The Golden State is home to a handful of top-notch festivals, and this year, one more joins the ranks: BottleRock Napa Valley takes advantage of its California Wine Country locale by blending fantastic food and wine with a stellar musical lineup. The five-day event (May 8-12) will feature well-known bands (The Black Keys), hilarious comedians (Jim Breuer) and savory cuisine. Our crew caught up with the festivals founders to talk about BottleRock’s big debut.
What to Know
BottleRock founders Gabe Meyers and Bob Vogt have worked hard to make sure this festival stays true to the Napa Valley experience, while also appealing to first-time visitors to the area. “Since we’re locals, we always said that there should be a festival here,” Meyers says. “We’ve got this incredible brand associated with food, wine and luxury travel—the good life, right? Napa Valley is one of the best brands. And yet, there hasn’t been a big, awesome music festival, or one that’s even appropriate for Napa.”
Until now. One key thing to know about this festival is that, in keeping with Napa’s exclusive reputation, crowd control won’t be an issue. Daily attendance will cap at 35,000, making BottleRock a much more intimate experience than festivals like Bonnaroo, which have been known to draw upward of 75,000 fans. Additionally, the Napa Valley Expo, where it’s held, is a contained setting that spans just 26 acres. That means you won’t have an issue hopping between a standup show in the “Comedy Closet” and concerts at the festival’s three main stages.
As for other logistics, like parking, spend a bit of time before you leave to save yourself a hassle at the gate. Parking is available off-site with shuttle service to the festival grounds. Passes can be purchased in advance online for $20 per day, and the price jumps to $30 if you show up without a pass. However, you do have a few options to make your experience a little easier: You can score free parking if you have five BottleRock attendees in your car (so definitely carpool!). If you’re coming to Napa from other parts of the state, you can hop on the BottleBus for a round trip ride from San Francisco, Oakland, Concord, San Rafael or Sacramento for just $29 each day. And, this being Napa Valley, keep the area’s notoriously fluctuating temperatures in mind when you pack your bag. Layering is key—take a light sweater because you’ll probably need it once the sun dips down.
What to Do
Get ready to rock—and laugh. BottleRock incorporates music and comedy into its impressive four-day schedule. The lineup has a decidedly rock ’n’ roll bent with Furthur featuring Phil Lesh and Bob Weir, The Black Keys, Kings of Leon and Zac Brown Band nabbing headliner titles alongside acts such as The Shins, The Avett Brothers, Alabama Shakes, Brandi Carlile, Cake and Jackson Browne. The comedy roster is a goldmine, too, with names like Jim Gaffigan, Tig Notaro, Jim Breuer, Rob Delaney and Anthony Jeselnik filling out the schedule. In all, the weekend will see more than 60 musical acts and more than a dozen comedians take the stage.
Oenophiles, you’ll be pleased to know that over 40 local wineries will be on hand to pour their latest vintages, including Silver Oak, Phipps Family Cellars and Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards. You’ll even have the opportunity to ask your favorite winemaker a few questions or talk about how this year’s harvest looks, as each winery will send a winemaker, principal or owner to oversee the pouring and interact with festivalgoers.
That same personal service will also extend to the food experience, as more than 30 Napa Valley caterers, food trucks and restaurants dish up everything from steamed dim sum dumplings to open-pit barbecue. In the posh garden area, you can reserve oak slab tables to enjoy a nice meal with friends. Don’t worry, you won’t miss any of the action out on the stages—there will be a few TVs showing the current acts. Beer lovers, you’ll have more than 20 reasons to raise your glass at BottleRock, too, as you explore all the options at the craft beer garden.
BottleRock isn’t just about the food, wine, concerts and jokes, though. Giving back to the Napa community is an integral mission of the weekend. “This is a for-profit venture with a major philanthropic commitment,” Meyers says. “We’ve founded a new pending 501(c)3 nonprofit called Autism CHORDS, and we also have 23 other nonprofit [partners].”
For every ticket sold, BottleRock will donate $4 to its community partners. Additionally, $1 from every beverage sold will be collected in a fund that will disperse grants to different organizations. You can visit the Autism CHORDS pavilion to learn more about each organization, and to bid on silent auction items, including guitars donated by musicians directly after their sets. “Our first-year goal for the nonprofits is to donate $1 million,” Meyers says. “I’m confident that we’re going to crush that.”
Where to Party
The entire festival is technically one big party, so each ticket option—from the $329 three-day pass to the $599 four-day VIP pass—serves as your own personal passport into one of Napa’s best social soirées. If your goal is to see and be seen, though, the VIP pass is the way to go. In addition to gaining access to special wine, beer and spirits bars during the festival, you’ll get the invite to a dozen exclusive after-parties at food and wine establishments around Napa where you’ll have a chance to rub elbows with celebrities and rock stars, swap stories with winemakers, and score insider tips from chefs.
You don’t need a VIP pass to find great parties, though. The festival ends promptly at 10 p.m. each night, and the Napa Valley Expo is walking distance to plenty of bars and clubs. Keep an eye on BottleRock’s social media accounts for up-to-the-minute tips on secret shows, celebrity sightings and other party tips throughout the festival.
Where to Stay
Leave the camping equipment at home for this festival—why would you want to rough it when there are five Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star hotels within a one-hour radius of the festival? If proximity is a key concern, your best bet is the luxurious Bardessono Hotel and Spa in nearby Yountville, about 20 minutes away from Napa. Meadowood Napa Valley, Auberge du Soleil and Calistoga Ranch will each put you about half an hour away from all the happenings. If your festival experience is simply a detour on your multi-day California escape, try booking a room at Hotel Les Mars—at about an hour away. But, we think you’ll agree that the distance won’t matter once you nestle into one of the hotel’s warm and comfortable beds.
Photos Courtesy of iStock-Pgiam, Danny Clinch, Jim Gaffigan, Silver Oak Cellars and Bardessono