Classe del Maestro alla Castello
Headed up the Saint Helena Highway north of Napa city limits, the countryside gradually changes from wine country chic to something closer to the resembling the farming community it is. By the time you reach Calistoga, much of the extravagance has worn clean.
Until you reach Castello di Amorosa.
Fifteen years in the making, the Castello is an authentically-styled and built 13th century medieval Tuscan style castle. The buildings span 107 rooms across 121,000 sq. ft. During my day at the castle, I visited courtyards, towers, battlements, roman baths, a medieval chapel, a four story subterranean labyrinth, a torture chamber, the Grand Barrel Room with 40 foot Roman cross-vaulted brick ceilings, and a gift shop cum tasting room.
Most impressive visually was the Great Hall with hand painted frescoes inspired by Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s Buon Governo in Siena. It was in the Great Hall that we met the leaders of our day’s lecture - Trends in Italian Varietals in California.
The Castello had assembled a who’s who of Italian wine knowledge for an intimate conversation, tasting and lunch. I was lucky enough to tag along.
Glenn Salva shared a 2009 Antinori Tignanello from Florence and contrasted it with a 2010 Antica Sangiovese from Napa. The Antonoris have ben making wine in Italy for 25 generations, and are now establishing the Antica brand for their US properties.
Bob Pepi, a godfather of the valley and consulting wine maker to Andretti shared a 2009 Andretti Napa Valley Sangiovese and a 2010 Napa Valley Super Tuscan. Bob’s own vineyard was one of the first to plant Sangiovese in Napa more than 20 years ago.
Sebastiano Rosa, straight off the plane from Italy brought a 2010 Montessu, a 2009 Barrua, and a dazzling 2009 Sassicaia to the party. Sebastiano’s grandfather was the first to grow Cabernet Sauvignon in Italy - proving that the experimentation flows both directions.
Brooks Painter from Castello di Amorosa poured their 2008 La Castellana. The “Woman of the Castle” is a darling Super Tuscan at $66.
Each region has it’s style for italian varietals, and the California wine country is making strides at producing a bottle that is demanded. But after much discussion, the panel came to the conclusion that there is something special about Italy that cant be reproduced in Napa. It all comes down to flitered light, shitty soil, and embracing the old ways of wine making which produce consistent winners from that region of the world.