California vintner builds wine castle on hill

By Michelle Locke Published: August 26, 2007
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CALISTOGA, Calif. — Daryl Sattui set out to build a modest, 8,500-square-foot winery. Millions of dollars and 120,000 square feet later, he's king of a wine country castle complete with drawbridge, dungeons and nifty little slots for the old boiling oil trick.

If neighboring Sterling Vineyards decides to make a move, he said, "We'll be ready.”

So far, the chief invaders of Castello di Amorosa — "Castle of Love” — have been tourists and wine lovers, eager to get a look at the 13th century-style Tuscan castle that sits on Diamond Mountain, just south of Calistoga on Highway 29.

No cheesy replica, Castello di Amorosa looks and feels like the real deal.

That's because it is, Sattui said.

The rough-hewn walls and ceilings contain bricks hundreds of years old, all imported from Europe — there are 850,000 in all. Where stone was used, it was hand-carved by stonecutters following traditional methods, which could mean spending an hour and a half on one stone.

Medieval masons used lime in their mortar — so did Sattui. In the old days, lamps were made by hand, each a little bit different, so are his.

"We either used old materials, or we did it the same way it would have been done, not 100 percent, but to the extent, we were able to with modern building codes,” he said.

There are 107 rooms on eight levels, four above ground and four below. Much of the underground space is used for barrel storage, but there is also a pit for disposing of enemies, a Knight's Room decorated with lively frescos and a torture chamber with gruesome replica instruments and one very gruesome, nonreplica, 300-year-old Iron Maiden.

On a sunnier note is the Great Hall, 72 feet long and 22 feet high, decorated with huge frescoes — replicas of medieval Italian paintings that took two Italian artists about a year and a half to complete — and capped by a gilded and beamed ceiling that looks hundreds of years old but isn't.

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