Napa Valley is a wine aficionado's oasis. Wine tasting is more than just drinking as many wines as possible. It teaches you the history of that particular bottle from the grape to the winery owner. You learn about terroir, the process of fermentation, the aging details (for reds) and so much more. There's a lot of love put into a bottle starting with planting a seed. Wine tells a story. It tells the story of the people who make it, the land it comes from, the region it's home to. As enjoyable it is to drink, it's even more rewarding to accept all it has to offer.
Castello di Amorosa is a beautiful, chateau-like property in the town of Calistoga located in Napa Valley. The property took fourteen years to build and was designed to resemble a 13th century Tuscan castle. I've never been to Tuscany but I imagine this is what it would look like (I have seen Letters to Juliet). The estate has 107 rooms, 8 levels above and below ground, a great hall with magnificent Italian frescoes, a drawbridge and moat plus so much more. The vineyards of Castello di Amorosa feature Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Primitivo and Sangiovese grapes.
The property is one of the most beautiful I've seen. Even in the cold, wet morning we had, there was a warmth throughout the place. The tasting experience was fantastic. Our server, Ortega, was a blast: funny, intelligent and just a great personality. He provided several great recommendations, all which I share below. Castello di Amorosa was a memorable experience that has me dreaming to return asap. I recommend it whether you're visiting for a few hours or a few days.
Here are the wines that I sampled at Castello di Amorosa. Not all have descriptions from the property but they all have my personal notes:
The Pinot Grigio had a sweet start with pear and apple notes but a dry finish. Refreshing and light, this wine had just enough flavor to not be too overpowering as the first sip of the day.
GIOIA, Roasato di Sangiovese
There were strong strawberry notes easily noticeable both on the nose and the tongue. It was very sweet, almost candy-like but delicious. I would serve this as a dessert wine or aperitif on a warm day.
From Castello di Amorosa: Gioia (Italian for "Joy") is an Italian style rose with a beautiful rosy-red garnet color, bursting with bright wild berry and melon flavors A perfect summer sipping wine.
In full discretion, I have yet to meet a Merlot that I enjoy. Apparently that is offensive in Napa Valley because they're known for it? Ortega insisted I try their Merlot because tasting a Merlot in its place of birth is different from, say, Chicago. I gave it a shot. While it wasn't as awful an experience as I normally have with Merlot, it wasn't terrible. I noticed cranberry and plum notes and it was strong with tannins. I wouldn't personally choose this wine for dinner but I know several people in my family who would.
From Castello di Amorosa: A flavorful dry Merlot with excellent depth and balance, with notes of black cherry, mocha and spice, and a smooth dark chocolate aftertaste.
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon
I have the Cab marked as a favorite and man, was it tasty. It was very tannic and I personally noticed berry, plum and peppery notes. The cinnamon and nutmeg were a surprising and welcoming touch that I enjoyed. This is a fantastic wine for cold nights. It will warm you right up!
From Castello di Amorosa: A bold and balanced Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, exhibiting aromas of cassis, earth and mushroom accented with spice notes of cinnamon, nutmeg and tinder box.
The Sangiovese was a bold and slightly dry wine with notes of plum and oak. I liked the subtlety of the oak. It gave the wine an earthy taste. It was also tannic which I used to hate but have noticed I'm enjoying more as I get older and expand my comfort zone with wine. This was another favorite of mine.
From Castello di Amorosa: Perfumed aromas of dried flowers, red plum, sweet exotic spices and wild berry flavors framed by supple, toasty oak.
This darker rose smells sweet and most definitely tastes sweet. It had a beautiful flavor profile: floral notes mixed with tart cherries and sweet berries. This would be fantastic cold on a warm day with bitter, dark chocolate or a fruit salad.
From Castello di Amorosa: An Italian style soft sparkling wine which is lower in alcohol, naturally sweet and refreshing with bright aromas of cherry, exotic flowers and wild berries.
If you're looking for a high-level tasting experience, I strongly recommend Castello di Amorosa. My tasting experiences in Napa Valley were through a tour my friend and I went on but I'm certain that if I planned out my own day in this beautiful valley, this would have made the top of my list. Have you been to Napa Valley or Castello di Amorosa? What are your favorite wines to taste while participating in a tasting?