Monday, October 26, 2015

Teena Wilkins keeps Spanish Traditions in Vina Castellano - Placer County

When the Abuelita blend of Spanish varietals from Viña Castellano was awarded a Best of California designation in the 2014 California State Fair, Teena Wilkins got emotional.  “All these years of hard work, family investment and involvement, risk taking and course corrections – all that was finally recognized and it felt so good.”

Teena is the co-owner of Viña Castellano Estate Vineyards and Winery in Auburn, which started in 1999 when she and her late father Gabe Mendez put in Tempranillo and Syrah.  The vineyard, now 10 acres, sits on land owned for 40 years by Teena’s forebears, the Mendez family.  From the beginning, it was a family venture.  When you visit today, you’re likely to see Mendez family siblings, grandchildren and friends all contributing to the work of the winery in some way.

Teena (Augustina) at entrance to the wine cave

Shared cultural traditions are what led Teena into this enterprise.  “I grew up with my grandmother Mercedes Maria-Mendez living next door;  she made 200 gallons of wine every year from the time she was a young girl until she was a very old woman,”  Teena recalls.  “Wine was part of our food life, and from a young age 
Sunday dinners introduced us to the taste of wine with food.”

By 2003, the vineyard yielded enough fruit for a first crush, which took place at a facility in Cloverdale near Auburn.  Work was underway to excavate a cave on their own property.  The construction of the cave, including lining it with large granite stones that had been removed when the vineyard was planted, took some years.  But by 2005, Viña Castellano began winemaking there.

Today the cave provides Teena and her winery consultant Derek Irwin with plenty of room to produce 2000 cases of estate wine.  There are now 10 planted acres, and another 15 plantable acres will be coming on stream in the future. Barrels take up a goodly portion of room in the cave; the old-world winemaking style for which Viña Castellano is known means that many of their wines are aged in the barrel for three or more years. This wine cave has a cozy European feel and space is shared with a charming tasting room.

The wine tasting experience in Viña Castellano’s cave is one that’s very convivial.  “You don’t have to be a connoisseur to enjoy our wines,” notes Teena.  “Our wines are approachable, fresh, yet complex.” 

Viña Castellano
4590 Bell Road
Auburn, CA 95602

The winery makes 1600-1800 cases yearly of estate wines from their 10 acres of vineyards, focusing on the varietals of Tempranillo, Syrah, Granacha, Monastrell, Cabernet Franc, and Verdejo.  Other Spanish varietals will be offered over time too! 

(You can read more about this winery and meet the family at a special meal that photographer Johan Martin photographed for my forthcoming book...sign up to get updates/alert on publication date ...

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