Wine + Cheese Pairing Tour | Castello di Amorosa

During our visit to Castello di Amorosa, Diana and I partook in the Wine + Cheese Pairing tour and it was an experience that we’ll never forget. For 60 USD, we got to pair 5 different cheeses with 9 Castello wines; we also received a private tour of the castle and wine cellars, as well as a barrel tasting. I felt that we definitely got our money’s worth, and would recommend this Wine + Cheese Pairing tour for anyone paying a visit to the Castello.

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I’ve come quite a long way since my first sip of wine and have even graduated to having a preference for smooth whites. However, if you were to ask me which grape provides that, I’d politely direct you to Google or someone with adjectives other than dry and smooth in their arsenal. Give me another 5 years or so, I’ll be speaking in wine enthusiasts’ vernacular.

Castello di Amorosa

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We arrived at the Castello half an hour before our 10:45AM tour, which allowed us some time to check in and walk a bit of the castle. I immediately was filled with so much nostalgia of my European adventures. It’s so wonderful to have that taste of Europe without the expensive plane ticket to get there.

When I first discovered that there was an actual castle in the Napa area, I couldn’t contain my excitement. I texted Diana straight away and practically made the reservation then and there. After looking at the available tour options, we agreed that the Wine + Cheese Pairing tour was right up our alley and booked it a week prior to our trip. Reservations are encouraged. We went on a Sunday, so crowds were inevitable.

Wine + Cheese Pairing Tour

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Our tour began with an introduction to Castello di Amorosa and its history by our tour guide, Steve. We learned that the 13th-century Tuscan style castle is actually much younger than it seems. Seeing the castle yourself, you wouldn’t believe that it opened to the public in 2007! Dario Sattui, the owner and mastermind of the Castello, spent 14 years of his life building the castle. He researched medieval architecture, hired European craftsmen and artisans, and scouted all of Europe for all the furnishing/brick/stone you will find in the castle. You have to commend the man for his attention to detail and the authenticity of it all! We did not have the opportunity to meet him since he was back home in Italy, but according to Steve, he is quite the man.

We then made our way to the main courtyard and continued on to our tour of the castle grounds. The castle itself has a chapel, courtyard, guard towers, and an apartment on the top level. On the winery side of things, it has dozens of metal fermentation chambers, oak-barrel aging facilities, and underground storage areas where the wine can continue the aging process. It’s fairly impressive, as the older wine connoisseurs on our tour made clear with their fascinated “ohhhs” and “ahhhs.”

We also participated in a barrel tasting in the same room where annual dinners for the Cinquecento Cavalieri and other special events take place. It was quite the experience.

Followed by more touring of the Castello, we finally ended up at the Il Passito Room above the Courtyard for our Wine + Cheese Pairing experience.

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As you can see with my cheat sheet above, we tried a selection of red and white wines, which also included some of the Castello’s   special reserve ones. It got a little interesting once the buzz started to kick in; there’s clearly stains from the wine pouring, but it’s all part of the experience. It’s funny how a couple sips of wine can turn a table of strangers into the best of friends, if only for the moment. My favorite was the Pinot Bianco, which was paired with Brie. The other coveted smiley face (not entirely sure why I went with smiley faces instead of 10/10 ratings) went to the last wine we tried, a dessert wine called La Fantasia. Apparently it’s nicknamed the “Baby-maker,” but surprisingly has a lower alcohol content than the rest.

After the Buzz

The entire tour and tasting was approximately two hours. And following this wine pairing, we were all understandably a little bit tipsy, a little more giggly, and a lot more happy. We went into the Castello di Amorosa gift shop and Diana purchased some wine for her family. Once the buzz was gone, we walked around the outside of the castle trying to find the onsite peacock but instead settled for the chickens and goats.

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My experience at the Castello di Amorosa was a great one, and if I’m ever in the Napa area again, I will definitely pay another visit. What an enchanting and romantic place.

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Grazie mille, Castello! Until next time.



Wine Country Weekend

When we were in the planning stages of our stay in San Francisco, we had this crazy idea to rent a car and drive up to beautiful Wine Country for the weekend. Flash forward months later, this dream was made a reality.

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Wine Country

An hour and a half drive north of San Francisco, Wine Country is home to more than 400 wineries. Composed of the Napa, Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino counties, this region is quite the weekend getaway for wine aficionados and the like. And by that I mean novices like myself and Diana. I developed the affinity for wine during my semester abroad in France, but I am by no means an expert. I can only describe wine as dry or smooth, and can you actually impress people with such a limited vocabulary? The answer is no.

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Castello di Amorosa – Calistoga

We began our weekend in Wine Country with a visit was to Castello di Amorosa (that’s Castle of Love in Italian.) Located off of the CA-29 highway, between the towns of St. Helena and Calistoga, this winery/castle is in the northern part of Napa County. This 13th century Tuscan-style castle and winery is quite the beauty, but its backstory is much more impressive. It was actually completed in 2007!

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I won’t spoil the magic for anyone who wants to visit the castle themselves, but it definitely served some medieval realness and had me aching for my impeding return to Europe. You need to check this place out for yourself. And I definitely recommend the Wine and Cheese Pairing tour! I talk more about that experience here.

Robert Mondavi Winery – Napa

After the buzz of our wine tasting at the Castello wore off, we headed over to another highly recommended spot in the Napa Valley – Robert Mondavi Winery.

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We didn’t try any of the wines here, unfortunately. From what I could tell after walking the grounds, it’s an extremely reputable winery and a tasting reservation should be made. After Mondavi, we hopped in the car and made the drive back to Vallejo. Along the way, we stopped in Yountville and downtown Napa for a late lunch.

Cline Cellars – Sonoma

The following day we decided to visit Napa Valley’s more modest twin sister, Sonoma. We began our day at Cline Family Cellars, where we each had a free tasting of five wines. Diana and I have a preference for white wines, so we stuck to their Chardonnays, Roussannes, and Viogniers. Fortunately we got in our tasting before a huge tour of older adults filled up the room. We saw this as our opportunity to walk the grounds and meet their two donkeys.

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As a self-proclaimed city girl, I actually really enjoyed the small town charm of Sonoma. The people are so friendly and the town itself is so alluring. We drove over to their downtown, and I fell in love with the tiny town. Did you know that Sonoma is the birthplace of the California state flag?!

Sweet Scoops Ice Cream – Downtown Sonoma

While exploring the tiny town center, we came across this sweet little ice cream shop called Sweet Scoops. When you first walk in, you can smell the freshly made waffle cones.

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This shop is an Instagrammer’s dream, and the ice cream is pretty good as well. Who am I kidding? The ice cream is amazing! It’s all homemade, and there are vegan options as well. They use coconut milk base for those. I went for mint oreo – mint and cookies n’ cream make the best combo.

Cornerstone – Sonoma

Our last stop was Cornerstone Sonoma – a blogger favorite for its gardens. We were amazed at the nine different gardens which were designed by international and local architects. I think our favorite was the Wishing Garden, where each visitor can write a wish on a single piece of tape.

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And with that, our Wine Country weekend came to an end. We left early the next day to catch a ferry back to San Francisco, then headed over to the airport to catch our flights back to San Diego and Las Vegas.

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I’m extremely fortunate to have spent time exploring Northern California with my best friend, getting lost in the City and getting buzzed in Wine Country. Thanks for having us, NorCal!