The Castle – Castello di Amorosa
Shortly after the Castello di Amorosa opened in 2007, Janelle and I booked ourselves a tour and tasting at the Castle. Eight years later, the Castle is alive and well in the Napa Valley. We visited again this past Thursday with friends and took the basic tour and had the reserve tasting. I have to say that the glitches we encountered back in 2007 were ironed out and we had a most enjoyable tour and tasting led by Anthony Makoujy. The Castle has become an extremely popular winery for wine country travelers. During the summer months, a tour departs every ten minutes. Given that the tour is an hour plus, it is remarkable that they can pull this off. One reason is the vast size of the Castle. It is 121,000 square feet! The Castle is so authentic, a re-creation of a 13th century medieval Tuscan castle. Complete with a dungeon and a torture room, the tour offers a fascinating look at what it is like to be in a real castle. Yes, it is a bit of a Hollywood adventure, but the bottom line is The Castle is a fully-operating winery, producing 25,000 cases of wine each year. The tour takes one through the entire winemaking process from fermentation to the bottle. The owner is Dario Sattui, who also owns and runs the popular V. Sattui winery down the road in St. Helena. Dario purchased the property near Calistoga in 1993 with the idea of growing vineyards there. One idea lead to another, and suddenly Dario Sattui found himself building this amazing Castle in the Napa Valley.
The tour at the Castle includes a barrel sample; ours was the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon. The barrel sample was delicious and, as far as we were concerned, it was ready to be bottled and drunk. It will stay in the barrel several more months and most likely be a fantastic wine. The 2014 vintage may be one of Napa Valley’s best in years. In the tasting room, there are various options for tasting. We chose the reserve tasting. Brooks Painter is the director of winemaking and overseas the wine production at both Castello di Amorosa and V. Sattui. The wines we sampled were very tasty and balanced to perfection. I very much enjoyed the floral and dry Gerwurztraminer, the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, and the beautiful 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon. This Cab was from the same vineyard as the 2014 we tasted in the barrel. Since the emphasis is Tuscan at the Castle, the winery also produces many fine Italian wines. Our favorites were the Sangiovese and the Super Tuscan, the La Castellana. One of the amazing facts about the wine produced at the Castle is that none of it is distributed. All the wine is sold at the winery, to wine club members, or online. This can be contributed to the very large numbers who visit The Castle and, of course, the quality of the wine.
If you would like to visit The Castle check the Website for a variety of tours and tastings and schedule your visit. The winery is easy to miss because it is not in view from Highway 29. The winery is almost to the town of Calistoga. Once you pass the Bothe State Park, driving north, begin to look for the Castello di Amorosa signage. There is a left turn lane just as you approach the entrance to the Castle. Our tour guide Anthony was terrific. He was very knowledgable but very simple with explanations, knowing that several on our tour were wine newbies. I can’t speak for all the tour guides at the Castle, but Anthony was very good and not over the top.
A quick slide show of Castello di Amorosa