Last week we visited Daryl Sattui’s Castello di Amorosa, a 30 million dollar project that took 15 years to build. The castle is a combination of a winery, entertainment center, and visitor center. The Castle had its grand opening in early April of this year.
We booked a 2:30 tour and made our way north on Highway 29 past the town of St. Helena. About five miles past St. Helena, we spotted Peterson Drive on the left and then shortly a small sign that read Castello di Amorosa. You cannot see the castle from the Highway and the entrance is very easy to miss.
We drove up the entrance road that is beautifully lined with vineyards. Then suddenly, the immense and grandiose castle is before you. Our first impression was, are we really in the Napa Valley?
The castle is utterly amazing for many reasons. The tour is the best way to get a thorough view of this astonishing place. Reservations are required for a tour. The tour and regular tasting is $25. For an extra $10, one can taste the reserve wines. Our tour and tasting lasted about an hour and a half.
The tour got off to an unsettling start. Our tour guide promptly recited a set of important instructions that included: “Don’t lag, move quickly from one area to the next, those with cameras don’t stay back to take photos,” and on and on. It reminded us of our days as school teachers when we took students on field trips.
Our tour guide was right about one thing; there are so many stairways, hallways, and nooks and crannies that it would be easy to get lost in the castle. We did get the feeling we were rushed along and a few visitors asked the tour guide that the pace be slower.
The tour took us through all four floors of the castle. The most impressive room on the tour was the great dining hall. As you can see from our photo, the dining hall is lavish and extravagant. The hall has already hosted celebrities including Governor Arnold Schwarzeneggar, Mayor Gavin Newsom, Rudy Giuliani, and more are scheduled to come.
The most amazing aspect of the castle is the attention to detail in every building and room. The stonewalls are exact replicas of different eras of Tuscan architecture. All the light fixtures are handmade. There is even a dungeon complete with torture devices.
The winery is equipped with the latest and greatest state-of-the-art equipment. For example, the triple jacketed white wine fermenting stainless steel tanks rather than the standard double jacket variety. The barrel rooms and caves are stunning and seem to be everywhere on the lower level. The barrels are housed in large rooms, tiny rooms, and caves both big and small.
So what about the wine? Do the wines match the spectacular castle? We shared tastes of 12 different wines. We did not pay an extra $10 for the reserve tasting so we did not taste any of very high-end wines. We enjoyed all the wines but we did not think that they matched the rhetoric of our tour guide “where great winemaking is meshed with high tech and the best winemaking equipment.”
One wine we did really like was the very delicious Rosato d’Sangiovese. That was definitely for us the best of the tasting. We liked several other wines but we thought the wines were too expensive. I guess you might say, they need to find a way to recoup the 30 million.
This was a very fascinating experience and we were glad we took the tour. We both agreed we could do a lot of better things with 30 million dollars but, as the old saying goes, “to each his own.”
The Good: Spectacular Tuscan architecture and style. A sight to behold.
The Bad: Perhaps a bit too big and overpowering. The tour too rushed.