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Adventures of an Architect – Episode 3: Castles & Wine

We recently took a trip to “wine country” in Northern California, to visit family.  My sister works in the wine industry, and as it was our first time there, she was extremely excited to bring us to the many different wineries and tour the beautiful countryside.  There are vast amounts of vineyards available to the public, and needless to say, we had a great time going to the many different Tasting Rooms.  Before we go any further, I don’t want you to get your hopes up – this is not about an “Adventure” that took place as a result of sampling too many wines… though that would be an interesting blog!

When my sister exclaimed that she had the perfect winery for us to visit, I figured she was just exaggerating and that we’d be seeing more of the same.  So we headed out early for another gorgeous drive through rolling green hills and acres of woodlands, complimented by perfectly blue skies and a warm sun shining down on us.  30 minutes later we pulled onto a long driveway flanked by fields of grape vines, which framed a spectacular view of this:

3-Castello di Amorosa

 

“Castello di Amoroso”  – This place is incredible!  It is a fully functioning winery, housed in a completely authentic 13th century Tuscan castle!  I’ve always been interested in medieval castles, and their many different details.  My jaw dropped when we pulled up, and I don’t think it closed until we left hours later!  This isn’t just a bogus, fake-looking building someone threw together quickly to be a tourist trap – this is the real thing… and the story is amazing.

The owner of the winery is obsessed with castles, and went to extreme measures to make sure that EVERY detail was constructed authentically.  He traveled to Europe and purchased portions of existing castles that were still standing from medieval times to include in his new building.  While there, he met a mason with experience building them, using old, handmade materials and ancient techniques… so he flew him to the USA to teach crews here how to build this castle the “proper” way!  When things weren’t done absolutely authentically and correctly, they tore them down and started again! They literally hand-chiseled bricks and hand-forged nails!  In fact, all of the ironwork was hand-forged over open flame on site!  That being said, it took many years to complete this project – over 10 years alone just to construct the 80,000sf underground cave system with complex medieval vaulted ceilings!  The entire castle is 121,000sf, with 107 rooms on eight levels. The rest of the complex includes a “dry moat (with Drawbridge), high defensive fortified walls, five towers, courtyards and loggias, a Tuscan farmhouse and other outbuildings.  They erected archways, a big kitchen, a Great Hall (that took one and a half years to completely fresco), stables, apartments for the nobles, wine fermenting rooms, a church and chapel, secret passageways and even a prison and torture chamber.” In order to show that castles used to evolve over time, the owner erected doorways and niches… and then bricked them up!  They also built a partially destroyed tower. There is no way I can go through all of it here, but you should definitely head to http://www.castellodiamorosa.com/  where you can see a lot more pictures and read a detailed history of the entire project – it’s fascinating!

Castello di Amorosa is a work of art, and one could spend days there exploring!  Don’t forget, not only is it a great place to tour and immerse yourself in history… it’s also a WINERY!  There are endless barrels of wine stored throughout the beautifully crafted cave system, with wine tastings offered in an intimate underground setting.  This is truly a one-of-a-kind experience, and I highly recommend taking the time to visit if you find yourself in the Sonoma and Napa Valleys.

Have fun out there,

Nick

3-Wine Barrels

 

Photos taken from http://www.castellodiamorosa.com/

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