Harold and Kris Casto began their love affair with the Sierra Foothills when they bought a 160 acre ranch in Hunter’s Valley, a community east of Mariposa, California.
During the week they ran a successful roofing company and on weekends they worked on the ranch. While it seemed overwhelming at times, they reveled in the challenges and opportunities rural life afforded.
Feeding livestock, clearing brush, maintaining fences, fetching spring water and the countless other tasks required on the ranch deepened their connection to the land. As they neared retirement they decided to combine this connection with a love of wine and put it to work by starting a vineyard.
In 2001 they purchased a six acre vineyard located a few miles from the ranch. Planted in 1994 and maintained by Angus Bullis, it consisted entirely of Zinfandel grapes, a classic varietal for the Sierra Foothills.
They revamped the entire vineyard with new irrigation, posts, and even planted some new vines. In 2003 Mount Bullion Vineyard (soon to be named Casto Oaks) was bonded.
In 2005 Harold and Kris’ grandson Jason Smith joined the team and began learning the trade from his grandfather and industry superstar Tom Bell. By 2008, Jason took over the reins as head winemaker and the results have been stellar.
Changes at the Vineyard
The Casto family has made some significant changes to the vineyard over the years. While they continue to produce the classic Zinfandel, they’ve also planted sections of Cabernet, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot.
This will bring Casto Oaks closer to their vision of crafting world class Bordeaux style Cabernet blends for years to come. Using the same vineyards and cellars year after year is very advantageous, and keeping production small at 800-1,300 cases per year allows for a great deal of control and precision in the winemaking process.
Harold, Kris and Jason still maintain the vines by hand every year and follow the same processes: cover crop planting in November for soil stability and nitrogen, and vine pruning in the late spring to avoid frost from chilly nights. These practices and the unique Gold Country terroir are what give Casto Oaks wine its intense fruit, acidity and rich color.