Napa Valley was somewhat different to how I had pictured it in my head.
Where I come from in South Africa, the vineyards are spaced out and can span for hundreds of acres, and you sometimes need to drive hundreds of kilometers to get to the next one. Napa is a much more condensed area, and in some cases, each vineyard is directly on top of the one next to it. This by no means makes it less picturesque. It is gorgeous. And rather quaint. And such fun driving from vineyard to vineyard – each one with its own unique offering and style.
My personal favourite vineyard in Napa Valley was Castello di Amarosa – a glorious winery that looks like it came straight out of Italy. And by all accounts it might have, as Castello di Amarosa describes itself as an “authentically-built, 13th century inspired Tuscan castle and winery”. A bit of research on the Castello revealed that the property on which Castello di Amorosa stands “was purchased more than two decades ago by Dario Sattui, who came from a winemaking family. With Sattui’s passion for medieval architecture and knowledge of Italian design, the idea to recreate a castle in California was born. Castello di Amorosa was constructed to emulate the authentic 13th-century Tuscan castles owned by Italy’s elite. Every element of design and furnishing was chosen so that visitors can experience the majestic nature of an Italian fortress.” And majestic it is. I spent a glorious morning touring the Castello. From the architecture, right down to the wine tour and the wines, everything was exquisite!
Chateau Montelena was another winery worthy of a mention. Beautiful architecture, ghostly vines swinging from the castle walls, the Chateau resembles an English Gothic castle gatehouse complete with rusticated stone walls. You definitely get the feeling that you’ve gone back in time. I didn’t spend as much time here as I did at Castello di Amarosa, but it’s not as big as the Castello, and not anywhere near as commercialised.
Certainly one of the most commercialised vineyards in Napa to visit is Cakebread Cellars (they probably wouldn’t like me saying that), as this one was by far the busiest venue I visited, with tours happening every 15 minutes. A fun hour ensued with a group of us touring the property and the distillery and sipping on many a wine (or four).
Not one of the wineries I visited left me disappointed, and I left Napa Valley a happy camper, as I made my way to Big Sur and Carmel.