Castoro de Oro Estate Winery

September 18, 2018

So many wine drinkers dream of running away from their dull daily lives and starting a winery. The brisk terroir air, the charming outbuildings, fabulous views, great weather and all that wine to sip and sample IS all you imagine, according to one Canadian winemaker. However it does run smack up against reality too, which is less glamorous.

“Bruno! There’s a customer out front! Can you see to them? I’m on the phone!” shouts Stella Schmidt, co-owner of Castoro de Oro Estate Winery in B.C.’s Okanagan valley.

Unknowingly Schmidt foreshadows in the first few minutes of a telephone chat, one of the lessons she’s learned being a winemaker and entrepreneur. 

castorodeoroWinery Living Isn’t Retirement
“You have to learn to roll with the punches Mother Nature gives you,” laughs Schmidt, elaborating on how she and partner Bruno Kelle ended up in the wine business, doing much of the work themselves. “It is a lovely lifestyle, actually, but it is not retirement. It is work but then of course any time you own your business, you work.”

Kelle and Schmidt had several careers each before falling in love with winery life during a trip to B.C. Kelle has a degree in electrical engineering, and also worked as a VP of sales and marketing, while Schmidt has a degree in chemistry then went back to school for accounting. Both have family backgrounds in farming.

“We went wine tasting on a vacation. At the end of the tasting, the lady said, ‘what would you like to purchase today?’ Before I got a chance to put in my wine order, Bruno jumped in and said, ‘how about your winery’? She did not laugh, but she said, ‘Ours is not for sale. However, a little winery not very far from here IS for sale’. That was not the response either one of us was expecting.”

Golden Beaver Creates a Winery’s Terroir
While Schmidt and Kelle didn’t end up purchasing that particular winery, the seed had been planted. Shortly thereafter they did end up buying another property, and Castoro de Oro was born.

The name means Golden Beaver in a combination of Italian and Spanish and while it’s a nod to Canuck heritage, the name more specifically references the Okanagan’s ‘golden mile’ of wine country, and the creature that helped define their winery’s terroir. 

“Beavers helped to form the lake at the foot of our vineyard,” explains Schmidt. “They dammed and flooded the lake and created this significant terroir difference for our vineyard compared to the other golden mile vineyards. We are the only golden mile vineyard that has the benefit of a lake and the lake pulls frost away from our vines and nearer to itself so it lengthens our growing season. It gives us longer to ripen our grapes.” 

social collectionGet to Know Castoro de Oro & Social Collection Wines at Co-op Wine Spirits Beer
Castoro de Oro
has several B.C. wines available under the winery name, including a Rosé and a Merlot. The company’s Social Collection brand also features a White Gold, Rosé and a Pinot Noir, all available at Co-op Wine Spirits Beer.

“Our Castoro de Oro Merlot is very quaffable,” promises Schmidt. “It is a little heavier than some Merlots from B.C. but it is quite smooth. All of our vintages since our ’06 vintage have won awards. Our 2016 Merlot just won "Judges Selection" at the 2018 Alberta Beverage Awards; entries for these awards are BOTH domestic & international wines. It's a pleasure to have been a winner once again.”

Those accolades don’t come without hard work, knowledge, creativity, and the ability to adapt, just like the 1980’s TV character Schmidt references when asked about the secrets to her winery’s success.

“The most important thing when you are a farmer is the MacGyver aspect,” laughs Schmidt. “You have to be able to fix things with whatever is around. You also need a basic understanding of when a plant looks like when it’s thriving and when it’s not. You should know how to drive tractor and not be afraid to get dirty.”

Find Castoro de Oro wines and Social Collection wines at your neighbourhood Co-op Wine Spirits Beer.

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