While Castello di Amorosa (Castle of Love) is located in the heart of Napa Valley, the sight of this winery will have you thinking you’ve arrived in 13th century Italy. Simply put the place is part architectural feat, part mind trick.
Tucked in off the St. Helena Highway in Calistoga, towers, battlements, iron works, and custom windows all come into sight the minute you drive up into the parking lot. This is no Disneyland reproduction starring Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty; it is the painstaking effort of local vintner Dario Sattui.
While the castle’s construction spanned 15 years, it took even longer than that to gather the materials, some of which came through rather interesting methods. Take the iron dragon above the castle entrance for example; it was apparently procured from a small Italian village in need of some quick cash!
Castello di Amorosa has all of the elements of a medieval castle; a moat, drawbridge, high defensive ramparts, courtyards, a deep well, outdoor oven, functioning church, an apartment for the Nobles, a colorful Great Hall, prison and torture chamber. It also has gorgeous vaulted wine cellars, and it’s surrounded by a lush vineyard landscape.
INCLUDE THE KIDS ON A TOUR AND TASTING
Don’t deposit the kids with a sitter to take a tour of the place! Kids are welcome at the castle. The activity is best suited for older kids (8 years or older) who won’t mind a lot of walking and may have a fondness for stories about knights, wizards, and other characters who may take up residence in such a place. My kids were reminded of Dorothy’s rescue in the Wizard of Oz. You could just imagine the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion sneaking into fortress to the extract her!
THE CASTELLO DI AMOROSA TOUR
It is recommended that you clear two hours for a visit here. While that sounds like a lot of time, especially when you may be planning to tour several wineries in one day, this is truly a unique experience in the valley and the time will fly! The Castello di Amorosa tour itself takes one hour, but you should allow for an additional hour for wine tasting.
Here are some sights of note on the tour:
THE GREAT HALL
While bright hand-painted murals are the first thing you’ll notice about this magnificent social center, the door to the room is the actual statement of wealth and prominence. Back in the day, the amount of nails in your door sent a message of status to your neighbors and community members. With 2,000 hand forged nails in it, the door to the Great Hall has a loud rich message to deliver!
UPPER TERRACE AND TRUNCATED TOWER
Soak in a gorgeous view of vineyards and valley landscape from the upper level of the castle. The view is so beautiful, it’s like looking at a museum masterpiece.
The castle’s religious center, the chapel’s courtyard facade sets it apart from the rest of the castle with its lighter stone. It is also often one of the first structures installed in any castle.
The detail in this area is unbelievable! The doors are hand planed oak, the metal is hand forged by an Italian blacksmith. The guide told us that every nail, bolt, and lamp is made by hand and that the walls have evolved over time.
My kids were fascinated by the armor and weapons dating back about a hundred years. Don’t miss the Pit of Despair, a dungeon cell with an opening at the top.
THE TORTURE CHAMBER
Apparently all castles in Europe had prisons and torture chambers and Dario Sattui wouldn’t have it any differently in his castle. Points of interest to check out in this room include the Iron Maiden and the Virgin of Nuremberg.
The Castello di Amorosa tour finishes up with a tasting in the Main Tasting Room. While the adults savor the variety of wine, the kids sample grape juice made on the premises while sitting at an adjacent table set up with coloring activities.
AFTER YOUR CASTELLO DI AMOROSA TOUR
After the tour, walk around the exterior and truly take in the castle before you leave. Dario Sattui’s vision and all of its 121,000 square feet, or 3 acres, of rooms are a breathtaking sight whether you’re looking at it as a whole or piece by piece on a tour.
HOTELS NEAR CASTELLO DI AMOROSA
This article was originally published by Hilton Mom Voyage.