The husband and wife team of Niels and Bimmer Udsen established Castoro Cellars with the goal of producing world-class wines from Paso Robles-appellation grapes. Each vintage presents a new challenge and Niels is more than willing to constantly and creatively experiment. This on-going research is only one of the things that ensures they meet their goal.
Niels' long-time nickname "Beaver," evolved further when he was working in Italy and his friends soon took to calling him "Il Castoro," which is beaver in Italian. The name and the motto stuck. Castoro Cellars' "dam fine wines" sport a picture of a beaver on each label.
Castoro is now a winemaking team effort. The team includes Niels, his mentor Tom Myers and Sherrie Holzer. Together they discuss and decide how they want to handle each variety.
"There's a lot less romance in the every day wine world than appears from the outside," Niels explains. "The winery isn't a showplace, we don't have big stone pillars and art collections, but we have everything we need to make great wine." Establishing their own winery out in San Miguel and being able to produce their wines in one place as opposed to producing different wines in different locations, still ranks as one of Niels' most gratifying experiences.
Niels, born and raised in Ventura, California, got started in the Paso Robles wine business while studying Agribusiness at California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo. After working on a few winery-related projects he became intrigued by the field and went to work at what would become his second "Alma Mater," Estrella River Winery. There he worked in the cellar doing anything and everything that needed to be done during the 1981 harvest. During the next five years at Estrella, Tom Myers taught him the finer points of wine production while Niels learned a few things on his own. His love of production and wines then led him to establish his own winery in the area.
Knowing that there are always going to be peaks and valleys when dealing with agriculture and the wine industry, Niels utilized his agribusiness degree to build a diverse business in the wine industry. For example, he created a mobile bottling line, which he rents to small wineries throughout the state. Another example is a custom-crush operation housed at the Castoro Cellars facility to allow Castoro Cellars access to larger more efficient equipment. "I always wanted to have something going on in every phase of winemaking," Niels explains.
In the span of two-dozen years, Niels and Bimmer have gone from making a few barrels of wine for family and friends in a rented corner of someone else's winery to developing a custom-crush operation and a 60,000-case operation for Castoro Cellars. Most recently, the Udsens purchased two local vineyards, one aptly named “Hog Heaven” after the wild hogs that inhabit the area. The second vineyard, "Blind Faith," got its name when the opportunity to buy the vineyard arose. Niels’ wife Berit, or "Bimmer," was in Denmark at the time. Niels called her and together they acted quickly on “blind faith."
Castoro Cellars currently has over 750 acres of Estate vineyards, 350 acres of which are certified organic by CCOF. All of the vineyards are SIP Certified, which stands for sustainability in practice. Roughly 15 percent of the fruit is sourced from local farmers, many whom they have been doing business with for almost two decades.
The winery is located at 6465 Von Dollen Road in San Miguel and is surrounded by the Certified Organic Stone’s Throw vineyard. The winery phone number is (805) 467-2002.
The tasting room is located at 1315 N. Bethel Road just off of Highway 46 West in Templeton in a Mediterranean-style building. Visitors can sample Castoro Cellars' "Dam Fine wines" from 10 to 5:30 daily.
Surrounding the tasting room is a grape arbor, Zinfandel vineyard, and cork trees, (only 20 years until they harvest their own cork)! The tasting room phone number is (805) 238-0725.
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