It’s no secret that I have a bit of a love affair with Napa. Even though it’s merely an hour-long drive from San Francisco, it feels like a world away. The sun feels warmer, the laughter feels richer, and it’s home to one-of-a-kind experiences like Festival del Sole.
The Festival del Sole, also known as Napa Fest, is an annual extravaganza of the best food, wine, and culture that Napa has to offer. The two-week festival includes everything from morning yoga amongst the vines to sparkling wine brunches and unique performance art. I joined the festival during the grande finale of the final two days of the festival.
Last Saturday, attendees from all over the country converged on the Lincoln Theater in Napa to witness the 24 Hour Plays. Far from a run-of-the-mill theatrical production, the 24 Hour Plays involved actors, writers, and musicians pushing themselves to the limit by writing, rehearsing, and performing a short play entirely within the space of 24 hours.
Although the four plays each had their unique flavor and fun, I was especially enraptured by the short comedy starring Christopher Meloni, also known as Detective Elliot Stabler on Law & Order: SVU, also known as my celebrity crush. No shame here.
Following the performance, Jim and I met up with my friend Allyson (you’ve seen her before!), a true Napa local who knows wine like I know miniskirts and San Francisco’s best puppy-spotting locations. Our wonderfully complementary clothing choices were purely accidental, I assure you…
Allyson encouraged me to break out of my white wine-only rut and sample some pinot noir from Couloir Wines, and let me say- mind blown. Jim had to restrain me from walking off with a case. I used to be a loyal sauvingnon blanc girl, but there’s a new act in town now!
After the music wound down, the evening ended with an opportunity to explore the Napa Valley Museum’s Miles Davis exhibit.
Jim and I snuck back to San Francisco for a few hours’ sleep before returning to wine country the following morning, this time for a sparkling wine farewell brunch at Domaine Carneros, one of my favorite wineries. The setting is absolutely stunning, and the wine more than speaks for itself (I fell in love with the Blanc de Blancs!).
Domaine Carneros president & winemaker Eileen Crane kicked off the morning with a brief history of the festival, touching on its rich history and aptly summing up the festival as “an adult fairy tale.” Throughout the brunch, each course was paired with a different wine, and guests received an impromptu tasting lesson about how the flavors in each dish complemented the wine. Pretty sure I’m never serving brunch sans wine again!
Before our trek back to the city, we lingered among the vines, savoring the fog-free weather and the rich smell of earth. You can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl. And before anyone asks, these shoes were perfectly practical walking through dirt, thankyouverymuch!
Needless to say, I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for any news of next year’s Festival del Sole. Even after a single weekend at the festival, I was overwhelmed with Napa’s creative spirit and sense of community (ok, the wine was pretty fabulous as well). I began the weekend knowing only my guests, but I emerged feeling welcomed and a part of something special.
Even though I may still struggle to tell a Zinfandel from a Cabernet, I’ve certainly developed a taste for Napa and the Festival del Sole.
Photography courtesy of Festival del Sole and by James Winstead