In Napa Valley, a majestic, 13th century Tuscan-inspired castle of wine tasting awaits both visitors and locals alike. Castello di Amorosa, originally built just over twenty years ago by Dario Sattui, boasts incredible views of Italian medieval architecture and landscaping, fully equipped with Italian wines and medieval events to match. While the estate is well known for its Italian varietal wines, much like their sister winery V. Sattui, Castello di Amorosa is also highly lauded for a variety of other wines, including their Napa Valley classics like Chardonnay.
This spring, Castello di Amorosa released three new Chardonnays—all unique, small production bottlings that work to highlight the subtle differences in terroir across appellations, even down to individual vineyard sites. Working with fruit from across California, these new releases come from two very different appellations--Napa Valley and Santa Maria Valley, the latter of which is located in Santa Barbara County.
Each Chardonnay possesses varietally true characteristics with varying ranges of oak influence (or lack thereof). Most notably different of the three is the concrete egg fermented and aged Chardonnay—named La Rocca—which showcases the beauty of the fruit from the historic Bien Nacido Vineyard in Santa Maria Valley. The other two bottlings are made in a more classic California Chardonnay style with a moderate amount of oak; one is made from Napa Valley fruit and the other from Santa Maria Valley fruit.
2013 Chardonnay, Napa Valley
Barrel-fermented in Burgundian barrels with 40% undergoing malolactic fermentation, and then aged on lees in 50% new oak for ten months, this Chardonnay is full, round and rich. The Napa Valley sun plus the cool climate of Los Carneros (where the grapes are grown) creates a tropical nose full of kiwi and pineapple, followed by green apple, salted lemon, wet rocks, minerality and baked bread. The palate exhibits a medium body and delightful balance between rich, round textures and bright acidity. Fruit and spice commingle with flavors of green apple mixing with ginger, vanilla and baking spice. In the background, baked bread and minerality provide contrast to the fruit and spice, giving the wine many layers of structure and complexity. This Chardonnay is an instant Napa Valley classic and would be a fantastic addition to any refreshing summer meal that involves seafood and rich sauces.
2013 Bien Nacido Vineyard Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley
Made in the same exact style as the Napa Valley Chardonnay, this beauty from the iconic Bien Nacido Vineyard in Santa Maria Valley shows just how big of a difference an appellation can make. With the same barrel fermentation and aging, the terroir of the Bien Nacido Vineyard creates a completely different wine than that of the one made from Napa Valley fruit. A cool climate and unique soil types create a nose that boasts aromas of green apple, salted lemon, honey dew, lemon meringue, banana and vanilla pudding. On the palate, there is a significant amount of spiced ginger that brightens the lovely crispness and acidity; under-ripe honey dew also abounds, enmeshing with the layers of spiced ginger. These complex flavors are all enveloped in a smooth body and a long finish—an excellent choice for those looking for a Chardonnay with nice acidity and desirable spice.
2013 La Rocca Bien Nacido Vineyard Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley
For a completely different experience, the same Bien Nacido Vineyard is harvested for La Rocca, which is fermented and aged in a single concrete egg tank on lees for ten months. With no oak influence, the aromatics, flavors and textures are completely unique compared to the other two Chardonnays. Pineapple, green apple, green mango, banana and banana cream pie hover above the glass beautifully; the palate is filled with layers of fruit and spice, wrapped up in creamy, round textures that fill every inch of the palate. Under-ripe pineapple and green apple dominate with notes of wet rocks and cinnamon in the background. The acidity is gentle but still gives the right amount of contrast to the creamy texture—overall bringing great balance to this pure, unique wine. This Chardonnay is the perfect choice for those who aren’t a fan of oak-aged Chardonnay; it is fresh and incredibly delicious, showcasing the terroir and the high quality grapes that it produces.
Visiting Castello di Amorosa
To enjoy Chardonnay from Castello di Amorosa, or any of their other fine wines, it is absolutely worth visiting the castle for wine tasting. The grounds are stunning, the views are incomparable, and the Tuscan-style castle is unlike anything you have every seen in Napa Valley. Complete with guided tours and tastings, a food and wine pairing tour, and a cheese and wine pairing tour, Castello di Amorosa has the right experience for every visitor.
*Originally published on Examiner.com.