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Sattui Castle Welcoming Visitors for Tours and Tastings

by John Intardonato
April 10, 2007

After 15 years of labor-intensive stonework, the drawbridge is finally down on the Sattui Castle winery atop Diamond Mountain. With final approval from the Napa County planning department last Friday, Castello di Amorosa is welcoming its first visitors for tours and tastings.

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What Daryl Sattui, the Napa Valley vintner and owner of V. Sattui Winery, began in 1993 as the restoration of a dream home and construction of an 8,500 square foot winery, is now a 121,000 square foot, 107 room Italian-style castle as well. After dozens of design revisions, subsequent county reviews and an estimated $30 million-plus cost, the one-of-a-kind Medieval village fortress is ready for the 21st century, and for wine business.

The complex will contain offices, a visitor center and banquet halls. The winery, which has a capacity permit to produce 250,000 gallons, is located on Highway 29, two miles south of Calistoga.

With cellars four floors deep, and up-to-date winemaking equipment, it also features a half-dozen stone towers, a moat, a chapel, a piazza, a dungeon and a grand loggia, all built using techniques dating back to medieval and even Roman times. Visitors can try the rack or the iron maiden as well as the wine. According to Sattui, no reservations are required.

"The tours will be given in small groups of 12," he said. "We want people to try our wines, and not just visit the buildings." You can taste six wines for $10. The tour, however, will cost $25. "But that includes a special tasting of our reserve wines, including our Il Barone, a 100 percent Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, that retails for $68, and our Super Tuscan made from Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It sells for $48." A special barrel tasting is also included.

Chief winemaker Brooks Painter said the winery has been producing for the past two vintages. "We crush approximately 600 tons at the facility, with about 150 tons going into the Castello di Amorosa wines. The remainder are for wines sold at V. Sattui Winery," he said. The wine cellars have storage capacity for over 7,000 barrels. They have 30 open- and closed-top fermenting tanks ranging from 5,000 to 15,000 gallons, and a unique rotating punch-down unit that can move from tank to tank. 

Sattui said he emphasized quality in the construction of the new winery, and he's doing the same with the wines. "Right now we're producing about 10,000 cases, and I don't plan on producing more than 25,000 cases, but that's a ways off. We're keeping it small.

"The property had a beautiful old home, a wonderful creek, and was loaded with history. I was very lucky to buy it. I really just wanted to restore the home, but along the way I somehow added a castle. I didn't want another winery. I already have a successful winery, but I suppose I've been seduced by this goal like one can be seduced by a beautiful woman," Sattui said, elated by his unparalleled project.

Conceived and designed by Sattui himself, it was engineered by the Lail Design Group of St. Helena. He said he acquired his ideas from his travels to Italy and the building of his St. Helena winery, which he built to honor his great-grandfather, Vittorio Sattui, an Italian immigrant who started a winery in San Francisco in 1885.

The castle was built partly from original materials quarried in Napa, while some were crafted in Italy and reassembled on the property. There are double and triple arches over doorways to account for the stairs to a lower level. The ceilings are formed by brick buttressed against brick, which Medieval architects used without benefit of steel framing.

There is considerable wood and metal work and authentically reproduced doorways and window shutters, along with ornate wrought-iron hinges, locks and gates, which were made in Italy to appear centuries old, but were actually made within the past few years and even months.

Sattui began the project with craftsmen from Europe who then trained local workers. His site manager, Paolo Ardito, was born and trained in Bologna and has restored numerous Medieval buildings in Europe. The project has employed around 65 people.
"I tried to stay as close to the building methods of the period as Napa County would allow," Sattui said. The only deviations have been miles of rebar to make the project seismically safe, and the temperature and venting systems. "I also had to install a $400,000 sprinkler system in case of fire, even though the structure is made of stone."

Like his castle, Sattui himself has been a controversial figure since he arrived in the Napa Valley from San Francisco in the 1970s. With an initial investment of $5000, he created a successful wine business while amassing land holdings of more than 1,000 acres. And now he has a castle too.

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