NAPA, CA, November 11, 2013. The Napa Valley Film Festival it about to kick off its third annual festival, with the theme “Far Beyond Film.” Napa Valley is the perfect setting for this lavish festival. It is already well known for its wine, food and art; now it is film’s turn to shine brightly among these other established stars.
The Napa Valley Film Festival runs for five days from the 13th to the 17th of November. During that time you can experience 4 villages, 12 screens, 125 films, 150 wineries and 50 chefs. The festival is filled with amazing films, food and wine for sure. Take in VIP winemaker dinners, festival galas, VIP receptions, celebrities, celebrity chefs, wine tastings and, of course, some of the best independent films. 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.
If stargazing is your cup of tea, or should I say, glass of Cab, then the red carpet events should be on your list. Festivalgoers can ogle celebrities such as Colin Farrell, Ralph Macchio, Dave Grohl, Benicio Del Torro, Dianna Agron, Adam West, Maria Menounos and Miles Teller.
The festival is broken up into four festival hubs they call villages. They are located in the major wine regions of Napa Valley 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. At the southernmost end of the festival area is the town of Napa. It is also the largest, housing five different theatres, and it is also the nerve center for the entire festival. Most of the big galas and events will happen down there.
There are events such as festival kick-off parties, galas, celebrity tributes, winemaker dinners, red carpet events, awards ceremonies, late night parties, wrap parties and the opportunity to drink award-winning wines and food all day and night long. Literally, you go to see a film and there is a glass of Napa wine in your hand.
This year’s festival kick-off begins with an Opening Night Pre-Reception and Red Carpet. Sample some of Napa Valley’s best wine and raise a glass to this year’s Oscar hopefuls. The opening night film will feature the premiere screening of August: Osage County. August tells the dark, hilarious and touching story of the strong-willed women of the Weston family. The Tony Award-winning Broadway play of the same name debuted in Chicago a few years back and continues to rack up awards. Wrap up the evening with the Opening Night Party where they will be pouring special selections of large format, older vintages and limited production wines.
On day two of the festival, filmgoers can witness and attend a VIP red carpet Gala Night pre-reception before the screening of the anticipated Saving Mr. Banks.
Next up is the always-entertaining Festival Gala. Last year’s gala was hailed as a “hoot and a holler” by Margrit Mondavi herself. If the one of the winery hosts is throwing down the gauntlet, then this is a must-attend event every year.
If evening parties aren’t enough for you, then the Vintage Estate’s Groezinger Late-Night Lounge and the late night After-Party at Eiko’s Napa are musts.
One of the most beautiful settings in which 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. Again this year, the Opera House will host the Stags Leap District 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 will be poured every afternoon and evening at the VIP pre-party.
Saturday and Sunday will be filled with more breakthrough films such as The Immigrant, featuring Joaquin Phoenix, Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Renner; Philomena, featuring Dame Judy Dench and Steve Coogan; Labor Day, featuring Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet; and Out of the Furnace, featuring Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson and Forest Whitaker.
Saturday afternoon the festival boasts their first annual New Power Lunch: Celebrating Women Making a Difference.
What differentiates the Napa Valley film fest from other film fests is the wine pavilions. Taste wine from the very best and biggest to the absolute smallest, artisan wineries. There is a wine pavilion in each of the 4 villages. A few to seek out are Turnbull Wine Cellars (Yountville), Cornerstone Cellars (Yountville), Schramsberg (Calistoga), Etude Wines (Calistoga), Inman Family Wines (Napa), Silverado Vineyards (Yountville), Spring Mountain Vineyard (St. Helena), Phifer Pavitt (Calistoga), Envy Wines (Calistoga) and Fortunati (Napa).
Saturday night the festival offers Winemaker Dinners. Of all of the events and parties offered during the festival, the winemaker dinners are the real standout. With over two dozen different winery locations, featuring different local chefs and their accompanying cuisine, there is something for everyone.
A Winemaker Dinner top performer from last year 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. Other VIP winemaker dinners that stand out are being hosted by Alpha Omega at the Napa Valley Reserve with Chef Ken Frank of La Toque; Hall Wines with Chef Kevin Miller of Villagio; Swanson Vineyard with Chef Chris Mortenson of La Condesa; and Vintner’s Collective with Phillippe Melka and Chef Morimoto.
Music lovers take note, Sound City, which screens on Sunday at 3pm at the Uptown Theatre in Napa, is a rockumentary that explores the historic LA recording studio Sound City. Sound City is Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl’s directorial debut. Grohl is passionate about how the rise of digital recording has changed the music business, and this film chronicles the impact of the transition from tape to digital recording. Rumor has it Grohl will be on hand to answer some Q&A after this special screening.
The Napa Valley Film Festival will wrap up with a moving closing night screening of Mandella: Long Walk to Freedom, an awards ceremony and festival wrap party at the Uptown Theatre in downtown Napa.
Day passes for the festival start at $75, 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.
Special events like the Festival Gala are additional ($150). And the Winemaker Dinners are only for Patron Passes, Sponsors, Media, Filmmakers and other invited guests.
Four excellent resources to help plan your trip 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
Read more of Sherrie’s work in Wine Country Weekly and at Out And About San Francisco in the Communities section of the Washington Times. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook for even more inside scoop.
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