While enjoying a 'Royal Pairing' at the Castello, it happened. Once again, the stage was perfectly set. The winter wind was blowing and the unending sunshine had temporarily given way to much-needed rainfall. Through looming clouds the late afternoon sun peeked out just enough to splash a bright ray of light dazzling the Vaca Mountains. During this tasting experience….it happened…we fully experienced the tasting and the afternoon was thoroughly enjoyed by all.
Is a wine tasting experience simply a contemplation of taste? To savor or enjoy on our palate? Or, is how we taste influenced by all of our senses and emotions subject to and affected by our surroundings? Wine tasting is defined as the “palate’s examination and evaluation of taste”. I can’t find fault with this scientific and clinical definition, but, it does seem sterile. When tasting wine our sensations of taste and smell are fundamental, however, by setting the stage we can taste not just what is in the glass, but, we can savor the entire experience; experience taste.
A wine tasting experience is visual- demonstrated by Castello president Georg Salzner and Dario Sattui
Not only by examining the content of the glass....
a beautiful environment impacts our enjoyment of an experience.
The room was picture-perfect, warm and inviting. The glasses were glistening and the candles were glowing.
Many chefs are fond of the saying, “we eat with our eyes first”, and there is research to support this. Studies have shown when we find food visually appealing, not only do we enjoy it more, we also absorb more nutrients from it.
What we hear also has impact. Music evokes emotions and feelings and can be far more powerful than spoken language. Andrea Bocelli gets me every time...
The most important element is to surround yourself with friends and people you love. Create a tasting experience whenever you want and wherever you are and you will truly experience taste.
Castello team members Alison, Jason, Kylee and Melissa sharing laughs and great vino!
My husband and I sharing a moment....salud!
According to research conducted by the University Of Scranton Journal Of Clinical Psychology, although the majority of Americans make annual proclamations and set yearly goals with good intentions, less than 8% of us actually achieve success in keeping New Year’s resolutions. Here is a list of the top 10 yearly resolutions:
Enjoy life to the fullest
Get fit and healthy
Learn something exciting
Help others with their dreams
Fall in love
Spend more time with family
The sure way to improve on this dismal statistic? Set obtainable goals. Unrealistic resolutions are destined for failure so I’ve created a list of 10 highly achievable food and wine resolutions to put myself on task over the next 12 months. Even if I don’t strike the entire 10, I am bound to have a great time trying! In 2014 I resolve to...
Make a cheese soufflé A masterpiece of a thickened white sauce paired with flavorful cheese. The inside is delicate and warm and the bottom and sides are crusted together forming a heavenly thick cheese layer. Nirvana!
Eat more fish Seafood is healthy, light and the perfect canvas for many amazing spices and preparations. My good friends Tim and Carol Berg at www.great-alaska-seafood.com have spoiled me rotten with the freshest seafood available and this feast was no exception. Scallops with Pappardelle pasta in a Tarragon cream sauce. Decadent!
Pair more sweet wine with savory foods On the Royal Pairing tour at the Castello, sweet and savory is a palate pleaser and always promises alluring and exotic pairing possibilities. Castello di Amorosa Dolcino Gewurztraminer and Moroccan spiced pork loin looming on the horizon.
Try one new restaurant a month Even here in the promised land of epicurean delights --I get in a rut. The same four restaurants seem to be on my go-to list not because I don’t have seemingly infinite choices but because…well… the choices can seem infinite! January is a great time to start as it is Napa Valley Restaurant Month and a perfect opportunity for new restaurant adventures.
Visit one new winery a month With 450+ wineries just in Napa Valley and 1600+ in a 150 mile radius! How many days in a year?
Eat vegetarian for 30 days I love vegetables of all kinds and welcome this 30 day meat free stint.
Take a class I aspire to become more educated on the vine to wine process— after nearly 20 years on this side of the glass, I am still amazed at the sheer scientific/artistic process in which we finally arrive at this crazy delicious fermented grape juice. As much as I read and learn I realize how much there is yet to discover. Hence, the love of this elixir!
Buy more magnums Magnums, or 1.5 L is equal to 2 standard 750 ml bottles. Magnums not only have a ‘wow’ factor but wines from a mag show better with more fruit and an intangible zip. When one bottle isn’t quite enough, one bottle of 1.5L often is just enough.
Take more culinary risks I am reluctant to try new techniques (see resolution #1) as I fear failure. The catastrophic kind of kitchen failure. I have heard from some professional chefs that the reason there are more males than females in the culinary industry is because men are not afraid to make mistakes. If something isn’t right, most men will simply toss it and have another go at it. Women become attached; we want to ‘save’ it and ‘fix’ it. By the way, I am referring to culinary attempts here but it seems this theory has many applications. =)
Travel! I want to spend an entire month in Italy. Not a rushed jaunt or a hurried two week trek! I want to go for a month with time to explore and savor—maybe take an Italian cooking class in Tuscany. I want to drink local wine, aimlessly roam the streets, drink in the art and feast on authentic cuisine. For a month I will absorb everything Castello di Amorosa summons in my heart and in my mind. Hear that Castello? Consider this my official vacation request; January 2015 will be blogged from fair Firenze!
2013 has been an incredible year for the vineyards of the Napa Valley, with the Napa Valley Vintners calling this year's growing season "early, even, and excellent." The 31 acres we have planted around the Castello with Sangiovese, Merlot, Primitivo, and Cabernet Sauvignon developed beautifully over the course of the year, and we loved tracking the beauty each season brought to the vines. Now that another record year in the valley is coming to a close and the vineyards again lay dormant, we're looking back on the fruits of this year's labors. Here are a few of our favorite vinyeard photos from this past year:
Sir Lancelot enjoyed playing beneath the dormant Primitivo vines in front of the Castello
The Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards above the Castello, pruned back to allow healthy new buds to begin forming
The vines began "weeping" in preparation for the arrival of new buds
Bud break arrived at the Castello in early April, and the vineyards quickly brightened with springtime colors
The warm, dry spring we had throughout the valley allowed for earlier bud break and perfect conditions for flowering
June saw the arrival of berries on the vines.
The vines saw a bit of rain in a summer shower
The warm summer months allowed for an even ripening of the berries. Here a cool glass of Charonnday rests among the Primitivo vines.
The end of August saw verasion in the vineyards, as the berries began to ripen and change color.
Primitivo vines and berries in front of the Castello
The Merlot vineyards almost ready for harvest!
Cheers to the end of another fantastic year in the Napa Valley! We're looking forward to 2014!
I am a cooking and food magazine junkie. It all started with my Mom and a ritual that took place during our visit to the ‘beauty parlor’ (not a salon, but the beauty parlor!) for Mom’s weekly scheduled shampoo and set. Here she regularly scoured through the latest edition of ‘Family Circle’, ‘Good Housekeeping’ and ‘Sunset’ magazines and recited recipes in a much too loud voice so I (and everyone in a 20 yard radius) could hear her over the constant noise generated by the mission control-like dryer chair. I would nod with dutiful approval dotted with an intermittent ‘yep, sounds good’ which were typically enough to satiate her. To add to her enjoyment and proof I really was listening, I even managed to insert a question or two; “what is braising?” or “why does it have to be sifted?” This launched her into an explanation that today seems worthy of ‘Food Network’. However, one particular phrase seemed to arise on nearly every recipe and always required definition and clarification — “season to taste”.
Mom explained the following:
Add salt until it you taste it. If it seems bland- it probably is. Increase by a ¼ tsp. and taste after each addition.
Add seasoning and spices (pepper, fresh herbs, dried seasoning) until the taste is in balance with the rest of the flavors. Make sure spices and seasonings cook along with the dish. However, additional fresh herbs added at the end can make a big difference.
Add acid (Tabasco, lemon juice, or vinegar) if it tastes flat or one-dimensional. Hot sauce works in creamy dishes because the acid from the vinegar and the heat from the peppers boost the flavors. Keep a light hand; if the dish isn't supposed to be "spicy hot" add just a splash of hot sauce then use vinegar or lemon juice.
Add sugar; the tried and true fix if you overdo it. Sugar balances both salty and bitter flavors. Adding a touch of sugar makes too salty taste less salty and too bitter or sour taste less bitter without actually decreasing the amount of salt or acid in the recipe.
The thing is, Mom’s beauty shop narrations were not idle or forgotten ideas of an affordable casserole or a quick and easy dessert, they were her inspiration for future meals and goodies that made it to the family table and eventually led to my life-long pursuit of ‘tasting’.
Here is one of my cold-weather favorites. It is hearty, spicy, savory and comforting; ideal to keep in the fridge and warm up after a day of visiting with friends and family or after hours of wrapping followed by seconds of unwrapping. Remember always adjust the spices as you progress and as in all recipes—season to taste!
I wish you perfectly seasoned greetings--
4 Cups Beef Broth
4 Cups Chicken Broth
2 large cans crushed tomatoes (28 oz.)
2 large cans diced tomatoes
1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. spicy sausage
2 heads of cabbage, cored and diced
1 small bag frozen white corn
4-6 carrots thinly sliced
4-6 stalks diced celery
4 large cloves minced garlic
1 bunch of chopped cilantro (set some aside for garnish)
1 large diced brown onion
Season to taste =)
Brown ground meat and/or sausage. Add to a large pot with all other ingredients. Cook over medium low heat until vegetables are to desired softness. To accelerate the cooking process, give the veggies a quick sauté before adding to the pot. Stir and taste often and, as always, add seasoning as needed.
My current library. The Better Homes and Garden cook book was a wedding gift from who else; my Mom. Held together by a rubber band, for 24 years I have referred to this book filled with hand written notes and recipes.
‘Deconstructed’ is contemporary food lingo but Mom would have just said this was quicker and easier than making and cooking meatballs! This is tasty and easy to reheat during the upcoming week of merriment or freeze leftovers in containers for up to 6 months.
Dry, crisp and almost exotic; Castello di Amorosa’s Anderson Valley Gewurztraminer balances the spice and works with the richness of the ground meat and sausage. Perfect for a first course or as a hearty meal served with fresh bread or warm tortillas.
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!
The turn of the twentieth century was indeed a dark (and dry) time in American history. Organizations like The Women’s Christian Temperance Union, which promoted Prohibition, believed alcohol to be the cause of most social ills. On January 16th, 1919, Congress passed the 18th Amendment, outlawing alcohol thereby putting an end to drunkenness, crime, mental illness, and poverty. (Ahem!)
Ironically, during Prohibition, America's thirst increased. Organized crime rose to replace formerly legal methods of alcohol production and distribution. Ultimately, respect for the law diminished and drunkenness, crime and resentment of the federal government prevailed. Over the course of the next thirteen years, support for Prohibition waned as the nation awoke to the widespread problems Prohibition caused. The number of repeal organizations increased, and in 1932 Franklin D. Roosevelt ran for President on a platform that included the repeal of Prohibition. He won that race and on December 5th, 1933, Pennsylvania and Utah, the final states needed for a three quarters majority, ratified the 21st Amendment, repealing Prohibition and restoring our right to a celebratory drink. The 18th amendment remains the only amendment to our Constitution to ever be repealed.
On December 5th we celebrate Repeal because it marks a return to the rich traditions and enjoyment of alcohol as a sacred and protected social custom. Conveniently located between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Repeal presents the perfect occasion to gather with friends and celebrate! Unlike St. Patrick's Day or Halloween Repeal is a day we can all share in observing; it's written in our Constitution.There are no outfits to buy, costumes to rent, or gifts to wrap. Simply celebrate the day by sharing a glass of wine with a loved one.
Raise a glass!
The 18th Amendment
Ratified January 16, 1919
Section 1. After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.
Section 2. The Congress and the several States shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Section 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.
The 21st Amendment
Ratified December 5, 1933
Section 1. The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.
The suggested pairing for your celebration!
For millions ‘Black Friday’ means time to do serious Christmas shopping --even before the last of the Thanksgiving leftovers are gone- shopping routes are planned and parking strategies formulated. The Friday after Thanksgiving is one of the major shopping days of the year. Dating back to the start of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1924, the Friday after Thanksgiving has been known as the unofficial- official start to a bustling and prosperous shopping season.
The term ‘Black Friday’ was coined in the 1960s to mark the kickoff of the Christmas shopping season referring to stores moving from the ‘red’ to the ‘black’. Of course, this was when accounting records were kept by hand; red ink indicated a loss and black ink showed a profit. Retailers began to realize they could draw big crowds by discounting prices and ‘Black Friday’ became the day to shop bringing with it even better deals than last minute Christmas sales. Many retailers now open at 5 am or earlier(!!!) to hoards of people waiting anxiously outside.
However, more and more consumers are choosing to shop online, not wanting to wait outside in the early morning chill with the crush of other shoppers or a battle over the last most-wanted item. Online shopping is easy, dependable and with the many shipping specials and pricing incentives—the deals are hard to beat. Now this is where the red comes in…pour a big glass and let the bargains begin! It's the only way to shop!
Castello di Amorosa's Black Friday special!
“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!
WEEK TWENTY-SIX WINNER
We've reached our final week of our "Create the Castle" Instagram contest, and we are thrilled with how many fantastic photos we have received from all of our fans! Thank you for sharing your wonderful photos of your times here at the Castello and enjoying our wines with your friends and family at home. Keep on sharing your great shots with us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter by tagging us with #castellodiamorosa; we love sharing them with our fans on social media!
Our Week 26 winner is @jaymessong, who captured the beautiful fall colors around the Castello from our South Tower. Congratulations, and thank you for visiting and sharing such a great photo with us!
Check out our fantastic runners up from this past week! Thank you again for sharing your great photos with us, and cheers from all of us at the Castello! #castellodiamorosa
WEEK TWENTY-FIVE WINNER
We're in the home stretch of our "Create the Castle" Instagram contest! We've received over 8,000 photos tagged with #castellodiamorosa, and we've been loving the creative ways you show how much you love the Castello and our wines! This week's winning photo is from @jed_pilgrim128, who captured the gorgeous clouds above the Castello this past week. Congratulations, and thank you for sharing such a beautiful photo!
We may just have one week left in the contest, but we still can't get enough of your fantsatic photos! Thank you for tagging us at #castellodiamorosa and for sharing your photos on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter! Here are a few more favorites from this past week!
I was at a dinner party a couple of weeks ago and the subject of Napa Valley wine came up – I realize this is not shocking nor in itself blog-worthy! However, at this dinner we were specifically discussing Chardonnay. Maybe it was the time year as Chardonnay was the grape harvest du jour. Maybe it was the company I was in; long time Napa locals and wine makers. Maybe it was the wine I brought for the occasion.
This was mildly ironic as not more than 8 years prior I attended an ABC dinner, an entire night of Anything But Chardonnay. Admittedly, I was a reluctant participant but I attended *sigh* and took part in the grape bashing. “Too oaky!” claimed one reveler. “Manipulated and contrived” cried another! My favorite denial of this classic varietal was “Chardonnay does not pair well with ANY food!”
Wow--quite a statement! However, to put it bluntly; they were wrong.
It is now a number of years later and we are approaching Veteran’s Day. In America, this day is reserved as a time to reflect and celebrate past heroes and champions. Perhaps wine lovers should follow suit and pay respect to one of America’s wine heroes. After all, it was a California Chardonnay that won the 1976 Paris tasting and brought recognition and eventually fame to a small farming community; Napa Valley.
Chardonnay is the second most planted white wine varietal in France and remains the most planted white wine grape on the planet. Additionally, Chardonnay styles differ dramatically and can reflect the artistry of wine making; buttery and oaky, crisp and fruity, austere with minerality. Combined with the diversity of soil and climatic zones, Chardonnay exhibits varied complexities and offers ageble wines with broad appeal. Plus, in the last 20 years wine makers have found malolactic fermentation and oak ageing are winemaking tools, but don’t have to be used fully, or at all, with every Chardonnay.
I regret my brief slide into the ABC movement. While our preferences may change as we explore different growing regions, varietals, and styles of winemaking; it is important to stay open-minded and savor new discoveries. And sometimes, we just have to stick to our guns and defend tried and true veterans that brought victory to the field and eventually… to our glass!
Chardonnay is primarily fermented in oak and is aged sur lie or on the lees. Lees refers to deposits of residual yeast and other particles occurring during fermentation. Ageing sur lie softens the taste of Chardonnay, especially on the finish. Oak provides oils and resins which not only add to the overall flavor and character of the wine but make Chardonnay a white wine which can benefit from bottle ageing.
The 2007 Napa Valley Chardonnay has become ripe and juicy with golden apple, comice pear and lightly toasted brulee. If you have any of this Castello beauty hiding in the corner bring it out this Thanksgiving! Enjoy with a hearty harvest salad garnished with candied pecans and crumbled Feta
The 2008 Castello di Amorosa Bien Nacido Chardonnay knocked my proverbial wine-socks off! At five years from vintage this was visually beautiful and simply stunning in the glass. Vanilla and spice were the words repeated again and again, however, the 2008 Bien Nacido retained its fruit and was vivid on the palate.
Chardonnay may not be the traditional go-to for Ahi salad, but, a bit of ageing leveled off the acidity and the velvety texture of the avocado played off the creamy notes of the Chardonnay. This was a delicious and luxurious pairing.
Ahi and Avocado Salad with Ponzu
½ cup soy sauce
3 Tbsp. water
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1 Tbsp. grated ginger
1 thinly sliced green onion
1 ½ tsp. lime juice w/ zest to taste
Mix well and pour over cubed Ahi and Avocado