Castello di Amorosa- Wine, history, fire and disney

As far as Napa Valley winery history goes, Castello di Amorosa has a lot going on.

Medieval castles don’t exactly dot the landscape in Napa Valley, so when you see one, it tends to pull your focus.  Meet Castello di Amorosa (aka, the Castle of Love).  

And just so we’re clear, this isn’t a tasting room that someone glued a tower onto so it might look like a castle if you squint your eyes.  This is a full-scale, historically accurate, actual, medieval Tuscan castle.

Except it’s not in Italy.  It’s in Napa Valley, USA.

Castello di Amorosa- The History

Castello di Amorosa is the brainchild and obsession of owner and winemaker, Dario Sattui.

Mr. Sattui is the great-grandson of California pioneer, Vittorio Sattui, who founded V.Sattui Vineyards (in San Francisco) in 1885.  

After Prohibition, the winery was closed for 50 years.  In 1975, Dario Sattui resurrected the winery and moved it to Napa Valley, where it remains a fixture today.

amorosa winery
photo credit: Castello di Amorosa. 2002 early construction.

Mr. Sattui purchased the 171 acre property that would become Castello di Amorosa in 1994.  A life-long fascination with medieval architecture inspired him to spend the next 15 years and 40 million dollars building his Castle of Love.

That’s equal parts brave and crazy.

The Castle of Love boasts 107 rooms, with four levels above ground, and four levels of wine caves and cellars below ground.  

There are five defensive towers in Castello di Amorosa, a drawbridge, moat, tunnels, secret rooms, a great hall, a prison and torture chamber.  Because what’s a medieval castle without a torture chamber?

But it wasn’t enough just to design and build a 107-room medieval castle in Napa Valley.  Mr. Sattui used authentic, historically accurate building materials (i.e., grout made of lime, sand and water instead of cement — because they didn’t have cement in the Middle Ages).  

All the castle stones were chipped squared by hand.  All the timbers were hand hewn.  The doors were made with hand-forged iron nails.  The roof tiles came from Italy.

This is serious commitment to historical accuracy. One departure from historical accuracy?  Flush toilets.  

The restrooms at Castello di Amorosa have faucets that look like castle gargoyles.  

The word gargoyle comes from the old French gargouille, meaning throat.  The practical purpose of gargoyles was to provide drainage for a church or castle.  The secondary purpose was to scare the bejeezus out of people.  Fun fact:  A gargoyle can only be a gargoyle if it’s serving as a water spout.  Otherwise, it’s a grotesque, which can be used solely for decoration.

In 2015, Castello di Amorosa added Morning Dew Ranch Estate and Vineyard to its portfolio in 2015 and the Pinot Noir is phenomenal. 

Castello di Amorosa- The Disney Collab

Disney’s The Quest – Filmed On Location

castello amorosa
photo credit: Castello di Amorosa

The show features a competition series that was filmed at Castello di Amorosa from December 2020 to March 2021. The show features challenges, mazes and puzzles throughout the Castle. 

Think, “The Amazing Race” meets “The Lord of the Rings”. 

Filming took place throughout the Castle rooms and grounds. There was also filming in the forests surrounding Castello di Amorosa. 

Castello di Amorosa- The Fire

castello amorosa wine
photo credit: SF Eater

There are a lot of things that happened in my lifetime that I remember where I was. The Glass Fire was one of them. 

The Glass Fire in California burned 1 acre every five seconds as it doubled in size. total acres burned were 67,484. 1,528 structures were destroyed and 282 were damaged.

The Castello di Amorosa did survive the fire, but its store of wine lost 120,000 bottles, a roughly $5 million loss.

On October 1, 2020 owner Dario Sattui writes in a letter posted to the winery’s website, “Castello di Amorosa sustained significant fire damage to the Farmhouse building, a separate 15,000 square foot building across the crush pad about 50 yards from the castle.

Flaming embers landed in the grass near Highway 29 creating a massive fire that ripped up the hill to the Farmhouse before I knew it. My first response was to let our farm animals out of their pens, and then I raced to find a fire truck which responded quickly, but it was just too large a fire to handle.”

Today, Castello di Amorosa has recently celebrated its 15th anniversary and it is thriving with two wines in their collection receiving 98 points (Morisoli-Borges Cabernet Sauvignon) and 97 points (single-vineyard Melanson Cabernet Sauvignon).

Castello di Amorosa- The Wine

I was looking forward to tasting three of  Castello di Amorosa wines.  I love Sangiovese, (and chianti which makes a beautiful Super Tuscan when combined) and tomato sauce is the perfect pairing. I made lasagna to pair with the wines.

California has flirted with Sangiovese for years, but it’s never really found a footing.  There are over 500 wineries in Napa Valley, and according to Napa Valley Vintners, only 34 of them make a Sangiovese.

Sangiovese is a difficult grape to grow.  It’s thin-skinned, early to bud, slow to ripen, doesn’t ripen evenly, susceptible to rot, and tends to overproduce on the vine.  The potential for thin, uninteresting plonk is very real.  So why bother?

With careful growing and clever winemaking, Sangiovese can be bliss.  It’s often blended with other dance partners (hello, Super Tuscans), but Sangiovese can also sing on its own. 

Grab a bottle of Brunello (which must be 100% Sangiovese) and prepare for your epiphany moment.  You can recover from the hit to your wallet later.

That, and if your winery is a full-scale, historically accurate, actual, medieval Italian castle, it would seem an oversight not to grow and make Sangiovese.

2015 Gioia Rosato di Sangiovese 🍷🍷🍷/88

The name Gioia means Joy, an apropos moniker.  A deliciously dry Rosé made from 100% Sangiovese sourced from the Diamond Mountain District of Napa Valley.  Aged 4 months in stainless steel.  

A deep salmon color in the glass.  Super engaging nose of strawberry, raspberry, watermelon, cranberry and rose petals.  

Nicely balanced and refreshing, with flavors of sour strawberry, rhubarb and cranberry.  Perfect for a warm day.  14.2% ABV.

2012 Napa Valley Sangiovese 🍷🍷🍷/89

95% Sangiovese and 5% Merlot, sourced primarily from the Sangiovese vineyard surrounding the Castello in the Diamond Mountain District, along with fruit from Mount Veeder and Atlas Peak.  Aged for 22 months in French oak.  

Medium garnet color.  There’s so much going on in this glass!  The nose is cranberry, black pepper, sour cherry, smoke, vanilla, toast, nutmeg.  

Dry and drenched in bright acidity, with flavors of cranberry, cola, smoke, black pepper and tobacco.  There’s a rustic, terra-cotta quality to this wine that kept me coming back for more.  

An absolutely killer pairing with the homemade lasagna, too!  14.8% ABV.  

I’m trying to resist a comparison to Chianti with this wine (because Italy is Italy and Napa is Napa), but if I close my eyes, I do feel a little Under the Tuscan Sun.

2012 La Castellana 🍷🍷🍷🍷/92

A “Super Tuscan” blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Sangiovese and 9% Merlot.  La Castellana means “Lady of the Castle”.  Aged for 20 months in French oak.  Medium garnet color.  

Highly expressive nose of sour cherry, smoke, tobacco, toast and vanilla.  

Dry, with more assertive tannins than the 95% Sangiovese, but acutely balanced.  Complex and intense with flavors of red currant, tobacco, cedar, toast and graphite.  

I really hated to see the end of this bottle.  I suspect this will only get better with a little cellar dust and time.  Outstanding.  14.8% ABV. 

amorosa winery
photo credit: Castello di Amorosa

Castello di Amorosa FAQ

In 1994, Sattui purchased 171 acres for $3.1 million, then spent another $40 million to construct the castle, outbuildings, and the winery inside the castle. Construction began in 1995.
Castello di Amorosa is recognized first and foremost, as the castle of love, and for its beautiful Tuscan style wines, its collaboration with Disney and for the damage it sustained from the Glass Fire in 2020.
Tastings begin at $50 per person and reservations are required. A self-guided tour is included. $25 for children ages 2-20.
Castello di Amorosa is one of the most beautiful wineries in Napa Valley and offers a very unique experience. And the wine is delicious. It is definitely Tuscan with a Californian flair.

The Castello di Amorosa did survive the fire, but its store of wine lost 120,000 bottles, a roughly $5 million loss.

The Glass Fire in California burned 1 acre every five seconds as it doubled in size. total acres burned were 67,484. 1,528 structures were destroyed and 282 were damaged.

 

Disney’s The Quest was filmed on location​. Filming took place throughout the Castle rooms and grounds. There was also filming in the forests surrounding Castello di Amorosa. 

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