[ I snagged this image of V. Sattui from their Website. Images in the video are shared between Jose and me, with copyrights for Jose’s images so noted.]
Once upon a time, there was a prince, whose name was Prince Dario Sattui.
The prince loved to make wine. He lived among his subjects in the valley of Napa, and thoughtfully crafted his nectar. He sold it as a merchant would, rather than giving it away. Prince Dario believed that to merely give it away could create a people who wouldn’t really appreciate this civilizing beverage.
“If it simply flows like water, my people will just take it for granted,” he thought, “and it will become common place, instead of Mother Nature’s most profound miracle.”
And, he was right.
People came from all over the world to visit his V. Sattui Winery. They would buy a bottle of his wine, also buy delicious deli foods, sit in his gardens, and enjoy their ever-so-brief respite from the hard work of their daily lives.
His winery was named after his grandfather Vittorio Sattui, because his winemaking grandfather inspired a very young Dario. After many years of hard work at his V. Sattui Winery, it was time for the prince to become crowned as a king of his land. It was perfect timing, as he longed to be high on a hill, and he longed to have his own Castle. It would be called Castello di Amorosa (Castle of Love); and once built, he would be crowned King Dario Sattui. (Dario is of Latin origin, and means “maintains well.”)
This is where I come in…
I had heard about “the castle” in Napa Valley, but hadn’t taken that brief segue into the driveway and up the hill, to witness the most amazing throwback into medieval times that California has to offer. My friends from Oak Knoll Winery (Willamette Valley) were coming to visit. When they do, we tour wineries together in Pure Luxury style.
The Oak Knoll company is always great, as we get to see what other wine companies are up to. We also like to visit new places. It’s so adventurous to tour this way. There’s so much to see and learn. It was Greg Lint, the president of Oak Knoll, who suggested that we visit “the castle.” And so, I made the arrangements. I make it pretty clear on this blog that being on the inside has many benefits. Being a PR person myself, I’m going to the director of PR, whenever I’m going to be out and about.
I reached Jim Sullivan, Castello di Amorosa’s PR person, and he was extremely gracious. Jim gave us (Greg, Oak Knoll’s winemaker Jeff Herinckx, Jose, and me) a grand tour. I had also just returned from Portugal, so the medieval thing was still coursing through my veins. I was amazed at how all of this castle had come together in the hills of Napa, looking so old, really authentic, and truly magnificent. What a feat!
Castello di Amorosa, which sits on famed Diamond Mountain, took almost 14 years to build. It also took dozens of design revisions, each needing another county approval. (I don’t know if you’ve ever been through that kind of bureaucratic process, but it’s the stuff that nightmares are made of.)
The finally built, 121,000 square foot medieval village-fortress is totally remarkable. From a story by John Intardonato, for Wine Business Monthly:
Two miles south of Calistoga, Castello di Amorosa features a half-dozen stone towers, a chapel, piazza, grand loggia, and even a dungeon and moat. The complex also contains an up-to-date winemaking facility and lab, and wine cellars four floors deep. Surrounding the 171-acre site is a 30-acre vineyard. “I knew I wanted to make Italian-style wines here as well as super-premiums from this unique appellation,” Sattui said.
Built using techniques dating back to medieval times, the property also features a visitor’s center, offices and a grand banquet hall with hand-painted frescoes on the walls and ceiling. Visitors can view an authentic iron maiden and rack while sampling Napa Valley ultra-premium wine.
We got to see all of it last February. I just returned, on my way back from the Rutherford Dust tasting, to get some summer shots. My first visit was during last winter’s rainy season, and I knew that returning when there would be foliage and sunny, blue skies would be very rewarding. I was right, and I also got to see the cats… Lancelot and Guinevere.
As I was leaving, after having taken my new images, two teenage girls were arriving. As they approached me, one was so excited to be revisiting, I overheard her telling her friend all about the castle. As she passed me, she said, “My favorite part is the torture chamber!” And, they giggled. I couldn’t help but mildly gasp. When I was in Lisbon in a fado restaurant, I glimpsed up at the ceiling and saw iron rings. I wondered about them, but didn’t get the answer that night. Returning home and watching the History Channel, I learned that those rings were where ropes would be strung, so people could hang by their wrists… you get the picture… and I shudder to think how inhumane civilization has been along our way to becoming more understanding. Meanwhile, for youth, the torture chamber is exciting… And, I’m thinking that it’s because wine isn’t an optional enjoyment in public settings, yet. After a few glasses of wine and a good history channel show, that too, shall pass…
To see even the smallest of details being paid strict attention to spoke volumes about what had to be learned in order to make a replicated dream an authentic reality.
If you haven’t visited “the castle” yet, find the time. It will be well worth the visit.
Explore the four levels below the winery. It’s a maze of rooms and caves of distinction. Enjoy the courtyard with a flavor of the past. It’s so out of the realm of Napa Valley, and yet it’s something that Napa Valley deserves to have as an option for visiting. It celebrates the Italian roots of so many, who came during and after the gold rush. It adds such flair to Napa Valley, in its authentic architecture.
And, oh yes… it is a winery, and the wines are molto favoloso!
The red wines are from famed Diamond Mountain fruit, with the whites coming from Anderson Valley. They’re using open top fermenters and state of the art machinery for making their Italian-styled wine… Diemme conveyer-sorter and de-stemmer, along with a P&L Specialties crusher from Sebastopol.
The winery is very proud to tell you that their 2007 Il Barone, a reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, scored 94 points from Robert Parker. A big, rich Cab, with a Parker score of 94, means that they’ve achieved their goal of producing a wine of great merit.
We got to see and taste it all… This was the wonderful adventure that my friend Greg Lint was looking for… and we all got to completely enjoy it with him.