Editor’s Note: This is part two of our Napa Valley blog series. Follow along as Winederlusting Contributor Giana Pacinelli tours Napa Valley and offers us insight and insider tips on visiting this world-famous wine region.
First Stop: Castello di Amorosa Winery in Calistoga
Castello di Amorosa is referred to throughout Napa as “The Castle.” You might confuse the photos with scenes you would see in Italy, largely because the castle’s bricks were brought over from Italy brick by brick. Its owner, Dario Sattui, had a dream of building an authentic Tuscan castle in Napa Valley where he could make outstanding Italian-style wines, and he succeeded.
Castello di Amorosa stands for “Castle of Love” and it is hard not to fall in love with its medieval architecture – the moat, drawbridge, five winding towers and courtyard offer a real sense of being transplanted back to another time and place. Having previously studied in Italy, I really felt like I had gone back in time.
Castello wines — their most noteworthy being their Cabernet Sauvignon’s — are only sold at the winery or shipped directly to customer’s homes and businesses. The wines are not sold in restaurants or distributed anywhere else. What’s more, the Castle does not purchase any advertising. They pride themselves on bringing in customers through word-of-mouth.
Wine Tasting when Visiting Castello di Amorosa
Although tours are available at the castle, this was our first stop when arriving in Napa so we decided to purchase the General Admission ticket ($25), which included your own independent tour of the public grounds and a 5-wine tasting. You get a sense of exclusivity when you are in the tasting room, which is underground and further promotes the comfort and sense of intimacy you feel throughout your visit.
Ivan — who has worked at the Castle for over seven years — walked us through our tasting. His pride in Castello Wines, matched with our immediate interest, prompted him to extend our tasting to include a few more wines, some of which have not yet been released or are on reserve.
My favorites were the 2012 Quattro Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2012 Voyager Sangiovese. Ivan had us pair the cab with a sea salt dark chocolate, which will forever change my opinion of the concept of “wine pairings.” The chocolate diminished the Cab’s bite and highlighted its sweetness.
The Sangiovese is a historic red wine grape variety originating in Northern Italy, where it is recognized as the superior variety. Typically, Sangiovese wines form part of a blend. The Voyager, however, was crafted from 100% Sangiovese grapes sourced from the Voyager Vineyard just South of Yountsville in the Valley. The aromas smelled of berries but the texture and intensity tasted more like a fine Cabernet.
Other things of note:
- Castello Wines was a double gold medal winner with their 2012 Merlot.
- Castello di Amorosa also produces and sells sustainable grape seed oil and flour – made from the seeds of wine grapes that were once discarded. Grape seed products contain half the fat of olive oil. I strongly recommend their garlic grape seed oil and balsamic vinegar, which can be sampled with bread sticks throughout the castle.
- The Castle offers numerous levels of wine clubs that can be found and joined here.
If I were to return to Napa, this is the one place I would want to return to. Since Castello di Amorosa was my first stop, I was hesitant to commit to purchasing wine or taking a tour because I wasn’t entirely sure how the Castle would compare with my other stops.
Simply put, it’s incomparable.
There is no setting quite like the Castle and it was the perfect first stop to set the tone for the whole experience. I would strongly recommend you make your way to Calistoga (the most Northern part of the Valley) and take a tour of the castle, either with a guide or independently, and consider taking advantage of purchasing a few of their fine wines and grape seed oils.
Giana Pacinelli is a full-time advertising executive and a part-time freelancer writer. Her passions for writing, traveling and being awkwardly straightforward have led her to become a contributing writer on platforms such as The Huffington Post, Elite Daily and Thought Catalog. Other hobbies include reading, football (Go Gators, Go Cowboys) & eating (mostly pizza). Find out more at GianaPacinelli.com.