our new labels/logo we have had the wonderful opportunity to update and makeover a myriad of things at Castoro. From business cards and vineyard signs to our website and delivery van.

The most recent update has gotten me particularly excited because it looks so good! A few months back we upgraded our local delivery van to a Mercedes Sprinter, which is bigger and more sturdy/powerful than what we had before, allowing us to deliver more wine in a safer fashion. The van is also very nice to drive, which is always a bonus!

When we first got the van, we were waiting to put the finishing touches on our new logo, so the van, until this week, has been plain as white bread. Around mid day yesterday I got an e-mail from Niels, showing a picture of the new van after being picked up from the detailer, and I immediately broke into a wide grin. It looks very nice and the new logo looks great across its side.

If you’re out on the road keep your eyes peeled and you just might spot her. If you can, snap a photo (preferably the passenger, safety first) and share it with us via Facebook, twitter or e-mail.

See you on the road,





Jack Creek Merlot, Perfect on a Rainy Day!

Here we are, almost half way through October, and harvest is moving along at a steady and consistent pace, just how we like it! The vineyards have been producing high-quality fruit at great yields and so far the weather has been on our side. With that said, Mother Nature always has a way of reminding us who is boss.

This morning as we began picking our Jack Creek Merlot (which looked fantastic, see below) the sky was gray and something in the air gave off the feeling that it might rain. Sure enough, a short while later it began to rain and continued to do so off and on all day. The rain wasn’t heavy enough to effect the harvesting or have an impact on the grapes but it was enough to remind us who is in charge.

A little rain is something we can deal with but what we really don’t want is frost. Frost can do serious damage very quickly, which is why we are constantly monitoring the forecast and our vineyard temperatures. Luckily, since there has not been significant frost yet, the Merlot we picked today was in great condition, which allowed for a very easy and efficient mechanical harvest.

Mechanical harvesting is something we use only when the grapes and vineyard warrant it and today that was the case. The sugar levels were perfect, the leaves are still green meaning they won’t fall off into the grapes and the vineyard rows have plenty of room for the tractor to come through. Even in the rain we managed a very clean harvest and the fruit looked great!

In other winery news, two new tanks arrived today making more room for this great harvest we have been having. Sometimes you’ve gotta strike while the iron’s hot and with this year’s volume we’ve needed to add a little extra space to ensure we can store it!

Until Next Time,





Late Harvest Muscat, In a League of its Own!

One thing that keeps wine making from ever having a dull moment, is the diversity of the process and how it changes depending on the fruit and style of wine you are making. This week we picked our “Late Harvest” Muscat Canelli, which undergoes a process that is very unique to this wine.

A couple weeks back we harvested about half of our Muscat Canelli and left the other half of the fruit on the vines for raisining. What this does is allow the grapes to become very sweet and basically turn into varying forms of raisins (See photos below). Once the grapes have been picked we run them through the de-stemmer and crusher, which separates the berries from the stems and puts enough pressure on the berries to let some of the juice out of the skins. After being crushed and de-stemmed we let the berries soak overnight in bins to hydrate the raisins before pressing.

The next day we are left with a deliciously sweet mixture of berries and juice and an unmistakable aroma that can only be Muscat Canelli. These bins are then run through our press to squeeze out all of the syrup like juice, leaving behind only the pomace or skins and seeds. When we sent the raisin like grapes to the press they were at a sugar level of 36 °Brix and at the very end some of the juice even had a reading of 45 °Brix, which is very sweet! (And delicious)

As I’ve mentioned many a time, there is never a dull moment at the winery and there is always something new to learn or try. So next time you sip on a cold glass of Late Harvest Muscat Canelli (with your favorite desert), you can tell your friends how it was made!

Until Next Time,