Producers of “The Quest” needed a medieval-style castle to serve as a set for their fantasy-based reality show and found one in Napa Valley.
COVID-19 restrictions scotched original plans to use Burg Kreuzenstein castle in Austria. The pandemic meant the producers had to track down the essence of the Middle Ages in the New World.
Enter Castello di Amorosa near Calistoga.
Vintner Dario Sattui opened his $30 million, Tuscany-style “castle winery” in 2007. He strove for authenticity, down to importing almost a million antique bricks from Europe and employing building methods used 800 years ago.
“It looks so authentic, that’s why they wanted it,” Sattui said on Wednesday. “I don’t know if they had another choice.”
The winery as of Wednesday morning had yet to sign the contract with the producers, but will do so, he said.
“The Quest” ran on ABC television in 2014 and is being revived on Disney + streaming service. It involves contestants engaging in various tasks in the fantasy world of Everealm.
Pre-production work at Castello di Amorosa is to begin on Nov. 9 and filming should be completed by Feb. 13. The maximum number of people on site at any one time would be 250, a county report said.
Producers estimate the film production will provide a $6-million benefit to Napa County, including 30 temporary jobs, local fire and security contracting, $2.5 million in purchases of goods and services and $1.7 million in hotel taxes, the report said.
“I thought we can really help the Napa Valley economy, especially during the winter, if we do this,” Sattui said.
The county has been hit by the pandemic, the Hennessey Fire and the Glass Fire. Sattui, who owns two wineries, said the economy is awful and this is the most devastating year he’s seen over the past 45 years.
On Tuesday, the county Board of Supervisors approved allowing filming to take place at Castello di Amorosa, as long as film crews follow steps to prevent coronavirus spread.
“Economically, our community has been suffering,” Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza said, adding this will be a safe way to help improve the situation.
Safety was on the minds of supervisors. They want to make sure the fantasy world of Everealm is COVID-19-free.
Producers have agreed to abide by a set of industry guidelines and Los Angeles County guidelines for the film industry. Napa County health officials have reviewed and support the standards.
Steps will include extensive coronavirus testing. The filming areas will have various zones, each more complex, with the actors who are face-to-face in the strictest zone, county officials said.
Board of Supervisors Chair Diane Dillon said the production can’t afford to have a COVID-19 problem and doesn’t want to have a problem.
“Would be that we had this type of scrutiny for every activity in Napa County,” Dillon said.
Napa County can terminate its approval for filming with 48 hours’ notice if the production violates COVID-19 protocols, a county report said. In addition, the production must have a security-and-crowd control plan approved by the Sheriff’s Office.
The winery will have to close for three weeks of the three-month shooting period, Sattui said. The rest of the time, crews will be shooting either outdoors or parts of the castle not being used by the winery.
The main winery castle was untouched by the Glass Fire, though an adjacent, fortress-like “farmhouse” building was gutted. Sattui said he has obtained a cleanup permit from the county and expects to take two weeks to clean out the building.
Then he’ll have a structural engineer test the integrity of the stone walls. More permits will be needed before he can rebuild. He didn’t expect “The Quest” production to delay the effort.
Napa has been the backdrop for many shows over the years, including the 1980s prime-time soap opera “Falcon Crest” and 2019 Amy Poehler film “Wine Country.”
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