On a pleasant, early September morning, the sky above Napa Valley is a deep sapphire blue with the sun trying its best to roast and sizzle the earth. In the city, roses of varied colors and divine fragrances have blossomed. Downtown Napa is like any other, with its small shops, cafes, quaint boutiques and restaurants, squeezed between each other, vying for the pedestrian’s roving eye. Close to a small square, a bronze statue of the (Magnavox) loudspeaker looking like the top part of a gramophone, the metal in its hollow ear turned green with age stands beside the sidewalk, it’s imaginary sounds frozen in time. It informs us of having been born in Napa, at the hands of inventors Edwin Pridham and Peter Jensen in 1915. Ristorante Allegria situated right behind the statue, satisfies both the ravenous appetite and other senses with scrumptious Italian food and patio dining on a lazy summer afternoon.
Leaving downtown and heading up north, one passes vineyards upon vineyards adorning the sides of the freeway. The names of the owners engraved in front of almost all of them are Italian. The vineyards run in disciplined straight lines, from the sides of the road to the foot of the hills or mountains at the periphery of one’s vision.
The hills begin to gather close together, in folds, as one moves closer to the winery – Castello Di Amorosa,which is a replica of an Italian castle, built in the Romanesque style of architecture. It has a surrounding moat, an old well and an arched narrow gateway with fierce gargoyles perched on either post and lookout towers positioned at different corners on the outside of the castle.
The grand entrance leads inside the castle. Balconies, pink and white flowers cascading and overflowing their railings, overlook the courtyard scattered with wrought iron tables, chairs and even a cooking area. Lamps made of the same metal hang inside corridors that run alongside the courtyard. This metal furniture was specially made by supposedly the only blacksmith living in Italy. Even the bricks out of which the castle is made, were handcrafted carefully according to methods used in the olden times.
The main room of the castle – the great hall, is decorated from wall to wall and all over the ceiling with bright colorful paintings depicting life in the ancient times of the Romans. A section of the castle is the actual winery where machines crush the grape juice and carry out fermentation and filtering process.
Hundreds of wine barrels and wine bottles closed shut with melted wax, placed one upon the other in rows along the walls, are stored in cool, dark underground chambers across four levels below the castle and the barn and the back of the castle. The underground place also houses artillery chambers and a torture room. Knights’ armors stand at corners looking down blankly at passing visitors and the chamber of torture presents a bleak, dark picture. The mellow yellow light plays an interesting game of light and shadow.
However, the rooms where wine tasting takes place carry a dreamy, alcoholic smell of liquor and the same lighting makes it feel cozy and warm. Throughout these rooms, crowds of people stroll about, looking at the variety of goods like toy swords and weapons, antique jewelry, wine glasses, cutlery, Italian seasonings, pasta, winery souvenirs and other trinkets on display and stopping at the bars behind which cheerful employees pour glasses of wine to taste.
People assemble in special rooms set with wine glasses, bread-sticks and menus to go through wine-tasting sessions – of red wines, white wines, desert wines, spicy wines, flavored wines, perfumed wines, wines whose long names can hardly be remembered and pronounced – twirling long stemmed sparkling wine glasses, sniffing the heady aroma of the liquids, swirling tiny sips around in their mouths and savoring the impressive collection.
Outside, clusters of purple grapes hang in abundance in the greenery of the vines on the surrounding grounds of the castle and peacocks roam about. The castle is atop a small hill, with green vineyards, dotted with the purple fruit, running down its sides in vertical and horizontal straight lines of a matrix. Mountains and fields are bathed in the golden light of early evening under the smooth plain blue sky, not a cloud in sight. The warm weather, the scenery, the gentle breeze and the whole atmosphere of Napa Valley is as heady as the wine it produces – it is definitely enough to get drunk with!