Festival Napa Valley Brings Arts to Wine Country

Bill Murray in a musical performence
Bill Murray in a musical performence

Photo Credit: Volkswagen Group

The 12th annual Festival Napa Valley, a 10-day extravaganza in wine country, starts this Friday, July 14 and runs through Sunday, July 23. With 60 events at 30 different venues, the festival is not to be missed and an excellent reason to get out of the city and head north for a few days. “Festival Napa Valley has become known for creating an experience like no other,” Sonia Tolbert, the general manager of the event told Haute Living in an email. “We’re constantly searching for innovative programs, performers on the rise, and spectacular venues to provide something special for our guests. To highlight just a few: Opening night features two of operas brightest stars—Danielle de Niese and Paulo Szot—performing on three stages at Meadowood. Joshua Bell performs under the stars at Far Niente with Cuban pianist Aldo López-Gavilán and the Havana Chamber Orchestra. The lead actors from the national tour of Hamilton headline our Arts for All Gala. Conductor Stephane Deneve returns to Bouchaine Winery where he was married to celebrate his 10th wedding anniversary.” But that’s not all! Headliners include Gloria Estefan, Bill Murray, and the San Francisco Ballet.

A performance at last year's Festival Napa Valley
A performance at last year’s Festival Napa Valley

The festival is put on by the Napa Valley Festival Association, a nonprofit that’s governed by a board of prominent vintners and local leaders. The 2017 festival hosts include Alpha Omega, Blue Note Napa, CIA at Copia, Hall, Meadowood Napa Valley, and Promontory. “We’re very lucky to have some of Napa’s hottest new destinations hosting festival events this year!” Tolbert says. “Bill Harlan’s new winery, Promontory, is an exciting new addition.  Other newcomers are The Ink House which has been reimagined by Castellucci Napa Valley, Bespoke Collection’s RiverHouse in downtown Napa, Chris Cosentino’s new Acacia House at Las Alcobas and the speakesy-esque Napa Valley Distillery. We’re also fortunate to have iconic wineries like Stags’ Leap Wine Cellars and Trinchero Family Vineyards hosting events for the first time.”

Aldo López-Gavilán is back for this year's festival
Aldo López-Gavilán is back for this year’s festival

A wide variety of passes are available to customize the event experience and maximize support for the nonprofit’s mission—to make the arts accessible to everyone. This is what Tolbert is most looking forward to. “Aside from all the amazing performances and events, we are really thrilled to build on our mission of bringing the arts to all,” she says. “One of my personal favorites is our annual Concert for Kids, a private concert for local Boys & Girls Club kids. We’re also introducing the Festival Napa Valley Music Academy, a tuition-free summer conservatory for 75 pre-professional musicians from top universities and conservatories. Conductor Ming Luke and an all-star faculty will lead them in a two week intensive program at Napa Valley College where they will receive daily coaching and master classes plus get valuable experience performing a number of concerts.”

A winery dinner during the 2016 festival
A winery dinner during the 2016 festival

The variety of performances is what makes Festival Napa Valley one of the most unique summer festivals around. After all, how many festivals feature a comedian as a headliner? And it’s not the first time the event has done so. “Whoopi Goldberg emceed our tribute to Sophia Loren, Wayne Brady hosted our Arts for All Gala last year, and Michael Keaton starred one time in 24 Hour Plays,” Tolbert explains. Fans of Murray can expect to see a different side of the Groundhog Day-star as he debuts his collaboration with cellist Jan Volger. “While Bill Murray is known for being a funny man, New Worlds, his collaboration with Jan Vogler, is more a reflection of his passion for poetry and music. Being the ultimate entertainer that he is, I’m sure that he will take the audience on a journey with him. A journey filled with plenty of laughs!” Tolbert says.

Get your tickets now for wine country’s hottest summer event.