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California Dreaming: Three Wines from Castello di Amorosa

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” – Henry David Thoreau

Rarely has anyone proven the truth of Thoreau’s words as decisively as Dario Sattui, a fourth-generation California vintner, who owns and operates both the V. Sattui Winery and Castello di Amorosa. After extensive travels in Italy and considerable pondering, Sattui decided that he would build a castle and winery in Napa Valley. Here is how he describes the evolution of his dream: “At first, I had no intention of starting another winery- I already had V.Sattui. My plan was only to replant historic vineyards there. However, throughout my adult life, I had been fascinated with Italian medieval architecture; and, because of my passion- some would say obsession- I had already bought a handful of ancient properties in Italy, including a small castle near Florence (now sold), a medieval monastery near Siena (now being refurbished) and a Medici palace in southern Tuscany, which we are remodeling into a period hotel. You get the picture- it’s an incurable malady.”

Dario Sattui

Dario Sattui

Happily for wine lovers, the three wines from Castello di Amorosa that I tasted recently were as lovingly crafted as the structure in which they were made, thanks to the skills of the winemaking team of Chief Winemaker Brooks Painter, Associate Winemaker Peter Velleno, and Consulting Winemaker Sebastiano Rosa.

Peter Velleno and Brooks Painter

Peter Velleno and Brooks Painter

Sebastiano Rosa

Sebastiano Rosa

Amorosa42012 Castello di Amorosa Anderson Valley Gewurztraminer ($25): This dry Gewurtraminer showcases the varietal’s exotic spiciness, with lively clove and cinnamon aromas that lead to generous lychee, pear, mixed spice, and apricot flavors which are complicated by hints of mineral, peach, orange, rose petal, and honey in its crisp finish. While perfect for sipping on a warm afternoon, this wine would make a great match for a wide variety of foods, including Thai dishes, smoked salmon, grilled poultry, blackened red snapper, and sausages.

Amorosa52011 Castello di Amorosa Napa Valley Chardonnay ($28): The enticing lemon, pear, and vanilla aromas of this wine lead to apple, pear, and citrus flavors that are balanced by a pleasant acidity, supported by a creamy texture, and brought to closure in a delicately spiced finish containing notes of toast and vanilla-oak. This Chardonnay would complement most poultry and, especially, seafood dishes, including lobster, crab cakes, oysters, and shrimp-based pastas.

Amorosa62011 Castello di Amorosa Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Barbara County Reserve Chardonnay ($38): Fans of bold, rich, perfectly balanced Chardonnays will find much that pleases them in this wine. Its aromas of tropical fruit, pear, melon, fig, orange, toasty oak, and almond precede luscious, beautifully orchestrated honeydew melon, pear, tangerine, pineapple, and ripe apple flavors, with notes of lemon, hazelnut, vanilla, and spice emerging on its delectably lingering finish. This wine would be the perfect companion for seafood, though it would also be splendid with appetizers.
(Note: 2011 Castello di Amorosa Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Barbara County Reserve Chardonnay won the Best in Class Award at this year’s San Francisco Chronicle Competition.)

No great dream comes to fruition without trials and sacrifice:

Dario Sattui: “As the years of building continued on, I divorced, lost my hair, became more wrinkled, was struck by a car crossing a San Francisco street and endured a major flood and a slowdown of my energy. But I always kept building. The 5-6 year project expanded from the original 8,500 to 121,000 square feet and 107 rooms, all different. I went through my money- all of it. Then I sold all my stock to raise cash, often when the market indicated to do the contrary. When that money didn’t suffice, I sold my castle in Tuscany. I fired my housekeeper, then the gardener in an effort to save money to use in construction. I skimped everywhere I could to keep building. And the years of construction kept slowly rolling by. Instead of semi-retiring to Italy in 1994 as I had envisioned doing, I was working harder than ever at both V. Sattui, my original winery, and on building Castello di Amorosa. But I loved it. I couldn’t wait to get out of bed in the morning and hurry to the construction site.”


After fourteen years of hard work and tribulation, Dario Sattui opened Castello di Amorosa on April 9, 2007, thereby demonstrating the wisdom of another Thoreauvian admonition: “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours.”

Castello di Amorosa

Castello di Amorosa

Note: Castello di Amorosa wines are available only at the castle or through shipping. For information, visit the winery’s website:

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