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Buona Tavola Ristorante!

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Every year at Castoro, Niels and Bimmer give out Holiday gifts to our employees and part of the gift includes a gift certificate to a restaurant that serves our wines. As employees we get to choose from a list of restaurants, and I must say, the decision for me has been quite easy the past couple years….Buona Tavola! Having spent a significant amount of time in Italy, I love and appreciate authentic Italian food and Buona Tavola is as good as it gets stateside. From the family atmosphere to the wine and food, Buona Tavola is the full package.

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When we arrived at the restaurant, it was a Friday night and the place was packed. Alex Pellini, the nephew of Chef and founder Antonio Varia, greeted us very warmly and offered us a spot at the bar while we waited for a table. We each ordered a glass of Italian wine, with Alex’s recommendation of course, and took in the wonderful energy surrounding us. As we waited we were served fresh bread with olive oil, vinegar and olive topenade and it never ceases to amaze me how something so simple can be so delicious!

After a very short wait we moved to an open table and our culinary adventure began! As Alex pointed out, January is restaurant month in SLO County, and participating restaurants offer a three-course prix fixe meal for $30. After looking at Buona Tavola’s restaurant month offering, all three of us decided to give it ago. The menu included an Antipasti (appetizer), Primi (first course) and Secondi (second course) with two options at each course. Since Alex and Antonio make and cure their own salami, I opted for the “Alle Pia Salami” Antipasti, which was mix of salami Italian cheeses and home made spreads. Once again, something so simple never tasted so good!

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For the Primi course we all opted for the “Tortellini di Zucca,” a homemade pumpkin and ricotta cheese tortellini dish in a sage and mascarpone cheese sauce topped with chopped toasted walnuts. It was simple and amazing, with the perfect balance of richness and flavor and the portion was just right. For the Secondi course we went our separate ways with Lauren and Max ordering the Timballo Valdostano (grilled fresh eggplant, red and yellow bell peppers, green and yellow zucchini, baked with mozzarella and parmesan cheese in a light tomato sauce) while I went with the Tagliata di bue salutare (10oz marinated flat-iron steak grilled with fresh herbs, served sliced over fresh arugula and shaved parmesan with a balsamic reduction sauce). Of course, all of this was enjoyed with a bottle of Castoro’s finest Zinfandel Zinfusion Reserve, recent recipient of “Double Gold” honors at the SF Chronicle Wine Competition.!

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Next time you are in SLO county with a craving for traditional Italian cuisine, give Buona Tavola a try and see for yourself why they have a reputation for serving the best Italian on the Central Coast. Their wine list isn’t too shabby either!

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Buon Appetito!


57 Miles for 57 Years!

This year, for his birthday, Beaver had the great/crazy idea of getting a group together and going for a bike ride the distance of his age . . . 57 miles for 57 years! Surprisingly, we were able to get a solid crew of over ten riders to embark on the journey and what a journey it was!

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To get things started, we met at the wonderful Amsterdam Café in downtown Paso and crowded inside to soak up some warmth before braving the 29-degree weather! As you can imagine, riding adds a significant wind chill factor, and when it’s below freezing outside you definitely feel it! Luckily, the ride went straight out Peachy Canyon Road, which is a nice incline and just what we needed to get the blood pumping and the body heat up to a tolerable level. For those of you who are into cycling, running etc, you know there is something special about embarking on a challenge with a group of friends who are in it together and pushing themselves while supporting each other.

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As we made our way through Peachy Canyon, Adelaida and Klau Mine Rd I couldn’t help but feel fortunate to live in such a beautiful and peaceful place. The terrain back there is a beautiful mix of rolling hills strewn with oak trees, vineyards and cattle and the traffic is very minimal, which is a cyclist’s dream. After winding/climbing our way through Paso’s West Side we headed out San Marcos Rd to San Miguel for a much needed lunch break at Dos Hermanos Mexican Restaurant. At 44 miles into the ride, tacos and a pacifico never tasted so good!

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After too many tacos and a nice rest it was time to make our way back to Paso to complete the “Tour de Beaver”. Luckily, the last leg of the journey was only 14 miles and most of the hills were hours behind us. I actually really enjoyed this portion of the ride, as it was completely different than the morning leg. Most of all I think we appreciated the relatively incline free rout, as most of our legs were feeling the burn!

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Once we made it back into Paso, it was time to celebrate, so we headed to Artisan to sit on the patio and enjoy some fine local brews! I think I can confidently say there was a collective feeling of relief and accomplishment in the group and I couldn’t have been more proud of our Castoro team! Especially considering the average age of the group was around 50.

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Happy Birthday Beaver, next year lets do 58!

As always, stay tuned for upcoming blogs featuring local restaurants, current events and much more. Also if you are a cyclist and want to join the team, our jerseys are available HERE.



After 26 years, Mikel O. has Retired!

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As you all know, 2013 was a landmark year for us at Castoro Cellars. We celebrated 30 years in business and with that comes a lot of memories, emotions and great wine! Being around that long also means change, transition and new chapters in an ever-evolving story. One chapter that is hard to see come to a close is that of our longest-term employee and Assistant Winemaker Mikel Olsten. After 26 years of employment, Mikel has decided to retire and start a new chapter in his life, and as hard as it is to see him go, we couldn’t be happier for him and he will always be a part of the Castoro family!

Mikel’s relationship with Niels and Bimmer goes way back to a time when Castoro Cellars was merely an idea and short shorts and mustaches ruled the land. Mikel met Niels and Bimmer while playing on a co-ed softball team in SLO called “Foul Play” around 1980 or 81 and soon became their friend and landlord. 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.

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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 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!”

More recently Mikel took on the project of setting up and mastering our new Grappa Still. For the past few months Mikel spent his time tinkering with the still and every aspect of the distillation process to make sure we are on track to produce high quality spirits from the start. For those of you who were fortunate enough to taste some of Mikel’s Grappa and Brandy at our Pick-up party, you know how special it was!

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In his retirement Mikel plans to spend more time with his family and most importantly his Grandson Corbin. As a matter of fact, as I write this, Mikel is in Hawaii with the whole family, and if I had to guess he’s probably teaching Corbin to snorkel or build sand castles right now! You will also find Mikel out riding his motorcycle and skiing down the slopes of Mammoth Mountain. As hard as it is to see Mikel go, he has truly earned his retirement and we know he couldn’t be happier.

Mikel will continue to involved in Castoro Cellars by attending festivals and events, so when you see him, give him a hug, a hand shake or a pat on the back and thank him for all the years he spent making this company what it is today!

Cheers to Mikel’s next chapter!

Castoro crew!