Tour 5 Napa Valley Architectural Achievements in One Day
Amid Napa Valley’s picturesque scenery lie architectural gems that are sure to delight those with a keen eye for structure and design. From the quaint to the grand, Napa Valley is lined with both innovative historic and modern properties. We’ve put together a self-guided day tour that will take you around the valley to pay homage to Napa Valley’s architectural past.
Castello di Amorosa
Take St Helena Highway north for about a half an hour until you reach Castello di Amorosa. Although it looks like it was plucked from the 13th century, this authentically built, medieval inspired Tuscan castle and winery was only completed in 2007, under the direction of winemaker Dario Sattui.
There are several rooms within the castle that are each a work of medieval architectural splendor. The Grand Barrel Room in outfitted with cross-vaulted ceilings and crafted using ancient handmade bricks. The Great Hall is decorated with hand-painted frescoes, a working fireplace brought over from Tuscany, and hand-carved dining tables. For some fresh air, visit the courtyard with Tuscan-style breezeways and loggias made of hand-squared stone and ancient brick. Or explore the terrace, which offers breathtaking panoramic views of the 170-acre forested property and Mount St. Helena.
The Guided Tour and Premium Wine Tasting package gets you a taste of five of their Italian-style wines, and access to the lower levels of the castle, complete with a torture chamber and armory. 4045 St Helena Highway, Calistoga
Considered one of Napa’s finest examples of Victorian era commercial architecture, the Semorile Building in downtown Napa has a lengthy history. Its story begins in 1888, when Bartolomeo Semorile left Italy for California and soon after collaborated with famed architect Luther Turton to build a tiny grocery in the heart of Napa’s downtown.
The grocery was constructed with a high Victorian Italianate style using brick, sandstone, and cast iron. Adorned with decorative medallions and stained glass windows, the building also has a New Orleans-style balcony overlooking bustling 1st Street.
After the Semorile family relocated closer to the Bay Area in the 1920s, the shop passed through many hands until it became Bounty Hunter BBQ, Rare Wine and Spirits, which you can visit today. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974, ensuring it will always remain a beloved Napa architectural treasure. 975 1st St. Napa
From the Semorile Building in downtown Napa, head north along the Silverado Trail to Quixote Winery. Completed only in the late 90s, this is the only work in the United States from acclaimed Viennese architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser, and final work before his death in 2000.
Quixote Winery has all the essential Hundertwasser elements: a sod roof to blend in with the surrounding landscape, exuberant use of colorful ceramic tile, and a gold leaf onion dome. The eccentric, free-flowing design of the structure is further enhanced by the property’s landscape architecture. Quixote’s grounds were designed to be practical and natural, but also bountiful. The 42-acre property is lined with rosemary bushes, thyme, persimmon, Buddha’s hand citrus, pomegranate, fig, and nectarine. Natural springs flow through the property, which allows the winery to source water from its own reservoir.
For a visit to this whimsical winery, book your reservations ahead. 6126 Silverado Trail, Napa
Far Niente Winery
After a trip to Quixote, cut across the valley via Oakville Cross Road. Tucked back off of St. Helena Highway, you’ll find Far Niente Winery. Winemaker John Benson, uncle of famous American impressionist Winslow Homer, hired architect Hamden McIntyre (also the architect of the beautiful Culinary Institute of America at Greystone building) to design this winery in 1885.
‘Far Niente’, the Italian phrase romantically translated to mean “without a care”, is a charming stone winery, with fitted flagstone stairs, pathways, and bridges that weave through 13 acres of landscaped gardens. With an emphasis on texture and foliage, the winery is lined with blooming southern azaleas, dogwoods, and groves of redwoods. Make sure to pay a visit to the retaining wall in front of the winery, built more than a century ago by Chinese laborers. 1350 Acacia Dr, Oakville
Sam Brannan Cottage
A 10 minute drive north will bring you to the charming downtown of Calistoga, where you’ll discover the Sam Brannan Cottage.
Persecuted in New York for his religious beliefs, Samuel Brannan settled in California and opened the Calistoga Hot Springs in 1862, a resort offering the “healing powers” of the town’s natural hot mineral springs. The property included a skating pavilion, hot springs bathhouse, dance hall, and resort cottages for guests. Although Brannan’s business venture was short lived, a few of the cottages remain and are among the first buildings in Calistoga to be listed with the National Register of Historic Places.
Brannan chose only two different architectural designs for his cottages, and the Brannan Cottage Inn is the only existing example of its kind, with its gabled roof, gingerbread scrollwork, and wraparound porch. Two other cottages moved to new locations and can be found on the grounds of the Sharpsteen Museum. 109 Wapoo Avenue, Calistoga
After a day of exploring Napa Valley’s beautiful architecture, unwind at the Wine Country Inn, a luxury boutique hotel set right in the heart of Napa Valley.