How a Calistoga Winery Caters to New Wine Drinkers

Peter Velleno doesn’t look at his job making wines at a tourist destination as burdening him with making a diverse, ever-growing portfolio of wines. He sees it as an opportunity.

Velleno is the winemaker at Castello Di Amorosa in Calistoga, California. Being a castle, it attracts its share of people who are interested in tasting its wines and purchasing bottles, but it also draws in a fair number of families who are far more interested in the fact that it’s a castle in northern Napa Valley.

That’s no problem for Velleno or Castello Di Amorosa, which offers an array of reds, whites, sweet wines, Rosé and even specially crafted non-alcoholic grape juice for minors and non-drinkers who find themselves at the castle with their families.

“We get a lot of people who aren’t experienced wine drinkers and families who are bringing their kids along,” Velleno said. “I get to share my passion for winemaking with a crowd of people who maybe otherwise wouldn’t get to experience that.

“People come and see the castle and then we turn them into wine lovers once they’re here. We make so many products and have something for everyone here.”

Velleno said its location and venue drives Castello Di Amorosa to be both diverse in products it offers and also enables it to expand beyond the portfolio of what he described as a typical Napa Valley winery.

“So many wineries are making two Cabs, a Merlot and a Chardonnay and five years from now they’ll be doing the same thing, with maybe a Malbec that they serve only in the tasting room,” Velleno said. “We’re always trying new things and new varieties. We’re direct to consumer, so we’re able to control what we’re doing. We’re not in distribution or tied into fulfilling orders with grocery store chains. We have much more freedom here than anyone I’ve ever known in Napa Valley.”

At a destination winery like Castello that has a tourism draw to it that goes beyond wine, Velleno said turning new people onto wine requires an enthusiasm for patience, education, kindness and good customer service.

“One thing we really pride ourselves on, besides how special our wines and the castle are, is customer service. We really enjoy educating customers,” Velleno said. “Nobody here is going to feel intimidated by our staff, and no one is going to make them feel dumb for not saying the wine terminology correctly. If someone doesn’t care for strong reds, we have other wines we can offer them.

“We give them such a great experience that next time they come back, they’re going to want to try even more of our product and tell their friends to come try us.”

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