There is no need to go to Europe now to visit an authentic medieval castle, just drive to St. Helena. Oh, and did I mention it’s a winery, too? After your castle tour you can taste the castle’s collection of wines! Castello Di Amarosa, (The Castle of Love) is Darryl Sattui’s (of V. Sattui Winery fame) new love and latest venture.
I’ve been to Europe many times and have visited many castles, but this castle is so authentic it does seem like the real thing – minus the cobwebs (happening soon) and the expensive, long flight to Europe. There were some signs of modern times amid the rusted wrought ironwork, and the ducts to pour hot iron over the invaders. The bathrooms were modern and there was electricity!
For $25 ($30 on weekends), you can tour the winery, visit the workings of the castle, and taste some wines. For $10 more add “reserve tasting” to your day at the castle. On the tour you will visit the chapel, the great hall with beautiful hand-painted frescoes, the torture chamber (with an Iron Maiden and a rack) and the wine cellars.
The main underground barrel cellar is 135 feet long, with more than three dozen cross vaults. We were told that the cross vaults are authentic architecture. Darryl brought someone over from Italy who could create these wine cellars. The wine cellars alone took 10 years to build, the “top of the castle”, three years. The castle/winery opened just 3 months ago. It was hard to get a dollar figure out of tour guide about the expense of such an extraordinary undertaking, but the number floating around was $30 million.
There was not a definitive explanation about the “why Darryl” built the castle. (If you build it, they will come?) But I will say after living in Marin and visiting the wine country often, I was pleased to find something new and very different in Napa. With a little bit of wine and a lot of imagination, I did feel as if I’d escaped to Europe, if only for the day.
If going: Castello di Amorosa is located at 4045 N. St. Helena Highway (just north of Peterson Drive, just south of Maple) 2-1/2 miles south of Calistoga. The castle does not have picnic grounds or food. I suggest stopping first at V. Sattui for wine and a picnic and then heading up the road to the castle.
For more information, phone (707) 942-8200 or go to the website at http://www.castellodiamorosa.com/. Reservations recommended.