Castoro Cellars

Paso Robles AVA

castorocellars.com

One of Paso Robles' oldest and finest family wineries


Niels and Berit Udsen began their winery in 1983 while Niels was still working at Estrella River Winery. Gaining valuable experience in just about every phase of the business, he would make his own wine on the weekends and his wife, Berit, would go out and sell it. “At first we just wanted to make a few barrels of wine for our friends and family,” recalls Niels. “Everyone thought it was great wine so we started selling to area restaurants and stores. We just kept making more and more each year.”

By 1986, things got to be more than Niels could handle on a part-time basis, so he quit Estrella River to devote full time to his own venture. “We had no employees,” states Niels. “It was just my wife and I doing everything. Out came a thousand cases, then two the next year, then three the year after that. We made a little bit of a lot of different wines for a winery of our size,” admits Niels. Aside from the Zinfandel that a lot of wineries were giving up on in the 1980’s, Niels crafted small batches of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and White Zinfandel.

Niels owned no vineyards or winery building in those days, so he purchased grapes from dozens of different vineyards and leased facilities to make the wine. “I’ve bought grapes from over 40 different vineyards,” says Niels. “It has given me great flexibility in producing a consistently good product every year.” And that consistency has paid off. Throughout the 1980’s, they methodically carved a small but comfortable niche in the wine market.

Niels developed another niche during the period. He recognized that wineries on the Central Coast needed ‘custom crush’ services readily available. A lot of wineries like his were still too small to have their own crushing equipment. And even more wineries did not have on-premise machinery to bottle the finished wine. Consequently, Niels purchased a large Europress for these small wineries to have available to lease. He also developed a mobile bottling line that could be transported right to the winery site. Now, instead of having to transport grapes and/or finished wine to other parts of California, wineries had a local source. With less handling and faster turn-around time, a potentially better quality wine could be made.

By the early 1990’s, there were no facilities available on the Central Coast that were big enough to house his rapidly growing custom-crush operation and his own ever-expanding winery business. So, in 1991, the Udsens found a permanent facility for their enterprises - an old abandoned winery building located in the same area, situated on 200 acres of land. The land surrounding the building had been planted with various varietals including Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah and since it was just a stone’s throw from the office at the winery, it was named accordingly - “Stone’s Throw Vineyard.” Niels also now owns six other estate vineyards named Whale Rock, Cobble Creek, Hog Heaven, Blind Faith, Dos Vinas, and Jackknife.

Niels and Berit have grown from making a few barrels of wine for their friends in a rented corner of someone else’s winery, to developing a 15,000-ton custom crush operation and a 60,000-case winery. And they are now in their own building, with their own equipment, using grapes from their own 750 acres of vineyards! Quite the accomplishment.

Castoro Cellars still produces many different wine varietals, most of which are crafted in very limited quantities. “We’d like to build up production on all of our wines,” admits Niels. “But, we’ll do it like we always have - by ramping up slow and easy.” Their method has certainly paid off as the winery is now one of the most prominent on the Central Coast with the hundreds of awards earned over the years.


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Paso Robles Wine Region

Castoro Cellars is situated within California’s Central Coast in the Paso Robles appellation. Although many consider Paso Robles a newly emerging wine region, the wine-growing roots of the area date back to the late 1700’s. Over the course of the past two centuries, the acreage of wine grapes has flourished in this region, growing from approximately 40 acres of grapevines in 1873, to over 200 acres in 1952, and reaching well over 32,000 acres in 2014. Today, that number is over 40,000 and it continues to grow!

Paso Robles’ semi-arid climate, range of soils and topographic varieties creates an ideal growing environment, especially for heartier red grape varieties, as it brings out the large fruit component and ripe characters that dominate the region’s wines. Castoro Cellars grows a large range of varietals and produces many different wines and blends to represent the countless possibilities the Paso Robles region offers.

Castoro Cellars farms over 750 acres of vineyards in Paso Robles, 350 of which are certified organic by CCOF (and they plan to continue transitioning to organic farming in all of their vineyards). All of the vineyards are SIP Certified, which stands for Sustainability in Practice. Castoro also sources fruit from a handful of local growers. As explained by former Assistant Winemaker, Mikel Olsten, “By sourcing grapes from all the different microclimates throughout the AVA, we are able to pull from all the pieces of the puzzle and create a complete picture that is truly representative of the Paso Robles region.”


Paso Robles Wine Region

Castoro Cellars is situated within California’s Central Coast int he Paso Robles appellation. Although many consider Paso Robles a newly emerging wine region, the winegrowing roots of the area date back to the late 1700’s. Over the course of the past two centuries, the acreage of wine grapes has flourished in this region, growing from approximately 40 acres of grapevines in 1873, to over 200 acres in 1952, and reaching well over 32,000 acres in 2014. Today, that number is over 40,000 and it continues to grow!

Paso Robles’ semi-arid climate, range of soils and topographic varieties creates an ideal growing environment, especially for heartier red grape varieties, as it brings out the large fruit component and ripe characters that dominate the region’s wines. Castoro Cellars grows a large range of varietals and produces many different wines and blends to represent the countless possibilities the Paso Robles region offers.

Castoro Cellars farms over 750 acres of vineyards in Paso Robles, 350 of which are certified organic by CCOF (and they plan to continue transitioning to organic farming in all of their vineyards). All of the vineyards are SIP Certified, which stands for Sustainability in Practice. Castoro also sources fruit from a handful of local growers. As explained by former Assistant Winemaker, Mikel Olsten, “By sourcing grapes from all the different microclimates throughout the AVA, we are able to pull from all the pieces of the puzzle and create a complete picture that is truly representative of the Paso Robles region.”


Tom Myers - Winemaker

A science aficionado, Tom Myers earned his both his bachelors and masters in Biological Science/Botany from Michigan State University. His interest in winemaking is what then brought him west to UC Davis, where he earned a second masters degree in Food Science, with a focus on Enology and Viticulture. “The wide range of science that is incorporated into winemaking - microbiology, chemistry, physics - is what piqued my interest from the beginning,” Myers has stated. Although he is certainly a master in his field, Myers has a humble and welcoming spirit with no semblance of elitism. He believes wine should be an integral part of daily meals, and thus welcomes all wine palates, from the most experienced wine drinker to those encountering wine for the first time.

Tom Myers is one of the most highly respected winemakers in California. He has been crafting wines in the Paso Robles region since 1978, and has been involved, in one way or another, with every vintage at Castoro Cellars. Myers began his winemaking career at Estrella River Winery, which is where he met and mentored Niels Udsen. Niels went on to create the Castoro Cellars brand, and in 1990, Myers joined the Castoro team as Head Winemaker. Voted the 2002 Winemaker of the Year by the California State Fair, Myers takes an active role in the local wine industry and is fully committed to the Castoro Cellars brand.


Niels Udsen - Owner

‘I had no idea what I wanted to do,” Niels Udsen candidly says about his career plans. ‘Until one of my last classes in my final year of college.” At the time, Niels was a student at California Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo, studying Agriculture. That particular course required him to do a marketing project and vineyard feasibility study for nearby winery, Zaca Mesa. ‘From that point on I knew I wanted to be in the wine business,” he says.

Niels was born and raised on California’s Central Coast, in the city of Ventura. His father is from Denmark and came over in the late 1940s with a dream to be an American farmer. ‘I spent a lot of summers in the field,” Niels groans. His father’s dream turned into a highly successful business that produced bulk-seeds for use by farmers and packaged seeds for consumers.

When Niels was a teenager he went to live in Denmark with the family of his father’s best friend. The trip proved to be a fortuitous event in Niels’s life. While he was there he met his future bride, Berit. He also learned to make wine, taught by his father’s friend. Not yet knowing the impact that visit would have on his life, Niels returned to California to finish high school and college. He and Berit kept in touch through the years and when Niels went back to Denmark after college they got married.

When the newlyweds returned to California, Niels was willing to take on just about any job that would get him into the wine business. After knocking on the doors of dozens of wineries throughout the state, he was hired by Estrella River Winery. Ironically, it was located very near San Luis Obispo where he attended school. There he paid his dues as a ‘cellar rat” before graduating to various other duties. ‘I did a little bit of everything while I was there,” he recalls. ‘It was a good way to learn the business.”

And learn he did. Under the direction of Estrella’s then winemaker, Tom Myers, Niels learned all aspects of winemaking from the ground up. The Paso Robles AVA was still in its infancy for winery development and Niels took advantage of working with a leading winery in the developing region. While he was there, the winery had begun to lease their facilities to independent winemakers who were producing their own private-label wines. Niels figured he could do that as well, so he too began making wine. He stayed at Estrella River for five years, until 1986 when his own winemaking venture required full attention.

Niels and Berit (or “Bimmer” as her friends call her) live about a half-mile from the Castoro Cellars tasting room just off Highway 46, near Templeton. They have two boys, Max and Luke, so family remains a top priority to them, and Luke is actually now involved in the family business, helping with sales, marketing and social media. Oh, and by the way, the name “Castoro” is the Italian word for beaver, which was Niels’ long-time nickname as he was growing up. He had always liked the name Castoro and it seemed an appropriate name for his “Dam Fine Wine!”