Most vintners are apolitical because they don’t want to mix controversy and wine. Dario Sattui, the vintner of V. Sattui Winery and the Castello di Amoroso in Napa Valley, isn’t one of them.
Today he’s faced with a boycott of 1,924-plus North Bay Firefighters because of a letter he wrote criticizing their wages and benefits, which was published in the St. Helena Star April 9th.
Sattui wrote: “While I respect the work they do and the inherent dangers, they are greatly overpaid, work only two days a week (a third of which they sleep) and get to retire at 50 years old at 90 percent of their pay after working 30 years … But maybe getting paid 90 percent of one’s maximum pay for another 25 to 30 years for doing nothing isn’t so unjust, as they received high salaries for working very little before they retired.”
From a third party perspective, I find the wildfire raging on Facebook and Twitter amusing because most vintners have long insulated themselves in a no-political zone.
Of course Sattui isn’t your typical vintner. At his wineries, wine plays a minor role, upstaged by the tourist attraction.
V. Sattui has long been known as picnic central with deli foods galore sold on the premises. The winery’s gourmet store stocks more than 200 cheeses, sandwich meats, breads, exotic salads and desserts like white chocolate cheesecake.
Castello di Amoroso – a 121,000 square-foot castle – is also a popular tourist destination as well as a working winery, producing a range of wines but I wouldn’t call any of them serious.
In fact, after giving his wines a less than stellar review, Sattui once stopped me at his castle and called me on it. He then strong armed me into tasting his wines again, along side him. He’s six-foot-plus tall, by the way, and his castle has a torture chamber, but my opinion about his wines didn’t change and I told him. He was civil and all, but it was clear Sattui wasn’t your typical vintner.
Sattui spent 14 years and $30 million to build his medieval style fortress and when it opened its doors in April of 2007 his staff said he worried no one would come.
Who knows if he still has the same worry, but one thing is certain. With the boycott in place, the North Bay Firefighters won’t be picnicking at V. Sattui or touring Castello di Amoroso anytime soon.