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Leave it to Beaverstock: Bite down on Castoro Cellars' third annual food, wine, and music fest

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When Max Udsen and his dad, Niels “Beaver” Udsen, saw a 300-year-old oak tree downed off Bethel Road during a Templeton winter, inspiration sparked white hot.

“We realized the entire tree was hollow, and we thought, ‘We gotta take this,” Max said. “We were worried someone else was going to try to move it. Dad said, ‘We need to make a playground out of this.’ It was go-time.”

With the help of a heavy-duty crane, a truck, and plenty of sweat, the team managed to transport that ancient, 12,000-pound oak back to Castoro Cellars, about a mile down the road. Over the past 30 years, the Templeton winery—named after the Italian word for “Beaver”—has grown from a passion project to a 60,000-case-per-year operation encompassing six estate vineyards.

CHEERS TO THE KIDS:  Local beer, Castoro wine, and kombucha will be on tap at Castoro Cellars’ annual Beaverstock festival Sept. 19 through 20 in Templeton. Funds will go toward the Templeton Education Foundation and the event itself is kid-friendly with plenty of adventures and activities for youth of all ages. - PHOTO COURTESY OF CASTORO CELLARS
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF CASTORO CELLARS
  • CHEERS TO THE KIDS: Local beer, Castoro wine, and kombucha will be on tap at Castoro Cellars’ annual Beaverstock festival Sept. 19 through 20 in Templeton. Funds will go toward the Templeton Education Foundation and the event itself is kid-friendly with plenty of adventures and activities for youth of all ages.

The tree’s final resting place, a meadow tucked away on Castoro property, is ground zero for the Udsen’s annual food, wine, and music event known simply as “Beaverstock.” Yes, it’s coming up again this Sept. 19 and 20, and that tree will no doubt serve as the crown jewel of the festivities. The hollowed out chunk of wood has been magically transformed into a fantastical playground big enough for youngsters and their parents to scuttle through.

“Another tree fell nearby that we attached to the back of the original oak, so you can crawl through then pop out onto another oak branch,” Max said. When I caught up with the “official festival handyman,” he was busy building a few finishing features for the third annual party in the woods.

“My brother, Luke, does booking and social media, promotion, and attendance. I’m the hands-on kind of guy, workshop guy, the carpenter,” Max said. “That’s what’s cool about the family; we all work together.”

Since bringing home the oak tree last winter, Max has done quite a bit to create the kind of atmosphere a red-blooded, engineering beaver would approve of. Old wine staves have been transformed into rustic fencing, upcycled grapevines have been transformed into a down-home “velvet rope,” and reclaimed oak slats—showing gloriously weathered grain—are plentiful.

Soon, the wooded landscape will be filled with thousands of people, a multitude of artistic experiences, and “dam fine” wines.

TEMPLETON MAGIC:  Nestled in the wilds of Templeton, Beaverstock is as much about food, wine, and beer as it is about community, kids, music, and the natural world. Youth can even explore a 300-year-old oak tree while their parents dance or learn a few yoga moves. - PHOTO COURTESY OF CASTORO CELLARS
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF CASTORO CELLARS
  • TEMPLETON MAGIC: Nestled in the wilds of Templeton, Beaverstock is as much about food, wine, and beer as it is about community, kids, music, and the natural world. Youth can even explore a 300-year-old oak tree while their parents dance or learn a few yoga moves.

“Beaverstock is a kid-friendly event where you can go and take your family and have something for them to do,” Max said. “It’s not just a big adult playground, but a kids’ playground, too.”

That’s a lot to ask of a food, wine, and music event, but—as the oak tree experiment indicates—the Udsen family is up for the challenge. The fundraiser for the Templeton Education Foundation is so much more than a place to catch a buzz and gobble till you drop. Among the frothy mugs of local brews (Firestone Walker, Toro Creek Brewing, BarrelHouse Brewing, Bristols Cider, and others), you’ll find an expansive artist grove of creative media, open yoga instruction for anyone willing to get on a mat, and a handful of eclectic bands that bend the mind as much as they do musical notes. 

Well-known acts like California Honeydrops and WAR mesh with the rhythmic, world sounds of La Santa Cecelia, and local acts like The Turkey Buzzards. There’s a main stage and a “stompin’ grounds” stage, which is actually an old rusty flatbed truck.

Of course, the food reflects this fun, casual vibe: Higgies World BBQ, Lemoine Creperie, Kona Ice, The Pairing Knife, McCall Farm Guacamole, Sugar & Salt Creamery, Fire & Wine wood-fired catering, Bliss Café, Sugar Lips mini donuts, and Choco’s Mexican Grill will be on hand, and you can wash it all down with beer, wine, or a funky batch of locally brewed Whale Bird Kombucha. Yes—you heard right! Kombucha at a food and wine festival!

CALI BREWED:  Toro Brewing Company will debut a new beer at this year’s Beaverstock. - PHOTO COURTESY OF CASTORO CELLARS
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF CASTORO CELLARS
  • CALI BREWED: Toro Brewing Company will debut a new beer at this year’s Beaverstock.

Luke wields a smartphone like Max does a hammer, and he understands that people who live in wine country are often fatigued by the onslaught of fancy, pinky-in-the-air soirees. Maybe that’s why last year’s Beaverstock saw about 1,500 folks on Saturday and 1,800 on Sunday. Maybe that’s why the event is devoid of Bay Area hipsters and Orange County retirees. Local friends are telling friends about Beaverstock, and an authentic buzz is brewing in the unassuming wilds of Templeton.

“Organic growth happens at the pace it happens at. You can’t speed it up or slow it down,” Luke said. “People see pictures on Facebook or Instagram and suddenly friends know more about it. We try to reach people as much as we can, but the best thing that can happen is that people come and spread it to their friend circles.”

The brothers have traveled the world and attended all kinds of music and food events—not for research, but because they love the feeling of being in a place where like-minded people congregate.

FOOD FOREST:  The Pairing Knife will come together with a slew of local brews and an eclectic mix of food vendors for this year’s Beaverstock celebration under the oaks. - PHOTO COURTESY OF CASTORO CELLARS
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF CASTORO CELLARS
  • FOOD FOREST: The Pairing Knife will come together with a slew of local brews and an eclectic mix of food vendors for this year’s Beaverstock celebration under the oaks.

“We love that feeling of going to a fest and it feels like you can be whoever you want to be and everyone is in the same boat,” Luke said. “It’s an accepting place. You can come and know you can be yourself, let loose, be expressive—and no one is going to look at you weird.”

After a certain point, the brothers looked at each other, looked at the Castoro Cellars landscape, and said, “Why not give it a whack?” They knew what they wanted to bring into a festival of their own—and they knew what they wanted to avoid.

“So many one-day events focused on food and wine are about ‘eat as much as you can and drink as much as you can in three-to-four hours,’ and there might be a band off to the side,” Luke said. “This is a full-on festival. There’s phenomenal music going on all weekend long, arts and crafts, and there is a full experience that is cohesive. People can come and do all, none, or some of the activities.”

That could mean planting your butt in front of the main stage and getting up only to pee or grab a taco. Or, that could mean playing corn hole and disc golf with new friends, then hitting the expanded artist grove, which includes painting and felting workshops as well as kinetic sculptures and metal chandeliers forged by Templeton sculptor Nate Tyler.

- DAM FINE GOOD TIME!:  Castoro Cellars will host the third annual Beaverstock festival this Sept 19 and 20. Children 10 and under are free and proceeds from the event go toward the Templeton Education Foundation. For more information and tickets, visit castorocellars.com. -
  • DAM FINE GOOD TIME!: Castoro Cellars will host the third annual Beaverstock festival this Sept 19 and 20. Children 10 and under are free and proceeds from the event go toward the Templeton Education Foundation. For more information and tickets, visit castorocellars.com.

When I asked Max why the work is worth it, he conjured up a scene from Beaverstock past. The sun was setting and the headliner—Hot Buttered Rum—was about to take the main stage.

“I picked up a turkey leg and barbecue sauce was all over the place,” Max said with a laugh. “Everyone was dancing, and it was golden hour. I looked around and saw 30 of my good friends from far and wide and another 1,000 people I didn’t know. I was just dancing and tears were coming down my face as I basked in it.”

Hayley Thomas is ready for a turkey leg at hthomas@newtimesslo.com.

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