A visit to Castello di Amorosa, Napa Valley

Banquet Room at Castello di Amorosa, Napa Valley

Barrel tasting at Castello di Amorosa, Napa Valley

Castello di Amorosa Castle, Napa Valley

Castello di Amorosa Tour

Courtyard at Castello di Amorosa, Napa Valley

Fireplace at Castello di Amorosa, Napa Valley

Gargoyle at Castello di Amorosa

Little chapel at Castello di Amorosa, Napa Valley

Mindy Joyce, WineryCritic, at Castello di Amorosa Cellars, Napa Valley

Private Tasting Room at Castello di Amorosa

Residents at Castello di Amorosa, Napa Valley

View of Castello di Amorosa

Visiting Castello di Amorosa (Castle of Love) last month made me wonder why I waited so long.  Built with such authenticity and attention to detail, the castle-winery could easily be in Tuscany.  It is no wonder the winery is used as a set and concert venue (Bon Jovi has performed here, and recently it was used as a location for The Bachelor).

The 13th century castle-winery is the result of Dario Sattui’s passion for Italy, medieval architecture and wine. The winery is a 30 year labor of love by Sattui, a 4th generation Italian winemaker who also owns V. Sattui Winery on Highway 29.

On the website Sattui in his own words reminds us why a castle makes sense: “For it must not be forgotten that, aside from being defensive fortifications, throughout history and in modern times, many of the great wines in Europe have and are being made in castles.”

While you can see some of the castle yourself, it is absolutely worth doing a tour here.  My tour guide was excellent and recited facts about the castle, Napa Valley and the wines throughout the hour and a half tour.  In a small group, we were escorted through the 121,000 square foot, 107 room castle, from the courtyard to the wine caves (15,000 square feet) to the dungeon and torture chamber below.  All tours include a barrel tasting, which is a good experience if you haven’t already done this.

The tour ends in a private tasting room in the cellars and there are an extensive list of wines available to taste.  Castello di Amorosa must have an impressive wine club list because after this tour (and holding off on every wine club opportunity I get) I was convinced I needed to sign up.  It is lucky I live in New Jersey, for now.

Expert tip:

Castello di Amorosa is a popular winery to visit.  I recommend you call ahead and make a reservation for a tour.  Allocate about 2 hours for your visit so you are not rushed to run off to another tasting early.  You will not find wines in restaurants or through retailers as all of the wines are only available at the winery or through the wine club.

WineryCritic Ratings

9/10 Overall visitor experience

9/10 Knowledge of guide

9/10 Location

10/10 Architecture and design, landscaping

9/10 Other experiences: Private tours, events, pairings

9/10 Knowledge of tasting room staff

9/10 Friendliness of staff

9/10 Signage & ease of access

8/10 Quality of the wines poured

Appointment required:  Appointments are not required, but due to the popularity of the winery I suggest you call ahead and make a booking.

Address:  4045 North Saint Helena Highway, Calistoga, CA 94515

www.castellodiamorosa.com

Tasting room hours: 

9:30am-6:00pm March to October

9:30am-5:00pm November to February

Tasting fee:

$19 per person – General Admission: You can visit two levels of the castle and taste five premium wines in the main tasting room.

$29 per person – General Admission with six reserve wines tasting in the main tasting room.

$34 per person – Guided tour of the Castle and Winery, barrel sample, followed by either our standard tasting of five of our Premium Wines in one of the Castle’s private tasting bars or our Reserve tasting with a private tasting of six of our wines. (Tour is $44 for the reserve wines)

Upgrades such as a chocolate, cheese or charcuterie pairing can be added to the above tours for an additional fee.

$72 per person – Royal Food & Wine Pairing.  Available Friday-Sunday and available midweek by appointment. (2 hours)

$49 per person – Wine Aficionado Tour. Includes a Castle Tour that focuses on our higher-end reserve wines and a seated, reserve tasting. (2 hours)

Good for: Groups, Italian wine lovers, medieval buffs, animal lovers

Wines produced:  Sangiovese, Barbera, Merlot, Red blends, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Gewurtztraminer, Chardonnay, Moscato, late harvest Semillon, Riesling dessert wine, late harvest Gewurtztraminer, Reserve wines.  The Il Barone Cabernet Sauvignon received 94-points from Robert Parker and the La Castellana Super Tuscan Blend received 92-points also from Parker.

What’s nearby:  Sterling Vineyards, Schramsberg, Twomey, Joseph Cellars

District/Appellation: Diamond Mountain District, Napa Valley

Contact for appointments:  707-967-6272

Date of visit: July 16, 2013

E-mail: mindy@winerycritic.com