He went to school for painting and sculpting and rode his motorcycle throughout Europe. Which is why Victor Castro never imagined he would end up owning one of the most famous hair salons in New Jersey, arguably the country, right now.
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Castro owns The Chateau, The Art of Beauty salon, in Franklin Lakes, NJ, which is often featured in Bravo’s “Real Housewives of New Jersey.” But Castro is more than just their hair stylist. He’s the reason those flamboyant women are now reality TV stars.
The Columbian-born Castro learned through a client that Bravo was scouting the neighborhood for housewives. He said he knew some “qualified” candidates and invited eight women to a meet-and-greet with Bravo at the salon. Five of them were chosen and “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” was born.
He told me this story at that same salon a recent Monday, when it was closed. Per the requirements of this column, I had asked him to share his favorite bottle of wine.
My Wine Lesson
And so he brought a 1997 bottle of Crianza from the Castillo de Monjardin vineyards in the Navarra region of Spain. And two, well, jars. He said he always drank wine from mason jars because he liked the feel of the wine in his hand.
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He filled our jars and I immediately could see how thick it was, almost like blood. I held the jar in my hand, and took a deep breathe. My untrained nose got a scent of prunes, believe it or not. (The experts probably would’ve said plums.) But it smelled warm to me.
The wine was a Rioja and the “Crianza” part refers to how long the Rioja was aged.
Rioja red wines are classified into four categories. The first, simply labeled "Rioja," is the youngest, spending less than a year in an oak aging barrel. A “crianza” is wine aged for at least two years, at least one of which was in oak. "Rioja Reserva" is aged for at least three years, of which at least one year is in oak. Finally, "Rioja Gran Reserva" wines have been aged at least two years in oak and three years in bottle.
This Crianza was a blend of three different grapes -- 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 20% Tempranillo, much like the Super Tuscans we’ve discussed before.
And as we sat on the vintage loveseat in his salon, I could picture Castro pulling off some back road on his motorcycle in the heart of Spain, stopping to get a glass of Crianza in a jar from some roadside “venta.”
I was transported for a moment -- and thoroughly enjoyed my Spanish wine lesson.
And My Life Lesson
But back in reality, Castro said his current adventure is to carefully parlay his “Housewives” fame into something that’s actually lucrative. Sure he’s been featured in some episodes, but he said aside from some free press, he hasn’t seen a dime.
Not to mention, many clients are not thrilled when often the hit show’s women, the camera crews and corresponding possies are lingering in the salon. That coupled with the pesky recession has made things challenging, to say the least.
But instead of raising prices, he said he’s taking a different route, launching his own line of hair products to supplement his income.
He’s been working on the line, called Chateau Mediterranean, for two years, and trying to recreate all the scents and herbs he came across during his European travels. So he’s incorporated basil, rosemary, oregano, oils -- all the quintessential products of the Mediterranean.
He said he’s trying to keep it all “simple and pretty.”
To say something is simple and pretty is almost Zen-like.
So the juxtaposition between this truly Mediterranean man and the table-flipping housewives that he is trying to capitalize on is just unnerving.
But he’s being true to himself. He is simple and pretty. He said he spent a day-and-a-half making his own Soppersata, an Italian cured salami. Who does that anymore?
So with his new product line, he is attempting to transport us all back to a place where life is simple and pretty.
There is a lot of drama, literally, in this man’s life. If he can find a way to channel simplicity, then there’s hope for all of us.
In 'Wine With Me,' FBN's Tracy Byrnes mixes business with pleasure, sitting down with some of today's most innovative entrepreneurs and jet-setting business leaders to share (and learn about) his or her favorite bottle of wine – and finding out why. A wine 101 where professionals learn from the ‘professionals,’ literally.