Before visiting Castello di Amorosa if you’d told me there was a castle in California I assumed you meant Hearst Castle in San Simeon. If you insisted there was a castle in Calistoga, built in the Italian tradition, I’d have called you crazy. My guess is that the man behind Castello di Amorosa, Dario Sattui, received his fair share of skepticism as well when he told them his plans. That dream of Dario’s, to build an authentic Tuscan castle in the middle of Napa Valley, has come true in a most amazing way.
In Napa Valley if one brings up the Sattui name most people will think of the winery, V. Sattui. Its large tasting room offers a variety of approachable wines, for the novice and expert tasters. V. Sattui’s market has foods to buy ranging from meats, breads, cheeses, and salads. The grounds offer benches or lawns perfect for picnicking. This leads to V. Sattui being a great stop when in Napa Valley.
Similar to V. Sattui Winery, Castello di Amorosa is a fantastic outing. In fact, it’s worth visiting the region just to see the castle. Where else besides Italy can you see an Italian castle? The moment you drive up to the parking lot for Castello di Amorosa you are mesmerized by the castle. Your mind rejects the possibility that someone took it upon himself to have a castle built in Napa Valley. Yet as you get out of your car you’re faced with the stark fact, Castello di Amorosa is real.
As you approach the castle by foot a welcoming committee of farm animals greets you. Dario Sattui didn’t stop at authenticity with the walls of the castle. This is a functioning castle so livestock is prudent. A flock of geese use the shade of trees to block out the sun. Sheep wander through vineyards and goats meander past the castle walls. Seeing the animals gives weight to the fact that every detail of this castle if genuine.
You will enter the castle itself through the main gate. To move further into the castle you will need to pay for either general admission or a guided tour. The photo to the right showcases the pricing in late 2014. Each entry fee includes a visit to the tasting room. Children may visit the castle and their entrance includes a tasting of grape juice. On our visit we opted for “General Admission with Premium Wine Tasting”, a cost of $20 a person. With general admission you may go ahead to the top of the tower, visit the great hall, see the courtyard, or descend to the tasting room.
We’d arrived in the morning and went to the tasting room first, in case it got crowded later. The number of people in the tasting room was minimal, which lent to a relaxed tasting session. There was no bumping of elbows or feeling rushed by others looking to snag your spot at the wine bar. Once in the tasting room it was easy to imagine that you were in Italy. There are no windows, which gives the tasting room a medieval, and romantic, vibe. The brick walls are soothing and lined with bottles of wine. The attendant serving us was an Italian gentleman, and that added to the entire experience. Were we in California or Italy? It didn’t matter as we drank the wines and soaked in the atmosphere.
After tasting the wines we made our way back to the courtyard. There are tables and chairs in the courtyard that allow you to sit and take in this amazing structure. Next to the courtyard is the great hall that may be used for special events. The walls are painted with images of medieval times. There are portraits of jesters, knights, and royals, along with scenes of daily life. After you’ve had your fill of paintings its time to ascend the stairs to the castle walls and tower.
As you make your way up the stairs a sign reminds you of the hard work it took constructing Castello di Amorosa. The sign reads “our paths and stairways have all been constructed using hand-carved stone, hand-hewn wood, and centuries-old European bricks, to stay true to the building techniques used in the Middle Ages”. You can’t help being in awe as you look at the ground, the walls, the tower and even the rooftops. When you reach the top of the stairs you are rewarded with views of the surrounding hills and vineyards. Admire the scenery or pretend the castle in under siege and you the loan archer left to protect the stronghold.
As you make your way back to your vehicle it is hard not to be impressed by this castle. The attention to detail Dario Sattui put into having this castle built is evident throughout, from the moment you step onto the castle grounds until you leave. He is to be commended for making his dream a reality. We are lucky that he made Castello di Amorosa open to the public so we too may experience it.
For more information about Castello di Amorosa, including the history of the castle, visiting hours, and current pricing, please visit their website: http://www.castellodiamorosa.com/