Castello di Amorosa

Castllo di Amorosa Entrance

Castello di Amorosa, (http://www.castellodiamorosa.com/) which translates to Castle of Love (though I preferred to translate it to “Love Shack”) is hidden from the road by the trees and slope of the hill. When you pass through the lovely iron gates at the entrance and start up the drive, you only see the neatly pruned lines of grapes planted on all sides. Then, as you come up the drive, the first parapets and towers peak into view, quickly followed by an honest to goodness castle.

I will admit, I expected to see a facade. Maybe a stone tower next to the winery and tasting room. A wall and a little drawbridge over a custom moat with koi in it.

Not even close. Castello di Amorosa is a 121,000 square foot, 107 room CASTLE. Complete with drawbridge, moat, and torture chamber. It even has a pit of despair.

Castello di Amorosa is the culmination of a lifelong dream. It’s creator and owner, Dario Sattui, spent the better part of two and a half decades (not to mention at least 2 fortunes) researching castles in Europe and tracking down builders capable of realizing his vision. They broke ground in 1995 and didn’t open their doors until 2007. They did, however, plan ahead and plant their vines in 1995 and 1996 so they would be old enough to bear good fruit when they were ready to start making their wine.

The castle as viewed from the parking lot

The castle as viewed from the parking lot

We parked the car in the lot and walked to the front steps. As we walked through the parking lot, we noted that there were vines planted in the dividing islands in the lot. It was clear that we were being encouraged to try the grapes off the vines as we walked.

Mr. Dr. and Luke standing at the top of the stairs, about to go over the drawbridge into the castle.

Mr. Dr. and Luke standing at the top of the stairs, about to go over the drawbridge into the castle.

Our tour was to start at 2PM and we walked in just as the guide, John Henry, was calling for the group to assemble. We quickly checked in, paid ($44.00 per person for the Tour and Upgraded Reserve Tasting) and joined the tour group in the chapel.

As soon as we walked into the chapel, I felt like we were taking a tour in Europe. The castle is as authentic as modern building codes will allow. The stones are hand cut by master masons, a task that took almost two years just for the building materials. It has doors and windows that are bricked up to simulate the changes to castles that were made as taxes were levied based on the number of doors and windows in a home. All of the iron fixtures were made over an open forge by master blacksmiths and show obvious skill.

Some of the Fresco in the Great Hall.

Some of the Fresco in the Great Hall.

Before we went into the 900 linear feet of caves under the castle, we stopped in the Great Hall. Every wall was covered in a continuous fresco that took a year and a half to complete. The room looked strangely empty without knights jostling each other for a leg of turkey.

From the Great Hall, we moved on to the fermentation room. Things got really modern really fast. The fermentation room is lined with gleaming stainless steal vats, computer controls, and efficiency. Ten steps later, we were back in the 13th century, looking up from the courtyard at the tower built with simulated battle damage.

We left the courtyard and entered the labyrinth of caves beneath the castle. On our way down the sloping tunnel, we passed the candle room, built only because a real castle would have had one back in the 13th century. After the candle room was their large format bottle room where dozens of bottle of all sizes were aging.

Iron FixtureWe saw barrels aging, bottle stacked and waiting for labels, and a really big iron maiden in the Torture chamber which just happens to be adjacent to the Grand Barrel Room. I can just imagine the parties…

In the Grand Barrel Room, we had a tasting from the barrel, and a brief discussion about the barrels stacked there. We were told that all of their wines were aged in French Oak, but there were barrels there from Kansas, Missouri, and even Hungary. The guide was stumped, but promised to look into it for us.

Castello TastingThe tour ended at their tasting room. There we tasted an assortment of their wines, including their reserve wines. These were very good $35 wines that someone had marked up to $85. I suspect they are counting on exclusivity (you can only get their wines at the castle) to drive up the price. During the tasting, our guide advised us that the non-French barrels we saw in the Grand Barrel Room were from the adjacent winery which ages it’s wine in their room.

In all, it is worth the trip just to tour a castle in the new world. Their wines are well done, but not nearly value for money. I would have paid $35 for them with a smile, but at $85 a bottle, I couldn’t justify purchasing any.Castello di Amorosa barrels

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