Castle Concrete Pumping Builds a Castle
There is a belief that the older the grape vine, the better the wine. This ‘slow growth is better’ idea may also apply to a project 15 years in the making and a concrete pumping company that grew along with the project. The Castello Di Amorosa is an authentically-styled, 13th century medieval Tuscan-style castle and a Napa Valley landmark thanks to the vision of the owner and the dedicated construction crews that saw it through to completion. Started as an 8,500 sq. ft. project, it grew to its finished size of more than 121,000 sq. ft. It incorporates medieval construction techniques that qualify the structure as a true castle complete with moat, drawbridge, high walls, towers, a great hall, courtyards, secret passageways and, of course, a torture chamber.
Located in Napa Valley’s Diamond Mountain District, the castle is owned by Dario Sattui who was fascinated by medieval castles and their construction from an early age. The Sattui family has owned vineyards in Napa for many years and their V. Sattui Winery is only five miles from the 170-acre castle site purchased in the early 1990s. Construction started in 1994. “We had done some work at the Sattui Winery and we were asked to submit a bid for a small winery that was to be called ‘Villa Amorosa’,” explains Obe Elliott, pumping manager for Castle Concrete Pumping located 25 miles from the site in Santa Rosa. Started by Rich Castle in 1984 as a side business, the then ready-mix driver began with a ball-valve trailer pump. “Who would think that my last name and the project would be so closely related,” Rich says, “But the project turned out to be influential in the growth of our company.” By 1994, Castle had a 28-meter Schwing to go along with a few line pumps.
More than 900 linear feet of caves were constructed over the first few years. As Sattui’s vision grew from a villa to a castle, plans were redrawn and underground construction expanded to four levels and 80,000 sq ft. with 80 rooms. Forming and pumping of walls and pillars was accomplished over 10 years sometimes working six days a week. Sattui’s obsession with authentic construction techniques meant that European contractors with experience in the old world methods of building castles were brought over to supervise construction. Ready-mix producer Harold Smith and Son, Inc. in Saint Helena, six miles from the site, delivered all of the concrete. “Because of the language barrier with one Italian construction manager, we planned on a 300 yard pour and ended up with a 700 yard pour which really taxed our ability to supply materials,” explains Bob Abbot, general manager for the ready-mix firm.
As the project grew, so did Castle Concrete Pumping. “ In order to service the project, both longer and smaller booms were required, “ explains Elliott, “We grew to having a large fleet with over a dozen different sizes of Schwing concrete pumps available, ranging from 17 to 58-meter boom lengths and several Schwing line pumps, including an SP 500, SP 750, SP 1000, and chassis-mount city pumps. And we used them all at one time or another on this project.” Castle pumps were constantly on call for the project. Elliott adds, “We chose to preview almost every pour because of the constantly changing nature of the project. Sometimes we would need pump-to-pump placement because the site began to get crowded as the project grew.” A water tower located one-quarter mile from the site required specialized placement from their smallest boom.
The physical dimensions of the site are 250-feet by 600-feet, a large area that became more cramped as the project outgrew the original plans. “Small boom pumps played a big role in the pumping,“ explains Elliott, “Our 17, 24, and 25-meter pumps were used extensively for tight access and low clearance pours, but as the project design grew and elevations increased, the longer Schwing booms were needed for deep footings, mat slabs, and tall walls, where the small footprint provided by their X-style and Super X outriggers paid off.”
Paul Tingle, one of the contractors imported from Italy by Sattui and now on his own with Greenridge Custom Builders in Hidden Valley Lake, CA was involved in the day-to-day operations during much of the castle’s construction. “It was an interesting project because the owner’s wishes changed as the project evolved, so it was back to the engineers to redesign or expand a portion.” He also oversaw the hundreds of pours performed by Castle Concrete Pumping, “Rich, Obe and their operators work very hard to earn and keep the business. Dario set his sights on a dream and Castle helped deliver the dream. I use their pumping service all the time for my custom home business.”
Of course what self-respecting castle would be complete without a wall around it. Fortified defensive walls that were designed to be 18-inches thick were expanded to three-feet of poured concrete to be consistent with dimensions of 13th century castles. Most of the concrete is covered with locally sourced stone attached by mortar and brackets. More than 8,000 tons of stone were hand-chiseled in keeping with the owner’s desire for authenticity. In olden times when castles took years to build the stone would often change as construction progressed and new sources were found. So it is with Castello Di Amoroso. The exterior appearance takes on a different look depending on when it was built. And the list goes on with leaded glass, iron gates formed over an open forge, one million antique, hand-made bricks from Hapsburg palaces and over 200 containers of other hand made materials shipped from Europe to lend authenticity.
Castle’s pumps handled all of the mixes supplied for the job including lightweight concrete that was used for upper levels that were not in the original plan. Foundations that were constructed for fewer stories, had to accommodate higher loads when additions were added. Plus this was the first castle built to Seismic Zone 4 specifications. “We kept an eye on the sand in the half-inch lightweight mixes and kept the specific gravity in line, “ Abbot explained, “The Castle pumps had no problems.” Short six mile hauls kept the temperature of the mix in spec even on the hottest days. Most loads were 4,000 psi , 6.2 sack blends with 15 percent flyash. “We supplied lots of colored material, “ according to Abbot, “Mostly mortar but also concrete.”
“This is the type of project we like,” Rich Castle explains, “The owner had the right attitude and the project was fun.” The Castle philosophy is quality not quantity and, in this case, it combined a long project duration but only 15,000 total yards over a 15 year period. “We spoiled Sattui by being there whenever he needed us and he used us exclusively,” says the 62-year old Castle who doesn’t hesitate to operate a pump when he is needed. Most of his operators work their way up in the organization. His 41-year old, lead pump operator was a yard boy in high school. All operators are ACPA certified. Castle adds, “When my guys drive in to the yard, they work for us, and when they leave with a pump they are us.”
Owner/General Contractor: Dario Sattui, V. Sattui Winery, Calistoga, CA
Pumping Contractor: Castle Concrete Pumping, Santa Rosa, CA
Pumping Equipment: Schwing S -17, KVM 24-4, KVM 25 X, KVM 28, S 32 X, S 36 X, S 39 X, KVM 42, S 45 SX, S 47 SX, KVM 52 and S 58 SX truck mounted concrete pumps with placing booms. SP 500, SP 750 and SP 1000 trailer pumps