Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Castello di Amorosa: A Taste of Italy in California

How many wineries do you know which possess their own medieval torture chamber? You can find one at Castello di Amorosa in the Napa Valley, a winery with its own authentic Tuscan castle. Maybe they need the rack, iron maiden and other torture implements to handle unruly guests in their tasting room?

The origins of the Castello di Amorosa winery extend back to the late 19th century. In 1885, Vittorio Sattui, an Italian immigrant, established the V. Sattui winery in San Francisco. Prohibition put an end to the winery yet it would be resurrected fifty years later by Dario Sattui, his great grandson, in 1972. Dario reopened V.Sattui in St. Helena and it did well enough that Dario was able to expand. He bought a property in Calistoga in 1993 and then started construction of a Tuscan castle and winery, which opened in 2007.

Castello di Amorosa specializes in Italian style wines, though they make some standard wines too, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. It is their Italian-style wines though which intrigue me and I recently received some media samples of several of their wines. Unfortunately, their wines may be difficult for others to locate as they only sell them directly to the public. They are not available in wine stores or restaurants, and do not currently ship to Massachusetts. However, these wines are worth seeking out if you can find a means of acquiring them, such as a friend in New Hampshire or Connecticut.

The 2011 Dolcino Gewurtztraminer ($24) is made from 100% Gewurztraminer, a blend of estate fruit and some purchased fruit. The term Dolcino is an Italian diminutive for being "lightly sweet," which reflects the style of this wine. The wine is aged only in stainless steel, has an alcohol content of 12%, and about 1849 cases were produced. This wine has a typical Gewurztraminer profile, both aromas and flavors, but is slightly sweet. It is a well made wine, balanced and complex, and is an excellent companion to spicy Asian fare. It tastes more European than California, and I recommend it.

The Italian word Gioia means Joy and the 2011 Gioia Rosato di Sangiovese ($24) brought me much Joy! This Rosé, made from 100% Sangiovese, was aged only in stainless steel, has an alcohol content of 13.1%, and about 1642 cases were produced. First, the alluring aromas, bright fruits, tantalized my nose and once I tasted it, the melange of complex flavors thrilled my palate. Strawberry, plum, raspberry, cherry, mild citrus and herbal hints. Dry, crisp acidity, and a satisfying finish. An excellent food wine, and something you can enjoy year round. Drink one glass and I bet you finish the entire bottle that same day. Highly recommended.

The 2009 Sangiovese ($30) is a blend of 90% Sangiovese and 10% Merlot, and I had high hopes for this wine after my experience with the Rosato. It didn't let me down. The wine is aged for 18 months in French oak, has an alcohol content of 14.5%, and about 3531 cases were produced. Again, the aromas were seductive, bright cherry, herbs and spices, and it tasted wonderful. A complex blend of flavors, including black cherry, plum, spices, vanilla and mild herbal notes with a tinge of earthiness. A lengthy finish, smooth tannins and a wine that made you crave more and more. It reminded me more of a traditional Sangiovese style than a modern one. Another highly recommended wine.

Castellana means "The Lady of the Castle" and the 2008 La Castellana ($68) is a Super Tuscan-style blend, containing 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, and 14% Sangiovese. The wine is aged for 20 months in French oak, has an alcohol content of 14.6%, and about 1634 cases were produced. There are two basic styles of Super Tuscan blends: a Chianti style (heavy on the Sangiovese) and a more Bordeaux style (usually heavier on Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot). I have a strong preference for the more Sangiovese heavy Super Tuscans, such as the Isole e Olena Cepparello and the Fontodi Flaccianello.

Thus, the Castellana wasn't the type of Super Tuscan that I usually gravitate to, but I found it to be an excellent wine. It is a complex and intense wine, yet the tannins are manageable and it doesn't pulverize you with its flavors. Dark berries, black cherry, a little tartness, a rich spiciness and hints of mocha. A lingering finish is very pleasant, and it probably would be best with a hearty dish, from a juicy steak to a Bolognese Tagliatelle. I would love to see what Castello could do with a more Sangiovese heavy Super Tuscan.

The next time I am in Napa, I will have to visit Castello di Amorosa, to taste more of their wines, and o hopefully catch a peek at their torture chamber.

1 comment:

Just a girl said...

You make them all sound so delightful!