During our 20th wedding anniversary trip to Napa Valley two weeks ago, we were staying at the legendary Napa River Inn. Although we had been to Napa Valley before and there are many great vineyards that we love and adore, we left our entire schedule up to the Laurie and Kellie at Napa River Inn. We had a great time visiting many vineyards over a two-day stretch, but we really loved the “Castle of Love” or more formally known as Castello di Amorosa.
From the Napa River Inn we had about a 35 minute drive north up towards Calistoga, but it was an absolutely gorgeous morning as the fog was quickly dissipating from the Napa Valley hills; granted we did arrive a few minutes late for our scheduled tour. Speaking of tours and wine tastings at Castello di Amorosa, you can find all about the various types of tastings here, such as their chocolate pairing or a cheese tasting. As for our tour, we went with the $40.00 per person tasting of their premium wines, which enabled us to try 11 or 12 of the 16 different varietals of wine at Castello di Amorosa.
Though we arrived a few minutes late, we met our group in the chapel, where our tour guide Joe, was giving some history about the building of Castello di Amorosa, such as the fact it cost $40.0 million U.S. dollars to build and was founded by Dario Sattui of the V. Satturi Wine Company family. You may not also know this, but Colonel William Nash planted one of California’s first vineyards on the Castello di Amorosa property back in 1846. As we exited the chapel, we went into the magnificent Great Hall. The front door of the Great Hall is made of Italian Oak and has over 2,000 hand-forged nails. With its exquisite paintings and massive tables, myself and my spouse were able to sit in the “King and Queen’s” chairs to celebrate our anniversary. Our tour guide even joked, “You know how to tell which chair is the Queens? Whichever one she wants.” Joe was truly a character.
We then entered into the Courtyard, where just the night before there was a special event for wine club members called “Hot Havana Nights.” In fact, Castello di Amorosa hosts many events throughout the year, including a very special Haunted Castello right around Halloween. We also learned that the reason you will find many bricked in window sills in Europe and elsewhere is that there used to be a light tax in certain locations. Therefore, the more light you brought into your house or castle, the more of a tax you had to pay. To avoid this tax, many people simply bricked in their windows.
For the next part our our tour, we moved underground as we moved through various small dimly lit hallways, eventually making our way down four stories beneath Castello di Amorosa. Thankfully no one was claustrophobic, but my favorite room as well as many of those in our tour group, was the Prison and Torture Chamber. All of the artifacts within the Prison and Torture Chamber are authentic items that at one-point-in time, presumably were used for their intended purposes. For example, the body rack below was designed to dislocate limbs and pierce the body. Within the table there are several grooves to let the blood drain out of the table not to pool up and make an unnecessary mess.
Now I know what you are thinking? What about the wine at Castello di Amorosa? Even before we headed downstairs, Joe gave us a tour and overview of the winemaking at Castello di Amorosa, which practices a sustainable farming approach. As we walked throughout the lower levels of Castello di Amorosa, we came across barrels and barrels of aging wine, as well as the large format room (really big bottles being aged) and ultimately making our way down into the tasting room. Joe was great at pointing out how the Castello was designed in the same fashion as a traditional Tuscan castle, utilizing certain types of constructions, as well as the type of mortar used in Castello di Amorosa is nearly the same, if not the same, compound as used in the 12th and 13th centuries in Europe. Ultimately we made our way down to our tasting room, which was uniquely tucked away into a narrow room where we all stood along a bar waiting for a taste of wine.
We tried a variety of white and red wines from the Pinot Grigio, to Sangiovese, to Cabernet to Moscato. While we are traditionally red wine purchasers, we actually ended up ordering a case of 12 bottles of white wines, as we really adored the Castello di Amorosa dessert wines and Gewurztraminer. Any day now I expect my shipment to arrive so that I can fondly recall a remarkable morning at Castello di Amorosa. So if you can’t quite visit the “Castle of Love” in the near future, you can also visit them right here. And as promised, here are 7 Fun Facts about Castello di Amorosa, but I’ve also sprinkled a few more in throughout this most, but this synopsis I love the most:
- 121,000 square feet or three acres of rooms
- Five defensive towers with battlements
- 2,000 pound hand-hewn doors from Italy
- 107 distinctive rooms with 95 devoted to winemaking
- Eight levels with four underground making Castello di Amorosa 2/3 underground
- All ironwork, doors and windows were made by Italian artisans
- Includes a drawbridge, moat and a prison and torture chamber.
So take it from me, head to Napa Valley, as up a Calistoga hill, you’ll get your “love” filled.
Castello di Amorosa is located at 4045 North Saint Helena Highway in Calistoga, CA. Telephone number is 707-967-6272. March through November they are open from 9:30am to 6pm and December through February they are open from 9:30am to 5pm. You can follow Castello di Amorosa on Twitter here, like them on Facebook here, follow on Instagram here.