During the last Friday of March, J & I defied the rain and drove up to Napa Valley for a mini-daytrip. Ever since my wine tasting weekend in Sonoma, I was thirsting for another winery outing — rain or shine.
“Why are you so determined to make this wine trip happen now? We can wait another month for the weather to get better” J asked, while channel surfing on our living room couch. Outside, we could both hear the rain slapping down against our balcony. Every loud drip was taunting me and my desperate need for a weekend getaway. The past several months have been one stressful situation after another and with this being the last weekend before J started his new job, I thought we deserved a breather. The idea of whisking away and starting over on a clean slate, preferably somewhere lush, green, and grape-y seemed like the right thing to do.
Lucky for me, the weather channel showed a slight break in the downpour in Napa for that Friday. Even though it was cloudy, it was still a pleasant drive up. J, who isn’t much of a wine drinker, was looking forward to checking out the Castello Di Amorosa –the Castle of Love.
The castle, a looming medieval fortress made of brick and stone, stood among the vineyard hills near Calistoga. The owner, who also owns the popular V. Sattui winery and deli, apparently loved medieval architecture as much as he did wine. Why not combine the two together? J and I walked through dark, chilly tunnels, many lined with large wine oak barrels. As we passed chambers dedicated to banquet halls, a knights’ armor collection, and even the torture room replica, I forgot for a moment that we were deep in the heart of wine country.
Even though there was certainly wine-tasting involved in the tour (the Castello does produce a very nice dessert Rose called the La Fantasia), the experience was so random and gimmicky that we couldn’t help but enjoy it. J actually drank a few significant sips of his Muscato, Riesling, and Rose pours. In my head, I calculated that fun day trips involving castles and torture chambers might be the best way to lure my husband into taking future wine-tasting trips with me. So be it.
We emerged from the Castello armed with a bottle of Fantasia and bars of the sea salt dark chocolate (J’s weakness). Plump chickens and a couple of scattered peacocks nonchalantly roamed around the front entrance. Probably the owner’s medieval pets.
It drizzled every now and then, but the scene was still beautiful in a slightly gloomy way.
We took advantage of minimal crowds and drove to Thomas Keller’s Addendum, a lunchtime only side station to the more expensive and popular Ad Hoc restaurant. There are only two options for the $16.50 pre-fixe menu: barbeque brisket or fried chicken. Both orders come with a side of potato salad and sauteed collared greens with chunky bacon. We ordered one of each to sample and prefered the seasoned and juicy fried chicken.
I wish I could say we drank more wine, but we didn’t. Instead, we stopped by Bouchon Bakery (another Keller establishment) and grab coffee and the popular macaroons. We bit into rich, sugary flavors of espresso, raspberry, and chocolate ganache. It was the perfect finish to our day.
Castello di Amorosa: 4045 N. St. Helena Highway Calistoga, CA 94515
Addendum Restaurant: 6476 Washington Street Yountville, CA 94599
Bouchon Bakery: 6528 Washington Street Yountville, CA 94599