Just south of the resort town of Calistoga, known for its hot springs and vineyards, in Napa Valley hides a Tuscan mansion built by a modern winemaker in the style of the castles of 12th-century Italy. Today, this eccentric monumental structure rivals popular tourist centers on the California coast.
In April 2007, Daryl Sattui, a fourth-generation winemaker, unveiled to the public the enormous stone Castello di Amorosa, which he had spent 12 years building. In a secluded spot on a hilltop in the middle of 1.5 hectares of vineyards along the California coast rises a real Italian fortress with 107 rooms on seven levels, totaling 11,200 square meters. The building’s masonry, ironwork and woodwork were handcrafted using an ancient method. For the construction, 8000 tons of stones quarried in the area and 850 thousand bricks brought from Europe were used.
Sattui, who is also the owner of a former monastery and Medici palace in Italy, admitted that he has always been a fan of medieval architecture. The very name “castello di amorosa” means “castle of love” in Italian. The realization of this crazy fantasy cost the winemaker 30 million dollars. “To be honest, I spent all my savings except for a small retirement fund,” said Sattui, “But hopefully I won’t go broke.”
Castello di Amorosa has become a meticulous re-creation of a Tuscan castle. The fortress is surrounded by a dry moat, the entrance is guarded by a drawbridge and heavy iron gates, there are five towers with prongs at the corners, a church in the courtyard, a ceremonial and knight’s hall, and of course a large wine cellar. At every turn you will see detailed evidence of Sattui’s passion for ancient castles. The wrought-iron gates are acid-treated to give them an ancient look. The castle’s double doors are adorned with fine carvings by craftsmen from Italy.
Castello di Amorosa Hall The most impressive room is the great hall 22 meters long, 10 meters wide and almost 7 meters high with coffered ceilings. The interior is decorated with mythical gargoyles and openwork wrought iron candlesticks and wall frescoes by Italian artist Fabio Sanzogni. Below, on four underground levels, are prison cells and medieval instruments of torture, including the Iron Maiden, a 17th-century spiked device that was purchased in Italy for $13,000. The labyrinthine cellars stretch to a wine cellar more than 40 meters long, where thousands of barrels of Italian wines with Californian character are stored. Every Sunday morning services are held in the castle chapel, open to tourists (appropriate attire is required). For Wine Club members, there is an annual pagan Halloween ball and a masquerade ball on New Year’s Eve.
Castello di Amorosa Castle is open daily from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. The cost to visit the castle is $17. The cost of a tour of the castle with wine tasting is $32, children under 20 years old – $7 (price includes juice), under 3 years old – free. For wine club members – $16 (includes entry fee). Children under 20 can only enter the castle if accompanied by an adult. Castello di Amorosa Castle is located in the northern part of Napa Valley, between St. Helena and Calistoga (HWY CA-29). It is not visible from the highway, but there are signposts.