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Half Way There! Harvest Update #3

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We are half way there and we can see the light at the end of the tunnel! Niels told me confidently this morning that we are now half way through harvest and we are on track for a smooth finish (just like our chardonnay). After the initial heat spell that had us back on our heels and up to our ears in ripe fruit, things have calmed down a bit and the winery has regained a bit of sanity.

The reason for things slowing down, as always, is the weather. In the past week we have begun to feel the presence of fall and the cooler nights followed by milder days have brought the ripening rate to a much more manageable pace. Luckily, there hasn’t been any frost accompanying the cooler nights so our grapes haven’t been at risk. (fingers crossed)

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This week marks the first of our Merlot and all of our whites have now been picked except for a small lot of Whale Rock Grenache Blanc. In the last blog I mentioned that we had picked our first ever Falanghina and Niels told me this morning that we are now fermenting the juice (two barrels) in hopes of bottling a small batch. If all goes to plan we should have 50 cases or so of this unique wine when it is all said and done.

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In the world of spirits, Mikel has continued to work away at the still and definite progress has been made. We have made some Chenin Blanc Brandy and Orange Muscat Brandy that is very tasty, almost too tasty, and it just goes to show what a little time and dedication can get you!

With October here, Harvest Festival is right around the corner, and as usual we have an amazing weekend planned. Friday night will feature a kick-off party with live music by Resination and a catered dinner by Alex’s BBQ. To view the menu click HERE and for tickets click HERE. Saturday and Sunday we will host an open house with grape stomping, barrel samples, food and live music by Soul Sauce. October is one of the best times of year to visit the Central Coast and this year’s festival will be one to remember.

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Stay Tuned!



2013 Harvest Update #2

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As promised, the harvest updates will keep on coming until all the grapes have been picked and processed! As I mentioned in the last harvest update, this is the earliest harvest on record for Castoro and that has not changed. We have even picked some of our Cabernet before Chardonnay and that is unheard of, or as Niels puts it “bizarre.” There is really never a dull moment around these parts.

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Overall, everything is ripening very well, which is mainly a result of the warm weather and stress on the vines as a result. Some years we have very large yields (tons per acre) and other years very low, this year is right in the middle. The quality of the fruit continues to be very good and if we can avoid frost or early rain we are right on track for a very tasty vintage. Some of the standout lots so far have been Whale Rock Pinot Grigio, Whale Rock Chardonnay, and Whale Rock Pinot Noir. This really puts a smile on our faces, as the organically grown Whale Rock Vineyard is our pride and joy. Niels pointed out to me that this year the Blind Faith Pinot Noir and Whale Rock Pinot Noir were picked on the same day (Blind Faith is an East Side Vineyard and Whale Rock is West Side) and they are historically picked a month apart with Blind Faith coming in first.

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In other exciting winery news, our still has been running daily, as Mikel fine-tunes our production. He has been busy distilling various Grappas, Brandies, and fruit distillates in an effort to learn as much as possible so we can eventually bring you a product that meets our high standards of quality. The next step beyond distilling will be designing our label and packaging for the distillates. The options are endless but I can assure you we will come up with something classic, fun and fitting! Once we have that all taken care of, the grappas etc will be available for purchase in our Tasting Room. We may even have a special party at the winery to introduce the still so stay tuned!

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Till Next Time,



Harvest is Here, and Earlier than Ever!

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Now that Beaverstock has come and gone, we can get back to what we do best, winemaking! Harvest here on the Central Coast is fully underway and Niels told me this is the “earliest harvest” he has ever seen. As you can probably guess, the primary contributor to this is the weather. In late June/early July we had an intense heat wave that lasted a couple weeks and really jump-started the ripening process. Since then the weather has been consistently warm and more recently quite hot, resulting in the earliest harvest we can remember. The forecast for the coming week is significantly cooler and this trend will hopefully slow things down a bit giving us a chance to keep up!

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It’s important to note, however, this early harvest is not necessarily a bad thing. We are 2-3 weeks ahead of “normal” but the grapes that have come in have been very good and yields have been strong as well. This week will be a big week at the winery with multiple varietals coming in from various vineyards, but luckily our crew is as good as it gets and will welcome the challenge.

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We are excited to introduce some brand new varietals to the Castoro line up this vintage and if all goes to plan we will be picking the first of our Estate Grown Grenache Blanc and Falanghina. You might be thinking to yourself “don’t these guys already have a varietal arsenal?” and the answer is yes we do, but Niels loves experimenting and seems to have a knack for these things! It’s a lot of fun for our wine making team as well, because it keeps things fresh, fun and gives them something new to share with our club members and supporters.

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As harvest continues over the coming weeks make sure to stay tuned on the blog and social media for constant updates, photos and maybe even a video or two! Things are as exciting as ever at Castoro Cellars (even after 30 years) and we love sharing that experience with you.

Until Next Time,



Beaverstock: A Weekend to Remember!

First and foremost, a huge thank you is in order for all of you who came to celebrate 30 years of Dam Fine Wine with us! Wow, was Beaverstock amazing or what?! It almost feels surreal, as if the whole weekend was a dream fueled by amazing people having the time of their lives. After so much hard work and planning we couldn’t have asked for a better outcome and beyond that, we couldn’t have asked for a better feeling in the air. Everywhere I looked I saw people dancing, smiling, hugging and enjoying life, which is what this celebration was all about.

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On Saturday I had the pleasure of opening the festival with my band and words can’t even express the emotions I was experiencing. The venue was filling up with die-hard music lovers and many of the most important people in my life were there cheering us on. As our set progressed, people began to move up to the stage and before long we had a full-blown dance party on our hands and it didn’t stop till the festival was over!

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Following my band on Saturday we had The Guy Budd Band and they brought the blues to Beaverstock. Guy has played our winery many times over the years and it was a real treat to have him and his band there for the celebration. After Guy, Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers took the stage and took the festival to the next level! The crowd was really beginning to fill up and Nicki’s band was full of energy, as they had just released a new album that week. I believe it was during their set that it hit me “this festival is the real deal!”

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After Nicki’s set, there was a wine club reception up in our old barn and Ryan and Rhiannon couldn’t have done a better job of organizing and entertaining the party (both days). Club members were greeted with Champenoise and enjoyed light appetizers as they mingled with each other and various members of the Castoro crew.

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Next up were the Duhks, from Winnipeg Manitoba Canada they were something special. Over the years I have become great friends with the members of the band and they are truly amazing people. Being the first “all acoustic” band of the day, some people may have thought it was going to be a mellow set, but they rocked the house! Not only was the music great and full of soul, they were having fun and it was impossible to not pick up on their energy. By the time the Duhks played their last song the dance floor was packed and most of the audience was on their feet cheering them on.

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Coming down from a set like that isn’t easy but when you’ve got Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Dave Mason up next it’s a whole different story. Dave have some of the greatest songs of all time, and his band rocks! From one hit to the next, their set was smooth, fun and for lack of a better word, classic. I felt truly honored to be there watching Dave do his thing after all these years, and the venue couldn’t have been better. To top it off Dave closed his set with “All Along the Watch Tower,” a tune he happened to play with Jimi Hendrix on the recording we all know so well.
As the cars pulled away and the first day of Beaverstock was officially over, it hit me that it was all going to happen again on Sunday and I almost couldn’t believe it. I was emotionally and physically drained (in the best of ways) but I knew I had to rally because more magic was on the way.

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When Sunday came around and day two was underway, I’ll admit I had to ease into it but the Up In The Air Band was just what the doctor ordered and by the time they were wrapping up their set I felt good as new. I can remember watching Up In the Air perform at the Tasting Room when I was just a kid and it felt great having them there to celebrate with us.

Up next was another local favorite, the Damon Castillo Band and let me tell you these guys are tight! Not only is Damon a great singer and songwriter his band is also very tight and together. With a horn section holding down sweet melodies and Damon delivering his soulful lyrics and guitar riffs it was really a great show.

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The next act couldn’t have been more different than Damon Castillo but the transition really worked well. Joe Craven’s Mamajowali consisted of three world-class musicians being Joe Craven (percussion, mandolin, fiddle), Walter Strauss (finger style guitar), and Mamadou Sidibe (kamale ngoni). This group was very dynamic and Mamadou had the crowd in awe over his unique instrument, often referred to as the hunter’s harp, the kamale ngoni. Mamadou comes from Mali and he basically invented the instrument he plays, which is similar to a harp and is built on a gourd. The sound of his instrument along with Joe Craven and Walter was really something special and just what Beaverstock needed.

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I know I already wrote about the Duhks, but they played again on Sunday and believe it or not, it was completely different than Saturday. Knowing they would have many of the same people in the audience, the Duhks decided to reach deep into the bag of tricks and play a group of songs the hadn’t performed live in years. The result was a mix of Celtic jams, Leonard’s “Ham Bone” acapella, a Bob Marley tune and some heart felt soul. As the Duhks played their last song, the crowd went wild and chants for “one more song” were spreading like wild fire. As the members of the group stepped off the stage I gave each of them a hug as tears built up in my eyes and I will never forget that moment.

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Now, the time we had all been waiting for was finally here . . . Tower of Power!! I can’t think of a better way to close a festival and celebration than having one of the best soul bands of all time rock the house. Tower of Power is the definition of what it means to be a tight band and their horn section is nothing other than mind blowing. It also doesn’t hurt that their singer has an incredible voice with a range that will send shivers down your spine. From the moment they hit their first note down to the last the crowd was going wild and the dance floor was packed with people as happy as I’ve ever seen. My girlfriend’s dad and his friend Bill came all the way down from Oregon for this moment and I’ll never forget the looks on their faces as they danced the night away. From the classic tune “What is Hip” to “Still Diggin’ on James Brown” their set was one to remember and you could tell they were having fun even after all the years.

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Once Tower of Power played their last song and people started migrating home, it hit me that Beaverstock had come to an end. There was still a lot of work to do but the festival had come and gone and so much fun was had by all. We couldn’t have asked for a better group to celebrate 30 years with us and we appreciate all of the support we have gotten over the years. This was truly more than a music festival it was a gathering of people in a community who care about each other and understand that life is about living. Many people have asked if we are going to do it again and it is honestly too soon to tell but we will let you all know once we have had time to digest the weekend and regroup.

Cheers to 30 years and a weekend to remember!

Luke and the Castoro Family.