A California millionaire built a massive ’13th-century Italian castle’ in the middle of wine country in the US — take a look inside

Castello di amorosa napa valley castle

Napa Valley has been called the Disneyland of wine country, with good reason. It’s essentially a boozy amusement park for adults, with elite wineries and resorts packed along a highway.

Another reason for the comparison: The region has its own medieval castle.

Nestled in the rolling hills of Castiloga, California, Castello di Amorosa is a world-class winery based out of a replica of a 13th-century Tuscan castle. The owner, Dario Sattui, is a fourth-generation wine-maker and ardent Italophile who spent $US40 million to bring a slice of the old country to Napa Valley. At 142,000-square feet, the castle took more than a decade to build.

We recently took a guided tour of Castello di Amorosa. Here’s what it was like.

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[slide
permalink=”/#castello-di-amorosa-looks-like-a-13th-century-castle-in-the-italian-countryside-1″
title=”Castello di Amorosa looks like a 13th-century castle in the Italian countryside.”
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image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/599cb297289cc61f008b4707″
source=”Melia Robinson/Business Insider”
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[slide
permalink=”/#and-it-is-sort-of-owner-dario-sattui-once-wrote-castello-di-amorosa-appears-to-be-an-authentic-castle-for-one-reason-only-it-is-an-authentic-castle-though-fancified-2″
title=”And it is — sort of. Owner Dario Sattui once wrote, ‘Castello di Amorosa appears to be an authentic castle for one reason only. It is an authentic castle, though fancified.'”
content=”Source: Castello di Amorosa
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/599cb282289cc61e008b4701″
source=”Melia Robinson/Business Insider”
caption=”Banners marking the 10th anniversary of the completion of Castello di Amorosa hang on the exterior walls.”
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[slide
permalink=”/#in-the-early-1990s-sattui-already-an-established-wine-maker-bought-the-land-with-plans-to-replant-a-vineyard-on-the-property-and-build-an-8500-square-foot-winery-3″
title=”In the early 1990s, Sattui — already an established wine-maker — bought the land with plans to replant a vineyard on the property and build an 8,500-square-foot winery.”
content=”His fascination with Old World Italian architecture took over and Sattui began to draw up plans for a more grandiose winery. He spent years visiting and studying medieval castles and wineries throughout Italy and Europe, as part of an exhaustive quest for authenticity. Sattui wanted every detail — from the drawbridge to the dungeon — to mimic 13th-century structures.

He hired master builders from five countries to bring his vision to life.”
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/599cb298614d791c008b475a”
source=”Melia Robinson/Business Insider”
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[slide
permalink=”/#i-ended-up-spending-everything-i-had-sold-all-my-stock-had-to-borrow-money-from-wells-fargo-i-just-hope-i-dont-go-broke-sattui-said-at-the-time-of-the-castles-opening-in-2007-4″
title=”‘I ended up spending everything I had, sold all my stock, had to borrow money from Wells Fargo. I just hope I don’t go broke,’ Sattui said at the time of the castle’s opening in 2007.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/599cb281289cc6b8038b4658″
source=”Melia Robinson/Business Insider”
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[slide
permalink=”/#castello-di-amorosa-became-one-of-the-most-profitable-operations-in-wine-country-5″
title=”Castello di Amorosa became one of the most profitable operations in wine country.”
content=”In addition to hosting wine tastings and tours, which start at $US25 per person, the company sells more than 50,000 cases of wine direct-to-consumer each year, with no other distribution.

I joined a guided tour and premium wine tasting for $US40 on a recent Friday afternoon.”
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/599cb281614d794f018b46ec”
source=”Melia Robinson/Business Insider”
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permalink=”/#one-of-the-first-details-our-tour-guide-thomas-pointed-out-was-this-crooked-tower-during-construction-county-officials-wanted-10-feet-skimmed-off-the-castles-height-to-comply-with-building-codes-sattui-asked-his-crew-to-do-so-in-a-haphazard-manner-so-the-tower-would-look-battle-worn-6″
title=”One of the first details our tour guide, Thomas, pointed out was this crooked tower. During construction, county officials wanted 10 feet skimmed off the castle’s height to comply with building codes. Sattui asked his crew to do so in a haphazard manner so the tower would look battle-worn.”
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image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/599cb283289cc620008b46f5″
source=”Melia Robinson/Business Insider”
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[slide
permalink=”/#fermentation-tanks-sit-outside-drawing-a-stark-contrast-to-the-brick-castle-walls-castello-di-amoroso-contains-nearly-one-million-antique-bricks-from-torn-down-austrian-palaces-7″
title=”Fermentation tanks sit outside, drawing a stark contrast to the brick castle walls. Castello di Amoroso contains nearly one million antique bricks from torn-down Austrian palaces.”
content=”Source: Castillo di Amoroso
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/599cb281614d7928008b473b”
source=”Melia Robinson/Business Insider”
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[slide
permalink=”/#the-castle-includes-107-rooms-in-all-90-are-devoted-to-winemaking-and-wine-storage-8″
title=”The castle includes 107 rooms in all — 90 are devoted to winemaking and wine storage.”
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image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/599cb284289cc620008b46f6″
source=”Melia Robinson/Business Insider”
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[slide
permalink=”/#we-found-french-oak-barrels-around-every-corner-the-caves-located-underground-offer-an-ideal-environment-for-aging-wine-with-cool-constant-temperatures-and-high-humidity-9″
title=”We found French oak barrels around every corner. The caves, located underground, offer an ideal environment for ageing wine with cool, constant temperatures and high humidity.”
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image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/599cb283614d794f018b46ed”
source=”Melia Robinson/Business Insider”
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[slide
permalink=”/#the-barrels-are-so-cumbersome-to-move-around-its-easier-for-winemakers-to-fill-them-in-the-caves-they-pour-wine-through-very-clean-hoses-attached-to-holding-tanks-thomas-said-10″
title=”The barrels are so cumbersome to move around, it’s easier for winemakers to fill them in the caves. They pour wine through ‘very clean’ hoses attached to holding tanks, Thomas said.”
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image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/599cb283614d7928008b473c”
source=”Melia Robinson/Business Insider”
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[slide
permalink=”/#this-13th-century-locker-room-is-where-knights-would-dress-in-armor-and-prepare-for-battle-11″
title=”This 13th-century locker room is where knights would dress in armour and prepare for battle.”
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source=”Melia Robinson/Business Insider”
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[slide
permalink=”/#we-passed-a-chamber-where-sattui-keeps-hundred-year-old-wine-bottles-from-the-familys-original-winery-theyve-been-passed-down-through-four-generations-of-winemakers-12″
title=”We passed a chamber where Sattui keeps hundred-year-old wine bottles from the family’s original winery. They have been passed down through four generations of winemakers.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/599cb286289cc620008b46f7″
source=”Melia Robinson/Business Insider”
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[slide
permalink=”/#a-popular-stop-on-the-guided-tour-is-the-torture-room-a-staple-of-medieval-castles-13″
title=”A popular stop on the guided tour is the torture room —  a staple of medieval castles.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/599cb287289cc6b8038b4659″
source=”Melia Robinson/Business Insider”
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[slide
permalink=”/#there-are-two-original-artifacts-in-the-torture-room-interrogators-would-strap-their-prisoners-into-this-prickly-chair-and-light-a-fire-underneath-causing-them-to-squirm-14″
title=”There are two original artifacts in the torture room. Interrogators would strap their prisoners into this prickly chair and light a fire underneath, causing them to squirm.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/599cb28d614d794f018b46f0″
source=”Melia Robinson/Business Insider”
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[slide
permalink=”/#the-iron-maiden-from-the-late-renaissance-was-one-used-to-confine-prisoners-it-contained-spikes-and-sharp-nails-that-people-would-impale-themselves-on-as-they-grew-weary-15″
title=”The Iron Maiden from the late Renaissance was one used to confine prisoners. It contained spikes and sharp nails that people would impale themselves on as they grew weary.”
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image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/599cb28d614d7927008b473e”
source=”Melia Robinson/Business Insider”
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[slide
permalink=”/#at-last-we-arrived-in-the-grand-barrel-cellar-the-crown-jewel-of-castello-di-amorosa-the-12000-square-foot-room-took-two-years-to-build-largely-because-of-its-vaulted-ceilings-16″
title=”At last we arrived in the grand barrel cellar, the crown jewel of Castello di Amorosa. The 12,000-square-foot room took two years to build, largely because of its vaulted ceilings.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/599cb28f614d791b008b471c”
source=”Melia Robinson/Business Insider”
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[slide
permalink=”/#the-precise-level-of-detail-was-something-to-behold-17″
title=”The precise level of detail was something to behold.”
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image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/599cb290289cc61f008b4705″
source=”Melia Robinson/Business Insider”
caption=””
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[slide
permalink=”/#then-came-the-best-part-of-the-tour-wine-tasting-thomas-poured-glasses-of-the-2013-cabernet-sauvignon-napa-valley-a-wine-bursting-with-aromas-of-cassis-and-mushroom-18″
title=”Then came the best part of the tour —  wine tasting! Thomas poured glasses of the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley, a wine bursting with aromas of cassis and mushroom.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/599cb291614d7927008b473f”
source=”Melia Robinson/Business Insider”
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[slide
permalink=”/#it-tasted-much-more-earthy-than-the-cabernet-i-tried-at-another-winery-in-napa-earlier-that-day-i-prefer-my-red-wines-fruity-but-i-appreciated-this-one-for-its-differences-19″
title=”It tasted much more earthy than the Cabernet I tried at another winery in Napa earlier that day. I prefer my red wines fruity, but I appreciated this one for its differences.”
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image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/599cb28f614d7928008b473e”
source=”Melia Robinson/Business Insider”
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[slide
permalink=”/#we-walked-past-the-gift-shop-which-is-decorated-with-frescos-painted-by-italian-artists-20″
title=”We walked past the gift shop, which is decorated with frescos painted by Italian artists.”
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image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/599cb292289cc637008b46f4″
source=”Melia Robinson/Business Insider”
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[slide
permalink=”/#-and-we-entered-a-premium-area-for-wine-tasting-21″
title=”… And we entered a premium area for wine tasting.”
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source=”Melia Robinson/Business Insider”
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[slide
permalink=”/#each-tour-group-is-sequestered-in-a-small-cellar-where-they-enjoy-a-complimentary-tasting-of-five-current-release-wines-from-castello-di-amorosa-22″
title=”Each tour group is sequestered in a small cellar, where they enjoy a complimentary tasting of five current-release wines from Castello di Amorosa.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/59921f86b0e0b5db008b4eda”
source=”Melia Robinson/Business Insider”
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[slide
permalink=”/#visitors-could-also-buy-a-small-box-of-pairing-chocolates-for-about-5-23″
title=”Visitors could also buy a small box of pairing chocolates for about $5.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/599cb292289cc61f008b4706″
source=”Melia Robinson/Business Insider”
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[slide
permalink=”/#throughout-the-tasting-people-scribbled-notes-on-the-menus-provided-taking-note-of-the-italian-style-wines-they-wanted-to-pick-up-from-the-gift-shop-after-the-tour-24″
title=”Throughout the tasting, people scribbled notes on the menus provided, taking note of the Italian-style wines they wanted to pick up from the gift shop after the tour.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/599cb293614d7928008b473f”
source=”Melia Robinson/Business Insider”
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[slide
permalink=”/#castello-di-amorosa-is-one-of-the-most-unique-experiences-you-can-find-in-napa-valley-its-a-tourist-trap-but-still-worth-a-visit-25″
title=”Castello di Amorosa is one of the most unique experiences you can find in Napa Valley. It’s a tourist trap, but still worth a visit.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/599cb299614d7928008b4741″
source=”Melia Robinson/Business Insider”
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[slide
permalink=”/#i-never-had-the-intention-to-build-a-tourist-trap-sattui-told-the-st-helena-star-what-i-wanted-was-to-build-something-unique-something-beautiful-something-authentic-something-i-personally-love-and-i-was-hoping-that-other-people-would-respond-to-it-as-well-and-they-have-26″
title=”‘I never had the intention to build a tourist trap,’ Sattui told the St. Helena Star. ‘What I (wanted) was to build something unique, something beautiful, something authentic, something I personally love, and I was hoping that other people (would) respond to it as well and they have.'”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/599cb287614d7928008b473d”
source=”Melia Robinson/Business Insider”
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