Your Account  |   Login
Cart 0 items: $0.00


Qty Item Description Price Total
  SubTotal $0.00

View Cart


Castello di Amorosa: A History of the Project

Dario Sattui
March 12, 2011 | History of the Project | Dario Sattui

Castello di Amorosa: A History of the Project

Nearly twenty years ago, I purchased the spectacular property upon which I built Castello di Amorosa. It sat on a hundred-seventy beautiful acres of forest and hills with a stream, a lake, one of the first houses built in Napa County and a great Victorian home where I chose to live. It was my dream property, culminating a search of many years. The purchase also came with a great building permit for a large winery building which had taken the previous owner thirteen years to obtain.

At first, I had no intention of starting another winery- I already had V.Sattui. My plan was only to replant historic vineyards there. However, throughout my adult life, I had been fascinated with Italian medieval architecture; and, because of my passion- some would say obsession- I had already bought a handful of ancient properties in Italy, including a small castle near Florence (now sold), a medieval monastery near Siena (now being refurbished) and a Medici palace in southern Tuscany, which we are remodeling into a period hotel. You get the picture- it's an incurable malady.

My Ideas began to crystallize. I would specialize in making small lots of primarily Italian-style wines, showcase them in an authentic, medieval castle setting and sell them directly to the public, not in stores or restaurants. Since I have never had a television, I had a lot of time on my hands. In early 1994, I embarked on my project. Concurrently with replanting thirty acres of vineyard on the property Sangiovese, Cabernet and Merlot, I began drawing plans for the winery building.

Paolo Ardito and Dario Sattui review Castello di Amorosa building plans in December of 2010. (Photo: Jim Sullivan)

My initial intent was to build an 8,500 square-foot building without cellars. (Gradually it morphed into 121,000 square feet with 107 rooms with four separate levels underground and four levels above!)

As a hobby, I had spent years visiting and studying medieval architecture, collecting thousand of detailed photos and measurements. I obtained building plans of Italian castles; I even pretended to be an interested buyer, dressing in suits to get realtors to show me through castles I would have never seen otherwise. I was determined to bring a slice of Italy I loved to the Napa Valley.

Tell me I can't do something and, if it is important to me, I will try to prove you wrong. My greatest incentive to do this project came in Beaune, France, in 1984 when the idea was still germinating. I was in Burgundy visiting the greatest wine cellar I had ever seen, that of Patriarch cellars, built over two hundred years in the 13th and 14th centuries. It contained over seven acres of underground cellars and rooms. I was in heaven.

Wine barrels in Patriarch Cellars (Photo: Blanca & Ian's Travels)

I was the first person to arrive one day, equipped with a camera, plenty of film, a tape measure, my sketch pad and plenty of sharpened pencils. All day I studied the cellars, essentially drawing and photographing with precision every room that moved me. I didn't know why I did it.

About every hour, the elderly watchman would walk by me, observe my actions and continue on. Finally, late in the day, he came up behind me, grabbed me roughly on the shoulder and forcibly threw me out, the while haranguing me loudly and coarsely in French. I was shocked and embarrassed. As he finally let go of me at the outer door, all I could sputter was something like, "I'm going to do something like this in the United States one day, you.... No, even better!"

I doubt he understood me; and of course I had no intention of doing such a thing at the time. I only knew that I wanted to and I never forgot that man or the motive he gave me to eventually embark upon this project. I've always thought of going back and showing him what I had accomplished, but I'm sure he is long gone.

Now, I had only built a dog house, a chicken coup and a rabbit hutch in my life; so I needed an accomplished builder who understood what I wanted and could implement my dream. I not only found one, I found two of them.

I was on my motorcycle, doing what I did virtually every day I was in Italy, searching for castles, monasteries and palaces to study, measure and photograph. (If someone accompanied me, they never came twice!) I'd start each day before dawn and travel road after road until I found something of interest, usually returning after dark.

On this particular day I was trespassing on someone's property, taking a shortcut to a castle I had seen in the distance. I always ignored "Private Property" signs, and, when confronted, would feign that I didn't understand Italian. The owner came out of the house. "You are trespassing," she said. "Were I in a bad mood, I would throw you off the property. But I'm in a good mood... would you like to taste the wine we make here?"

Her accent told me she was not Italian. She explained that she and her husband had first emigrated from Denmark to the U.S., then moved to Italy to realize their dream of a small winery and olive orchard. During our conversation, though, three salient points were made: her husband was a naval architect, he had built their two houses (which I could see were new but appeared centuries-old) and, as importantly, he'd always talked about returning to the U.S.

After lunch, I decided to telephone this man, knowing the chance was slim that he would share my vision. We talked an hour and a half and I finally asked him point-blank, "How would you like to come to the United States and help me build a castle?"

He suddenly blurted, "I'll come."

"But you haven't even consulted your wife," I said. And he loudly and sternly responded, "I said I will come!" I was too taken aback to probe further.

A lot of people talk and do very little. I was not at all convinced that he meant what he said; and, although we spoke several more times over the next few weeks, I had my doubts about him showing up. Unbelievably, on the appointed date, Lars Nimskov arrived at my home in Calistoga; and we set to working on plans immediately.

The Grand Barrel Room at Castello di Amorosa (Photo: Peter Menzel)

To really pull this project off, we needed more help. Luxury Tuscan-style homes are currently the rage in California and I have seen countless attempts to reproduce them authentically; but most have failed to a lesser or greater degree. You either understand how to build them, using old, handmade materials and ancient techniques, or you don't, in which case they look fake. Either people don't want to spend the money, the architects and builders don't have the skills or they use modern techniques and materials to attempt a medieval look. I vowed to build a castle as I made my wines, without compromise. It would be done as realistically as possible; but to do it right we needed someone who actually had a lot of experience with medieval construction.

I found him, too.

Fritz Gruber, a master builder from Austria, had, like me, grown in love with medieval architecture and spent countless hours studying how to do it. He built small wine cellars for friends, using old world materials and techniques. He then decided to expand his business.

In 1988, I'd received a simply illustrated wine cellar brochure from Austria. I loved what I saw; but I had neither the money nor the property, so I filed it away. Shortly after I purchased the Calistoga property in 1993, I traveled to Austria and took along the then-worn brochure, hoping to find Gruber, which I finally did in a small village near Vienna. He opened the door, speaking only in German, but doubled over in laughter when he saw the brochure. He explained to me that he had sent 2,000 brochures to winery owners in the U.S., hoping his business worldwide, but received no replies. Five came back postmarked, "wrong address."

Gruber saw immediately that I was as passionate about medieval architecture as he was. We started talking and I told him of my dream. "A wine cellar I can understand," he said, "but a whole castle?"

He said I was as crazy as he was and we instantly took a liking to each other. He showed me underneath his house where he had built a labyrinth of medieval vaulted cellars. I loved them. I stayed at his house and we talked for three days. He agreed to come with six of his Austrian masons and stay for three months building the first two rooms, so our crew could learn from them. "But you are absolutely crazy!" He declared as I finally left.

I was naive enough to think I was ready to begin. My plan was to incorporate all the ideas and details that I had assembled from my first trip to Italy in 1965 in my 8,500 square-foot winery. I would create a fantasy, a maze where every room and space opened into a new and different adventure as one traveled throughout the building. I would include all the elements of a true medieval castle- a moat and drawbridge, high walls and towers on a hillside, a great hall, courtyards and loggias, an apartment for the nobles, a big kitchen, an outdoor brick oven for baking bread, a church, a horse stables, secret passage ways and, of course, a prison and torture chamber.

I was determined to erect the most beautiful and interesting building in North America for showcasing great wines; for it must not be forgotten that, aside from being defensive fortifications , throughout history and in modern times, many of the great wines in Europe have and are being made in castles.

The only problem was that 8,500 square feet would only contain a fraction of my ideas.... (To be continued...)


Steve Reeves's Gravatar
Steve Reeves
@ Aug 28, 2014 at 4:22 PM
Dario, glad to see your living your dream! Good for You!! This article you wrote is a outstanding piece of literary work. I read it twice to make sure I did not miss a thing! After having lunch with you on the train and talking about your dreams and aspirations for this complex our Sunday tour of the castle with Joe was second only to meeting you in person. The wines are second to none, we bought three cases. When we got home (Seattle area) we cancelled our club memberships to several of our eastern Washington wine club memberships. Your allured us away and to your large selection of wines. We are looking forward to sharing many of your parties at the castle in the years to come. Keep enjoying life and don't stop at this! It's time for a resort on your property. Cheers Steve

Angel Torres's Gravatar
Angel Torres
@ Apr 11, 2015 at 7:37 AM
Pretty darn amazing what you have accomplished. Stunning building. In a class of its own! ( I do want to point out that there is a typo in the story, at the point when you mention dressing in SUITES, when I am sure you mean to say dressing in SUITS!)

Jenni's Gravatar
@ May 21, 2015 at 4:07 AM
It was wondering if I could use this write-up on my other website, I will link it back to your website though.Great Thanks.

jonnythomas's Gravatar
@ May 29, 2015 at 12:58 AM
Thank you for another important article. Where else can you get this information in a comprehensive way of writing? It took me a week, and I am looking for information.

rx "cialis"
@ Oct 24, 2015 at 1:40 PM
Nice weblog right here! Additionally your web site lots up fast! What host are you the usage of? Can I am getting your affiliate hyperlink for your host? I wih my website loadded up as fast as yours lol

buy generic viagra canada's Gravatar
buy generic viagra canada
@ Nov 6, 2015 at 6:30 AM
I like thee valuable info you provide to your articles. I will bookmark your weblog and check once more right here regularly. I'm fairly sure I'll learn many new stuff right right here! Best of luck for the next!

cost of cialis at walmart's Gravatar
cost of cialis at walmart
@ Nov 9, 2015 at 7:25 AM
Hi there to every one, the contents present at this web page are really remarkable for people knowledge, well, keep up the nice work fellows.

buy viagra quebec's Gravatar
buy viagra quebec
@ Nov 9, 2015 at 12:33 PM
I have read a few just right stuff here. Certainly price bookmarking for revisiting. I wonder how so much effort you set to create this kind of magnificent informative website.

canadian pharcharmy online viagra prescription's Gravatar
canadian pharcharmy online viagra prescription
@ Nov 9, 2015 at 6:41 PM
I am regular reader, how are you everybody? This article posted at this website is really nice.

prescription prices's Gravatar
prescription prices
@ Nov 11, 2015 at 8:46 PM
I've been exploring for a little bit for any high-quality articles or blog posts on this kind of house . Exploring in Yahoo I eventually stumbled upon this web site. Reading this information So i am glad to convey that I have a very excellent uncanny feeling I discovered just what I needed. I so much definitely will make sure to do not disregard this web site and provides it a glance on a relentless basis.

Price of cialis's Gravatar
Price of cialis
@ Nov 11, 2015 at 9:35 PM
Hey there! Do you know if they make any plugins to protect against hackers? I'm kinda paranoid about losing everything I've worked hard on. Any tips?

Candon rx no rx cialis's Gravatar
Candon rx no rx cialis
@ Nov 12, 2015 at 2:22 PM
My brother suggested I might like this website. He was totally right. This post actually made my day. You cann't imagine simply how much time I had spent for this information! Thanks!

canadian medications by mail's Gravatar
canadian medications by mail
@ Nov 14, 2015 at 5:21 AM
Hey I know this is off topic but I was wondering if you knew of any widgets I could add to my blog that automatically tweet my newest twitter updates.

I've been looking for a plug-in like this for quite some time and was hoping maybe you would have some experience with something like this. Please let me know if you run into anything. I truly enjoy reading your blog and I look forward to your new updates.

Cialis canada pharmacy reviews's Gravatar
Cialis canada pharmacy reviews
@ Nov 14, 2015 at 9:14 AM
I am regular visitor, how are you everybody? This article posted at this website is really nice.

buy cialisi on line without prescription's Gravatar
buy cialisi on line without prescription
@ Nov 15, 2015 at 1:59 AM
I visited several sites however the audio feature for audio songs current at this web site is genuinely superb.

Online pharmacies cialus's Gravatar
Online pharmacies cialus
@ Nov 15, 2015 at 6:01 AM
Great beat ! I wish to apprentice even as you amend your website, how can i subscribe for a weblog website? The account aided me a appropriate deal. I were tiny bit acquainted of this your broadcast provided vivid transparent concept

F100 female viagra's Gravatar
F100 female viagra
@ Nov 15, 2015 at 10:57 AM
I’m not that much of a internet reader to be honest but your blogs really nice, keep it up! I'll go ahead and bookmark your site to come back in the future. All the best

Cialis pharmacy in canada medications's Gravatar
Cialis pharmacy in canada medications
@ Nov 17, 2015 at 6:02 AM
Hello it's me, I am also visiting this web page regularly, this web site is genuinely good and the users are in fact sharing pleasant thoughts.

Add A Blog Comment
E-Mail me when someone comments on this post

Leave this field blank:

Enter your email below to receive our newsletter


Latest from the Blog

Read the Blog

Enter your email below to receive our newsletter


Latest from the Blog

Read the Blog