Daryl Sattui, the man behind the popular Napa Valley winery, V. Sattui, recently opened a second winery in the valley, Castello di Amorosa. Located on the outskirts of Calistoga–the northern most town in the valley, the winery opened earlier this month after more than a decade of construction. For those who haven’t been regularly reading this blog, Castello di Amorosa is an authentic medieval castle (that produces a variety of wines) planted firmly in the heart of one of the the modern world’s most famous winemaking regions.
Having met Sattui the day his new winery opened, we’ve since had the opportunity to ask him a few questions for posting here. Read on to find out Sattui’s biggest surprise, favorite aspect of the castle and how he responds to the criticism that the castle is about tourism and not winemaking.
CB: The process of building Castello di Amorosa was some 14 years long. What was the most surprising thing you learned in that long process?
Sattui: The most surprising thing I learned during the nearly 14 years was that I could actually pull it off and make an authentic medieval castle. Others have tried and failed. I believe I succeeded. Prior to the castle I have only built a dog house, a rabbit hutch and a chicken house, nothing more. Although I have always loved architecture.
CB: Castello di Amorosa is now officially open for business. How does it feel?
Sattui: It is difficult to make the transition from builder to winery manager. It feels strange after all these years, a third of my adult life.
CB: The castle has some amazing art and architecture, among other things. At this point in time, what is your favorite aspect of the castle and why?
Sattui: My favorite parts are the Great Hall with its rich, vibrant frescoes and massive 500 year old fireplace; the main tasting room all cross vaulted in old, handmade brick with its travertine bar and the main barrel cellar Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 12,000 square feet, 14 foot high ceilings and 40 crossed vaulted bays with ribbing in handmade brick. It is truly impressive.
CB: Some would argue that Castello di Amorosa is more a tourist attraction than a winery. How would you respond?
Sattui: The building is so beautiful and authentic that I am afraid the building may overshadow the wines for some people, and I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want this, for the wines are really good. I love all things Italian, being one: the people, the nature, the food and especially the architecture and the wines, and I wanted to create a beautiful, authentic environment to make great wines. Many of the best wines in Europe are made in castles–Antinori has two for instance. We put the same care into our wines we put into the winery itself. The castle is only a backdrop to showcase our wines. Further, there has been so much bad architecture in the US that I tried to do something that might be admired far into the future.
CB: What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
Sattui: I am passionate about what I do, and money is not the first consideration for me. Passion is. Most people said I would fail with my first winery V. Sattui, and they had probability on their side. I knew nearly nothing about wine and had no money in a very capital intensive business. Many say the castle is a foolish investment. And it probably is. But I didn’t create Castello di Amorosa for a return on investment Ã¢â‚¬â€œ I did it to make great wine, to have fun and to meet interesting people. I was born with no money, and I don’t mind dying with none. At this stage of my life what do I need the money for anyway? I have always more or less lived modestly, and I probably won’t change any time soon. I also did it to honor my peasant forebearers who came to this country with nothing and made something of themselves with hard work.
CB: Thanks Daryl, very good stuff!