As any wine connoisseur will tell you, Napa Valley California is a must visit for anyone who considers themselves a wine lover. Just a little over an hour from San Francisco, the scenery at the edge changes drastically. Golden grass covers the rolling hills, and the sparse green trees poke out from these golden seas. Soon, vineyards start popping up. Each are neatly arranged in little rows and once in a while, a grove of olive trees appears. While this area is known for wine production, olive oil is also produced here. The endless amount of vineyards though, gives you an idea of how many wineries there are here. As I drove through the hot Napa Valley, on a mother daughter road trip, we soon came to our destination, the Castello di Amorosa.
The Castello di Amorosa might possibly be the most famous of the tourist wineries in California. Fashioned after the castles of Europe, the architecture is strange sight among the vineyards in Napa Valley.
To get in, the Castello di Amorosa offers different pricing depending on what you want to see. The tour and wine tasting we did costs $45 per person if over 21 and $35 for minors who must be accompanied by someone over 21. The Tour and reserve tasting is $55 per person. There are also cheese and wine pairing tours for $70 per person and royal food and wine pairing tours for $95 per person. All are recommended to do reservations as they fill up quickly, with the exception of the food and wine which is required.
There is also the general admission tasting prices, which do allow you to explore some of the castle with some parts not accessible. The regular tasting costs $30 with minors costing $20 and reserve costing $40 per person. You also may upgrade it to have wine paired with chocolate, cheese, or meats for an additional cost.
We decided to go with the wine tasting and tour of the Castello di Amorosa. The tour starts off as everyone gathers in the front to wait to go back behind the ropes. After we all gathered around, the tour guide led us to the courtyard. The tour guides here tell you how the architecture matched different time period from Europe, showing the evolution of castle building. We also went through the chapel and the great hall. Both also keep to design of older European style. The great hall was beautifully painted, much like many of friezes in Tuscan castles.
From there, we were led to some of the wine vats. The guide told the group about the productions of wine, as they show us the different aspects that go into making the wine. As a wine lover, getting to know more about the production of wine, made me appreciate how much care is put into each bottle. Each batch was set to a specific time and temperature to differentiate the wines. Learning about how all wines are made from red grapes was fascinating. It is the peels added into that give the tannin to red wine which in turn gives it the rich red color associated with it.
After the wine production, we went through to the wine cellars, where I was amazed by the sheer quantity of wine in the basement. Castello di Amorosa had to have millions of dollars worth of wine stored down here. We went through tunnel after tunnel of casks of wine. Each cask is worth at least $12,000. Thousands of these casks lines the walls of the tunnels. We learned there that each cask costs $1,000 new and can only be used twice.
The tour also consisted of going through the torture chamber, where the owner bought medieval torture devices to put on display. From here, we went to the main room, where plaques decorate the room as to the many people part of their wine club. Recognizable names such as Adam Sandler are on some of these plaques as they boast their relevance as a winery.
Here we also tasted some of the pre-aged Chardonnay, which is their only white wine to be aged in the barrels like their red wines. The Castello di Amorosa also uses this room for wine club members and private events.
The White Wines
Chardonnay, the Gioia, and the Dolcino from the white and rosé wines were the ones we tried. If you are a fan of Chardonnay, you will love this one. Neither of us are fans of Chardonnay regularly, but we both were impressed by this wine. The Dolcino was my favorite, a sweet Gewurztraminer. The next one was the Gioia, a Rosato di Sangiovese, or rosé, which I was also sorely tempted to buy. Both the Dolcino and the Gioia are available for $26 a bottle while the Chardonnay is $30. The other whites available to try were the Pinot Bianco, $27, the Pinot Grigio, $23, the Vermentino, $27, and the dry Gerwurztraminer, $25.
The Red Wines
From the red wines we tried the Zingaro, the Sangiovese, and the Cabernet Sauvignon. I have never been a fan of red wines, but enjoyed the Zingaro, an Old Vine Zinfandel, and the Sangiovese, a Napa Valley wine. Both were very nice and smooth. What blew me away, however, was the Cabernet Sauvignon. This has been my favorite red wine to date. It was a very smooth red wine and it was one I also considered buying. The Zingaro is priced at $39 a bottle and the Sangiovese is priced at $32 a bottle, going up in prices from the white due to the aging process. The Cabernet topped out the list at $55. The other reds available to taste were the Pinot Nior, $42, the Barbera, $35, the Merlot, $42, and the Il Brigante, $36.
The Sweet Wines
We ended up trying the sweet wines, which both of us were anticipating. The Moscato, the Simpatica, the Gewurztraminer and the La Fantasia are all on the list. All were sweet and again some of the best sweet wine I have had to date. The Moscato which is the Il Raggio del Sole is priced at $29. The Simpatica was a sweet Reisling Moscato blend and also priced at $29. The La Fantasia was one of my favorites from here and was a sweet bubbling Italian style wine that was a soft red in color. It was very different from other wines I have tasted. It is priced at $30.
The last wine we tried was the Gewurztraminer. This was my favorite wine out of all the ones we tried. It was a sweet late harvest and a much smaller bottle than others, which was the only reason I didn’t bring it home with me. At $42 dollars for 375mL, it is an expensive wine but one I suggest as a must taste when you visit the Castello di Amorosa.
The Reserve Wines
Again, we didn’t get to try the reserve wines, but I wanted to make sure they were included here. The reserve wines included the Spumante Del Castello, $49, the Chardonnay, $49, and the Pinot Noir, which starts the more expensive wine at $75. From there, the reserve wines cost more per bottle, doubling prices of others that they sell. The La Castellana, $98, the Il Barone, $98, and the Il Passito, $89, are the most expensive bottled wines offered for the tasting.
The tour was a lot of fun, and if you do it, don’t forget to tip your guide. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to buy the fantastic wines you try here in store. All wines produced at the castle are sold directly through the Castello di Amorosa. You can buy either at the castle or at their online store here. Although, it might be a good thing they don’t sell in store. I don’t think my wallet could handle it.
Let me know some of your favorite wineries in Napa Valley in the comments! And be sure to stay posted for the San Francisco post on Atlas Calling.
Thanks for reading and happy travels!
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