28 December, 2009

Were we in Tuscany?

No we weren't. But we were at the Castello di Amoroso just south of Calistoga in Napa Valley. And the owners would like us to think we're in Tuscany. To that end they have built a Tuscan castle which is surrounded by olive trees and vineyards. Of course being a late 20th century Tuscan castle, this one includes a large car park within its walls and inconveniences like spiral staircases have been straightened out.

The problem for a European visiting a place like this, or at least this European, is that I've been to Tuscany, and I've seen countless castles all over Europe. I liked the castle. The courtyard was beautiful. I could have taken it a bit more seriously if the tour guides weren't so determined that we take it seriously. "The floor in this hall is a genuine Austrian floor from an Austrian castle. After the war, Austria was poor so it sold off all its castles. The fireplace is from a farmhouse in Tuscany, Italy. All the frescoes are authentic apart from the one over the fireplace."

I think it's probably best to think of this place as an enthusiastic folly (in the architectural sense of the word). I'm pretty sure it's not a masterpiece but it is fun and clearly a labour of love. And the frescoes. Well, Michelangelo they ain't. I particularly liked this angel who looks like she's about 7 months gone.

And this couple.

They also make wine. The wine is a lot better than the frescoes. They are European in style and we tasted five of them, finally buying a Merlot and a sweet Gewurztraminer. The girls had grape juice and were supposed to stand a yard or so from the bar (a Californian law apparently) so we got them to take the pictures.

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