Napa Valley Festival del Sole: Simply Scintillating

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For ten years, Napa Valley Festival del Sole has been a wine country cultural beacon. The lavish Festival offers music, dance, theater, art, fitness and, of course, amazing food and wine. With more than 60 events spread out over ten days throughout the lush Napa landscape.

The Festival has a remarkable mission: support the arts and showcase some of the world’s finest artists along with Napa Valley’s natural beauty, food and wine. This year’s festival broke records, raising $1.6 million. Proceeds go toward the festival’s free and low-cost concerts for local residents as well as Napa County public school arts education programs.  During the festival’s auction, the highest grossing bid of the evening was $250,000 for the Founder’s Lot: Cuba Libre, featuring dinner with Gloria Estefan in Miami followed by a cultural exchange trip to Cuba with festival co-founder and president Rick Walker and his wife Karen.Food, Wine and Surreal Surroundings

There’s nothing better than a fine meal and a selection of perfectly matched wines to wash it down – especially when you get to enjoy the rare opportunity to chat with winemakers while they share their creative process. “The festival is a perfect setting for spending one-on-one time with guests and discussing how we craft our wines”, said Brooks Painter, V Sattui Director of Winemaking.

Festival del Sole offers amazing opportunities to sample some of the world’s best food and wine as part of a larger experience. Take, for example, Calistoga’s Tamber Bey Vineyards, which brings something different to the table: a world-class equestrian facility. The tasting room is located in the original barn clubhouse and the barn surrounds the courtyard, where we were treated to a sumptuous meal, great wine and views of Mount St. Helena and the winery’s majestic horses. “We are the only winery in Napa Valley that is on a working horse ranch. The barn and clubhouse were designed by renowned Napa Valley architect Howard Backen,” said Jennifer Waitte, General Manager of Tamber Bey.

While Tamber Bey features horses, The Hess Collection winery curates a world-class art collection -cross-pollination at its finest. Fifty years in the making, their collection includes powerful works by Francis Bacon, Robert Motherwell, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Frank Stella and other luminaries of modern art. Imagine dining alfresco just outside the historic stone winery, among the property’s stunning garden arbors, indulging in an exquisite meal from Hess Executive Chef Chad Hendrickson. Prepared with select ingredients from the property’s succulent culinary gardens, dinner was paired with curated choices from The Hess Collection wine vaults and live music throughout the night.

Another night, another fabulous dinner. This time St. Helena’s V. Sattui hosted a four-course meal by Italian Michelin-star chef Stefano Masanti that included delicious dishes like salmon carpaccio with extra virgin olive oil and lemon emulsion, farmers fresh pickled and al dente greens and vegetables. “Art, food and wine are the passion of my life. The idea of the menu was to bring something traditional from my area, northern Italy, with a modern touch”, said V. Sattui Chef Stefano Masanti.

To match the fine cuisine, the 130-year-old V. Sattui featured wines by 2015 American Fine Wine Competition Winemaker of the Year, Brooks Painter. To make the event even more special, the dinner was held in the barrel room where we drank fine wine and indulged in heavenly food in the glow of tall candelabra centerpieces draped with beautiful flowers. “V. Sattui’s Barrel Room is a gorgeous, rustic, space and a favorite for hosting parties and wedding receptions. The room is lined with stacked wooden barrels filled with our Madeira and Port, gracefully aging until they are bottled,” said V. Sattui President, Tom Davies.A World of Music

Food and wine may be the main attractions, but that takes nothing away from Festival del Sole’s musical offerings. Artists from around the world bring everything from opera to American gospel.

The Festival offers musical venues that are both amazing and unique. Consider Mont La Salle Chapel, a tranquil Napa Valley treasure with stunning views, peaceful setting and incredible Spanish Romanesque and Mission Style architecture. Concertgoers were treated to a chamber ensemble from the Russian National Orchestra that performed Four Traditional Pieces of composer and philanthropist Gordon Getty. Following the performance, there was a preview of Peter Rosen’s documentary about the life of Getty and a moving program by the Young People’s Chorus of New York – who are celebrated for their “astounding virtuosity and palpable joy” (Wall Street Journal).

Another concert featured a meeting of two worlds, as a famous Italian-style castle hosted the Russian National Orchestra. The stellar acoustics in the Castello di Amorosa’s fairytale courtyard perfectly showcased singers Rodion Pogossov and Daniil Shtoda, as well as cellist Nina Kotova as they played everything from classical and popular music with traditional Russian instruments.

Getting Around

This can be tricky, as wine is involved and Napa is famous for its country roads. One elegant solution is Beau Wine Tours & Limousine Service, which offers luxury transportation throughout wine country. “Napa Valley Festival del Sole is a fantastic series of events that has a very positive cultural impact on our region and boosts the local tourism economy. Over the last 10 years, we’ve had the pleasure of driving hundreds of attendees to these concerts, luncheons, and dinners”, said ‪Thomas Buck, President of Beau.

Relax by the River

Out of towners, need a place to rest between the events, and there are quite literally hundreds of places to stay in wine country. And while it’s difficult to choose a favorite during Festival del Sole, the Napa River Inn is always a great choice, especially when the events are close by. As the name implies, the Inn is nestled comfortably in downtown Napa’s Riverfront District. A perfect waterfront location set in the Historic Napa Mill, the inn offers complimentary breakfast in bed, a day spa, an evening “wine hour,” and fantastic hospitality. Their staff goes above and beyond to make sure guests are happy.

If Napa Valley Festival del Sole was a symphony, this would be the first beat. There’s so much more to discuss, however there’s no substitute for actually attending. The experience is both enlightening and immersive, offering delights to satisfy every sense. If you’ve been thinking about going, it’s time to take that notion to the action phase. Next year’s festival awaits, July 15 – 24, 2016.Jennifer Boden is a KRON 4 contributor and editor of California Wine and Travel. Jennifer, lives and plays in Northern California’s Wine Country. Follow her Facebook page HERE.

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