We’ve been visiting the Napa and Sonoma Wine Country for about ten years and have visited over 100 wineries. In that time, we’ve driven by Castello di Amorosa many times, but we didn’t stop for a visit until early 2019. If you’re considering visiting Napa, here are some insights on the Napa castle from a seasoned fellow wine traveler.
Things to Consider Before Buying
This tour is ideal for anyone interested in having a European castle-like experience, except on the west coast of the United States! More specifically, it’s great for the following types of travelers:
New or non-wine drinkers who want to taste several different wines in a fun and non-intimidating small-group environment.
Multi-generational family travelers. Children are allowed with adult supervision, which offers the site a bit of amusement park energy (lots of fun photo ops!).
Travelers who love wine-themed gift shops.
Travelers who appreciate “only in America” stories where someone starts out with an idea or childhood dream and makes the seemingly impossible a reality.
Wine enthusiasts interested in Italian style wines in Napa Valley.
This experience is not ideal for folks interested in quiet and private winery experiences with a focus on Napa’s famous Cabernet Sauvignon or for anyone interested in small, independent producers. If you cringe at the sight of a tour bus or lots of camera-toting tourists, this spot isn’t for you!
Before purchasing the castle experience, you will need to consider the following:
How much do you want to spend on the experience?
How long do you want to visit and what do you want to see?
Do you want to taste wine with many other people in a large room, or have a semi-private experience with 12-16 other wine enthusiasts?
What type of wine tasting you would like (general, premium, luxury wine tasting experience)?
Would you like to dine at Castello di Amorosa?
The Castle Itself
The castle is the dream of Dario Sattui who started a wine business in Napa Valley in the 1960s. As a child he read and loved stories of castles in Europe. He dreamed of building an authentic Tuscan castle and over the course of thirty years was able to realize his vision of a medieval Italian experience in Napa Valley that showcases Italian wines.
The property where the Castello now sits was actually one of California’s first vineyard plantings, dating back to the mid 1840’s. In 1993, Dario Sattui purchased the property where the Castello di Amorosa now sits. The site is nestled in the evergreen trees at the top of a hill overlooking the northern end of the Napa Valley.
Between 1993 and 2008, the Castello was constructed using many of the same materials and methods that were available in medieval Tuscany. Today, this 13th century-style Italian castle welcomes visitors from all over the world.
Castello di Amorosa was never intended as a residence, though it comes with all the 21st century trappings of air conditioning, running water, indoor toilets, and wheelchair access. The Castello also houses a functioning winery and cellar.
The Castello di Amorosa (aka “The Castle of Love”) Guided Tour also comes with some fun, lighthearted photo ops, including sitting on a throne in front of a fireplace in a great hall, a replica torture chamber, and knights in shining armor in an armory.
Family friendly, children allowed
Accessible (not stuffy) self-guided or guided wine tour
Jovial wine tasting great for wine novices
Range of grape varieties and wine styles to taste, all in one stop
Fun backdrop for photos
Need to purchase an premium ticket to taste Il Barone and Il Passito
Need to buy a ticket to tour the grounds
To waive the tasting/tour fee you typically need to purchase a case of wine
Can be crowded and noisy in the afternoon
Choosing Your Experience
Castello di Amorosa makes it very easy to book your visit. The website outlines several types of winery visits depending upon your budget, interest, and desired experience. When you purchase your ticket online, you quickly receive an email confirmation. There are a variety of tour options available, including self-guided and guided tours. Here are overviews of the three more popular options:
General Admission & Wine Tasting: This does not require reservation. These tickets grant access to the castle grounds, one of the underground rooms, and the tasting bar. If you choose this option, you may want to consider visiting during the morning hours as the castle grounds and tasting room can get busy mid-day and afternoons. You can upgrade your tasting to include their premium wines and add chocolate.
Guided Tour & Premium Wine Tasting: This is a 60-minute guided tour of the grounds and castle and includes a premium wine tasting, again with the option to upgrade your tasting or add chocolate. This tasting is in a semi-private bar. The entire experience is a little under two hours. Reservations are recommended.
Diamond Estate Tour & Reserve Wine Tasting: This tour takes a little under two hours total, in addition to touring the grounds, castle, and winery. This tour includes a barrel tasting and the reserve wine tastings and occurs in a private bar (up to 12 guests per group). Reservations are highly recommended.
The Castello is located 26 miles north of downtown Napa on Highway 29 and Highway 128. Drive time from downtown Napa can be an hour or more during peak season as the road narrows from four lanes to two lanes north of Napa.
If you are arriving between November and April, bring an umbrella. Regardless of the season, wear sturdy shoes as the walking surfaces can be uneven and even slippery during the rainy season. Also, don’t forget your ID!
You’ll see a sign on Highway 128 indicating the turn off to the Castello. Upon departing the highway, you will take a winding 1/2 mile drive up a moderately steep hill, the road lined with cypress trees and vineyards. About halfway up there is a pull-out area where you can take some photos of the castle or the surrounding views. There are several parking areas surrounding the castle. The entrance is located in the southeast corner of the castle.
Once you cross the moat, there is a check-in area to the left where you tell the attendants your name and time of your booking. Restrooms are also located near the check in station. The attendants at the counter will present you a ticket with a color corresponding to your tour. Just inside the castle there is a waiting area with some seating where your guide will meet you if you have selected the guided tour options.
If you have selected the self-guided tour, they will provide you a map with information and directions to the larger, less intimate tasting room.
Our Guided Tour Experience
We chose the Guided Tour and Premium Wine Experience with an upgrade to taste the reserve wines at 2pm on a rainy March Friday. Our tour had about 10 people (mostly wine enthusiasts and beer drinkers). After the guide took our ticket, we sat for about 10 minutes in an area best described as a chapel. The guide — who had over 10 years experience at the Castello — introduced himself and gave an overview of the castle and history of the owner, including how the castle came into being and what to expect during the tour.
Next we entered a courtyard, where the guide explained how the architecture is a replica of castles in Italy and Austria. From the courtyard, we moved into the fermentation and blending room, as the castle and adjacent buildings are a functioning winery and cellar. The guide described in very accessible language what happens in each room of the functioning winery. As it was spring, most of the cellar activity was focused on bottling preparation.
After some views of the winery, we walked through an area best described as about 200 years of winemaking history — artifacts from another period of California winemaking history before today’s temperature controls and automation.
Next up was the impressive cellar, a mix of both a functional barrel aging cellar, bottle storage, and entertaining space. During this time, the tour guide answered a lot of questions for three generations of a family from St. Louis (the twin girls had just celebrated their 21st birthdays and had a lot of great questions about wine!). The guide was very respectful and answered their many questions as we walked toward the barrel tasting.
We then passed through a few antique collections belonging to the owner, and some fun photo opportunities for the young adults with knights in shining armor, spears, and torture devices common in the Middle Ages.
The guide explained which wines are barrel aged and how this process occurs while he took a sample with a wine thief for the group. For many it was the first time they had tasted wine from a barrel. The tour also went past some concrete eggs and some displays outlining celebrities that had been in the cellar.
Our Tasting Experience
For the tasting experience, we went on to the semi-private area of the cellar where the 10 of us tasted many wines. Options available during our visit included:
White and Rose: Pinot Grigio, Pinot Bianco, Vermentino, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Gioia (Rosato di Sangiovese), Dolcino (Gewurztraminer)
Red Wines: Pinot Noir, Zingaro (Old Vine Zinfandel), Barbera, Sangiovese, Merlot, Il Brigante (Red blend), Cabernet Sauvignon
Reserve Wines: Spumante Del Castello, Chardonnay Reserve, Rosato, Pinot Noir, La Castellano, Il Barone (Cabernet Sauvignon), Il Passito (Late Harvest)
Sweet Wines: Moscato, Simpatica (Riesling/Moscato), La Fantasia, Gewurztraminer (Late Harvest), non-Alcoholic grape juice
The wines at Castello di Amorosa are only available at the winery or online. The wine club was briefly mentioned and we were never pressured into signing up or buying anything.
A generous amount of water and bread sticks were available, as well as spittoons and pour buckets. The guide did an excellent job explaining the wines in a pleasant manner, encouraging the guests to try new things while respecting that not everyone is adventurous.
Following the tasting, we were led to the gift shop which spanned several rooms and is one of the largest we’ve seen in Napa Valley. There was also a larger, less intimate bar space for tasting there, for people who did not do the guided tour.
After exiting the gift shop, the tour concludes, and visitors can continue to walk around the courtyard and the exterior of the castle or enjoy the small pen of farm animals at the exit. The day of our tour, an emu was providing entertainment for a young child who preferred to be outside with his grandfather versus in the castle with the rest of his family.
Scouring the internet, we found several reviews that were also quite positive, or highlighted some of the same “cons” we mention above, regarding crowds and noise.
Online reviewers giving positive reviews overwhelmingly enjoyed the semi-private tours over the general admission option.
Most negative reviews were on the topic of price, the wines and or their tour guide. Others didn’t like the amusement park atmosphere (but we’re not sure what else they’d expect of a 136,000 square foot, air-conditioned castle under 20 years old that sells wine!).
Guests found that really young children found the guided tours too long. And for teenagers it may be boring as the drinking age in the US is 21.
Having been to over 100 wineries in Napa Valley in the past 10 years, we can confirm that there are no other 107-room castles or medieval torture rooms in the valley. However, if there are certain aspects of Castello di Amorosa that appeal to you, here are some alternatives while you are in Wine Country:
Wineries that allow children
Frog’s Leap (animals)
Robert Mondavi (30 minute tour that allows children)
Wineries that sell Italian varietals:
Wineries that have castle-like architecture:
Wineries that have amusement park like features:
Sterling Vineyards (tram)
Long Meadow Ranch (4x4)
If you like amusement parks, you will like this place. If you are looking for a jovial experience that never gets too serious about wine, go here.
If you want to see an authentic castle, go to Europe. If you don’t like over-the-top only-in-America exhibitionism, don’t go here. If you don’t like amusement parks, don’t go. If you are looking for a “deal,” don’t go here.
If you go during the off-season or before the crowds descend, keep an open mind, and you might just have a good time. For us, dispensing of reality for 2 hours was worth the price of admission!
Finally, for a comprehensive review of the Napa and Sonoma wine experience, check out our guide to planning a West Coast wine trip!