Winetasting is by appointment only, in conjunction with an educational tour through the caves. A tour guide shares the rich history of Schramsberg and its 125-year-old caves, introduces you to the classic method of producing sparkling wine, and then invites you to sit and taste five limited production wines paired with specially selected cheeses.
Castello di Amorosa was a labour of love for its owner, Dario Sattui – a renowned wine entrepreneur with a fascination for medieval architecture. He set out to make small lots of primarily Italian-style wines and showcase them in an authentic, medieval castle setting. There are 107 rooms on eight levels above and below ground, covering over 120,000 square feet. Key details and building techniques are architecturally faithful to the 12th and 13th century time period so admired by Sattui and the castle boasts a moat, a drawbridge, defensive towers, an interior courtyard, a torture chamber, a chapel, a knights' chamber and a great hall. In many ways the wines are almost incidental – the supporting act to this extraordinary replica out of time and place. Castello do Amorosa has to be seen to be believed.
Domaine Carneros is a hugely popular venue and there are many tasting options to choose from, all of which are listed on its website. My personal favourite, available exclusively by reservation, is a visit to the Sparkling Suite, which offers couples an opportunity to book their own private château balcony overlooking the splendidly verdant vineyards. The Sparkling Suite includes a private tasting for two of Domaine Carneros sparkling wines and Pinot Noirs, paired perfectly with caviar, charcuterie and all the necessary accouterments. You will leave feel spoiled and special and possibly a tiny bit amorous.
And if you prefer to slow down the pace you can opt for the quiet backroads, or go off road altogether onto the dirt tracks that traverse the vineyards. An exciting project is the construction of the Napa Valley Vine Trail, a walking / cycling route that will begin at the Vallejo Ferry boat terminal (bringing passengers from San Francisco) and extend 45 miles to the northern tip of the Napa Valley. The trail will run roughly parallel to Highway 29, and allow visitors and locals the chance to hop on a bike, walk or jog through this iconic wine-growing region.
The Napa Valley is a small but perfectly formed destination for wine lovers and cyclists alike, offering abundant sunshine, friendly locals and some of the best food I have ever eaten. Enjoy!
My debut novel Learning to Speak American published by Twenty7 (£7.99 for an original paperback) is based on my experience of renovating a derelict house in California’s Napa Valley.