Summer is a beautiful time to visit Napa Valley. Well let’s face it, with our mild, Mediterranean climate pretty much any time of year is great to visit, but soaking up the sunshine while surrounded by vibrant green vineyards, rolling hills, and a glass of wine in hand is a fantastic way to spend an afternoon in the warm summer months. Here are a few ways to maximize your fun in the Napa Valley sun in the summertime:
♦ Pick 1-2 "can't miss" wineries, and fill in the gaps with others as your day progresses. Keep in mind that each winery will pour you roughly the equivalent of one glass (5 oz) of wine, so it’s good to limit yourself to 3-4 wineries per day. Trying to plan tastings at more than 3 wineries for one day can leave you feeling rushed, and wine country is all about relaxing. You’re on vacation, after all!
♦ Visit larger/ more popular wineries before noon. Larger wineries can draw crowds of thirsty travelers, especially on the weekends, and these crowds tend to get larger later on in the afternoon. Visiting these wineries before noon allows you to have a more relaxed experience to enjoy your tasting and explore the grounds at a leisurely pace.
♦ Plan on spending 1-2 hours at each winery. This goes along with the “choose 3-4 max” rule of wineries per day (especially if you’re planning for winery tours). Most wineries in Napa Valley open around 9:30am and close around 6:00pm in the summer, so figuring out how early you want your day to start/ where you’re travelling to can be a big factor of how much time you have to actually taste. Pace out your day and take the time to enjoy each winery you visit without feeling you need to jump to the next.
♦ Look for specialty tours. Many wineries throughout the valley offer experiences beyond the standard tasting, and these are a great option to take advantage of, especially with the larger wineries as it allows for a less crowded and more personal experience. Cheese pairings, food and wine pairings, and guided tours are a fantastic way to learn more about what goes into each winery's philosophy and connect you even more with the delicious vintages being poured for you!
♦ Have a designated driver. If nobody wants to take the keys, it might be a good idea to look into hiring a driver for the day. Napa Valley has many car and limo services that cater to the thirsty traveler (and even a Wine Train!), and if you’re staying in Calistoga, their shuttle is a great option for getting around the northern end of the Valley!
♦ Bring a water bottle/ snacks. Hydration is important! You’ll want to drink roughly one 8 oz glass of water for each tasting if you’re looking to avoid feeling too groggy by the end of your day, and it’s never a good idea to taste on an empty stomach! Keep in mind that most Napa Valley wineries cannot offer picnic facilities per county ordinance, so plan on snacking in the car or finding a park if you wanted to have a full picnic (our sister winery V. Sattui is one of the few wineries to offer picnic facilities, located just south of St. Helena).
♦ Start your day at the winery farthest away from your hotel/ dinner location and work your way back towards it. This helps to insure that you’re not stuck with a long drive when you’re all tired out from a full day of exploring the valley.
♦ Wear comfortable shoes (LADIES I’m talking to you here). Girls, I know you love those three inch heels, but I promise you will not be loving them after a day of walking on uneven surfaces/ in vineyards/ touring wineries/ standing at tasting bars. You don’t want to be the one drinking just to get to that point where you can’t feel your feet anymore.
♦ Bring a light jacket. Daytime temps in Napa Valley tend to range from mid-70s all the way to low 100s, but it does drop down to the 50s in the evenings here, which can be a bit of a shock if you’re out in shorts and flip flops. Also keep in mind that most caves/ tasting rooms are around 50°-60°F (10°-15°C) to help keep the wines cool for aging (and pouring). Wine only helps to warm you up so much!
♦ Make reservations whenever possible. Whether for restaurants or winery tours, it never hurts to call ahead (especially if you are a big group!!). Summer is the busiest time of year in Napa Valley, and many winery tours/ restaurants book up quickly!
♦ Expect some traffic. I’m not talking full-blown rush hour madness, but don’t expect to be cruising down the highway at 80mph between wineries in the middle of the day. There are only two main roads to get through the valley (Hwy 29 on the west and Silverado Trail on the east), and since both are mostly 2 lane roads, you can imagine how easy it would be for either to back up quickly due to congestion, construction, accidents, or that person who slammed on their breaks because they almost missed their winery (on that note: please don’t be that person. Make a U-turn!!). If your winery or restaurant reservation is at 2:00, plan to be there at least 15 minutes early to check in. You won’t want to miss a thing!
♦ See if any events are happening while you're here. Wineries throughout the Valley love to host special events year-round, and it's always a great idea to check out what's going on while you're visiting! From concerts in the park to winemaker dinners or themed parties like the Castello's Midsummer Medieval Festival or Hot Havana Nights, summer evenings are packed full of great opportunities to sip, swirl, & savor after the tasting rooms close!
And most importantly…
♦ Remember: it’s a wine TASTING, not wine DRINKING. Pace yourself! Relax, and enjoy your visit to this world-famous wine growing region. With beautiful wines and incredible views all around you, you’ll be mapping out your next visit before you leave!
Adventure (and wine) is out there!
“Our vision is to build community around the art of visual story-telling, with the viewing of films and discussions with filmmakers fueling lively conversation amongst old and new friends … and those conversations being enriched with the world-class food and wine of legendary Napa Valley.”
We at the Castello always look forward to the festival, and this year we were able to participate as a shooting location for one of the short films in the SONY 4K FILM CHALLENGE! Five teams given the latest SONY tech were given a 60-hour challenge to create a short film based on randomly-assigned topics. Director Paul Martin chose Castello di Amorosa as one of the settings for his short film, “Valentimes Day.”
We had a blast with Paul and his crew filming scenes in the Great Hall and our Torture Chamber! Check out some of our behind-the-scenes photos from their shoot:
Actress Kai getting used to wearing one of our knights’ helmets
Paul showing her how it’s done!
Paul showing his crew around the very latest Sony 4K technology
Actor Cameron Mark Lewis on the rack! Don’t try this at home!!
The next day of filming was on the Napa Valley Wine Train. We tagged along for the ride and got to capture more of the action!
Filming in the Wine Train’s beautiful Gourmet Car
Our 2010 Sangiovese was featured in the film!
Thank you again to Paul and team for letting us be a part of your fantastic production!
On April 30, 2013, The New York Times wrote about the trend where wineries are hosting retreats for corporate team building. Here’s an excerpt:
IT seems counterintuitive for companies to take their employees somewhere where the alcohol begins to flow even before lunch is served. But wineries around the world are increasingly accommodating businesses asking for meeting space, catering and even wine-making lessons for their workers. In the Napa Valley, the vineyards producing the region’s famous cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay have long welcomed tourists and about 10 percent of them are traveling on business, according to the Napa Valley Conference and Visitors Bureau, so it is no wonder that many of the valley’s wineries encourage corporate gatherings.….Castello di Amorosa, a castle and wine estate inspired by 13th-century Tuscany, where Mary Pham, digital marketing manager for Toyota, recently held an event for auto dealers. Other businesses that come for work-related meetings might want to advise their employees to dress down, because team-building activities here could mean stomping grapes.
Read the full article here
The Castello Team
Dario Sattui, owner of V. Sattui Winery in St. Helena and Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga, has pledged $1 million to the Boys & Girls Clubs of St. Helena and Calistoga for its future construction of a permanent Club facility in Calistoga.
Listen to Dario's interview on KGO 810:
“I am really proud to make this small contribution to the future of our community, and believe this will make a positive impact. Let’s hope the Club can raise the rest of the money quickly and open the new Club, “said Sattui.
Dario Sattui with the Board of Directors and Staff of the Boys and Girls Club of St. Helena and Calistoga
“This is a landmark moment for our organization,” commented Club Executive Director Jay Templeton. “Mr. Sattui’s magnificent lead gift provides us the framework to begin focused discussions of our Calistoga project. The Boys & Girls Clubs and Mr. Sattui share the same values of respect for the environment, and the importance of agriculture, nutrition, exercise, academics, entrepreneurship, technology skills and guidance in preparing today’s youth to be productive 21st century citizens.”
Currently the Boys & Girls Clubs of St. Helena and Calistoga operates an after-school program located at the Calistoga Elementary School on Berry Street. In 2012, registered youth membership at that site was 395 with an average daily attendance of 129. The Club also operates a Teen Center located in the city’s Monhoff Center on Grant Street adjacent to the Calistoga Junior-Senior High School.
“For some time, the Board of Directors has discussed a Calistoga project,” said Templeton. “Our St. Helena facility was opened in January of 2008 following a successful capital campaign. The next vision has been to establish a permanent facility in Calistoga through community fundraising.”
On April 26th, the Board of Directors will hold a Board retreat specifically to discuss the Club’s Calistoga future, including discussions on a potential location, cost, size, fundraising and timing. “We hope to come out of that day with basic direction and to set the course for a new Boys & Girls Club building in Calistoga,” remarked Templeton.
Sattui will attend the Club’s Board of Directors meeting at noon on March 20th to present two $500,000 checks. Each of his local businesses, V. Sattui Winery and Castello di Amorosa are contributing jointly.
The Sattui donation is the second lead gift received for the future Calistoga project. In November of 2012, the DeLong-Sweet Family Foundation made the first contribution, a $250,000 pledge arranged by Calistoga residents Paul and Pamela Ingalls. The Boys & Girls Club hopes these early donations are an indication of the support it will have and need in order to complete the Calistoga capital campaign and the construction project.
The children of the Boys and Girls Club of St. Helena and Calistoga with Dario Sattui and staff.
Noted Board of Directors President, Kathleen Herdell, “We are thrilled by the generosity of Dario, Paul and Pamela. Their contributions will touch the lives of Up-Valley children for generations to come. ‘Thank you’ just doesn’t adequately capture the gratitude we feel for these visionaries and role models. They are helping to give the kids a safe and positive place to be after school and all summer long. Having watched the excited faces of kids as they enter the St. Helena Clubhouse, I can’t wait to give the Calistoga children that same experience.”
This is the time of year when winemakers and vineyard managers start paying close attention to weather patterns. Although long periods of extreme cold and sub-freezing temperatures can always cause distress in a vineyard; frost is particularly damaging in the early spring. Once bud break occurs, spring frosts can kill the young shoots potentially destroying a crop. If you visit wine country in early spring you may spot a few different methods utilized by vintners in attempts to combat frost damage. Most preventative measures are expensive and vary in effectiveness, but, the financial loss of frost damage is extreme.
The least utilized and possibly least effective is burning oil in a smudge pot. The smoke and heat generated is hopefully carried over the vineyard by the wind forming a warmer protective blanket. As the heavier cold air sinks, the warm blanket of air protects the shoots.
A solution that seems just as drastic but that has actually proven viable in some vineyard locales; spraying the vines with a fine mist of water. As the water freezes it forms a protective layer of ice insulating the young shoots by trapping the heat, (think of an igloo or an ice cave). Since Napa Valley’s Mediterranean climate doesn’t generally dip below 25 degrees Fahrenheit, this method shows promise as it is environmentally less invasive and more economically viable. A negative for using water is fairly obvious but worth noting: you are using water, which can be scarce or completely unavailable in remote vineyards.
The most common and visually the most obvious method in use can be viewed off Highway 29 and along the Silverado Trail. What looks like windmills are actually wind machines, which move air over vineyards to keep the coldest air from settling on vulnerable, young shoots. The heavier cold air mixes with the warmer air, being moved by the wind machine, creating a slight elevation in temperature which is often just enough to ward off frost as long as that temperature is above 28 degrees Fahrenheit. However, I live close to one such wind machine and I see it as only partially effective. While it prevents frost from developing in areas directly in the path of said turbulence, my personal observation is the outlying areas are often blanketed with frost. Another fact to consider…..wind machines are essentially propellers that run on fuel so they can be expensive to run and the noise level can be extreme – especially in the wee hours of the morning when they are typically used. *yawn*
Does a foolproof solution exist? Well, if you have an opportunity when driving in the valley, look to the hills. It is rare to find any method of frost control on sloped vineyard sites. Dense cold air naturally drains off the hillsides and settles onto the valley floor quite often rendering the hillsides unaffected by frost.
In this north end of the Napa Valley we are fortunate. With the Mayacamas Mountains to the West and the Vaca Mountains to the East, some of the most prestigious viticultural land in the world has been created. Castello di Amorosa’s Il Barone and La Castellana wines are crafted from Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards on Diamond Mountain, part of the famed Mayacamas range; above the fog line, drenched in sunshine and relatively unharmed by frost.
As we continue to progress in viticulture methodology one fact holds true – Mother Nature will always have the final word.
And with that my final word – Cheers!
Mary Davidek C.S., C.S.W.
Castello di Amorosa and the Napa Echelon Gran Fondo
Castello di Amorosa invites you to join Team Castello di Amorosa for the Napa Echelon Gran Fondo on May 21. It's a European-style, mass start event -- benefiting local charity-- beginning in downtown Napa and then traversing up and down the legendary Napa Valley.
Join the team by visiting: https://ssl.charityweb.net/echelongranfondo/napa/castellodiamorosa.htm
The ride benefits local charities including St. Helena Hospital Martin-O'Neil Cancer Center, the Queen of the Valley Cancer Center and The Napa Valley Vine Trail Coalition.
I can see it now, 30 riders dressed in yellow and blue on the start line in downtown Napa, ready to conquer either the 30, 60 or 100 mile course. You'll look sharp in a custom, Team Castello di Amorosa kit (custom pro jersey and bib shorts) designed by Dario Sattui. The yellow and blue signify his University of California colors (Go Bears!); the sleeves are adorned with the colors of the Italian flag- the right sleeve and chest is a perfect spot for the Sattui Family crest. We've deeply discounted the kit for those riding on Team Castello di Amorosa - $115 for both the jersey and bib shorts, but act fast as quantities and sizes are limited.
On the starting line, you'll feel like you're in the Tour de France as a helicopter hovers overhead taking photos of us all. And then comes the best part-- the Silverado Trail is closed to vehicular traffic for several miles and becomes the Napa Echelon Gran Fondo bike path!!
You are invited to have your photo taken, dressed in yellow and blue, on the steps of the Castello di Amorosa Drawbridge on Friday at 3:00 p.m. Don't miss this opportunity!
Follow the link below to register to ride for or donate funds on behalf of Team Castello di Amorosa:
Thank you for joining Team Castello di Amorosa!
Calistoga's Winter in the Wineries:
A passport provides access to world-class Calistoga wineries and great Napa Valley wines
Castello di Amorosa joins world-class Calistoga wineries for the 2010 Winter in the Wineries passport weekend held December 3, 2010 through February 6, 2011. All you will need to participate is a Winter in the Wineries passport; they're only $50 and it will provide you access to participating wineries where you'll taste great Napa Valley wines this winter.
With a bountiful harvest now completed, our focus now turns to relaxing and enjoying the fruits of our efforts. Make Castello di Amorosa your first stop as you taste great wines from some great wineries including Chateau Montelena, Sterling Vineyards, Bennett Lane Winery, Clos Pegase, Envy Wines, Lava Vine Winery, Madrigal Vineyards, Rios Wine Company, Summers Estate Wines, T-Vine Cellars, Twomey Cellars, Vermeil Wines and Von Strasser Winery.
Here's how it works. Purchase your passport by calling 707-967-6274; it's one (1) passport per person required (no split tastings). Visit each winery once during the program period.
With a variety of wineries participating, we suggest you come back often. Enjoy the cool days of winter while you're wine tasting and treat yourself to world famous hot springs, shopping in downtown Calistoga or dining in one of the local restaurants. That's plenty for one day so bring your family and check out the many hotels and B&B's in Calistoga.
Calistoga's Winter in the Wineries- 12/3/10 -- 2/6/11
Passports are on sale now! Call 707-967-6274
Headlining this year's events at Castello di Amorosa include International stars Jean- Yves Thibaudet, Nina Katova; jazz-pop prodigy Nikki Yanofsky, Francesco Demuro and conductor, Omer Wellber. Also appearing is actress, singer and dancer, Rita Moreno. A recipient of the National Medal for the Arts, and an Oscar, Emmy Grammy and Tony award winner, Moreno opens the program with a special reading. The Festival runs July 16 through July 25 at other venues around the Napa Valley.
Jean Yves Thibaudet and Nina Katova (below) will join the Rossetti String
Quartet for chamber music on July 20. (Photo credit: FdS website)
Cellist, Nina Kotova (Photo credit: FdS website)
Jazz-pop prodigy, Nikki Yanofsky performs at
Castello di Amorosa on July 21. (Photo Credit: FdS Website)
On July 22, tenor Francesco Demuro (not pictured) and cellist Nina Katova headline a
concert with the Russian National Orchestra (pictured above)
Rene Fleming performs at the 2009 Festival del Sole in Castello di Amorosa's revered Courtyard. (Photo: Vi Bottaro)
"Festival del Sole is a great event." said Dario Sattui. "The Castle is a perfect backdrop to the immense talent performing throughout this great international summer music festival. This year is no exception. Once again, the lineup of international stars is incredible."
All performances take place in the Castle's outdoor Courtyard built with handmade, antique European bricks. It provides an ideal acoustical venue for world-class music.
Festival director, Richard Walker says, "Five years ago we set out to create a festival combining the best in music, art, food and wine. And we have done just that. Today Napa Valley Festival del Sole has become one of the country's leading music festivals."
The schedule at Castello di Amorosa is as follows:
Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Nina Kotova join the Rossetti String Quartet for chamber music on July 20. Renowned for its sophisticated, sensual sound, the Rossetti String Quartet is a frequent collaborator of the virtuoso French pianist.
Jazz-Pop prodigy Nikki Yanofsky performs at the Castello on July 21. The 16-year old sensation who recently sang Canada's national anthem at the opening ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics, is also poised to release her first studio album.
On July 22, tentor Francesco Demuro and cellist Nina Kotova headline a concert with the Russian National Orchestra under the baton of Omer Wellber at Castello di Amorosa. Also appearing is actress, singer and dancer Rita Moreno. A recipient of the National Medal for the Arts, and an Emmy, Oscar, Grammy and Tony award winner, Moreno opens with a special reading from Master Class , Terrence McNally's award-winning play based on the life of Maria Callas.
The ten-day schedule for Napa Valley's world-class Festival del Sole is packed with events for every taste and budget --- from classical music to tango and jazz, from exclusive gourmet meals to free family-friendly concerts, from wellness programs and art exhibitions to wine tastings and after-parties, and a first-ever croquet match between artists and vintners.
Festival del Sole operates under the umbrella of Festival Association Napa Valley, a 501 (c)(3) charitable organization.
For tickets and Festival Packages, please call 888-337-6272.
The view from the north tower at Castello di Amorosa looking at snow on the Vaca Range. This is the Napa Valley- an officially recognized American Viticultural Area or AVA. The actual Napa Valley floor is 5 miles wide and 30 miles long. The Napa Valley currently contains 15 recognized sub or "nested" AVA's.
Castello di Amorosa's 30 acre vineyard of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese and Primitivo is in the Diamond Mountain District AVA. Covering 5,000 acres in the Mayacamas Mountains on the northeast side of the Napa Valley, this region has over 500 acres under vine. The cool fog that influences the valley floor is not a factor here due to our up-valley location and higher elevation vineyard. Lack of topsoil, porous volcanic soil and extended exposure to the sun are reasons why world-class wines, Cabernet Sauvignon in particular, are described as bold and powerful with chewy textures and firm tannins.