“What is it you do for a living?” asks my 12 year old. I was owner of a web design business for the past 10 years and my kids could wrap their heads around this job description easily. I also imported & sold ergonomic chairs for several years across the U.S. Easy to explain.
Recently however, I have decided to focus my marketing skills on the wine and food industry exclusively. This allows me to head down a career path that was already a large part of my lifestyle. Focusing on my freelance writing and lecturing allows me time to concentrate on my studies and complete earning my CWE credentials.
Obviously my daughters have noticed quite a shift in my daily tasks. Wine Country provides many events and venues for kids. When it comes to children, I believe, the lesson is better learned to involve them in it than just to tell them about it. Time to visit some family and child friendly wineries. Cheers to that.
What better way to impress a child than to visit a castle in California. As Cassidy stated, “usually you would have to go to Ireland or England for that kind of place.” With 107 rooms including four separate levels underground and four levels above, there was quite a lot of stone work and planning involved in the construction. I understand from talking with another local visiting that the original castle plans were much smaller.
Construction started in 1994 by landowner Dario Sattui and owner of the local winery V. Sattui. The castle itself is styled authentically from the 13th century. I hadn’t been to the castle in years and there was not much of a line upon entrance on a Sunday afternoon. Although there was a lot of signage explaining the castle, wines and owner, there was not much explanation of the different ticket prices. We opted for the self guided tour for $19 which included the tasting for each. One child and one adult.
My daughter had read about the chocolate tasting and was looking forward to it. Being a teenager, she had also checked out photos online and was intrigued by the idea of a “torture chamber”. “No way” was her response.
At the register, the woman handed me a map and said thanks. I was a bit shocked that I hadnt been given any instruction or asked any questions.
Where’s the value added items to add to my ticket? Being from Wine Country, I was perplexed. Although I never think of Napa as being pushy when it comes to sales, I do think that most wine country employees are good at explaining the experience and also being able to sell a thing or two.
I had to at least try and fix the situation and inquired as to whether she had any tips or a good place to start our wandering. She looked surprised and said to try going down the south tower to start. We wandered out and Cassidy opened the map. We started our tour by wandering through the big double doors at the end of the walkway.
This led through an outdoor kitchen area where the Great Hall Dining Room is located and into an open courtyard. There were flights of stairs up and down to various rooms from here. The Castello Great Hall itself is stunning with walls covered in authentic re-creations of the 13th century time period. Massive chandeliers, huge walk-in fireplace and of course once notices the enormous dining table. Walking back through the outdoor kitchen, we entered an outdoor courtyard.
Featured here and all around the castle property are various historical winery items. From basket presses to wine openers to old barrels, it is nice that they choose to display these items along with informational plaques about the time period. There are tables and chairs to relax, have a bite to eat and of course sip some wine.
We arrived in late afternoon and the lighting was beautiful on the stone with some of the courtyard in shade and the other half still basking in the light of the sun. Redwood trees rising up the hillside behind the castle as a backdrop wasn’t too shabby either.
I was excited to visit the Fattoria since I had heard tell of the yummy grapeseed oil tastings and I am a big fan so we headed across the courtyard.
It was closed. Alright. On to the next and keeping a positive attitude. Cassidy is after chocolate anyway…haha.
Cassidy whipped out the map and details and to the dismay of our positive attitudes, we learned more about our “Self-Guided” Tour. We soon realized that each one of the rooms that we had wanted to see were only available for guests on the “Guided” Tours. This only costs an additional $14 and if someone had explained this we would have been more than willing to upgrade.
Seeing the disappointment in my daughters face, I opted for a sometimes standard vacation parent response to frowns…bribery. I suggested we head downstairs and try the tasting room for chocolate and wine for me, grape juice flights for her.
On the way, we stopped in to see the Castello’s Chapel which was impressive and had a small confessional booth in the corner where a couple of children were playing. Cute. We lit a candle and donated some money (all proceeds go to local charities) and headed downstairs.
What a cute idea to offer a tasting experience for kids of various grape juices while the parents enjoy a sip or two. Parents, always remember to have a designated driver. I cannot tell you the number of times I am shocked to watch parents sipping alongside the kids and swallowing the wine. Crazy.
Since I was the only parent present, I opted to taste only one and that was the 2009 Cabernet I had heard raves about. Robert Parker had given it 91 pts recently and they were offering a good discount. Cassidy had a white and a red…which she commented was purple not red like we all kept telling her…cute.
We had a handsome gentlemen named Domenico as our server and the well tailored suit and accent sure did help with the handsome aspect. He presented the cabernet beautifully and gave us details.
Although charming, there was a little of a language barrier as I several times asked about the chocolate tasting and he smiled and did not seem to understand and explained more about the wines. He was well versed on the wide range of bottles and varietals at Castello di Amorosa.
Cassidy was frustrated that he did not seem to understand that we wanted to taste chocolate so we decided to wander through the many rooms of the gift shop and tasting area and scope out some cocoa ourselves. We were greeted and asked if we need help by several employees which was nice and were able to locate some wonderful bars of Castello brand chocolate. Sea salt dark chocolate was our definite favorite overall.
Through the nice people who worked there, we were also able to find out that if we had purchased the additional chocolate tasting, it would have stated on our tickets was most likely why our friend Domenico did not understand our need for chocolate.
Turns out that the tasting option was only $4 extra for yummy belgian chocolates. Cassidy was content with the chocolate I bought at the store and a happy child is all I was looking for anyway. The tasting room and shop really gave Cassidy an idea of what I do for a living and how I spend my time… rough life.
The gift shop is filled with an assortment of gift items, jewelry, food stuffs, decorative objects, books and wine of course. Lots of wine. I though the gift shop was beautiful and the archways and architecture was very conducive to one meandering through the shop and trying to see it all. Although there were many items I liked and wanted to buy…
I couldn’t bring myself to buy anything. There was an amazingly thick layer of dust on all of the merchandise and dirty fingerprints on all the bottles. From a marketing and sales standpoint, I was again surprised at what little effort had been made on upkeep.
I decided to promise Cassidy that we would return again soon to see all the rest of the castle and she would be able to help our docent guide since she already knew so much. On the Guided Tour, you get to see the Armory, Torture Chamber, Grand Barrel Room, Private Underground Rooms, Library Rooms (which was what I wanted to see most) Fermentation Room and the Cave.
Next time my dear….
We headed up to the Truncated Tower and Upper Terraces to check out the view on our way out. The towers and terraces offer some amazing views of Calistoga and Napa Valley Wine Country. It was about 4:30 when we reached the top and the colors and sun was really putting on a show for us already. We spent some time up here, many couples were lounging and enjoying each others company on this level and Cassidy mentioned how romantic it all seemed. She is such a 12 year old.
I mentioned to her that her and her new boyfriend Tyler weren’t allowed to come back here until he had himself a job….hardy har. Thanks folks….I’ll be here all week. We checked out the animals on the way out and Cassidy fed a cracker to an Emu…a first for her as well. Overall it was a fun experience and soo nice to spend time with my 12 year old. I have two daughters and I enjoy when we can have these one on one moments together.
I would say again that the self-guided tour leaves something to be desired due to the fact that you constantly walk past roped off areas that state “Guided Tours only” and these areas…look really cool. Cheers until next time….. when I bring both my daughters and we all do the docent led tour. *Clink *Clink