13th Century Tuscan Castle in Northern California

Castello di Amorosa, literally, ‘Castle of Love’, is the brain and love child of Dario Sattui. The Castle, not visible from Highway 29, is located on a ridgeline just south of Calistoga on the western side of the highway. An authentic and realistic recreation of an 13th Century Tuscan castle, Amorosa is true to its historic predecessors through the use of old hand made materials and methods used over 700 years ago.

The battlements and towers of Castello di Amorosa (L.Compisi)

It’s important to note that Dario Sattui is the founder of V. Sattui Winery in St. Helena named in honor of his grandfather Vittorio, who started V. Sattui Winery in San Francisco in 1885. Fortunately, Vittorio lived long enough to see his namesake opened in 1975.

The scale and size of the Castle defies one’s imagination but it becomes apparent almost immediately as you travel through the vineyards and up the curved drive. Although four of its eight levels are underground, the stone Castle looms large with its multiple rooks and turrets befitting the medieval fortress it successfully emulates.

The small menagerie below the battlements (L.Compisi)

Situated on 171 acres, with 30 planted to grapes, a moat, a drawbridge and a virtual menagerie of emu, goats and other exotics, the Castello contains all the rooms and fixtures befitting its purpose including amazingly beautiful wine cellars with vaulted ceilings. The underground cellars include the 12,000 square feet in the Grand Barrel Room as well as an additional 15,000 square feet located nearby.

A view of the Grand Barrel Room (L.Compisi

Although we had a self-guided tour a few years ago, this visit was for a media preview of the annual Grand Barrel Party earlier this month. We were fortunate to be welcomed by President and General Manager Georg Salzner and our cellar tasting was guided by Director of Winemaking Brooks Painter and Winemaker Peter Velleno. Together this duo represents over 50 years of winemaking experience. Painter, in fact, received the Andre Tchelistcheff ‘Winemaker of the Year’ award in 2013. Their experience is clearly reflected in the barrel’s we tasted.

Peter Velleno (l) and Brooks Painter (r) welcome the media (L.Compisi)
The Rosato is fermented and aged in concrete eggs (L.Compisi)

Unlike our previous barrel tasting experiences, where you taste wine that has been barreled for just a few months after harvest, these barrels were all filled with 2017 vintage wines awaiting bottling by the end of the month. The exception to this were a Rosato, a Reserve Chardonnay and four Pinot Noir from 2018 and a 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon called Trenta. In all, we tasted the wines in 19 barrels, just like the 300 guests would be experiencing that evening, however, their tickets included a lavish dinner upstairs in the Great Hall and the opportunity to purchase futures of these wines, which won’t be released until 2020.

Set for the Grand Barrel Party (:L.Compisi)

We tasted, aside from those mentioned above, Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Merlot, nine Cabernet Sauvignon and a Super Tuscan. The quality of these wines was truly outstanding and reflected the philosophy of Dario and the skills and style of winemakers Painter and Velleno. Amazingly, the small lots of exceptional quality wine are only available on premises, through the wine club or direct-to-consumer. You will not find these wines in restaurants or stores anywhere.

Two of the fabulous Cabernets in barrel (L.Compisi)
Let’s enjoy! (L.Compisi)

Castello di Amorosa is located on Hwy 29, 5 miles north of St. Helena, on the left; 3 miles south of Calistoga, on the right. Look for a large brick wall at the entrance to the driveway. 4045 St Helena Hwy, Calistoga, CA 94515. Hours of operations: Daily 9:30am – 6:00pm. Call 707.967.6272 for information.

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About John Compisi

John and Linda Compisi are a freelance travel, adventure and lifestyle writer/Photography team focusing on California, Italy, France or where ever life takes them. John is a credentialed member of the SF Bay Area Travel Writers and the Redwood Writers Club. John and Linda, reside in Sonoma County and love nothing more than getting out there and experiencing the world, no matter if it’s a destination close to home, a road trip, or a journey to a romantic international destinations.
This entry was posted in Adult Beverages, Amazing Sights, Barrel Tasting, Day Trips, Flights, Flights California USA, Flights North America, Italian Wines, Napa Valley, Wine Country. Bookmark the permalink.

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