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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Castello de Amorosa

Driving into the Napa Valley area always has reminded me of a trip to Italy, but after my recent visit to Castello di Amorosa, outside Calistoga, I am wondering if there isn't a secret passage into Italy when you drive through these gates.

Hidden from view of cars racing by on the St. Helena highway is this modern day recreation of a 10th century Italian Castle. When my friends and I were invited to drive up for a tour and wine tasting, we had no idea what awaited us!

Audrey Hardy, the new Director of Hospitality at Castello di Amorosa, provided us with a personalized tour, touching on all 8 levels (4 above ground, 4 below ground) of the castle; it is absolutely amazing to see the authentic detail, from the roof tiles taken from the remains of actual villas in Italy, to the hand painted frescoes in the Chapel and Banqueting Hall to the wine caves carved out below ground, just as they were in the Dark Ages!

This view could definitely be in Tuscany; the green rolling hills, the lovingly-tended grape vines, and the stone turrets to frame the entire panorama took me back to fond memories of San Gimiaghano, one of my favorite Italian towns.

Jenne Hohn, Jubilee Lau, and Morgan Doan, 3 of my closest friends from the early days of my Wedding Planning business, had a wonderful reunion during our day at Castello di Amorosa.

The Banqueting Hall is furnished with hand-made replicas of the massive tables and chairs found in castles from Italy in the 1200's, and decorated with frescoes, painted by 2 Italian brothers who came over from Italy just for this project.

This is one of the dozens of wine caves, built in a variety of sizes and configurations, where wine is stored, and intimate dinners can be hosted.

The Knights' Room, a larger below-ground option for events, replicates the area where the knights in the days of war between castles, would meet to don their armor, before heading out to battle.

After our extensive walk through the castle, Audrey treated us to a gourmet wine tasting, with 14 varietals, produced and bottled at Castello di Amorosa, as well as a chocolate pairing with their reserve Cabernet Savignon. Wow, what a day...after this, my little group took Audrey out to lunch in Calistoga, where we learned more about her new role as Hostess of a Castle!

I encourage you to make a visit to Castello di Amorosa; most of us can't afford a trip to Italy this year, but a drive up to Calistoga, could easily be with in the budget, and will provide the dose of Italian beauty and culture you may be missing...it did for me! Ciao!


Audrey said...

Thanks for the beautiful write up of our Castello Jean and for visiting us!
Hope to see you here again soon, where Italy meets Napa...

Jean Marks Weddings said...

HI Audrey,

I was going to send this to you to check for accuracy...I am glad you like it, but please let me know if I need to make some changes. It really was like stepping into Italy..I hope you are enjoying your new address, both for home and work! Jean