Castoro Cellars, founded by the husband and wife team of Niels and Bimmer Udsen in 1983, is one of Paso Robles' oldest wineries. What started out as just a few barrels in some rented space has grown into a 25,000-case operation. And it's all been under one simple mission: dam fine wine!And no, "dam" isn't a typo. Niels' longtime nickname happens to be "beaver," which in Italian is Castoro. So, the winery's motto--Dam Fine Wine--is a play on that.
Niels got his start in the Paso wine industry while attending college at Cal Poly (California Polytechnic University) in the nearby town of San Luis Obispo. After a working on a few wine-related projects, he landed a job at Estrella River Winery where he spent five years learning everything he could about the industry. By the way, Cal Poly also happens to be my Alma Mater.
Our Daily Wine
"We feel wine is an essential part of the daily meal. We provide consumers with a quality wine at a price that will allow them a fine bottle with almost every meal," says Niels. And how does he define that quality? It's by creating a product that reflects the respect that both he and his wife have for the land, such as cultivating three organic vineyards, improving the companies recycling standards and replacing rolls of paper towels with air dryers.
For example, back in 2005, Castoro stopped selling bottled water in their tasting room and replaced it with free purified water dispensers. The following year, they installed over 40 solar panels at their Cobble Creek vineyard and even a larger system near the tasting room. Those panels allow Castoro to run a summer concert series completely off the grid.
Of the winery's 500 acres, over 100 of them are certified organic, using cover crops, composting and beneficial insects in lieu of pesticides or herbicides. For example, pomace--the residue from grape skins and seeds--is used between the vines for weed control. And its remaining 400 acres are even SIP certified, making Castoro Cellars the only winery and vineyard in the Central Coast to boast both certifications.
"Growing up in Denmark, there was a strong environmental focus. I have always enjoyed nature and when we planted our organic vineyards, it was for no reason other than it was the right thing to do. We continue this focus in all of our vineyards," explains Bimmer. "Not only is it beneficial for the environment, it is better for our vineyards and for our vineyard neighbors."
Two Buck Chuck
Forget all connotations you have around inexpensive wine, because Castoro Cellars proves them wrong. Neils and his wife have succeeded in creating good, environmentally-responsible wines that are as affordable as they are tasty. While the most expensive wine retails around $50 a bottle, the 2010 White Zin is a mere $6.95!
The wine can be enjoyed with or without food. It is swirling with all of the Zin flavors one would expect but with some extra sweetness on the palette. Another favorite is the 2007 Viognier Reserve Stone's Throw. The white wine is crisp and slightly reserved for a Viognier making it really approachable.
This is why I love Castoro Cellars. A quality, eco-friendly product does not have to be necessarily expensive. Are you listening Whole Foods? Castoro proves that time and time again. Their wines are tasty, green and affordable. And I'll drink to that!
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