Winemaking starts in the vineyards, and here we strive to manage the quality and flavor of the grapes so that they exhibit all the qualities and complexities we are looking for. Virtually all the Castle's vineyards are on hillsides as hillside quality is usually far superior to valley floor grapes. Due to the steep nature of the terrain our vineyards are primarily hand-farmed. To promote quality, vineyard yields are kept to an absolute minimum, averaging barely two and a half tons an acre, roughly 60% of most Napa Valley vineyards; for the lower grape yield the more intensely flavored the berries are.
We use a “Sustainable” approach to managing vineyard pests and diseases in the vineyards. What this means is that we continually strive to minimize our “carbon footprint”, promote a complex vineyard environment with diverse habitat and species, and reduce any impact from farming on the local environment.
Small rodents (Gophers and moles) eat vine roots and can cause serious damage, even killing some vines. We totally eliminated any use of rodent poisons many years ago, and now only use mechanical traps to control the rodents. We also try to attract predatory birds to our vineyards by placing nesting boxes for owls and perches for raptors in the vineyards. This provides a desirable habitat for local predatory owls and hawks, reducing the need for rodent control even further. The owls find the boxes and move in to raise their young, and the hawks are always looking for a suitable “perch” to survey their hunting territory. Because the hawks hunt during the day and the owls hunt at night, together they provide a natural hunting pressure “24/7” on the rodents, which is very effective.
Insects that feed on grapes (such as mites, leafhoppers and blue-green sharpshooters) can cause significant damage to vines. When these populations are out of balance with their natural predatory insect species the damage can become quite severe. To help keep the insect populations in balance we plant many kinds of cover crops in the vineyards, legumes such as clover and vetch, and oats, grasses and other vegetation. This provide suitable habitat for beneficial predatory insects (such as wasps, spiders and ladybugs) and reduces or eliminates the need for insecticides.
The cover crops also play an important role in stabilizing hillsides by controlling soil erosion, controlling noxious weeds and by adding nutrients and organic material directly back to the soil they enrich the soil micro-environment. They also are a tool for reducing soil moisture, thereby controlling vine vigor better flavor development in the grapes.
We are continually re-evaluating our approach and looking for new ways to enhance the vineyard environment for sustainable farming. For our next steps we are considering nesting boxes for songbirds, bat colony boxes (bats eat a lot of insects --up to 25 percent of their body weight per night), compost and other wildlife habitat to control harmful insects to eventually eliminate all insecticides and chemical fertilizers from our vineyards.
We strive to harvest all of our grapes at peak flavor development and maturity, followed by time-honored winemaking techniques such as hand-sorting the grape harvest, “punching-down” our red wines in open top tanks instead of pumping must, oak aging in small French barrels in the desired humidity and temperatures found in underground caves and cellars, all designed to maintain and promote the natural flavors and characteristics of the grapes.
Our white wines are made using “whole cluster” pressing techniques with clear separation of “free run” juice from all “press” juice to maintain the most delicate balance in the finished wines. We employ cold temperature fermentations with specialty yeast that maintain aromatics and promote varietal character retention. Barrel fermentation is used on our dry whites using only the finest French oak casks, in combination with “Batonnage” (a gentle weekly stirring of the yeast sediment, or “lees” during aging).
All red grapes are transported and handled via belts to provide the gentlest processing possible. We hand-sort much of our red grapes to ensure that only fully ripened, whole grape clusters make it into the crusher. Our goal is to move must and wine via gravity, with as little pumping as possible, and our small-lot open top fermenting tanks allow us to fill the red tanks without the use of pumps. After fermentation we use a gentle transfer method to bring the pomace (spent skins and seeds) to the wine press, assuring limited extraction of harsh flavors and promoting silky smooth tannins. Again, ‘free run” is often separated from “press wine” and aged separately, with a goal of targeting a perfect balance of tannin and flavor in the finished wines.
The new red wines are allowed to settle briefly and then racked to barrels with “light yeast lees” and grape solids to promote a natural secondary, malo-lactic fermentation in barrel. This slow, secondary fermentation enhances the integration of the oak and grape aromas and helps to fix the red wine color. Barrels are selected based upon stylistic goals for each varietal and also to enhance the varietal, vineyard character and flavor profiles of the wines. After malo-lactic the wines are racked and the first of many opportunities for blending and consolidation of small individual lots take place. The wine is then returned to barrel for the extended barrel aging process.
The cave and subterranean cellars provide ideal aging conditions for our wines, with year-round, stable temperatures of 58-60 degrees F and naturally high humidity of 80%. The barrels are “nested” on runners in the traditional manner of many fine French chateaux and the castles of Italy. The multitude of small rooms in the cellar allow us to maintain numerous small lots separately to observe their evolution and flavor development during aging, and to carefully assemble the blends closer to their final maturity and bottling date.
Our unique bottling line includes a “counter-pressure” filling system, the finest method for filling bottles while minimizing the possibility of any oxidation during the process. The wines are then bottle-aged prior to release, allowing time for further flavor development in the bottle. White wines may be aged in the bottle for one to two years prior to release, with many of our red wines seeing 3-4 years of bottle age before release for public consumption.
Castello di Amorosa combines traditional wine making methods with technologically advanced wine making equipment and techniques. As a result, the wines show intense flavors that are eloquently balanced and similar to the hand-crafted wines produced in central Tuscany and Umbria regions of Italy- the homeland of Dario Sattui, owner and fourth generation Italian American.
Positioned to take full advantage of warm, morning sun, our up-valley, high elevation hillside vineyards are located in the heart of the Napa Valley’s Diamond Mountain District, a grape growing area know for its rich, powerful red wine.
Enjoy Castello di Amorosa wines with a variety of foods from around the world. Each is unique, evocative and truly Italian-style.