The Dream

“In my mind, everything had to be authentic, or it wouldn’t be worth the effort. Faking it in any way might be all right for others, but I would know the difference, making it a failed attempt to explore my passion for medieval architecture. You simply can’t build an ‘old structure’ using modern techniques and tools. It would look fake, and everyone would realize it’s an imitation. Rather, we were going to build the structure – within the limits of the current building code – using the same techniques medieval builders had relied on eight hundred years ago.”

– Dario Sattui

The Legacy

Castello di Amorosa is the realization of an all-consuming passion. Fourth generation winemaker Dario Sattui built an authentically styled 13th century Tuscan castle winery to honor his Italian heritage and deep love for medieval architecture.

But it all started with wine.

Dario is the great grandson of pioneering vintner Vittorio Sattui, an Italian immigrant who founded St. Helena Wine Cellars in 1885. The Sattui family lived at the winery, even after Prohibition closed the business in 1920. Dario was always fascinated by the stories and photos of the old winery. As a child, he would play in the winery's underground cellars and dream of reviving the family business.

Image on right: 1899, V. Sattui Wine Company in San Francisco’s Mission.

The Vision

His interest in medieval architecture grew into an obsession as he traveled around Europe after college. Dario didn't know it then, but the hours he spent sketching medieval castles, monasteries, palaces, farmhouses, and wineries would one day inspire the blueprints for a visionary undertaking.

Dario returned to the U.S. in 1972, with plans to re-open the family winery that had been dormant for more than 50 years. In 1975, he launched V. Sattui Winery in St. Helena.

Image on left: 1995, Dario at his 10th century “Monastero di Coriano” in Italy.

The Vision

His interest in medieval architecture grew into an obsession as he traveled around Europe after college. Dario didn't know it then, but the hours he spent sketching medieval castles, monasteries, palaces, farmhouses, and wineries would one day inspire the blueprints for a visionary undertaking.

Dario returned to the U.S. in 1972, with plans to re-open the family winery that had been dormant for more than 50 years. In 1975, he launched V. Sattui Winery in St. Helena at the site of his great grandfather's original winery.

Image on left: 1995, Dario at his 10th century “Monastero di Coriano” in Italy.

The Property

With his great grandfather’s legacy firmly in hand, Dario spent the next two decades searching for a dream property in the Napa Valley. In 1993, he finally found the ideal parcel — 171 acres near Calistoga where Colonel William Nash had planted one of California's first vineyards in 1846. Dario bought the property, which had acres of beautiful forest and hills, a stream and a lake, and a great Victorian home where he decided to settle.

"My ideas began to crystallize," he would later write. "I wanted to specialize in making small lots of primarily Italian-style wines and showcase them in an authentic, medieval castle setting where they would be sold directly to the public, not in stores or restaurants."

Image on right: The spectacular view from the castle’s North tower.

The Castle

Dario began construction of Castello di Amorosa winery in 1994.

He first intended to build an 8,500 square foot building without cellars. But gradually the project morphed into a 13th century Tuscan castle spanning 121,000 square feet (three acres) with 107 rooms, four underground levels, and four above-ground levels.

"Determined to make the Castello authentic in every respect, I used only old, hand-made materials and I built it employing the same methods and materials that would have been used 700-800 years ago. You can’t fake something like this. You either do it right or people will know it’s not authentic."

Image on left: 2002, Early construction phase.

The Castle

Dario began construction of Castello di Amorosa winery in 1994.

He first intended to build an 8,500 square foot building without cellars. But gradually the project morphed into a 13th century Tuscan castle spanning 136,000 square feet with 107 rooms (no two rooms alike), four underground levels, and four above-ground levels.

"Determined to make the Castello authentic in every respect, I used only old, hand-made materials and I built it employing the same methods and materials that would have been used 700-800 years ago. You can’t fake something like this. You either do it right or people will know it’s not authentic."

Image on left: 2002, Early construction phase.

The Masterpiece

It took more than 8,000 tons of hand-chiseled local stone and nearly one million antique bricks imported from Europe to complete the castle. More than 200 containers of old materials and furnishings were shipped over from Europe to decorate the interior. The construction took 15 years and opened to the public on April 7, 2007.

Today, Castello di Amorosa is considered an architectural masterpiece with all the elements of an authentic medieval castle: a moat, drawbridge, five towers, high defensive ramparts, courtyards and loggias, a chapel, stables, an armory, and even a torture chamber. 107 rooms in total, no rooms alike.

Containing some of the most beautiful vaulted wine cellars in the world, Castello di Amorosa has fulfilled Dario’s dream of producing superior quality wines with the same love and attention to detail that went into building his castle.

Image on right: Castello di Amorosa seen from the fall-colored vineyards.

Learn More

Read more about Dario’s incredible vision and journey:

> History of the Project Part I

> History of the Project Part II

> History of the Project Part III

Written by Dario Sattui and full of hundreds of lush photos of the magnificent castle and grounds, Castello di Amorosa: A Labor of Love tells the improbable story of the castle’s construction and includes an exclusive tour of the castle that only its creator could deliver.

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About Dario Sattui

Visitors to Castello di Amorosa are stepping into the vision created by Dario Sattui, the great grandson of pioneering Bay Area vintner Vittorio Sattui. Dario had a flair for entrepreneurship, starting his first business in grammar school. After earning an MBA from the University of California at Berkeley in 1969, Dario traveled around Europe and lived out of an old VW van.

In 1972, he returned to the U.S. intent on re-establishing his great grandfather’s legacy at V. Sattui winery. With $8,000 and a novel approach to the wine business, he re-opened V. Sattui Winery in St. Helena in 1975 and turned a profit in the first year of operation.

Armed with his medieval architectural renderings and another passionate dream, Dario created a 121,000 square foot, 13th century, authentically styled Tuscan castle winery he would call Castello di Amorosa (Castle of Love).

Image on right: 2018, Dario Sattui in front of castle door.