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 had been 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.
Most recently, January 28, 2021, SF has moved to a somewhat less restrictive status.
Public transportation options have been cut way back. See SF transit for more info.
See COVID rules for current SF status.
Mask rules: everyone in SF is now required to wear a mask when they are outside and within 30 feet of other people.
Masks must be worn in stores and places of business and people not within the same household must stay 6 feet apart.
SF Curfew still in effect: 10 pm to 5 am.
What is open? Muir Woods, the Botanic Gardens, Golden Gate Park, Japanese Tea Garden, Pier 39, SF beaches, Golden Gate Bridge, and Twin Peaks (by foot or bike) are all open.
Parking lots for SF beaches and the Golden Gate Bridge are open. But the Welcome Center lot and Merchant Road lot are closed.
Restaurants can now be open for outdoor dining, and many restaurants are open for take-out or delivery.
Businesses can allow customers inside, but on a limited, 20% capacity basis (grocery stores 50%).The SF Zoo is open again.
Alcatraz is closed. They are selling tickets for a few weeks out, but that's iffy. See Alcatraz.
Hair salons, and open air tour buses and boat cruises can now operate.
Indoor museums are closed. Outdoor museums can be open.
Hotels are now accepting reservations from tourists but they have to quarantine in the hotel for 10 days, and non-essential travel is discouraged. Essential workers and locals needing quarantine may also book hotel rooms.
Travel quarantine: Anyone traveling to SF from out of the Bay Area must quarantine for 10 days.
Exploratorium: possibly opening spring 2021.
Schools: many private schools have begun reopening; SF public schools are still on hold, except for a few charter schools.
On hold: indoor swimming pools and indoor movie theaters are still closed.
Last to open will be concerts, live theater, sporting events, nightclubs and festivals.
Napa and Sonoma county wineries can be open for outdoor wine tasting.
For a handy list of what's open or closed in SF, plus info on what's open in other cities and counties of California, see California reopening schedules.
See coronavirus news in the SF Chronicle for details and updates.
See SF closures timeline.
Most recent Bay Area stay home order.
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.