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Jim Sullivan
October 31, 2015 | Jim Sullivan

Head out on the Highway, looking for the Castello

In our previous blog post, I described how we met some new friends.  Here is a continuation of that post:

“I’ve got the Filet Mignon if you’ll bring the wine,” said Ed Diaz, the CEO at Best Filet Mignon.  Now I was curious so I asked him where should we meet to which he replied, “I’m coming to see you at the Castello… are you available on October 21st around 11:00 a.m.?” I said heck yes and we set the date.

What I did not know was that Ed loves a good road trip.  He packed up the car and picked up his Executive Chef, Phil Horn and they left Los Angeles at 4:00 a.m. on October 21, tweeting (@TheBestSteaks) along the way.

Tweet from Ed Diaz in the wee morning hours of October 21. Only 299 more miles to go!

They arrived right on time and as they walked up the steps of the Drawbridge, their eyes were wide open and filled with amazement. We toured the Castello and got to know each other. We headed to the wine fermentation room and then to the cellars.  












Phil Horn, Executive Chef of Best Filet Mignon in the Grand Barrel Room at the Castello.

Ed and Phil came prepared with their Filet Mignon so I invited Georg Salzner, our President to join us for an epic tasting of Filet Mignon; prepared and cooked by Phil and paired with our 2011 Il Barone.

Preparing the Filet Mignon for the grill. 


A 6 oz. cut of Filet Mignon ready for the grill.













Georg Salzner and Ed Diaz dining at the Castello.

I must say, the Filet Mignon was simply the finest cut of meat that I've ever tasted and the pairing with Il Barone was nothing short of spectacular.  The flavors of the Cabernet Sauvignon framed by the lightly toasted oak and gentle acidity wine met the savory, succulent flavors of this steak.  You owe it to yourself to experience this extraordinary steak as we did.

Ed and Phil want you to experience this wonderful food and wine tasting experience so they created a special offer exclusively for friends of Castello di Amorosa.

And as we promised, check out this video by Best Filet Mignon that pairs Il Barone with Filet Mignon (and wonderful side dishes).  You'll learn how to make the perfect meal, without fail, everytime. Here it is:

Click on the logo below to see a special offer from Best Filet Mignon, available exclusively for friends of Castello di Amorosa.




Time Posted: Oct 31, 2015 at 2:03 PM
Jim Sullivan
October 16, 2015 | Jim Sullivan

We've met some new friends...

It's always a great day when you meet some new friends who are as passionate about their product as we are about our wines. Ed Diaz, CEO of Best Filet Mignon, Inc. and Phil Horn, his Executive Chef, are our new friends and it's our pleasure to introduce them to you.  I sent them three bottles of our wine, Il Barone Cabernet Sauvignon, a Zinfandel from the Russian River Valley that we call, "Zingaro" and our Napa Valley Merlot for them to create quick and simple to prepare recipies to pair with our wines. Below, Phil describes the Filet Mignon/Cabernet Sauvignon experience. And later on, I sat down with Castello di Amorosa's sommelier, Mary Davidek to learn more about more about Cabernet Sauvignon and elegant food and wine pairing.

Meet Best Filet Mignon's Executive Chef,  Phil Horn 


Here's Phil:

"Whether you are an aficionado or a quality flavor-craver, the king of steaks is the filet mignon because of its decadently rich, smooth, mild flavor and super savory, buttery texture. As a lifetime beef enthusiast, I love my filet mignon with nothing added (i.e. bacon, etc) and I love how it pairs with fine wine.

What you serve alongside filet mignon is what enhances the delights that your palate will experience upon tasting and ultimately bring out the earthy notes of the meat.  For example, I really enjoy pan-roasted carrots in a butter sauce along with savory mashed potatoes.

Il Barone paired with a nice cut of beef from Best Filet Mignon 


When it comes to pairing a wine for this dish, I recommend a wine that compliments filet mignon's more subtle flavors. Wines with dark fruit, elegant balance, and structure seem to work best. That said, I strongly recommend Cabernet Sauvignon, and particularly the Il Barone 2012 from Castello di Amorosa grown in California’s Napa Valley.

Filet mignon with sauted mushrooms and onions


The ripe, refined tannins framed in the generous body of the wine coupled with its hints of tobacco serve as a complement to the dish, without overpowering the flavor of the meat. This provides a wonderful balance due to the wine’s acidity and alcohol levels. Whatever is chosen to serve alongside the dish guarantees a simple, elegant, and delicious dining experience for your guests.”


Mary Davidek gives us a primer on Cabernet Sauvignon:

“Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the world's most widely grown and recognized red wine grapes,” said Mary Davidek. ”Cab is grown in every major wine producing region covering a diverse spectrum of climates from Canada's Okanagan Valley to Lebanon's Beqaa Valley. However, with a near perfect Mediterranean climate combined with rich soil ranging from rocky to alluvial--Cabernet Sauvignon reigns as Napa Valley’s king of grapes.

A Cabernet Sauvignon block 7 at the Castello

Mary Davidek, sommelier


Cabernet Sauvignon is an interesting study—thick skin, small, tightly clustered, darkly pigmented purple-black berries. Cabernet also has a higher ratio of skin and seeds (tannins) to pulp (juice) which contributes to the wine's aging potential and typically leads to oft used descriptors; i.e. big, intense, bold....

Cabernet Sauvignon is a powerful wine and can be quite tannic when young, just the qualities to make it an ideal match for foods that are rich and packed with flavor. Cabernet Sauvignon tends to pair best with meat dishes as fats and proteins tend to soften the tannins of Cabernet Sauvignon.

It does not take a connoisseur to savor the sheer bliss of Cabernet Sauvignon paired with a char-grilled Filet Mignon. When showcasing a special bottle, remember, keep it simple. Cab + a great steak = pairing perfection!”

It does not take a connoisseur to savor the sheer bliss of Cabernet Sauvignon paired with a char-grilled Filet Mignon. When showcasing a special bottle, remember, keep it simple. Cab + a great steak = pairing perfection!”

What's next:

Stay tuned to this blog as will soon be delivering cooking videos exclusively to Castello di Amorosa subscribers that will teach you how to make easy, impressive meals that pair wonderfully with our wines. Can you guess which wine they’ll be pouring first?


Mary Davidek
August 28, 2015 | Mary Davidek

TGI Frittata

I was raised in a large and lively household. With 2 parents, 4 of us kids along with 1 grandparent, my mother was faced with the daunting challenge every week to procure economical yet delicious ways to feed our sometimes demanding and always hungry mob. Schedules were constantly changing, I had piano lessons and swimming, my brothers balanced after school jobs and sports. In the summer, Dad often worked late. This meant not only did food have to be delicious and economical, but had to be just as good and easily re-heated to accommodate our unpredictable schedules.

Sunday night pasta was a regular on our menu. Essentially left over tidbits from the week slow cooked in a rich tomato sauce and served over pasta, a good way to start a busy week. Soups were another yummy option and minestrone often filled the pot. Basic minestrone was a smart use of left-over roast beef with an assortment of veggies and pasta. Frittata was a popular catch-all in our house and seemed to be a Friday night staple. The saying became TGIFrittata!

Frittata is a flat Italian-style omelet that's usually prepared in a cast-iron skillet. A Frittata can be made with an assortment of ingredients; mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower, or zucchini. For a heartier main course preparation, ground sausage, bacon or potatoes can be included. To make a frittata, beaten eggs are cooked briefly in a hot skillet along with other ingredients like onions, spinach, bacon and/or potatoes, and then topped with cheese and finished in the oven.

The Castello provided the bounty for this frittata. The royal chickens supplied the organic free range eggs. From the castle garden; zucchini, red and yellow pepper and serrano chili peppers.

The kick of spice made the wine selection for this brunch easy—Gioia, a dry and fruity rosé of Sangiovese. 

When cooked in a round skillet, frittata is traditionally sliced into wedge-shaped portions for serving. And re-heated…it was just as yummy as it was just out of the oven.


♦ In medium size bowl, using a fork, blend together 4 - 6 eggs, grated Parmesan, 1/2 tsp pepper, and 1/4 tsp salt.

♦ Heat 12-inch non-stick, oven safe saute pan over medium high heat.

♦ Add butter to pan and melt. Add frittata contents. Pour egg mixture into pan and stir with rubber spatula.

♦ Cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until the egg mixture has set on the bottom and begins to set up on top.

♦ Sprinkle with parsley and additional grated parm.

♦ Place pan into oven and broil for 3 to 4 minutes, until lightly browned and fluffy.

Mary Davidek
August 4, 2015 | Mary Davidek

Salmon with………

It is well known the health benefits of salmon are seemingly endless. From cardiovascular health to muscle and tissue regeneration, to eye health-- regularly including this meaty fish in our diet even bolsters our metabolism! Additionally, salmon is an excellent source of beneficial fatty acids like omega-3 as well as a good source of vitamins A and D.

Salmon is also exceptionally wine friendly; the chameleon of the sea when looking for the perfect pairing. Salmon works with whites, reds and rosé, so if salmon is on the menu let the cooking method and spices guide your pairings.

In the words of Billy Joel “a bottle of red and a bottle of white, it all depends on your appetite”.

Well, your appetite and perhaps what was in the latest Castello Wine Club shipment!


Chardonnay with Lemon Pepper and Garlic Baked Salmon

With brilliant stone fruit, a hint of creamy citrus (think merengue) and just a breath of fig and hazelnut the 2013 Bien Nacido Chardonnay is the perfect canvas for this salmon preparation. Keep the sides fresh and vibrant like this hash of sweet corn and edamame. Liberally season the fish with garlic salt and lemon pepper. Place salmon, skin side down, on a non-stick baking sheet or in a non-stick pan. Bake until salmon is cooked through, about 12 to 15 minutes at 450 degree oven.

Sangiovese with Cajun Spiced Salmon

Salmon is a hearty meaty fish with high fat content (the good fats!) so it can play with high acid, high clarity varietals like Sangiovese. For the seasoning I used a Cajun spice rub but added additional garlic and black pepper. I wanted the spice to bring zing and pizzazz with our latest Sangiovese release. The 2012 Sangiovese shows vibrant notes of ripe red raspberry, rhubarb and trademark anise. It is a mid-palate explosion of delicious and perfect with the rich spiced salmon

Pinot Noir with Ginger, Soy, and Balsamic Grilled Salmon

A simple soy sauce, brown sugar and ginger marinade, with a dash of lemon and garlic, are the perfect salty-sweet complement to rich salmon fillets. Evocative Asian notes of ginger and soy are classic flavors for Pinot Noir pairing and the smoky grill perfectly accentuates this earthy wine. Newly released 2013 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir has just a touch of exotic spice but the palate showstopper is the obvious grace and elegance iconic to cool climate Pinot Noir.

Mary Davidek
June 29, 2015 | Mary Davidek

Summer (Food and Wine) Ramblings

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

Happy summer!

Fresh  halibut fish tacos with watermelon salsa and tequila lime crema. Halibut courtesy of top angler and Napa native Tim Berg of Peninsula Processing (

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!

Time Posted: Jun 29, 2015 at 9:23 PM
Mary Davidek
May 4, 2015 | Mary Davidek

Cinco De Mayo Meets Cinque di Maggio

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….

Italian Varietals like Pinot Grigio and Sangiovese offer juicy fruit and natural acidity which are simpatico with these big latino flavors.

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

♦ ½  Tbsp. salt

♦ 2 Tbsp. olive oil

Time Posted: May 4, 2015 at 9:57 PM
Jim Sullivan
April 9, 2015 | Jim Sullivan

A Winery Fit for a King

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 Architecture

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 Region

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 

Time Posted: Apr 9, 2015 at 4:41 PM
Mary Davidek
March 24, 2015 | Mary Davidek

Maui (re) Visited

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 ( 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!

Time Posted: Mar 24, 2015 at 6:42 PM
Mary Davidek
February 27, 2015 | Mary Davidek

Have Wine Will Travel—oh the places you will go!

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.......

Aloha Maui!

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.




Time Posted: Feb 27, 2015 at 6:29 PM
Mary Davidek
February 8, 2015 | Mary Davidek

Terra de Promissio—Checkmate Castello

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!

Time Posted: Feb 8, 2015 at 1:27 PM

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