The 4th Annual Napa Valley Film Festival kicks off tomorrow at an assortment of venues throughout St. Helena, Yountville, Calistoga, and Napa. While there are plenty of screenings, parties, luncheons, and tastings, the haute highlight of the five-day event takes place on Saturday night: We’re talking about the exclusive Vintner Circle Dinners.
In order to attend one of the coveted invite-only dinners, which have been a part of the festival since its inception in 2011, one must be a member of the festival’s Patron Circle. This ticket is the ultimate VIP experience and includes an all-access pass to late night lounges and priority access to every screening and special event. This means that you’ll never have to wait in any long lines!
But we digress: This year, 600 people will attend 23 different dinners that are all happening at the same time. Each meal features a winery and chef and the harmonic pairings that the two have worked together to create. The guests range from celebrities like Shailene Woodley to Mike Meyers to Kevin Costner to winemakers from wineries such as Hess Collection, Raymond Vineyards & Winery, and Luna Vineyards. “When we started the festival we knew that we wanted to host a dinner with winemakers and chefs and a mix up of the guests that includes Napa Valley Film Festival patrons, filmmakers, sponsors, media, and celebrities,” says event co-founder Brena Lhormer. “It was always our intention to do something like this, but we never imagined how magical and lively these dinners would become. The whole concept is more successful and bigger every year.”
While we can only be at one party, it’s hard to choose which one. Here are the details on the top five dinners that will be going down come mealtime on Saturday evening.
The restaurant The Farmer and the Fox opened earlier this summer in St. Helena at Caridean Vineyards. This much hyped about winery is more than just a tasting room and restaurant. The entire project involves a retail shop, art gallery, and deli. The dinner begins in the Winemakers Den where guests will meet with the winemakers and owners Edwin and Stacia Williams. The five-course meal, that is prepared by chef Joseph Humphrey, will take place outdoors. Humphrey is known for his innovative takes on British gastropub fare so diners can expect to see a bit of this flair on Saturday’s menu. “People are excited about the dinner at Caridean Vineyards,” Lhormer said late last week, “it’s very beautiful and it’s fairly new. Plus, The Farmer and the Fox chef Joseph Humphrey was last at at Cavallo Point and people are thrilled that he is up in St. Helena now.”
The Miner Family Winery is opening up the doors to its extensive wine caves for their dinner that’s hosted by owner Dave Miner. This classic Napa vineyard has been making superior blends since 1998 and several of Miner’s wines have been poured at official dinners at the White House. The vineyard has paired up with Chef Ken Frank of La Toque, a renowned French restaurant in Napa. This is the dinner that Lhormer is planning on attending, so you know it’s going to be good!
The Goose and the Gander is arguably St. Helena’s most well known restaurant and they have partnered with Sullivan Vineyards for Saturday’s extravaganza. The winery’s estate is home to 23 acres of vines, a reflection pond, and the Sullivan family’s collection of classic cars. The dinner, crafted by chef Kelly McCown, will be an exploration of local farm-to table ingredients that is sure to wow guests.
According to Lhormer, “people are freaking out about the dinner at Reynolds. It’s pretty cool — they have partnered with chef Nick Ritchie, he is the chef of Atlas Social, a restaurant that’s not even open yet!” Dubbed, A Little Party Never Killed Anyone, the Reynolds family is inviting guests to kick off their heels and break some rules. Ritchie, who has had years of valley experience as Michael Chiarello’s right hand man, will most likely be serving up a spectacular Ital-Cal meal in the depths of Reynolds’ barrel room.
Hill Family Estate is hosting their dinner in the Jay Jeffers Napa Valley design house. Jeffers is a SF-based interior designer, known for his flamboyant, luxurious, and soulful interiors. Jeffers and Ryan and Nicole Hill will take guests on a design-inspired culinary journey crafted by chef Jake Rand of Eiko’s. The 4-course Japanese meal, that the Hollywood Access team will be on hand to shoot, is meant to be the Valley’s ultimate insider supper club.
Photos Credit: Napa Valley Film Festival