Castello Di Amorosa: A Journey to Tuscany (In Napa)
Castello Di Amorosa is located in the heart of the Napa Valley, but its heart is rooted in Tuscany.
Fourth-generation winemaker Dario Sattui has created a 13th-Century style Tuscan “castle” winery in honor of his Italian roots, and his love of classic medieval architecture. Unsurprisingly—an Italian castle in California? Yes, please—it has become one of the most eagerly visited wineries for its unusual and distinctly Old World setting and its taste of Italy filtered through California’s terroir.
The History & Setting
It all started with Dario’s great-grandfather Vittorio Sattui, who came to California from Italy in the 19th century. In 1885, Vittorio founded St. Helena Wine Cellars, where the entire family lived and worked, even after Prohibition made the art of winemaking illegal in 1920.
As a child, Dario immersed himself in the stories of the family’s wine history, and spent hours exploring the old underground cellars. Later, as an older student and traveling around Europe in the early 1970s, Dario caught the architecture bug. He devoted much of his travel time to visiting, touring and sketching medieval European castles, monasteries, palaces and wineries.
When he returned to California in 1972, he set out to restart the family business. It took three years to finalize the financing ($8,000 worth of savings) and permits, but in 1975, Dario officially launched V. Sattui Winery in St. Helena. The winery was a commercial success from the get-go, but it still wasn’t what Dario had in mind. It wasn’t until nearly two decades later that Dario was finally able to marry his passions: viticulture and architecture.
After years of quietly searching, in 1993 Dario came across a parcel of land near Calistoga that he felt held the potential to both honor his family’s legacy, while also providing the backdrop for his aesthetic vision. He purchased the 171-acre properties, with forested land, hills, a stream, a lake and a gorgeous Victorian home.
The Tuscan-style castle—the Castello di Amorosa, or Castle of Love—on the property grew from his initial 8,500-foot vision to a 121,000 square foot behemoth with 107 rooms, four underground levels and four above-ground floors. No detail was overlooked.
“Determined to make the Castello authentic in every respect, I used only old, hand-made materials and I built it employing the same methods and materials that would have been used 700-800 years ago,” Dario says. “You can’t fake something like this. You either do it right or people will know it’s not authentic.”
Indeed. Eight-thousand tons of hand-chiseled local stone, 1 million antique European bricks and 200 shipping containers worth of European furnishings later, the castle opened in 2007.
It is, without a doubt, a distinct architectural achievement: there’s not only a moat, but a drawbridge, defensive ramparts, a chapel, an armory, grand barrel room and more.
If you want to experience Tuscany in Napa, reservations are required. The Castello di Amorosa offers a range of unique experiences, all of which include a complimentary wine tasting from their wine menu.
Cheese & Charcuterie Tour: This adults-only experience includes a guided and personal tour of the estate and winery, with an intimate tasting in the Il Passito Room, with local cheeses and charcuterie. Price: $85.
Diamond Estate Tour & Tasing: This adults-only experience includes a tasting of five Reserve wines, including the highly rated Super Tuscan Blend “La Castellana.” You will receive a personal tour of the production area, cellars, armory, torture chamber and access to the Grand Barrel Room, where you will taste from the barrel itself. Then, you can sample six current release reserve and small production wines. Price: $70.
Seated Reserve Tasting: A tasting of five wines including Reserves and nonalcoholic muscat grape juice, a self-guided tour of the castle with access to two main levels, including the courtyard, tower, chapel and tasting room. Price: $60, with a chocolate upgrade of +$7. Children’s price is $25.
Standing Reserve Tasting: A tasting of five wines including Reserves and nonalcoholic muscat grape juice, a self-guided tour of the castle with access to two main levels, including the courtyard, tower, chapel and tasting room. Price: $50, with a chocolate upgrade of +$7. Children’s price is $25.
Classic Tasting: A tasting of five wines, a self-guided tour of the castle with access to two main levels, including the courtyard, tower, chapel and tasting room. Price: $40, with a chocolate upgrade of +$7. Children’s price is $25.