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NorCal Wine Blog

Tasting Two Anderson Valley Gewurtztraminer from Castello di Amorosa

Castello di Amorosa is a popular destination for travelers to Napa Valley. Large castles overlooking vineyards get their share of attention even in Europe where they aren’t entirely unusual. In California there is only one authentically-constructed, full-scale wine country castle. A unicorn bounding across Highway 29 wouldn’t surprise unsuspecting tourists much more than Dario Sattui’s homage to medieval Tuscany.

A view from the vineyard of some towers and ramparts at Castello di Amorosa. Photo by Jim Sullivan.

Sattui, founder of the famous and lucrative V. Sattui Winery (and deli) on Highway 29, has been interested in architecture of the Middle Ages since childhood. Interest gradually developed into obsession. It led him to buy a small castle (since sold), a monastery, and a palace, all in Italy, and, eventually, to commission a castle of his own design near Calistoga. He spent more than 10 years and more than his entire fortune having it built. Medieval construction techniques were used and all of the materials were either imported from European ruins or handmade using historical methods. [Dario Sattui tells the full story in three parts at the winery’s website. It’s interesting reading.]

Tourists would make pilgrimages to such a place even if it didn’t offer wine tasting. But it does. Castello di Amoroso is a full-on winery. Many of its underground chambers were designed specifically for barrel-aging wine. In keeping with the Italianate castle design, its wines are made from grape varieties found in Italy. Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino vineyards, some estate-owned, provide the fruit.

Not too long ago, I received samples of three 2011 Castello di Amoroso Gewurtztraminer of different sweetness levels. So far, I’ve tried the off-dry and late harvest wines.

Tasting Notes

The 2011 Castello di Amorosa Gewurtztraminer is an off-dry wine that captures the floral, spicy essence of its variety without going overboard. I’ve had a few Gewurtztraminer, some from Anderson Valley, with rose petal aromatics so strong that they were too reminiscent of my grandmother’s fancy little bath soaps to be an enjoyable drink. Not so this wine from Castello di Amorosa. It’s aromas are pronounced, but balanced. Rose is first to be noticed, but is followed immediately by chai spice, ripe pear and stone fruit, lychee and even a trace of minerality. It’s a pretty and complex wine that I could be happy just sniffing.

Eventually you want to taste it though. Then the wine reveals medium to medium-plus body and generous flavors that match the nose but also include a drop of lemon oil. There is easily perceptible sweetness, but this is still a legitimate table wine. The sweetness and the concentration of flavor will stand up to exotically-spiced foods and also result in a lingering finish. Even more acidity, minerality or subtlety would garner a higher score, but it’s a very solid recommendation as is. Recommended.

2011 Castello di Amorosa Gewurtztraminer, Anderson Valley
Rating: Recommended
Drink: now - 2013
Closure: Cork
Production: 1,100 cases
Retail Price: $23.00

Winemaker: Brooks Painter
Blend: 100% Gewurtztraminer
Origin: Castello di Amorosa estate vineyard, Anderson Valley AVA, Mendocino County
Fermentation: Whole cluster press, cold fermentation in stainless steel with selected yeasts
Aging: Stainless steel
Residual Sugar: 3.9 g/l
Alcohol: 13.5%

Service Recommendations
Decanting: Not recommended
Temperature: 52º - 54º F
Food Pairings: Chicken Koorma, Zereshk Polo


Most vintners do everything they can to avoid rot amongst their grapes, noble or otherwise. The exception is makers of late harvest dessert wines who treasure the complexity, concentration and added sweetness that botrytis cinerea brings. 2011 yielded bumper crops of botrytis-affected grapes in Northern California. It left many growers of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, etc. with no usable fruit whatsoever. But it was a boon for dessert wine specialists. Castello di Amorosa reports that, whereas they normally get botrytized bunches in no more than 35% of their Gewurtztraminer vineyard, 2011 yielded 80%.


The 2011 Castello di Amorosa Late Harvest Gewurtztraminer is dessert in a glass with pronounced yet lovely aromas of rose petal, white flowers, botrytis, peach and grapefruit. The palate is full-bodied and lusciously sweet with a merciful quantity of acidity to lend balance. Flavors of rose petal and white flowers are joined by honey, herb and apricot. They all seemed to last forever in the mouth. Ugly weather spawned a beautiful wine. Highly Recommended.

2011 Castello di Amorosa Late Harvest Gewurtztraminer, Anderson Valley
Rating: Highly Recommended
Drink: now - 2015
Closure: Cork
Production: 2,964 cases
Retail Price: $35.00 per 325ml bottle

Winemaker: Brooks Painter
Blend: 100% Gewurtztraminer, botrytized
Origin: Castello di Amorosa estate vineyard, Anderson Valley AVA, Mendocino County
Fermentation: Whole cluster press, cold fermentation in stainless steel with selected yeasts
Aging: Stainless steel
Residual Sugar: 173 g/l
Alcohol: 11.2%

Service Recommendations
Decanting: Not recommended
Temperature: 52º - 54º F
Food Pairings: This wine stands on its own as a dessert, but will go well with tarte tatin, chocolate desserts, creme brulée or blue cheese.

The wines above were received as review samples.

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This article is original to Copyright 2012 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.


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