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BWW Review: 2017 FESTIVAL NAPA VALLEY - An Exceptional Ten Days Pairing the Best in Wine, Food and Entertainment

BWW Review: 2017 FESTIVAL NAPA VALLEY - An Exceptional Ten Days Pairing the Best in Wine, Food and Entertainment
Joshua Bell, "Seasons of Cuba" at Far Niente
Photo Credit: Paul E. Richardson

The 2017 FESTIVAL NAPA VALLEY just wrapped up their 12th year, transforming California's wine country into a multi-cultural 10-day celebration, pairing the world's most talented artists -- from classical musicians to famous comedians and Hollywood personalities to Broadway and opera stars to world renowned dancers and more -- with the region's finest food and wines. Featuring nearly 60 events in 30 venues spanning 10 days, Festival Napa Valley provides entertainment and curated food and wine events to suit every taste, budget, and experience.

Friday, July 14, 2017 - Opening Night at Meadowood with Danielle De Niese and Paulo Szot. Opening weekend kicked off with an unforgettable concert featuring Australian-American lyric soprano Danielle De Niese and baritone Paulo Szot in concert on Meadowood's beautiful new Redwood Lawn. Following the performance, guests enjoyed a gourmet feast prepared by Meadowood's exceptional culinary team and paired with fine wines from Chateau Boswell, Williams Selyem, PlumpJack, Realm Cellars, and Domaine Carneros.

Check out highlights of the evening below!

For more information about opera star Danielle De Niese, visit:

For more information about Tony Award-Winning Broadway performer Paulo Szot, visit:

Saturday, July 15, 2017 - 5k and 10k Sun Run. Early risers headed out to Yountville for the third annual Festival Napa Valley 5K and 10K Sun Run that featured approximately 300 runners and walkers. New this year, the start line was held at the Yountville Community Center and took participants on a flat and fast course through the quaint neighborhoods of Yount and Monroe Street, along Vine Trail and through beautiful gardens and vineyards, then looped back around to finish at the same location.

BWW Review: 2017 FESTIVAL NAPA VALLEY - An Exceptional Ten Days Pairing the Best in Wine, Food and Entertainment
5K and 10K Sun Run
Photo Credit: Paul E. Richardson

A clear, sunny day with seasonal morning temps made for warmer-than-average running conditions. The route was not traffic heavy, but there was some confusion with unclear mile markers and direction which unfortunately led some participants to overrun the course. One water station was offered at the point where the 5K and 10Kers diverged, allowing the 10K runners to have a second water on the return.

Finish line festivities featured raffles, awards to winners, and post-race fuel that included bananas, oranges, regular and Hint water, and coffee.

Top 3 overall winners in the 10K male category were Jordan Meneses Reyes (36:34.5), Patrick Ellis (42.59.5), and J.R. Mintz (43:10:6). Top 3 overall female winners in the 10K category were Casey Osborn (45:11.2), Christina Mancuso (46:31.1), and Shon Green (46:51.4). Congrats to all the finishers!

For full results and photos of the Sun Run, visit:

*All proceeds benefited the Napa County Alliance for Arts Education, a coalition dedicated to promoting arts education access, equity and quality in Napa County K-12 public schools.

Saturday, July 15, 2017 - Taste of Napa at the Napa Valley Expo. Festival Napa Valley's signature event, the Taste of Napa, was held at a new location this year, the Napa Valley Expo, where more than 80 wineries along with the region's top restaurants brought tastes and samplings to hungry and thirsty guests. A superb collection of wineries, craft breweries, restaurants and food artisans presented some of their most coveted wines and tastiest bites. Live music filled the grounds to celebrate this signature event.

BWW Review: 2017 FESTIVAL NAPA VALLEY - An Exceptional Ten Days Pairing the Best in Wine, Food and Entertainment
Taste of Napa at the Napa Valley Expo

The bright, lively, outdoor space was separated into two distinct areas for a Grand Tasting Experience ($99) or an upscale Reserve Tasting Salon ($225) which featured higher end wines and cozy seating for an exclusive VIP experience.

In the main area, some standout wineries were Artesa Vineyards and Winery, Bouchaine Vineyards, Charles Krug Winery, Duckhorn Vineyards, Fiftyrow/Smokescreen, Freemark Abbey, HALL Wines, PEJU Province Winery and Vineyards, and Rombauer Vineyards. Top innovative, delectable bites included sushi samples from Solbar, a watermelon salad with heirloom tomatoes and feta from CIA Copia, roasted avocado with nectarine and prosciutto from Meritage Resort, Hop Creek Pub's ahi tuna poke, and Basalt's yellowfin tuna watermelon sashimi. Also worth mentioning is the Napa Valley Tea Company who presented an extensive array of organic teas to promote health and wellness, including everything from relaxation, menstrual cramp relief, liver detox (great for your wine country weekend!), and more. Hint Water also showcased delicious, fruit infused waters with "hints" of mango, grapefruit, pineapple, watermelon, blackberry and others, with or without "fizz."

BWW Review: 2017 FESTIVAL NAPA VALLEY - An Exceptional Ten Days Pairing the Best in Wine, Food and Entertainment
Taste of Napa
Photo Credit: Bob McClenahan Photography

The exclusive Reserve Salon featured wines from an unprecedented collection of elite wineries, each pouring their very best bottles from Napa Valley. Favorites included top notch vintages from Aloft Wine, Alpha Omega, Cardinale Winery, Caymus Vineyards, Darioush Winery, Far Niente, and Quintessa Winery. Exquisite bites were enjoyed in this lounge from Mayacama Golf Club executive chef, Scott Pikey, and Signorello Vineyards' Estate Chef Britny Sundin.

Saturday, July 15, 2017 - Joshua Bell's Seasons of Cuba at Far Niente with the Havana Chamber Orchestra, Pianist Aldo López-Gavilán and Soprano Larisa Martínez. In a special one-night only presentation, Grammy Award-Winning violinist Joshua Bell led the all-female-but-one Havana Chamber Orchestra in a stunning program called "Seasons of Cuba" that featured classics such as Vivaldi, Bach, Piazzolla tangos and more, in an effort to bridge cultural divides. This artistic collaboration began in 2016 when Bell traveled to Havana as part of the US government's inaugural cultural mission to Cuba under President Obama, whose mission was to expand a universal language of the arts.

BWW Review: 2017 FESTIVAL NAPA VALLEY - An Exceptional Ten Days Pairing the Best in Wine, Food and Entertainment
Joshua Bell, "Seasons of Cuba" at Far Niente
Photo Credit: Paul E. Richardson

Joshua Bell commanded the stage as he effortlessly moved his velvety fingers like silk on his rare 1713 Stradivarius. He presents a oneness with his instrument as it becomes an extension of his own hand. An absolute brilliant and natural performer, it was truly an honor to be in his presence and to be enveloped with his glorious sounds under such magnificent grounds at Far Niente.

Bell was joined on stage by another brilliant artist, Cuban pianist Aldo López-Gavilán, who made his US debut last year in a concert at the Lincoln Theater in Yountville as part of the Festival Napa Valley. His selections this year included "Viernes de Ciudad" (2005), a fiery "Pan con Timba" (2004), and an emotional "Epilogo" (2011). Once again, López-Gavilán puts us in an emotional trance with every passionate stroke of the keys as he gives it life through his transcendental fingers. Read my review of his previous Napa Festival Valley concert here.

Directed by DaiAna Garcia, the accomplished Havana Chamber Orchestra accompanied Soprano LarisA Martinez who also made a special appearance and filled the Napa Valley vineyards with her gorgeous, lush tones and soaring voice. The expansive grounds of Far Niente provided the perfect backdrop as the sun set over the majestic vineyards.

After the concert, patrons enjoyed a spirited after party, featuring a live Latin band, Dolce-jitos (made with the winery's "liquid gold" Dolce) and Cuba's highly prized cigars.

Watch the opening night video below, featuring sounds by Joshua Bell!

For more information or to find an upcoming concert featuring Joshua Bell, visit his website:

To read more about Pianist Aldo López-Gavilán or to purchase his latest album, visit:

To learn more about Soprano Larisa Martínez, visit:


Indian Springs Resort and Spa in Calistoga. We stayed at the Indian Springs Resort and Spa, which is situated in Calistoga at the northern end of the Napa Valley, in close proximity to local restaurants, wineries, and other activities. Featuring over 17 acres of hills and ponds, olive and palm trees, and roses and lavender, this property offers rare, substantial resources. The waters supply the Olympic-sized mineral pool and steam rooms, and combined with the ash from four thermal geysers, create the special mud for their famous mud baths.

The accommodations at Indian Springs present a varied collection of historic cottages, bungalows and Mission Revival buildings that are spread out across the property, offering different experiences to suit each traveler's need. The rooms are spacious, cozy, well-kept, and are nestled among the natural setting of the property to provide a quiet, relaxing home-away-from-home experience. Resort amenities include Equator coffee, complimentary in-room snacks and bottled water, luxury robes, high-end bath products, HBO, and more. On the grounds of the property, guests can enjoy activities such as walking paths, complimentary bicycles, bocce ball court, shuffleboard, croquet, and petanque; or they can relax in the cozy hammocks scattered throughout the resort and sip on complimentary fruit-infused water.

For dining, Sam's Social Club serves up rustic American cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner in a natural setting at the western foot of Mt. Lincoln.

The building and outdoor lounge of Sam's Social Club reflect the Mission Revival-style of the Indian Springs Resort and offer an inviting, warm place to relax and enjoy food and cocktails in a natural setting. A full bar serves artisan cocktails, local wines and craft beer, and the seasonal menu features fresh ingredients prepared in classic form. The outdoor patio area is cozy and offers plenty of shade during the day under a canopy of heritage oak and olive trees. At night, the fire pit, strung lights, and geyser-fed water feature provide a perfect atmosphere for dining alfresco with friends or family. My only complaint is that the hours of operation and food preparation should be extended to accommodate more diverse travelers.

For more information on the Indian Springs Resort and Spa in Calistoga, visit:

Highlights of the second week of the Festival Napa Valley included performances by seven-time Grammy Award winner Gloria Estefan, actor Bill Murray, the Arts for All Gala at HALL St. Helena with an exclusive performance by stars of the Broadway smash hit HAMILTON, the San Francisco Ballet, Festival Orchestra NAPA, Bouchaine Young Artist Concert with the Havana Chamber Orchestra, PORGY AND BESS in concert starring Angel Blue and Lester Lynch, and more.

A ten-day whirlwind of food, wine, and entertainment, the 2017 Festival Napa Valley again hit the mark with an incredible opening weekend of artistic and culinary samplings featuring the best of Napa wines, top chefs, and stellar performing artists, all under the most magnificent skies of wine country.

Save the date for Season 13, July 20-29, 2018! To learn more, visit:

Festival Napa Valley is committed to delivering programs that uplift and inspire, making the arts accessible to all. Blending the beauty and bounty of Napa Valley with the very finest performing arts, the festival pairs world class performances with culinary and wine pursuits staged in iconic wine country settings. The annual summer celebration of the art of life has transformed Napa Valley into a cultural destination. Festival Napa Valley is presented by Napa Valley Festival Association, a nonprofit public benefit corporation governed by a board of prominent vintners and local leaders. More than 200 artists, wineries, resorts, theaters, restaurants and vintners participate each year.

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