Castello di Amorosa in California's Napa Valley holds wine tastings and tours.
A crenellated stone fortress complete with guard towers, escape tunnels, a moat, and a grand hall adorned with colorful frescoes. Is this a medieval relic in the Italian countryside? A new theme park in Southern California? Actually, the imposing stronghold sits on a sunny hillside outside Calistoga, Calif. Its battlements tower over Napa Valley’s newest winery, Castello di Amorosa, which opens in March.
The castle is the crowning achievement of California vintner Daryl Sattui, who spent some $30 million over 13 years building his dream. Many locals worry it will lure more visitors to the crowded valley; its owner is more concerned with authenticity.
Sattui imported chestnut timbers and five-inch-thick doors from Italy and purchased a 15th-century iron maiden for the castle’s torture chamber. He hired masons to shape every stone by hand and insisted that they line the ramparts with arrow loops—narrow slits for defensive archers.
Beneath the castle is a two-acre barrel cellar and a tasting room where visitors can sip tastes of a half-dozen wines, from a plush chardonnay to a "super Tuscan" mélange of California-grown sangiovese, cabernet, and merlot. Tastings are $10 ($5 more for premium wines); castle tours cost an additional $10; children get in free. (707) 286-7212, www.castellodiamorosa.com
Photography by Rocco Ceselin
This article was first published in March 2007. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.