The Castello di Amorosa, or Castle of Love, is in a class by itself. When I first heard about this winery, I thought, the horror, Disneyland in the Napa Valley. But no, it's not like that at all. In fact, it's hard to believe that the "castle" hasn't been standing there for centuries (instead of 2007).
The castle and winery were built over a period of years by an Italian-American winemaker, Dario Sattui (who also owns the V. Sattui winery in St. Helena). He had a passion for the architecture of the Middle Ages; authenticity of design and materials were very important in the construction. Many of the stones used to build the castle are actually very old, collected from various sites in Europe and shipped to the vineyard just outside of Calistoga.
Mr. Sattui has essentially recreated a 13th century Tuscan castle in the northern end of the Napa Valley. What was supposed to be a modest winery got out of hand and turned into a massive fortress. And now it's open to the public for wine tasting and a tour of the winery and grounds.
Wine Tasting. It costs $25 to get into the castle, but you get a tasting of five of their wines as well, in a medieval cellar under the castle. Very cool. You can explore the castle on your own, if you like. Minors ages 8-20 pay $15 (juice included, ha ha). Visitors under 21 have to be accompanied by someone older.
Tour and Tasting. Even better, do a combination tour and wine tasting for $40 (Ages 5-20, $30). The tour includes the viewing and history of the Grand Hall, chapel, courtyard, towers, then into the fermenting and storage areas of the winery. Allow 60 minutes for the tour and 45 minutes for the tasting. They recommend reservations; we didn't have any and it worked out fine, but we went mid-week. 707-967-6272.
You can also do tastings that pair the wines with cheese or chocolate- yum!
I wasn't expecting a grand, medieval hall with the walls completely covered by authentic-looking Italian frescos. An expert in this style of painting was brought over from Italy to do all the work. Gorgeous!
There is also a large chapel that has the feel of a very old European church, and a courtyard where you would expect Juliet to show up at any moment.
The tour takes you past huge metal vats used for heating the grape juice.
Underneath the castle are rooms and rooms, caverns really, with thousands of barrels of wine in various stages of fermentation.
This castle even has a dungeon with authentic medieval torture equipment...a bit creepy. The iron maiden is there along with the rack and an oubliette. The guide said they have great Halloween parties there...I'll bet they do.
Outside there is a menagerie roaming the grounds: white peacocks, goats, chickens, etc.
After an interesting tour, it's time to taste some of the wines produced at the castle.
The tasting takes place in an atmospheric cellar, with guests comfortably seated at a long bar.
The standard tasting program allows you to taste 5 different wines from a full page of options. Cabernet, Merlot, Sangiovese, Pinot, Barbera and more in the Reds; Chardonnay, Pinots Grigio and Blanco, and Gewürtztraminer in the Whites, and a collection of dessert and sparkling wines. Something for every taste! Several of their wines have won high honors in respected wine competitions.
The address is 4045 North St. Helena Way (Highway 29). The turn off is between St. Helena and Calistoga on Hwy 29, 2 miles south of Calistoga. Watch for a large sign for the castle (you can't see the castle from the highway).
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If you want someone to drive you up there, there's a nice, guided tour from San Francisco that takes you to three wineries in the Napa Valley, including the Castello.
This is a small-group tour that's gotten good reviews, and includes hotel pick-up and a picnic lunch (tastings extra). $105, 9 hours. See Winery Tour for booking and info.Check their website for more info: www.castellodiamorosa.com.
COVID-19 Status: at midnight on Monday, March 16, San Francisco was placed under a "shelter-in-place order.
All residents were ordered to stay home, except for necessary trips to grocery stores and essential medical visits, and solo outdoor activities like hiking.
The city was gradually reopening of many businesses and activities, but in December, came under a strict, stay-at-home directive, due to a sudden increase in infection and hospitalization rates.
Since then, Covid numbers had dropped significantly, but recently started rising again.
Big changes arrived June 15, 2021: California is "fully reopened", meaning all business sectors will reopen to full or almost full capacity, including concerts, stadium sports and festivals. SF is basically open, though somewhat more cautious in some regards.
As of August 20, 2021, almost 80% of eligible SF residents have been fully vaccinated.
Vaccine requirements: Starting August 20, 2021, SF requires that all restaurants, bars, theaters and gyms check for proof of full vaccination.
Documents accepted: paper or digital vaccination records.
See SF Chron article re: vaccination.
Public transportation options had been cut back, but are expanding again. See SF transit for more info.
The cable cars are running again and are free during August! In September, they will resume full (paid) service, starting with the Powell-Hyde Line, and the other 2 lines to follow after.
See COVID rules for current SF status.
Mask rules: another change, starting August 3, 2021. Everyone is now required to wear a mask indoors in SF, whether vaccinated or not. People may go without masks outdoors unless the area is densely populated. Hospitals, schools, nursing homes and public transit, still require masks./p>
What is open? Muir Woods, the Botanic Gardens, Golden Gate Park, Japanese Tea Garden, Pier 39, SF beaches, Golden Gate Bridge, and Twin Peaks (car access on Portola, main parking lot open) are all open.
Parking lots for SF beaches, Twin Peaks, and the Golden Gate Bridge are open, including the Welcome Center lot.
Restaurants can now be open to full capacity for indoor and outdoor dining, and many restaurants are open for take-out or delivery.
Bars that serve food can serve customers indoors.
Businesses can allow customers inside, up to full capacity. Malls are open.The SF Zoo is open again.
Offices can reopen up to full capacity.
Alcatraz is open. The Day Tours and Night Tours are running on a somewhat reduced basis. The Cell Block is open also. See Alcatraz.
Hair salons, and open air tour buses, outdoor walking tours, and boat cruises can now operate.
Indoor museums are open, including the CA Academy of Sciences.
Travel to SF. Per the California Dept. of Public Health: non-essential travel to SF from outside California is discouraged but the quarantine requirements are no longer in effect.
Unvaccinated travelers are urged to get tested before and after arrival, and to self-quarantine for 7 days, but this isn't mandatory.
"Non-essential travel" basically means tourism.
Hotels are accepting reservations, but travelers are urged to limit contact with others in the hotel.
Indoor swimming pools are open to fullcapacity.
Schools: private schools are open. SF public schools started in-person learning for elementary students April 12. Older grades: negotiations are ongoing. Hopefully all grade levels will be open for in-person fall classes. Masks will be required for students in SF public schools in the fall.
Indoor gyms and indoor movie theaters are open to full capacity.
Indoor concerts, live theater, and sporting events, may open at full capacity. For indoor gatherings of >5,000, proof of vaccination will be required.
Outdoor events for >10,000: may require proof of vaccination or negative test, but aren't required to.
Check individual events for requirements.
Napa and Sonoma county wineries are open.
For a handy list of what's open or closed, in California, see California reopening schedules.
See coronavirus news in the SF Chronicle for details and updates.
Also see site and parking lot closures for the National Park Service (Alcatraz, Muir Woods, etc.)
Plus helpful info on which parks and hiking trails are open in the Bay Area.
Get the latest tips on visiting San Francisco.