It seems like so long ago, from now, when I visited Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga, Napa Valley, on a whim. My husband Jose and I had just attended a media tasting for a Rutherford Dust event, and I decided that I wanted to not pass by Castello di Amorosa, as I had so many times before. (I live in wine country, so we pass every winery every day we’re on the road; this isn’t unusual. (Wanting to stop after an event was an extraordinary decision, never made before.)
What was unusual was piling one event on top of another, because I knew it was going to ultimately be very time consuming. Still, I just felt like it was time…
Today, I’m recalling one of the best decisions I ever made, when I asked Jose to segue up the hill to the “Castle.”
Castello di Amorosa has gained the cache for being a great place for parents with kids (with them in wine country), to segue for a bit, so the kids are a bit entertained, too. So few wineries are as cordial as the Castello. Honestly, I’m not surprised. When I was working at Robert Mondavi Winery, for instance, I loved having children on my tour. I knew that learning a bit about wine was going to help with their own temperance some day. Deny anything to a child and they want it more. Educate them as to why their parents are enjoying a bit of wine in their lives, and they’re possibly future wine connoisseurs. Nowhere will anyone learn that more than by traveling to Europe and observing their wining and dining psseggiata culture. Does it help that Castello di Amorosa is owned by someone who is of Italian descent? Yes, it does…
This Tuscan, thirteenth Century-style Castle (think dungeons and dragons) is owned by Dario Sattui. From the Castello’s Website:
Castello di Amorosa is the realization of an all-consuming passion. Fourth generation winemaker Dario Sattui built an authentically styled 13th century Tuscan castle winery to honor his Italian heritage and deep love for medieval architecture.
But it all started with wine.
Dario is the great-grandson of pioneering vintner Vittorio Sattui, an Italian immigrant who founded St. Helena Wine Cellars in 1885.
Dario Sattui also owns V. Sattui Winery. It’s the one on Highway 128/29 that has a large picnic area in front, in the town of St. Helena, set in the heart of Napa Valley. Besides wine, they also have an Artisan Deli and Marketplace, which allows for you to picnic with your wines. The operative here is picnic! What is more American Family than a picnic. Again, Dario has been catering to a lifestyle, ever since I can remember. Why? It’s in his DNA…
So, how about that Castle
HERE’S A NUGGET: The wines from the Castello are all sold directly from the winery to consumers. If you love these wines, get onto their mailing list. Direct to consumer is so chic for the winery and the consumer, alike.
As Jose and I entered the Castello, I asked to speak with someone in their PR department. If I was going to do this, I wanted a business-to-business person, so writing a story would give me all of the paperwork I needed. We were greeted by Michala Jeberg, the PR and marketing manager, at the time. Now she’s listed as their author.
So, kids? Yes, Castello does take care of having a place where children can be exposed to Thirteenth Century Medieval times; yet, it’s important to note that Castello di Amorosa also has a Club Member Lodge, and this one does not allow any minors to gain entrance. So, if you’re not traveling with children and want to avoid the hyper diapers, book yourself into the lodge. Here’s why!
The Luscious Pinot Noirs of Castello di Amorosa
Michala Jeberg immediately took us to an adults’ only room, and she proceeded to tell us about their Villa Amorosa Estate Vineyard, their Three Arrows Ranch, the Three Arrows Ranch Estate Vineyard, their cool climate Terra de Promissio Vineyard, and their Morning Dew Ranch in Mendocino’s Anderson Valley. Who knew, honestly, that this Castello has been honoring cool climate Pinot Noirs, while prominently placed in Napa Valley?
- Villa Amorosa Estate Vineyard ~ Surrounding the castle ~ about 30 acres in the warmer climate Diamond Mountain District
- Bordeaux Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Petite Verdot
- Italian Varieties: Primitivo and Sangiovese
- Three Arrows Ranch Estate Vineyard ~ In a cool climate on the southwest edge of Sonoma County, in the famed Green Valley of Russian River Valley
- Burgundy Variety: Pinot Noir
- Clones: 115, 777, and the Pommard 4
- Terra de Promissio Vineyard ~ Located in the cool climate of the Petaluma Gap, in Sonoma County’s Coastal region
- Clones: DRC, 115, 777, Rochioli, 23, and the 828
- Morning Dew Ranch ~ Located in Mendocino’s Anderson Valley, another cool climate location
I listed the Castello’s Estate Vineyard first. Then, if you know about Calistoga, you know that in Napa Valley, where things are a bit upside down temperature-wine. Unlike the East Coast, where the more north you go, the colder it gets, in the Napa Valley and Sonoma County, the more north you go, the warmer it gets. So, Southern Napa is Carneros… a very cool climate, from the influences of San Pablo and San Francisco bays. The more north you go in Napa Valley, the warmer it gets. Calistoga in Napa Valley is quite warm – if not downright hot, in the deep summer months.
So, let’s talk about the vineyards away from the estate, because each one is strategically placed in a cool climate, viticultural areas. This is where they are sourcing their fruit to craft their Pinot Noirs”
- Three Arrows Ranch Estate Vineyard ~ Pinot Noir grown in Sonoma County’s Green Valley of Russian River Valley (all clones listed above)
- Terra de Promissio Vineyard ~ Pinot Noir in Petaluma Gap AVA, in Sonoma County’s Coastal region
- Morning Dew Ranch ~ Pinot Noir in Mendocino’s Anderson Valley
What is so significant with cool-climate Pinot Noirs?
If you know about Bordeaux, you know their varieties used to make wine. (Warmer climate grapes thrive with a bit more heat.) Knowing a bit about Burgundy, you know the grapes of choice are Pinot Noir. (Cool climate grapes thrive where there’s a bit of a chill in the morning, made that way by some moisture influence(s). Notice above I mentioned Southern Napa is located by San Francisco and San Pablo bays.
So, these three locations ~ with their moisture influences.
- Three Arrows Ranch Estate Vineyard ~ GREEN VALLEY ~ Only 10 miles due west to the Pacific Coastline. It’s also influenced by the Russian River. The photo above is one I took, when the sun was going down over the Russian River (bottom water) and the Pacific Ocean (upper water). This is the location where the river pours into the Pacific.
- Mark Twain: “The coldest winter I ever spend was the summer in San Francisco.” It’s cold down there in the summer, and quite mild in the winter.
- Terra de Promissio Vineyard ~ PETALUMA GAP AVA ~ Also getting its cool climate influence from San Pablo Bay and the Pacific Ocean. The Gap’s newly defined AVA. I’ve written about it stating:
- Then, it occurred to me, because my daughter and her family live in Petaluma. From Petaluma, we can easily drive to Tomales Bay. We’ve been there and watched the fog roll in, in the late afternoon. If you’re on the beach, you can visually see the fog rolling into that valley area, and understand the pinpoint location of the Petaluma Wind Gap on its southern end. I’ve been there when it happens… It just rolls in. It’s cold and windy, and it just takes over. We run from the beach. (Yeah, it’s that cool and Pinot Noirs just love that cool!
- Morning Dew Ranch ~ Pinot Noir in Mendocino’s Anderson Valley ~ From the Anderson Valley Website:
- Towards the [Pacific] coast the summers are cool and moist with frequent fog, while the interior Anderson Valley proper features a warmer climate during the day, with daytime highs in excess of 100 °F (38 °C) several times per year, but diurnal-temperature swings consistently 40 to 50 degrees.
Pinot Noirs Tasted ~ The Soul I found in Each of the Four Pinots
I should first say that it’s been a while since I tasted these wines. The Castello di Amorosa owns the vineyards, so they control all aspects of their grape growing and winemaking. While there may be slight variances from vintage to vintage from weather, only a new winemaker would make a drastic stylistic difference. I tasted the fruit; I tasted the soul of the vines’ terroir. You’re going to have to experiment on your own, but might take a piece of this with you in the process.
My palate was so ready for this wine, having just finished a Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon tasting. I had had some of the best Cabernet’s that Napa Valley has to offer… Big, rich, linear Cabs, intended to knock your socks off, straighten your spine, and make you suavely and good-naturedly declare, “Ooooo yeah, darling!” This is IT!”
Now was the time to shift from fourth gear, down to second gear. This is very generally speaking here…
- First gear ~ Commodity wine, no thinking with the drinking, sold, done
- Second gear ~ Pinot Noir, which attract tree huggers and family lovers
- Cool climates, hard to grow, the delicate of the delicate
- Third gear ~ All the other varieties, from the US to Italy, to Portugal, South America, Australia, etc. All of them…
- Fourth Gear ~ Big Cabernet Sauvignon (Bordeaux and Napa), which attracts the collectors and readers from image-maker recommendations
So, we’re in Second Gear, also known as Pinot Noir Heaven… Enjoying Pinto is like having a velvet lining in your esophagus. You swirl, cherries and plums. You sniff, “Is that strawberry I’m picking up?” Then the sip and the lining of your esophagus… Round, ripe, and unctuous… A word that came up frequently in each of the wines I tasted… With the same winemaker, some elements of the wine overstep from one lone location to the next, and these wines delivered that consistency.
- 2017 Rosato Morning Dew Ranch Pinot Noir (Rosé) ~ Anderson Valley ~Provisional Adult
- So delicious and refreshing, cleansing and pleasing. I could have stayed right there, until I picked up the aroma of the Pinot being poured Huh? Turing my head… A rose is a rose is a rose… And, so is a Rosé.
- 2016 Rosato Morning Dew Ranch Pinot Noir ~ Anderson Valley ~
- This wine, of course, had the same flavor profile… except… we were now talking about a bit more maturity, no longer being provisional. This equals more food options. Round, sensuous flavors that are alluring, inviting, and oooo lala. Paté and mushrooms…
- 2016 Three Arrows Ranch Pinot Noir ~ Green Valley of Russian River Valley ~ Sensuality
- Food friendly, sensuous sipping turned in voluptuous and expanding the food options to duck and Turkey’s dark meat. Very polished, credit to the oak barrels… Vanilla doesn’t take over… It just slides into place, just like a figure skater coming to the end of her or his performance.
- 2016 Terra de Promissio Pinot Noir ~ Petaluma Gap ~ Temptress….
- This is the final of these four wines. It’s been a perfectly beautiful progression, led by Michala Jeberg. These Pinots were “on allocation.” Small production equals limited distribution… Again, you can contact the winery to find how you get over this Castello’s moat. The Terra de Promissio Pinot made its way onto my middle-weight soup list as a great option. I just made that soup with chicken in a beef broth and potatoes thickening the base. Chicken, pork, mushrooms, Herbs de Provence … more to add and enjoy. This wine took me back to my days of living in Maine on a lake: Damp and reassuring, as flavorful as morning dew, as enriching as being in Burgundy would be, on a day off…
We also tasted this Pinot tasting with their Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s a classic styled Napa Valley Cabernet, with delicious black currant flavors, worth of any fare that is brought home of substantial substance, like a scrumptious Porterhouse steak or a steak stir fry in a balsamic fig sauce.
These wines are so worthy of your time, just as I hung onto my visit for the day when I could shout “Hurray!” When traveling through Napa Valley, with or without children, this is a “must stop to enjoy” winery, for all of the right reasons.
Step back in time to enjoy wines of today, at Castello di Amorosa.