He started out at his family’s 1,000-acre vineyard and winery and then learned how to grow, harvest and blend grapes working in Spain, Northern California, New Zealand and France.
“I wanted to experience different things,” Castaño said. “I had a very specific purpose in every vineyard. There was always something I wanted to learn about. I was very interested in different conditions, different grapes, different traditions.”
He joins Breaux at a time when Loudoun has become a focal point in Virginia’s burgeoning wine industry. The county, which has 28 vineyards and tasting rooms, launched a marketing campaign in 2009 to brand itself as “D.C.’s Wine Country,” said Patrick Kaler, president of the Loudoun Convention and Visitors Association. Four more wineries are expected to open in Loudoun this year, Kaler said.
“Loudoun County has more wineries than any other destination in the state of Virginia, and it has a huge impact on our economic development as a growing industry,” he said.
As a result, an increasing number of competitive winemakers from around the world have arrived in the area, representing a shift from longtime area winemakers from the region.
Castaño takes over at Breaux, which has been voted Virginia’s “favorite winery” in the Farm Winery Council’s annual public poll for three years, from former head winemaker David Collins, who is from Virginia.
Castaño came into the position at Breaux by accident.
He arrived in Northern Virginia in February to settle with his wife, Nicole, who landed a job in Washington in the fall. The couple settled in Arlington, and Castaño set out to learn about the Virginia wine scene — a search that led him to Breaux.
“I called and asked if I could set up a time to come taste the wines and talk to their winemaker, to learn more about how things are done here,” Castaño recalled. When general manager Chris Blosser told Castaño that Breaux was in the process of searching for a new winemaker, Castaño joined the more than 80 people from across the world who applied for the job.
“In a way, we just ran into each other,” Blosser said. “He hadn’t even seen our ads.”
In the Canary Islands, Castaño worked on the island of Lanzarote at a destination winery called Bodegas Rubicón. There, he grew grapes in a particularly dramatic climate: The vines sat in individual pits deep enough for the roots to reach beneath layers of volcanic ash, and the grapes were surrounded by stone walls to shield them from the harsh Saharan winds.