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Peter Velleno
June 26, 2015 | Peter Velleno

Bottling at the Castello

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!

Peter Velleno

Winemaker, Castello di Amorosa

Time Posted: Jun 26, 2015 at 11:42 AM
Alison Cochrane
May 21, 2015 | Alison Cochrane

Chardonnay - The Golden Queen of California

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!

Time Posted: May 21, 2015 at 11:40 AM
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
Alison Cochrane
July 8, 2014 | Alison Cochrane

Castello di Amorosa wins big at this year's San Francisco International Wine Competition

Last month, a panel of 58 judges gathered at the Nikko Hotel in downtown San Francisco to taste their way through a record 4,570 wines from 26 states and 31 countries at the San Francisco International Wine Competition. This was the first year we have entered our wines into this prestigious competition (at which our Director of Winemaking, Brooks Painter, won Winemaker of the Year for our sister winery, V. Sattui last year), and our wines were very well received by the judges. Overall, we received a Best of Class, Double Gold, 4 Gold, 7 Silver, and 3 Bronze medals!

2013 Dry Gewurztraminer - BEST OF CLASS

2010 Il Passito Late Harvest Semillon/ Sauvignon Blanc - DOUBLE GOLD MEDAL

2010 Il Barone Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon - GOLD MEDAL

2010 Napa Valley Sangiovese - GOLD MEDAL

2011 Zingaro - GOLD MEDAL

2013 La Fantasia - GOLD MEDAL

Cheers to our fantastic winemaking team!

Time Posted: Jul 8, 2014 at 2:54 PM
Mary Davidek
June 16, 2014 | Mary Davidek

Pinot Noir— The Art of Getting There

“There is no ‘there’ there”. Gertrude Stein’s often quoted prose is commonly used to describe something that lacks soul, culture, life, or identity. While Ms. Stein was referring to the faceless existence of city-life, some critics have proclaimed this lament when speaking of grapes grown in and the wine making efforts of America. 

The French speak of ‘terroir’ when referring to winemaking and the wines of France which is to say grapes are a reflection of the region in which they are grown; the soil, the climate, the aspect of a hillside, the amount of rain, the surrounding vegetation, etc. The United States’ AVA system has been criticized as nothing more than a weak effort to create a false sense of place in the wines prodced -- an illusion-- as they state, there is nothing ‘there’.

*le sigh*

I decided to look beyond Cabernet Sauvignon, the reigning king of grapes for my initial attempt at disproving this theory and thus directed my attention to a varietal that, in my humble opinion, is ‘place’ personified. Pinot Noir, the thin skinned red wine grape of the Burgundy region of France has become increasingly popular with wine-buying wine-drinking Americans. It is a classic, elegant, food friendly wine—its enigmatic character and appeal as elusive as it is obvious.

Pinot Noir grapes are grown around the world but they flourish in cooler growing regions. In Oregon, the Willamette Valley is nearly the same latitude as the famed Burgundy region of France and has become synonymous with world class Pinot Noir. Oregon producers have found their sense of place as the Pinot fruit embodies the sophistication and finesse of a great Burgundy yet displays layered earth and bright red fruit summoning unrestrained California productions.  

The rolling green hills of temperate Willamette Valley provide the perfect place for cool-climate loving Pinot Noir

California Pinot Noir is more mercurial stylistically without any one style from this large and geographically diverse growing area. From Santa Barbara and the Central Coast to the south and Sonoma County and Anderson Valley in the northern half of the state, diverse topography and weather patterns separate this region of more than 450 miles. From Santa Barbara and the Central Coast we find opulent wines with definitive Pinot Noir fruit that reflects its warmer and more southern roots with a controlled strength. Cooled by the San Pablo Bay, the Carneros region straddles both Napa and Sonoma Valley and shows hints of spice and brightness unique to these cooler vineyard sites of this sun-drenched area. North of Carneros we find the Sonoma Coast where Pinot shows depth and earthy complexity with some of California’s most acclaimed Pinot Noir producers firmly planted in this lush pacific expanse. Further north of Sonoma we find California’s newest Burgundy-like super star in the highly praised and sought after Anderson Valley of Mendocino County. Here the ocean cooled valley floor rarely sees summer temps above 85 degrees….even in the height of the season. Pacific marine influence floods the valley floor with morning coastal fog providing slow even ripening. Enthusiasts agree this temperate region yields fruit of subtle distinction.  

A Pinot Noir trio from Castello di Amorosa; Los Carneros, Anderson Valley and the highly acclaimed King Ridge of Sonoma Coast. Each with expressive fruit and character from unique vineyard locations.                                                                                                                                       

As far as American winemaking efforts, maybe we have not come up with anything quite as mysterious as ‘terroir’ to encapsulate the distinctive place of our wines….maybe we never will. But, as the saying goes, sometimes the best part of the journey is getting there.


Dungeness Crabcakes with Rainier Cherry Pinot Noir Reduction


For the reduction-

10-15 ripe cherries, pitted and chopped

10 ounces Pinot Noir

1Tbsp Honey

1 Tbsp Seasoned Rice Vinegar

Pink peppercorn to taste

Add all ingredients to sauce pan. Slowly reduce over medium heat.



Time Posted: Jun 16, 2014 at 9:30 PM
Mary Davidek
March 12, 2014 | Mary Davidek

Artistic Super Tuscans

You may suspect a read detailing the work of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo or Botticelli as Tuscany is known for its artistic contributions. Florence, the heart of Tuscany, is considered to be the birthplace of the Renaissance and is one of the most important cities in the world for art lovers and historians. Tuscany boasts some of the world’s most prized works of art in the numerous museums and art galleries, the Uffizzi, the Pitti Palace, and the Bargello, just to name a few.


The Uffizzi Gallery (left) and the Palazzo Pitti (right) are home to some of Tuscany's most valuable works of art.


Aside from its artistic legacy, the cultivation and appreciation of wine is also deeply steeped in the history of Tuscany. Italy is one of the oldest wine-producing regions of the world and is still the largest wine producer by volume. There are over 350 different wine grapes commonly cultivated in Italy and many of these are indigenous to Tuscany. In Tuscany you can find everything from unpretentious local village wines to more sought after and prestigious wines like Brunello de Montalcino, Chianti Classico or Super Tuscans.

The ‘super’ heroes of Italian wine

In the early 1980’s prominent Tuscan wine producers believed the legal rules of the DoC and DoCG (Italian wine law) governing the production of Chianti were too restrictive. For example, they required the use of some white grapes and they prohibited blending non-indigenous grapes i.e. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Syrah. In an effort to produce the best wines and embrace artistry in their craft they continued to use these less traditional grape varietals. Although not legally defined or regulated, the term “Super Tuscan” was coined to distinguish these artistically expressive wines from the inexpensive, lower quality wines that were typically associated with the term vino da tavola, or ‘table wine’.

Today, super Tuscans use the legal labeling of IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica), which gives producers more flexibility, or artistic license, and certainly has more cachet than vino da tavola. Super Tuscans now represent some of the most luxurious wines of Italy and tend to be modern, big and rich—and often carry a price tag exceeding $100- $200 a bottle.

Some super Tuscans contain Sangiovese but others are made solely from Merlot (like the famous Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Toscana Masseto), or from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah (Riccardo Baracchi Toscana Ardito), or from even less traditional varietals, like a combination of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot (Argiano Toscana Solengo).

Castello di Amorosa’s 2009 La Castellana is 70% Cabernet, 15% Sangiovese and 15% Merlot. Exotic dried plum and tinder box on the nose and a refined palate of brooding dark cherry and dusty cocoa.

La Castellana...she looks right at home in the Great Hall of the Castello.

Our 2010 vintage, the first blended by Sebastiano Rosa of Italy's famed Sassicaia has garnered a whopping 92 points from James Laube of Wine Spectator. 

Sebastiano may be Castello di Amorosa's  Super-hero Tuscan!





Time Posted: Mar 12, 2014 at 11:28 AM
Mary Davidek
February 24, 2014 | Mary Davidek


American Idol, Miss USA, The Olympics, elections, books, dancing, movies, food, wine. From singing competitions to the food we eat and the wine we drink, it is compared and calibrated by a score. What are the parameters used to grant a number or a rating and how reliable are ratings when so much of what we find pleasing, appealing or excellent is purely subjective. For instance, can we look to a score on a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon to gauge a wine’s potential for enjoyment when individual tastes vary so widely? Wine is scrutinized, gauged and rated not by peers or consumers but, by 'professionals' who ascribe these ratings as a score intended for submission to the public via magazines, websites, social media etc.

Let’s dissect and analyze a wine score.  What goes into a wine rating?

A wine rating is a score assigned by one or more wine critics for a wine tasted as a summary of that critic's evaluation of that wine. A wine rating is therefore a subjective quality score, typically numerical. Over the last couple of decades, the 50-100 scale introduced by Robert M Parker Jr. has become the standard. This scale is now used by ‘the big 3’, Wine Enthusiast, Wine Spectator, and Wine Advocate.

95-100 Classic: a great wine
90-94 Outstanding: a wine of superior character and style
85-89 Very good: a wine with special qualities
80-84 Good: a solid, well-made wine
75-79 Mediocre: a drinkable wine that may have minor flaws
50-74 Not recommended

In addition to a simple numerical score most wine ratings are meant to be a supplement to the wine tasting notes, which are brief descriptions of the critic's impression of the wine, including aromatics, flavor qualities, and ageing potential or drinking window. However, the emphasis is more often on the score applied by a critic rather than on the actual tasting notes.

Castello di Amorosa wines have been well received by ‘The Big 3’. Parker’s accolades for Il Barone and La Castellana were a huge boon for Castello di Amorosa as one of our first published big ratings. Wine Enthusiast’s critical acclaim for Castello's wines is a source of great pride and most recently, Wine Spectator has granted some very big numbers indeed.

2010 La Castellana: James Laube, Wine Spectator (92 Points) – Intense, with firm, ripe, vibrant cedar, red and dark berry, anise and loamy earth flavors, framed by chewy tannins and ending with a long finish laced with notes of black licorice. Drink now through 2024.

2010 Don Thomas: James Laube, Wine Spectator (94 Points) – Amazingly complex and refined, tuned to a mix of red and dark berry that’s elegant and graceful without sacrificing Cabernet’s power and torque. Ends with classic Bourdeaux-like cedar and cigar box touches, gliding along with fine-grained tannins. Drink now through 2028.

In an effort to remain unbiased, educated and in-touch with the amazing wines of Napa Valley we conduct blind tastings throughout the year for our Castello staff to participate in.

A great tasting needs a great room!

We tasted 27 different Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon in the Great Hall of Castello di Amorosa--

Here is the line-up....

The bottles were placed in a brown bag and numbered by a non-tasting non-voting participant....


                                                ....which guarantees an unbiased result.                                                                     


Castello Pres Georg Salzner and Vice President Jim Sullivan enter the results.

The room cheered when the winner was revealed!

Check out more great scores for Castello di Amorosa's wines-

Castello di Amorosa Wine Accolades


Time Posted: Feb 24, 2014 at 9:09 PM
Alison Cochrane
February 5, 2014 | Alison Cochrane

Castello wines win big at SF Chronicle Wine Competition!

Results are in from the 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, and once again Castello di Amorosa’s wines shone brightly among the competition!

This year’s competition included a record number of 5,825 wines entered from over 1,500 wineries from over 25 states, making this the largest competition of wines in America.

We are proud to announce that this year three of our wines received the Best of Class distinction, and we received one Double Gold Medal, six Gold Medals, four Silver Medals, and one Bronze Medal! Here are our winning wines:

2012 Pinot Bianco – BEST OF CLASS

2012 Dry Gewurztraminer – BEST OF CLASS

2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – BEST OF CLASS

2010 Napa Valley Merlot – DOUBLE GOLD MEDAL

2010 “Il Barone” Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon – GOLD MEDAL

2009 “La Castellana” Reserve Super Tuscan – GOLD MEDAL

2012 Bien Nacido Vineyards Reserve Chardonnay – GOLD MEDAL

2012 Napa Valley Chardonnay – GOLD MEDAL

2011 “Zingaro” Zinfandel – GOLD MEDAL

2010 Napa Valley Sangiovese – GOLD MEDAL

2012 Anderson Valley Reserve Pinot Noir – SILVER MEDAL

2011 King Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir – SILVER MEDAL

2012 Los Carneros Pinot Noir – SILVER MEDAL

2009 “Il Brigante” Red Blend – SILVER MEDAL

2012 Late Harvest Gewurztraminer – BRONZE MEDAL

You can attend the public tasting event taking place in San Francisco at Fort Mason on Saturday, February 15th, where over 800 wineries will be pouring from 1:30 – 5:00pm. Be sure to find us among the crowd to taste our award winners!

You can check out ticket information and view the full list of winners at

Time Posted: Feb 5, 2014 at 2:32 PM
Alison Cochrane
December 12, 2013 | Alison Cochrane

Concrete Egg Fermentation

If you have been lucky enough to explore our Grand Barrel Room on a tour and tasting recently at the Castello, you may have noticed a few new additions to the stunning 12,000 square foot room. Right next to where our guests have the chance to taste wine straight from the barrel, there sit several large, concrete, egg-shaped containers. These are fermentation tanks, and they are used to ferment a special selection of the Castello’s award-winning wines.

Concrete? You might ask. What can concrete do for wine? Well as it turns out, concrete is a fantastic alternative to oak or stainless steel in winemaking. Without the “oaky” impact on a wine from barrel aging, the concrete allows the wine to retain its fruity characteristics and the inherent characteristics of the grapes are allowed to shine, making it an especially useful fermentation method for showcasing the terroir of single vineyard wines.

Concrete eggs are an interesting mix of ancient and ultra-modern winemaking techniques, since the first wines were actually fermented in pottery jars called amphorae. The egg shape is a newer modification, which allows the wines inside to have a natural convection current as the carbon dioxide released during fermentation helps to naturally stir the wine and mix in the sediment, or lees.

“Graeco-Italic” Wine Amphora, 2nd century B.C.

We originally had two concrete eggs in our Grand Barrel Room, and focused on several single vineyard wines, including our Ferrington Vineyard Dry Gewürztraminer and Tyla’s Point Pinot Bianco. These aromatic varietals work especially well with this fermentation method, because the concrete enhances the floral aromas and even increases the mineral characteristics in these wines. The elegant complexity of these wines from their fermentation in the eggs has led to them both winning high praise from tasting panels and our guests.

Our 2011 Ferrington Dry Gewurztraminer

This past year we have also produced a limited amount of Chardonnay, called “La Rocca” or “the fortress.” Our Winemaker, Peter Velleno, explains that “the reason for the Chardonnay is that the use of concrete (or more specifically the lack of oak barrels) allows the flavor of the vineyard to be the star. Chardonnay needs to have a rich mouthfeel, so it makes sense to try it in concrete, where there will be no oak flavors or aroma, but still the benefits of aging on the lees.” Aging wine on the lees, or the yeast and sediment that settles to the bottom of the barrel during fermentation, imparts a creaminess and complexity that can’t be found in stainless steel. This year we are excited to be fermenting some of the Chardonnay fruit from the Bien Nacido vineyard in one of our eggs.

So keep an eye out the next time you visit the Castello, and if you take a tour down into the Grand Barrel Room you’ll be able to check out this unique fermentation technique that helps to make our Italian-style wines even more incredible!

Time Posted: Dec 12, 2013 at 1:39 PM
Alison Cochrane
October 4, 2013 | Alison Cochrane

Red Wine Barrel Fermentation

During the Harvest season, there are always exciting things going on around the Castello, and today on the Crush Pad was no exception. Today, for the first time at the Castello, our winemaking team reserved a small lot of our Don Thomas Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon for fermentation directly in French Oak Barrels.

Traditionally, the fermentation process takes place in stainless steel tanks, where the must (skins and seeds of the grapes) are cold soaked with the juice before yeast is added. The cap, or layer of skins and seeds that get pushed to the top of the tanks from the activity taking place during fermentation, is broken up by either the punch-down or pump-over method, both of which ensure an even distribution of the color and flavors we wish to impart into our red wines. After five to eight days in these fermentation tanks, the juice is pressed from the skins and seeds and pumped into French Oak barrels for aging in the Castello’s extensive underground cave and cellar system.

Barrel fermentation means that the freshly destemmed grapes and their juices are pumped directly into French Oak barrels whose heads have been removed. Dry ice is added to cool the berries before the barrel heads are secured to seal in the must. The barrels are then laid on a rack that allows them to be rolled back and forth daily to ensure the cap stays moist and the oak is evenly introduced to the fermenting must and juice. Typically, two full barrels of must and juice will amount to one barrel of wine. The process of fermenting the juice in oak barrels helps to impart an added silkiness to the tannins and a rounder, more lush mouthfeel, especially to Bordeaux varietals. This extremely labor-intensive method of fermentation is typically reserved for only the most exclusive of wines, and the highly-acclaimed Cabernet Sauvignon from the Don Thomas Vineyard is an exceptional example of the quality of grapes deserving of such treatment.

The Don Thomas Cabernet Sauvinon clusters are conveyed into the berry sorter/ destemmer as a lucky tour group watches

The new French Oak barrels are filled directly from the destemmer

Our Cellar Supervisor, Chema, overseeing the juice and must being pumped into a special French Oak barrel that has a door in place to make filling and emptying easier

The deconstructed barrel waiting to be resealed with the juice and must inside

Dry ice is added to the must before the barrels are resealed to help cool off the berries

Resealing the barrel heads before they are sent into the cellars to begin the fermentation process

The barrels are stored in a special temperature-controlled room in the Castello's cellars during the fermentation process.


Time Posted: Oct 4, 2013 at 4:46 PM

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