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Introducing David Pagan Castaño

Virginia winemaker David Pagan Castaño

David Pagan Castaño hails from Spain where his family has been in the wine business for generations.

David Pagan Castaño came to Breaux Vineyards in Loudoun mid-2011. He made wine most recently in Lanzarote, a tiny island that is part of the Carnary Islands, about 500 miles off the coast of Spain, after working in his family’s vineyards in Spain and exploring a few additional venues around the globe. Following Breaux’s long-time and well-respected winemaker, Dave Collins, who was lured away to Maryland, Castaño has big shoes to fill!

Jennifer Breaux Blosser and her husband Chris Blosser conducted the search for the new winemaker. According to Alan Liska at Cellarblog,  candidates from Virginia to California, France to New Zealand and many places in between were considered before the David was brought on board. “Chris and I peruse[d] and discuss[ed] the resumes and applications every day and are thankful for the response we have had from our postings for the position. It tells me that our region is truly being recognized and respected in winemaking and that’s exhilarating.” Jen reported.

Breaux produces a full portfolio of fine wines and is a leading supplier of fruit to many Virginia wineries. The winery was recently singled out by Oz Clarke  as one of the top 250 producers world-wide this year.  We’ll be running a full story on Breaux shortly here on


Virginia winery Breaux Vineyards

Breaux’ breathtaking estate consists of over 400 acres at the foot of Short HIll Mountain. One hundred acres are under vine. Photo by MA Dancisin.

VWG-Online: How many different varietals have you worked with over the course of your winemaking career? We understand Breaux cultivates no fewer than 18!

David Pagan Castaño: About 35 to 40 different varietals, from popular grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, to local and unknown grapes such as Negramoll and Listan Blanco.

In the vineyard, do you find certain grapes produce better than others?

Yes, it’s a question of adaptability of the vine. For example here in Virginia, Viognier and Cabernet Franc among others have adapted very well to the conditions that Virginia offers in terms of soil composition and weather conditions.

Then, depending on the microclimate and weather conditions, some varieties may produce excellent quality grapes in a specific vintage and not as good in other vintages. We see that quite often here in VA since the weather changes so much.

Also Virginia’s wildlife may influence the quantity of the final product: damage from birds, deer,  and raccoons is common.

How do these varietals compare with those in other places you’ve made wine?

It’s too soon for me to compare different regions, but there are always some varieties that produce more and better than others. In order to help the vines to adapt, the vinegrower has to be the first person that needs to adapt to soil and climate conditions. That way he/she’ll be able to pick the right varieties and potentially will have excellent grapes that potentially will lead to a fantastic wine.

Virginia winery Breaux Vineyards

Fresh new growth in spring 2012. Photo by MA Dancisin.

Is a Rhone blend more challenging than a Bordeaux blend? Are single-varietal wines more interesting to you?

The real challenge is to make a good single-varietal wine that is great on its own. Independentl of the type of blend, Rhone or Bordeaux, every varietal has its particularity and every year is different, so going back to the first question, the capability of vinegrowers and winemakers to adapt is essential.

I think that to be successful in your blends it’s key to be able to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each wine and to have a very well defined final point.

Another challenge that winemakers have is that, from a commercial wine making standpoint, another important  function of blending is to help the winery keep a consistent product from vintage to vintage.

As well as you can find consistency of your blends, it’s much harder and difficult to make a consistent single varietal wine.

Virginia wine Breaux Viognier

Virginia wine Breaux Viognier is recognized among Oz Clarke’s Top 250.

Breaux has over 100 acres under vine. How is the decision made concerning what grapes to keep, what grapes to sell?

Except for specific projects, I treat all the grapes the same and we harvest both mine and someone else’s grapes when we think they’re in their optimum moment to make the best wine.

How do you sort the grapes during harvest? Are your pickers a regular team, or do you employ different people every season?

The majority of our vineyard team has been working here for over seven or eight years. The pickers are taught to recognize the damaged grapes and not to pick them.

We start sorting the grapes in the vineyard. Then at the winery itself we have a sorting table where we do a second selection removing leaves, bugs, and bad grapes.

Was 2011 a better year for whites or for reds? If so, what made the difference?

2011 was a very challenging year for both whites and reds — we jokingly call it the year of the rosé.  There will be high quality red and white wine from the vintage, but in general they will be produced in lower quantity than normal.  That is, of course, due to many grapes feeling the effects of the difficult growing conditions during the harvest of 2011, and as a result not being acceptable quality.

How was the blend for the 2011 rosé created?

The rosé started as usual with Cabernet Sauvignon, which is the variety that we have found works very well for our annual rosé. Most grapes were coming in with less flavor intensity than we were hoping for (due to the weather conditions) and so we needed to find some grapes to contribute both flavor intensity and some fruitiness to the wine.

The Nebbiolo was a perfect choice to add the bold flavors we were looking for, and additionally it came off the vines more suitable for a rosé than to be made into our flagship red, so it was an easy choice. Lastly, the Chambourcin was light and fruity, which added the last component I was really looking for to balance out the wine.

Virginia winemaker David Pagan Castaño

David enjoys sharing his knowledge with visitors to Breaux’ tasting room. You can enjoy vineyard vistas from their Patio Madeleine too. Photo by MA Dancisin.

How many vintages are currently aging in the cellar? How are you caring for them?

We just bottled our last 2007 red — the Nebbiolo, so now the oldest wine aging in our cellar is from the 2008 vintage. It’s a big commitment to maintain a barrel program like we do. I am constantly testing the wines in the cellar and evaluating their progress, in particular how the bouquet has been affected by the time in oak.

Can you offer one main piece of advice for people who want to becomes winemakers?

To me, winemaking can be an extraordinary experience in its preparation, making, tasting and by the sharing with others, so to be able to enjoy making it, a winemaker would need passion, dedication and lots of patience.

Thank you, David! We look forward to your new releases!