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.
townhouses to rent says
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Joe….My apologies….I have just revisted the comments and you did make references to the graciousness or lack thereof. Well…hopefully the upper management can erad the comments and make some changes. Again, plese accept my apologies.
Be sure to let us know about your trip to the castle. It should be fun.
Joe…I think it very important that you would address those who did not have a great experience as to those that have. This would show that improving the quality of the tours is just as , if not more important. Showing an interest in everyones experience is the greatest customer service that one can provide not to mention a marvelous tool to becoming a better representative of one’s profession. I shall be touring the Castle in the very near future for the first time on a personal invite. I hope to leave having had a great experience that I can share with others.
Peggy, I’m glad you enjoyed the tour at the Castle. Not everyone agrees about the castle but such is life. Joe
peggy meredith says
I had the pleasure of touring the Castle last Thursday, Thanksgiving Day. What a treat !
I knew little before the tour -but that it was reccommended as a “must see” and that was so right on target.
Congratulations to Mr. Suttui for building his dream and sharing it with the public…..I would think he is NO longer an “outsider” as one the earlier emails called him……
Red Blooded Napan says
Big Castle – Small Pencil 😉
Pat Stone says
This was my first trip to California. I am from NYC. I have thoroughly enjoyed my trip to the Napa Valley. Everyone is CA has been extremely friendly. Upon entering the Castle, my husband and I wandered around as we were told we could do so unless an area was marked off limits. It was our plan to take some pictures before we participated in some tasting. We entered a room that looked like a group tasting wine (which we did all day) and an employee of the castle looked at us and sternly told us we had to leave… what were we doing, he was hosting a private wine tasting. This thoroughly embarassed me as it is easy to get “lost” and there were no signs indicating that we were trespassing. Good ending…we had a successful wine tasting conducted by a transplant from Brooklyn, NY with a fabulous personality. Unfortunately, that stern reprimand has left a very bad impression on us.
I am a local and I actually worked as a waiter while putting myself through college, so I am very familiar with the wine industry. The buzz from the castle was too much to resist. As most locals know, going to a winery on a weekend or during busier times is the wrong thing to do. Tourists can be a bit much to handle and the staff is much less pleasant at times due to the demands of the large amount of people and the clientele. Its almost a must to go during the off season and during the week if you want a special experience. We went during the week taking half a day off work. Friends of ours actually went on the weekend before us and also complained that they felt very rushed and it was almost like they were bothering the staff by being there. The Castle was amazing; it was like visiting a magical time in the Tuscan region; a camera is almost a must to capture the magic. It was an amazing tour and it was much less hurried than our friends who went on the weekend. My fiance can be a bit pretentious and I’ve never been a big fan of Sattui wine, but we got the reserved tasting. Nothing really impressed me too much but overall the wines weren’t bad. I think their Merlot is pretty good. I’ve always thought they were a little overpriced in the stores (obviously the wines are much more at the wineries due to tourism). It’s a beautiful place and definitely a place for people to see. Would be a great place to take out of towners who dont know much about Napa; an eye opening impressive place. As with most tourism in Napa, the service, especially during peak times has a lot to be desired. They have to work on that.
Michael S. says
I will preface my comments with the admission that I grew up in the valley and have been a fan of the V. Satttui Winery and the way it was run for a long time and while I had only met Daryl Sattui on two occasions I admired him for his “outsider” status in the valley and that he at least in those days (the early to mid 1980″s) encouraged some of the valley’s working class to use the picnic grounds at V. Sattui, particularly during the week when visitors were scarce. It gave the place a presence when the other wineries looked abandoned mid-week.
I found Castello di Amorosa by chance one morning while driving through the valley for work. Being in the construction trade I had heard about a castle being constructed in the North end of the valley but nothing I had heard prepared me for what I saw when I reached the crest of the hill and was faced with a 121,000 square foot four story structure rising off a bluff on what was formerly the home of Villa Amorosa, an 8500 square foot structure which was Daryl Sattui’s original vision of what a proper Italian winery should be.
The structure was amazing, grandiose? Perhaps, but when I think of grandiose I think pompus and imposing. What I saw was, while amazing, neither of those. If it is possible for a structure to be at once awe inspiring and inviting in the same moment this structure was. Once my eyes fully communicated what I was seeing to my brain (this took a full many seconds) my impression was that “it” had finally happened.
Darly Sattui had at once lost his mind and conquered the world, the one time outsider had become king. He had defied the laws of physics and common sense and done something that needed doing for at least as long as grapes have grown in our little valley.
It was early in the morning and the place had just opened for the day and just opened for business some weeks before. What was I to do? I did what any experienced winery crashing guy would have done. I walked in like I knew where I was going and what I was going to do when I got there. I grabbed my camera and went inside. The staff probably thought I was a construction worker the construction workers probably thought I was a building inspector finishing up the occupancy permit.
My access was unlimited and not something you could replicate today without being arrested or eaten by Lupo the wonder dog. I spent 2 unescorted hours wandering through dining rooms and great halls, medieval curches, dungeons and wine cellars.
The experience made an impression on me. It was getting to be mid morning and I had to get back to work. The tasting room manager had arrived and we struck up a conversation and I asked about the Sangiovese, a unique variety in the valley. His eyes lit up and offered me a taste. What the hell it was 9 am…
I cannot say enough about the wine except to tell you that I returned the next day and paid for the tour. At that time the weekend tour was $25 and worth double that despite what I had seen the day before… Yes it was a little hurried and even at times historically inaccurate but a wonderful experience.
Millions on construction and pennies on training? Perhaps, but this is by no means an attempt to lessen the experience or cheat the visitor. In the great success the winery has experienced and in an effort to share this wonder with all who care to see it every employee from the newest receptionist to the winery’s president has been pressed into service as a tour guide and many rooms not intended to be used for tasting are.
I would urge those most interested to try to reserve a tour earlier in the day and well in advance, or if you can schedule a visit mid-week or during the off peak times. The cost of the tour has gone up since I was there but discounts are given for local residents.
We visited the castle on 7/5/07 and were blown away by its beauty and the warmth of our greeting. Unfortunately, the graciousness did not last after we had paid $25 each for the tour.
I don’t drink wine but am trying to get into it. I am a foodie, having recently appeared on Check Please, Bay Area. I also LOVE architecture. I am also in Hospitality in SF and need to inform guests about Napa. These are my reasons for being on the tour. I and two other guests were questioned as to what we were doing on the tour if we did not drink wine. I think the docent should just take our money and say thank you. Other fellow tourist were derrided as “newbies”. Several tour members groused how our docent should be in another line of work.
The tasting room we were in was small and dank, and yet I did decide to buy the first wine for my own consumption, ever. Once we went to have our orders filled, we saw that there were not one but two immesurably nicer tasting rooms at the castle.
The final disappointment came when I got home, and found that the dessert wine order I placed was instead filled with a Pinot Blanco.
MILLIONS in building. Pennies in training. What a shame.
Pat Wyman says
As an author (http://www.howtolearn.com) and on assignment travel P.R. writer, I took the castle’s tour recently. Had the good fortune of meeting Darly Sattui and a wonderful new tour guide named Bill.
Tuscany, move over. This castle, with all its wonders, had me spellbound while Bill regaled our group with tales of knights, the great hall, towers, chapel, and yes, of course, the wines!
The tour was a bit rushed with more to see than time, but if you’re looking for a vision of Tuscany, right here in Calistoga, run, don’t walk to Castello di Amarosa!
The wines speak will speak to your own personal tastes and the mixture of modern vs traditional is superb! Thank you Daryl.