On a recent trip to visit to my daughter and son-in-law in Livermore California, about an hour from San Francisco, Kate wanted to show me the wine industry in California. We attended wine tastings in several Livermore vineyards, then, on Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, we traveled to the Napa Valley, the premier wine production area in California. Driving in, we passed vineyard after vineyard, many with names that were familiar to me from my trips through the local grocery store wine section: Markham, Robert Mondavi, Sutter Home and more.
In bumper-to-bumper holiday weekend California traffic, we drove on. We had a reservation for a castle tour and wine tasting at Castello di Amorosa, the Castle of Love, better know as the Castle Winery. Even though we were in a race against time, trying to arrive only a few minutes late for our 3:30 tour, we could not help but be impressed by the castle and grounds. Goats frolicked in a grassy pasture, grapes were abundant and the castle’s towers hovered over us as we approached.
Finally running in, a mere 20 minutes late due to traffic, we quickly caught up with our tour and Argentinean guide, Maria. We explored the vineyard and learned about specific grapes, then were allowed into “the caves”, or the cellar area of the castle where the barrels and bottles of aging wine are stored. Interestingly enough, the caves also contain a dungeon with a torture chamber, in true 13th century Tuscan castle style.
We also learned the castle was built by Italian born Dario Sattui, who researched and studied medieval castles throughout Europe for decades. Sitting on 30 acres of vineyards, the 121,000 square foot castle includes 107 unique rooms, 8,000 tons of hand-squared stones, 8 levels (4 of these are below ground) and 900 feet of caves. In addition, the castle boasts a completely hand-painted Great Hall, a drawbridge, moat, consecrated chapel and one of the most impressive wine barrel rooms in the United States, constructed with ancient brick Roman cross-vaulted ceilings.
In addition to being an informative and interesting tour guide, Maria was a wonderful hostess for our tasting as well. The wines were delicious. The Castle Winery also has available a Wine Club, the Amici del Barone Wine Club, which not only includes discounted prices on wines that are only sold at the castle, but also discounts on tastings and tours as well as members only special events conducted in the Great Hall once a month. These events include a Midsummer Medieval Festival, a Harvest Celebration, a Pagan Ball at Halloween and a New Year’s Eve Masquerade Ball.
The trip was truly an event we will not soon forget. If you are ever camping in the Napa Valley area or traveling through, it is worth a stop for a tour of Castello di Amorosa. It would also make a terrific trip destination if you are in the mood to spend some time in sunny California. You will not be disappointed!
Read more about California camping and things to do in California.