Admittedly, I have been remiss in my food and wine blogging; although I have been writing (daily), thinking (constantly says this insomniac), photographing (my nemesis, just putting it out there) all while enjoying amazing meals and drinking ridiculous wine. Ridiculous meaning copious amounts of delicious, of course. I have been taking pictures and eventually it all comes down to….just do it. The following are a few images (be kind) and I will keep it going through the season of summer ramblings.
I encourage you to email your ramblings--inspirational recipe ideas along with pictures of friends and food with Castello di Amorosa wine to firstname.lastname@example.org
Fresh halibut fish tacos with watermelon salsa and tequila lime crema. Halibut courtesy of top angler and Napa native Tim Berg of Peninsula Processing (http://www.great-alaska-seafood.com/)
As we wait for summer’s tomato harvest this cool and refreshing Watermelon Salsa is super tasty and perfect to top any grilled white fish:
- 3 cups diced seedless watermelon
- 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
- 1/3 cup chopped cilantro, (approx. 1/2 bunch)
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- 1/4 cup minced red onion (1/2 small)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
This was the final road trip for our 2011 Sangiovese. Paired with halibut and exotic mushroom and shallot risotto. This wine was ideal for the rich creamy risotto and earthy mushrooms.
In nearby Calistoga, Sam’s Social Club at the newly renovated Indian Springs Resort has become a popular dining spot for up-valley residents. Pictured is seared Foie Gras paired with a classic 1989 sauternes. Next time I am bringing Il Passito Reserve Late Harvest Semillon/ Sauvignon Blanc, as Sam’s never charges a corkage fee! Castello di Amorosa’s Il Passito is made with classic sauternes wine-making techniques. Extended French oak fermentation delivers not only an extremely age worthy wine but provides layers of complexity and unctuous mouthfeel.
Caprese salad with grilled shrimp and scallops turns a starter salad into a delicious entrée.
Because it is good to be king! King Crab Legs, yum!
And finally, enjoy your summer of food and wine ramblings with amazing friends!
Winemakers weigh countless factors and make innumerable decisions every day for months on end to create a single vintage of a single wine, and, as you know, at Castello di Amorosa we make much more than a single wine. We will continue to monitor each wine, and make slight adjustments, up until the day it is bottled. Once the wine is in the bottle, that’s it; that blend had better be right because there is no going back. Bottling can be a bit stressful because of that finality. Yet, it is also a relief. So many things can go wrong in winemaking (not to mention the vineyard!). The entire winemaking and cellar team have to look out for each and every barrel at the Castello. Even one bad barrel, left unchecked, could wreck an otherwise outstanding blend. Oxidation, bacterial spoilage, leaking barrels… when that cork goes in all of those worries go away.
Cleaning French oak barrels on the Crush Pad. The final blends are created in the stainless steel tanks behind before being sent to the bottling line.
Bottling has to be perfect. It is just as true for delicate white wine like Pinot Grigio that will be consumed young as it is for our reserve Il Barone Cabernet Sauvignon that we hope will stand up to decades of cellaring. This is the main reason Dario decided to purchase the Castello bottling line; many wineries as small as us do not own their own lines. They either bring in a mobile bottling line (truck and trailer) or ship the wine offsite for bottling. Having your own equipment is very expensive to start with, and then you need to have staff that knows the intricacies of your machines and also staff to perform the non-stop Quality Control checks. The benefit, however, is so great that Dario did not hesitate when making this investment.
We hand wax each bottle of our Il Barone and La Castellana Reserve wines to give it a traditional look and create a tamper-proof seal.
Here at the Castello we have complete control over our wines. Though most of our bottling happens in the summer before the Harvest, we bottle something nearly every month of the year, in small batches, ensuring that each individual wine is bottled when it is ready. Not sooner, when a wine might be underdeveloped and not fully expressive, and not later, when a wine might become “tired” before it even gets in a bottle. This type of flexibility in scheduling is simply not possible without bottling your wine on-site with your own bottling line and staff.
Empty bottles waiting their turn to be filled with the newest vintage
The Castello di Amorosa bottling line has a special type of bottle filler called a counter-pressure filler. This type of filler is commonly used at modern breweries to fill beer bottles, but seldom seen at wineries. The reason for this is that beer is even more susceptible to spoilage than wine is, and it is extremely sensitive to oxygen exposure. The counter-pressure style filler is unmatched in its ability to prevent oxygen from getting in to the product while also maintaining a sterile bottling environment. It also came with a steep price tag (much more than a traditional filler), but if you know Dario, you know that he is willing make just about any investment to support wine quality. This type of bottling line also offers another benefit: the Castello di Amorosa famous dessert wine La Fantasia. The unusually high level of “spritz” in that wine makes it impossible to bottle with a traditional wine bottle filler. The Castle just would not be the same without La Fantasia!
La Fantasia fresh off the bottling line!
While bottling there are a number of Quality Control checks that the Castello staff monitors: temperature of the wine, dissolved oxygen, fill level, vacuum of the corker, label placement… You really do have to pay close attention, as you only get once chance to get it right. After bottling we perform our own in-house microbiological plating of the wines to make sure there was no contamination. Once we see those results, we can finally stop holding our breath and appreciate all of the work that went in to each and every bottle of wine. If bottling goes smoothly and stays on schedule, we might even get a little time off before the next Harvest starts!
Winemaker, Castello di Amorosa
It has often been said that if Cabernet Sauvignon is king here in Napa Valley, then Chardonnay is queen. Chardonnay has reigned supreme among white wine grapes in California since the Judgment of Paris in 1976, when Chateau Montelena’s 1973 Chardonnay trumped the French competition in a blind tasting and helped to put Napa Valley on the map of world-renowned winegrowing regions. Today, there are over 100,000 acres of Chardonnay vineyards planted throughout California, and the varietal remains one of the top white wines consumed by Americans each year.
One of the reasons for Chardonnay’s popularity is the wide variety of styles it can be crafted in, based on where the grapes came from and how the wine was aged. While the majority of Chardonnays are aged in oak barrels, unoaked Chardonnays are rapidly increasing in popularity due to their brighter, fruitier notes, and both aging styles offer a wide range of complexity in the finished wines.
Chardonnay at the Castello
Here at the Castello, we produce two Chardonnays every year from two select cool climate vineyards in California. Our Napa Valley Chardonnay fruit comes from own estate vineyard in the Los Carneros AVA (American Viticultural Area) in the southern end of the Napa Valley, which is meticulously tended to by our Vineyard Manager, David Bejar, who has worked with Dario Sattui and our winemaking team for the past 17 years. Our Bien Nacido Vineyard Chardonnay comes from the iconic family owned vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley in Santa Barbara County, along the Central California Coast. In using these two cool climate vineyards to produce our Chardonnays, we hope to showcase the unique terroir of each region while utilizing both traditional and innovative winemaking techniques.
Our Bien Nacido Vineyard Reserve Chardonnay
All of our Chardonnay is harvested at night in order for the fruit to arrive at the Castello cold, which preserves the its delicate aromatics and natural acidity. Once the fruit gets to the winery, the whole grape clusters are placed into our two pneumatic, or “bladder” presses, which gently presses the juice from the skins and seeds. The juice is then pumped into Burgundian French oak barrels, where it ages for 8-10 months. We use 50% new and 50% second use French oak barrels on our oak-aged Chardonnays, which provides a balance between showcasing the terroir of the vineyard, acidity and fruit characteristics of the varietal, and the subtle notes of toast and spices that come from each individual barrel.
Two of our clear-headed oak barrels, which show the wine aging on the lees
After the wine has undergone primary fermentation, which converts the sugars in the juice into alcohol, our winemaking team then selects a specific number of barrels to undergo malolactic, or secondary fermentation. Here, the malic acid in the juice is converted into lactic acid, which gives Chardonnay its signature creamy mouthfeel (think “lactose” like milk). Roughly 40-60% of our Chardonnay barrels undergo malolactic fermentation, depending on the characteristics of the vintage and the acidity levels of each blend.
La Rocca Chardonnay – A new twist on a classic wine
If you have visited the Castello on a guided tour, you may have noticed our concrete fermentation eggs in the Grand Barrel Room, our 12,000 sq ft cross vaulted room three levels underground. We have been using these concrete eggs for the past several years to craft select single vineyard white wines like our Ferrington Vineyard Dry Gewurztraminer and Tyla’s Point Pinot Bianco, and beginning with the 2013 vintage we are also fermenting and aging a select amount of our Bien Nacido Vineyard Chardonnay in one of these eggs. We have named this unique, limited-release wine “La Rocca,” which means “The Fortress” in Italian. The egg shape allows for a natural suspension of the lees (sediment) compared to aging in traditional stainless steel tanks, without imparting any flavors or aromas found in oak barrel aging, and the higher acidity and tropical fruit characteristics of the Bien Nacido Vineyard Chardonnay made this fruit a perfect choice for aging in these unique vessels.
Cellar Master JoseMaria Delgado sampling our Napa Valley and La Rocca Chardonnays at The Grand Barrel Party
We are excited to make two Chardonnays from this historic vineyard in both French oak and concrete, as these two differing styles help to show the versatility of the varietal as well as the vineyard. Our 2013 La Rocca Chardonnay from Bien Nacido Vineyard will be released later this year, and we are looking forward to showing off the versatility of this beautiful Burgundian grape with our trio of California Chardonnays!
Cinco de Mayo, like St Patrick’s Day are regional celebrations that do not limit participation based on heritage or ethnicity. Across the United States every 5th of May brings colorful festivities and parties filled with fruity margarita concoctions, icy cold cerveza and tasty foods from south of the border. I was raised in a heavily Mexican-American influenced area of Southern California and well, let’s just say I know my around a carniceria. Carne means meat so technically a carniceria is a meat market but used as a word for a neighborhood market with a meat counter, fresh produce and other grocery items. Cinco de Mayo meant we were heading to our friend's home for an evening of delicious food, fun and drink.... but first a stop at the carniceria. I can still smell the smoky aroma of grilled Carne Asada and the sweet spice of the marinated carnitas wafting from the busy market. Orders were made early as this was a big day, regardless of a school night or weekend Cinco de Mayo does not wait for Seis de Mayo.
As I have mentioned I am of Irish-Italian heritage and while Mom’s pale Irish skin and grey-green eyes stuck out in the olive-skinned mix, her tortilla making skills were top notch! Freshly-made hot tortillas could “melt the ice-cold heart of any poor sot” mom would say and she was so right…warm to the touch and impossible to resist; zesty salsa fresca, chips and guacamole, charred and smoky barbacoa tacos, fragrant and spicy chile verde, all so mouth-watering and intoxicating.
For bebidas (drinks!) at some time during the party they would put the margarita salt aside and set the beer on ice as the southern Italian in my dad needed to have a bit of vino with every meal regardless of the occasion and Cinco de Mayo was no exception.
Just a few of the favorites….
The Best Guacamole!
Although avocados have natural oils, the addition of olive oil adds a textural emulsification that takes guacamole to the next level. Of course, olive oil or garlic had to eventually enter this equation somehow!
2 large ripe Haas avocados (just slightly soft to the touch)
½ small lemon, juiced
1 small roma tomato diced
1 cup finely chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1/2 Tbsp. salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Expedia Viewfinder teamed up with Castello di Amorosa to reveal what about the winery makes it a royal experience.
Napa Valley, California, is an iconic destination perfect for those who want to learn about wine, sip rare vintages, and visit more than 400 wineries located in the area. Although there are plenty of choices for wine connoisseurs, only one will make visitors feel like royalty: Castello di Amorosa.
At Expedia Viewfinder we wanted to discover what makes this winery so regal, so we turned to our friends at Castello di Amorosa. Together we reveal why this is a must-visit winery in Napa:
The property on which Castello di Amorosa stands was purchased more than two decades ago by Dario Sattui, who came from a winemaking family. With Sattui’s passion for medieval architecture and knowledge of Italian design, the idea to recreate a castle in California was born. Castello di Amorosa was constructed to emulate the authentic 13th-century Tuscan castles owned by Italy’s elite. Every element of design and furnishing was chosen so that visitors can experience the majestic nature of an Italian fortress.
The castle is certainly part of this winery’s allure. However, oenophiles know that the vineyards are the most superb feature of all. More than 30 acres are devoted to growing merlot, sangiovese, and primitivo grapes, but the cabernet sauvignon grapes are the vineyard’s pride and joy. Castello di Amorosa embraces the concept of “terrior,” which is a French term used to describe the perfect blend of warm climate, sunshine, rich soil, and ideal location.
For more than 100 years, Napa Valley has been recognized as a prime spot to grow California grapes that blossom to perfection. The soil is made up of a diverse array of coastal rock and eroded seafloor from the Pacific Ocean, resulting in rich nutrients that give the grapes their divine flavor. During a visit to Castello di Amorosa, tour the vineyard to see these grapes on the vine or witness the harvest.
The Royal Food & Wine Pairing Tour
The crown jewel of any visit to Castello di Amorosa is the Royal Wine and Food Pairing. It’s truly a luxurious experience that broadens guests’ knowledge of local wines, while simultaneously letting them nosh on delicious bites. After a tour of the stately property, Mary Davidek, an expert sommelier, explains what makes each wine special and describes its perfect match.
Samples of the food and wine pairing menu include a 2012 reserve chardonnay served with a tomato and butternut squash soup, a 2011 sangiovese with chicken and fennel meatballs, and a 2011 La Castellana reserve blend accompanied by Cotswold cheeses and a homemade baguette.
On your next trip to Napa Valley, tap into your royal side and toast the sweet stuff at the grand Castello di Amorosa. Marvel at the sumptuous architecture, tour the pristine grape vines, and sip on the sublime vino.
Written by Expedia Staff Writer
Returning from a vacation typically means back to the grind, even when the 'grind' is a beautiful castle winery in a picture perfect vineyard, vacations are rejuvenating and refreshing. As I was looking at pictures from our trip I realized the majority of the images were not of lush ocean tropical landscapes but of the delicious foods and amazing wines we enjoyed. Fresh seafood flown in from Alaska from our good friends and travel partners Tim and Carol Berg (www.great-alaska-seafood.com) dominted the menu during our time in Maui. I admit, Alaskan seafood in Hawaii may not be the norm but our 49th and 50th states definitely made for delicious pairings! Next year...maybe Lomi-Lomi Salmon on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula!
The best seafood salad dressing and certainly one of the easiest-
Combine 4 parts Mayo to 1 part spicy cocktail sauce and 1 tsp sesame seed oil
Hawaiian Portuguese inspired Paella made with fresh clams and linguiça paired with Sangiovese and yes, the biggest king crab legs this side of Hana!
I am getting ready to go on a 1 week vacation. Trust me-- this does not happen often as I usually opt for sporadic 3 day get-a-ways rather than a week or more at a time. However, once a year my husband and I travel with our good friends (also from Napa Valley) leaving our vineyard paradise for a far off island paradise. That’s right…we are Maui bound. I love love love living in this idyllic vineyard Avalon but hey, a girl’s gotta travel to keep it fresh and lively and I need to spend a bit of quality wine and dine time Island style.
Ciao to the vineyard scape.......
I will report back with delicious seafood creations, all the latest island food trends and of course, interesting pairings with our favorite Castello wines to tie it all together.
Did I mention I am bringing two cases of wine? Yes, I know…just two.
Travelling with wine was once standard and as easy as boarding with a laptop (or a lap-dog!) is today. I had a rolling carrier and would stuff it full of bottles, on board it was tucked it into the overhead compartment. This made for easy access on long flights if the Merlot du jour or the in-flight chard was well, not worthy. I would uncork a bottle (yep, corkscrews were okay too!) and enjoy. Quite often, I shared with my row mates and neighbors and once, a flight attendant even enjoyed a (very) tiny sip! It was a (very) long flight.
Although security restrictions make travelling with wine a bit challenging; it is nothing a little creativity and a nifty new design combined with smart packing can’t overcome.
If you are packing your suitcase and hoping to include a couple of bottles remember, you can’t carry wine on the plane so the bag must be checked. Make sure the bottle is surrounded by clothing and not on the perimeter but safely in the interior. Roll a bottle in jeans or a sweater or thick clothing or shoes to provide a bit of cushion.
If you are not the trusting or adventurous packing type, padded plastic bottle jackets seal tightly and will provide a little extra assurance to protect your liquid asset.
Because sometimes you need more than a bottle, the styro case transporter is the perfect solution. Rolling castors make it easy to maneuver and provides peace of mind. Treat like a piece of luggage and on the trip home, replace with new wines you’ve discovered or other trinkets for safe transport. These rolling wine suitcases are available throughout wine country and of course, the Castello boutique.
I love a game of chess, deep thought and out-maneuvering, strategy and calculating, all while carefully not giving up your advantage. Chess is also an apt metaphor for many life situations; social posturing, politics of work, positioning friends, and dare I say…family? Business is a place we commonly employ schemes and strategies, even the business of wine can pose circumstances which entail positioning and thoughtful approach. Admittedly this may seem counter-intuitive; to many, wine is perceived to be artistic and cerebral. Wine evokes romance and esoteric conversation, not strategy or offensive and defensive tactical maneuvers. However, as in all business, great success requires planning and navigating. After all, for a winery, in the vast world of palate-pleasing if one only makes wine one likes or prefers, you may appeal to, well, one.
Which brings me to my point…and yes, I have one.
At a recent staff meeting the topic du jour was the release of the Castello’s much anticipated Pinot Noir from the Terra de Promissio vineyard in Sonoma County. Certain die-hard cab-loving staff members were having a bit of a challenge wrapping their mind and palate around this particular bottling. Full disclosure, this is not a Cabernet lover’s Pinot. No, the Terra de Promissio vineyard is planted with prized Burgundy clones, the fruit displays structure with finesse and elegance rather than some Cali Pinot Noir’s cab-like vim and vigor.
This pedigreed vineyard is located on a 50-acre ranch in Sonoma, overlooking the town of Petaluma in an area of much viticultural success known as the Petaluma Gap. Caution; an internet search result may yield directions to an outlet mall so include the term ‘Pinot Noir’ if searching for info about the Petaluma Gap. (unless you are looking for jeans or a sweater!)
The “Gap” is actually a wind gap named for the coastal mountain opening that stretches east from the Pacific through the town of Petaluma and south to San Pablo Bay. This marine cooled gap creates perfect growing territory for cool temperature loving thin-skinned Pinot Noir grapes.
With the acquisition of Terra de Promissio fruit, Castello has advanced on yet another strategic post of wine making and palate-pleasing, classic old world meets new world Pinot Noir. This base is covered…the palates are pleased. Good move.
Now, back to the point I assured you I would make. While it is true, Cabernet Sauvignon is the powerful king of the sun-drenched Northern end of Napa Valley, Pinot Noir is most certainly the reigning queen from Sonoma.
And, just like the game of chess……it is the queen who takes the game.
Chinese Five Spice Chicken Thighs
Five Spice is a preblended mixture of Star Anise, Cloves, Cinnamon, pepper and ground Fennel Seed and is a tasty rub for pork, salmon and poultry.Five Spice doesn't overwhlem Pinot's subtlely, instead, the bright red fruit notes of the Terra de Promissio Pinot Noir create a perfect complement for this exotic spice rub. This quick and delicious preparation is also ideal for chicken legs or appetizer wings.
Rinse and dry chicken pieces.Preheat oven to 375 degrees.Coat the chicken with a dry rub of Chinese Five Spice. Place the chicken thighs in a pan and into oven and bake for about 25 to 35 minutes – until completely cooked through (an inserted thermometer should read 170 degrees). Serve with rice and enjoy!
While most of us have a go-to favorite wine taking permanent tenancy in the ‘most preferred’ zone, often we explore other varietals-- particularly when entertaining or in my case, looking for the just-right pairing. Entertaining and pleasing guests with diverse palates, seasonal influences, even extreme weather can bring wine-drinking-enjoying challenges. When it is 100 degrees and the mercury is soaring it can be a test to feign enthusiasm about a glass of inky rich Cabernet for the thick Porterhouse grilling on the ‘cue. Likewise, when you spy frost on the pavement and the windshield is icy, a chilled crisp white wine may be less than heart-warming. What to do when some of the satisfying hearty wintertime favorites are rich and creamy and just screaming for…. well….not a red wine.
My winter white is chardonnay. Specifically, Castello di Amorosa Bien Nacido Vineyards Chardonnay. This is not the ‘Castello sommelier’ pontificating on the many virtues of this award winning chardonnay, this is me, the ‘wine drinker’ who is generally not excited about most California chard.
Castello's Bien Nacido Chardonnay is different—this fruit is exceptional. The vineyard is located on the central coast of California and exposed to the Pacific. The coastal morning fog provides cool temperatures early in the day but warm late afternoons drenched in the Pacific sun. This gives the slow ripening grapes longer hang time on the vines while enjoying the real estate and the luxurious coastal influence. The juice shows its mettle when barrel fermented but not over manipulated so the gorgeous bright backbone of zippy acidity shines through. This balanced chard displays a soft nuttiness with fruit and focus. Juicy Comice pear, white peach and light vanilla flavors; full bodied and rounded--perfect for the rich creamy cold-weather foods we crave.
While winter white may not conjure up warm cozy images outside--
when you are inside, winter white can be an absolute delight!
Quick and Easy Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo
½ lb. fettuccine, uncooked
1lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
1-1/4cups chicken broth
4oz. Mascarpone ( sub cream cheese)
1/2 cup Grated Parm, divided
¼ tsp. garlic powder
1/4tsp. white pepper
Cook pasta to slightly firm. Sautee chicken in large nonstick skillet on medium-high heat 5 to 7 min. or until done, stirring occasionally. Remove from skillet. Mix flour and broth in same skillet with whisk. Stir in Mascarpone, 2 Tbsp. Parm, garlic powder and pepper; cook 2 min. or until mixture boils and thickens, stirring constantly. Stir in chicken. Drain pasta; place in large bowl. Add chicken mixture; toss to coat. Sprinkle with remaining Parm.
With over 500 wineries here in beautiful Napa Valley, we are honored to have been chosen by FlipKey as one of the top Napa Valley Wineries worth traveling for! Congratulations to the other fantastic wineries who have also made this list, and we hope to see you soon in this world famous wine growing region!