SAN FRANCISCO, November 21, 2012 – The Napa Valley Film Festival just wrapped up its successful second annual festival, with a theme of “Film. Food. Wine.” Napa Valley is the perfect setting for this lavish festival. It is already well known for its wine and food; now it is film’s turn to shine brightly among these other established stars.
The Napa Valley Film Festival runs for five days in November, filled with wine and food a-plenty. Like drama films? They’ve got those. Documentaries? Check. Shorts? Comedies? Check, check. This festival has everything the big film festivals have, plus award-winning Napa Valley wine.
The festival is broken up into four festival hubs located in the major wine regions of Napa along California Highway 29: the city of Napa, Yountville, St. Helena and Calistoga. Each of these festival hubs has their own wine pavilion, Welcome Center, multiple theatres, restaurants and VIP areas.
There are events such as festival kick-off parties, festival galas, celebrity tributes, winemaker dinners, red carpet events, awards ceremonies, late night parties, wrap parties and the opportunity to drink award-winning wines all day and night long.
This year’s kick-off party featured the Somm world premiere screening and after party. Somm is a wonderful human interest story that delves into the somewhat manic, occasionally delusional and always fascinating world of wine master sommeliers. Follow four rising advanced sommeliers on their life-changing journeys to become master sommeliers.
On day two of the festival, film-goers were able to witness and attend a VIP red carpet reception before the screening of the anticipated new Bradley Cooper film, Silver Linings Playbook. Cooper is magnificent in his role as a recently diagnosed bi-polar sufferer who is dealing the best he can with his marriage falling apart, the loss of his job and moving back in with his parents. Enter standout Jennifer Lawrence. She nails her role in unexpected ways. Robert DeNiro plays Cooper’s superstitious, gambling-addicted father and is a total knock out.
After the movie, festival-goers were treated with the Festival Gala hosted by Robert Mondavi Winery. Last year’s gala was hailed as a “hoot and a holler” by Margrit Mondavi herself. If the host is throwing down the gauntlet, then this is a must-attend event every year.
One of the most beautiful settings to see a movie is in downtown Napa at the Napa Valley Opera House. This romantic and history-rich theatre is the perfect spot to drink some wine before being entranced in the feature films. This year the Opera House hosted the Stags Leap District of House of Cab. This is a cab lover’s dream come true, with over 15 brands of Napa’s lovely and charismatic cabernet sauvignon from the Stags Leap District, and was poured every afternoon and evening at this VIP pre-party.
Saturday and Sunday were filled with more breakthrough films such as A Late Quartet, The Sapphires, Getting Up: The Tempt One Story, Beware of Mr. Baker (about rock drummer Ginger Baker), I Am Not a Rockstar, Orchestra of Exiles, Memorial Day, Quartet and shorts Admissions and Grow Up Already.
The most surprising film was It’s A Disaster starring Julia Stiles, David Cross and America Ferrera. This dark comedy had the theatre laughing through the entire movie. A wonderfully dark subject matter, the end of the world, is brought to light in this refreshing, continually unfolding plot. You might just have to see this one twice to catch what you missed the first time while you were laughing too hard.
Saturday night the festival offered Winemaker Dinners. Of all of the events and parties offered during the festival, the winemaker dinners are the real standout. With 14 different winery locations, featuring 14 different local chefs and their accompanying cuisine, there is something for everyone.
A Winemaker Dinner top performer was the Sullivan Family Winery intimate dinner. This dinner was hosted by the Sullivan family and featured their reserve wines and mouth-watering food from chef Jake Rand of Eiko’s in downtown Napa. The very gracious and hospitable Sullivan Family makes some beautifully elegant wines, and is one of the small family owned wineries still in Napa.
Just like any great event, this one had to end, and it did so after five glorious and indulgent days of wine, film, food and more wine. The Napa Valley Film Festival wrapped up with a closing night screening of Quartet (Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut), awards ceremony and festival wrap party at The Shops at Napa Center.
Day passes for the festival start at $50 and festival passes start at $250. Be warned though, if all you have is a day pass, you are given the lowest priority for seating and you have to arrive early to try to get a seat. If you purchase the Pass Plus ($500) or the Patron Pass ($2,500+), you will be given seating priority. Like most festival passes, these aren’t cheap, but they do come with an awful lot of wine and food perks.
Special events like the Robert Mondavi Gala are additional ($175). And the Winemaker Dinners are only for Patron Passes, Sponsors, Media, Filmmakers and other invited guests.
Buy your tickets as well as book your accommodations early for next year. If you buy now, you can save some money. The pre-sale lasts through December 15, 2012.
With the valley being split up into 4 key hubs, you may want to select your accommodations near one of the hubs or between two of them. Driving on Highway 29 through St. Helena is a disaster, so plan ahead for arriving at films and parties accordingly.
Finally, please arrange for a designated driver: either someone in your group, or a car service when you are attending events when you will be drinking some of that lovely Napa Valley wine. If you stay in one of the downtown areas (Napa, Yountville, St. Helena) there are many events/restaurants that you can walk to. Four excellent resources to help plan your trip next year are:
- Napa Valley Film Festival website
- Downtown Napa website
- Visit Napa Valley website/visitor center
- Out and About’s 4-part series on downtown Napa
If you’d like to read up on the Audience Awards and Jury Award winners, check out the festival’s blog for the latest info.
See you next at next year’s festival!
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