In 2013, the annual Festival del Sole once again drew artists and audiences to the Napa Valley with unique venues and a tradition of vintner hospitality.
FESTIVAL DEL SOLE – NAPA VALLEY PART III
The annual ten-day Festival del Sole celebrates the fine arts in life, including music, dance, visual art, culinary arts, and wine making, with spectacular events held throughout the Napa Valley.
Part I and Part II of my coverage describe some of the food, music, and wine events. The story continues:
DARIOUSH WINERY: CELEBRATING PERSIAN AND RUSSIAN DYNASTIES
Credit Shahpar and Darioush Khaledi and Tatiana and Gerret Copeland with the clever idea of highlighting the culture of two great dynasties, Persia and Russia, to create one of the most exotic of the Festival’s parties.
The lavish experience took place against the stunning architectural backdrop of the Darioush Winery. Its founder, Darioush Khaledi, was raised in the Shiraz region of Iran, and the building evokes the ancient city of Persepolis, the ceremonial capital of Iran (formerly Persia) from 550–330 BCE.
The entrance of the Darioush Winery, built of Persian straw travertine stone, is flanked by 18-foot columns topped with depictions of bulls.
HOSTING WINERIES BOUCHAINE & DARIOUSH
The fantasy evening was hosted by Bouchaine Vineyards and Darioush Winery, two of Festival del Sole’s founding wineries. Just six vintners participated in the first Festival del Sole, and now there are more than 100—with others on a waiting list!
Darioush Winery is noted for its Bordeaux-style wines and Bouchaine Winery for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Tatiana Copeland exclaimed that a festival dedicated to Sergei Rachmaninoff on his 140th birthday was “an occasional for indulgence.” (Remember, she’s his grandniece.)
Hosts Darioush and Shahpar Khaledi with Tatiana and Gerret Copeland.
Shahpar Khaledi filled her beautiful antique Persian samovars with greenery and used them for decoration.
Pomegranates—native to Persia, one of the oldest fruits, and used generously in Middle Eastern cooking—were yet another way to carry out the Persian theme.
Of course the Russian cuisine was represented by a profusion of caviar and blinis.
The musicians of the Russian National Orchestra played for the guests.
Paul and Vida Vazin, Margrit Mondavi, and Shahpar and Darioush Khaledi.
Shahla Hemmat, Athena Blackburn, Farah Jazayeri, and Olga Sadovskaya.
Timothy Blackburn with Marilyn and Steven Rivera.
Bita Milanian and Behrooz Ghavrami.
Brandie Dixon LaFond and Jason LaFond.
Paul Paradis, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Bernard Hervet, Patrick Leon, Darioush Khaledi, and Jean-Charles Boisset.
Catherine Schmidt and Roberta Sherman.
Ron and Andrea Marano.
Mavash Yazdi, Mory Ejabat, Rhonda Coldiron, Aey Phanachet, and Roger Evans.
John Hinds, Pamela Baxter, and Alicia and Dan Bythewood.
Ali Razi, Farrokh Shokooh, and Anoosheh Alan Oskouian.
Avo Tavitian, Jose Luis Nazar, and Cecelia Petersson.
THE MUSICAL PERFORMANCE IN THE AMPHITHEATER
The vintners and proprietors bring their own personalities to their properties, so the ambience and experience of each venue is unique, giving Napa Valley an international quality
One admiring guest said Darioush was an over-the-top host, in typical Persian fashion and in accordance with his heritage. Think of the grandeur of the Shah and the city of Dario at ancient Persepolis.
Paul Paradis, Festival Artistic Director Barrett Wissman, cellist Nina Kotova, and pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet.
Gerret and Tatiana Copeland and Darioush and Shahpar Khaledi welcoming the crowd.
Quite a visionary, Darioush incorporated an amphitheater into his winery’s design. It has become a popular site for performers such as the evening’s star, Persian folk singer Mamak Khadem.
Grammy-winner Khadem performed with both Persian and Russian dancers. Where else in the world could you see such a sight?
THE EXOTIC AND EXTRAVAGANT DINNER
Patron and guest Catherine Schmidt marveled at the tent—“the biggest I’ve seen, and so intricately designed with exotic scalloped borders and tassels and embroidered mirrors on the ceiling that shine like stars.”
Tables were piled high with a bountiful mix of Persian and Russian food displays.
The delicacies on the menu were inspired by the cuisines of both Persia and Russia.
The first course was a “Russian trio” of smoked sturgeon with capers and toast points, a pickled beet and goat cheese Napoleon, and “Herring Under Fur Coat” layered salad, served with 2007 Bouchaine Chardonnay and 2009 Bouchaine Pinot Noir.
Left, front to back: Alan and Anoosheh Oskouian, Nikta Shokooh, Vida and Paul Vazin. Right, front to back: Farrokh Shokooh, Ali Razi, Farah Jazayeri, Shahla and Mehdi Hemmat.
Left, front to back: Steven Stull, Jean-Charles Boisset, Claire Stull, Gerret Copeland, Maria and Evgeny Shustorovich, Darioush Khaledi (head of table). Right, front to back: Sonia Tolbert, Steven Rivera, Tatiana Copeland, Alexander Shustorovich, Irina Yartseva, Dario Sattui.
John and Lisa Grotts said the evening could be described only as “stunning!”
Persian dancers performed in their native costume.
Next, Russian performers twirled in a traditional dance.
Getting into the spirit of the evening, Darioush Khaledi demonstrated some native dance steps with a Charlie Chaplin impersonator.
Darioush’s friends got a kick out of his antics.
Hosts Shahpar and Darioush Khaledi enjoyed sharing the spectacular evening and weekend with more than 40 friends who flew in from Los Angeles.
Karen Walker, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, and Sandra Jones.
Behrooz Ghavrami, Bita Milanian, Lida Ariani, Frank and Mrs. Naeymi-Rad, Hooshang and Eli Semnani, and Michael and Katy Saei.
The party continued long into the night.
The Dede Wilsey Dance Series brings top performers to the Festival del Sole.
They came from diverse backgrounds, including New York’s American Ballet Theatre, the San Francisco Ballet, and Ballet San Jose, and performed classic selections from Swan Lake, Giselle, Don Quixote, and more.
VINTNER’S LUNCHEON AT SILVER OAK
Though many times I’ve passed Silver Oak Cellars, off Oakville Crossing in the Oakville Appellation, I had never before actually visited the winery, so I looked forward to tasting its wines.
Midway between the Silverado Trail and the town of Oakville, Silver Oak Cellars was once a run-down dairy farm.
Silver Oak’s first vintages were aged in the dairy’s milk storage room, then pumped into a steel tank on a flatbed truck, and finally, the filled bottles were corked by hand.
Catherine Schmidt, Paul Weaver, and Elizabeth Thieriot sipped Silver Oaks wines on the patio, enjoying the sunshine and the view of the vineyards and mountains beyond.
Guests were welcomed with live classical music performed by an ensemble from Orchestra Institute Napa Valley.
A HEALTHY LUNCH
During lunch, Dr. Wendy Bazilian, author of The SuperFoodsRx Diet and presenter of the luncheon’s wellness conversation, explained the benefits of the traditional Mediterranean diet, considered the healthiest in the world.
The meal featured a healthy Mediterranean menu designed by Chef Dominic Orsini and Dr. Bazilian, based on the seasonal produce they were able to gather in the garden.
We dined at long wooden tables decorated with a profusion of sunflowers and positioned so we could look out onto the garden.
“Napa Valley lives and breathes wellness,” Dr. Bazilian said. She noted that “modern scientific research is proving what Mother Nature knows already: the single best investment in health is choosing to eat well.”
The meal began with a summer salad of shell beans, arugula, and winery-cured prosciutto served with Twomey Pinot Noir, Russian River 2011.
Second course was new potatoes, zucchini, and mushrooms paired with Silver Oak Alexander Valley 2009.
The entrée consisted of wild sockeye salmon with baba ghanoush and cherry tomatoes, accompanied by Silver Oak Napa Valley 2008.
Dessert was a healthful selection of fruits, cheeses, nuts and olives.
Silver Oak specializes in Cabernet Sauvignon, aged in-barrel for 24 months and in-bottle for 20 months.
Silver Oak CEO David Duncan explained that the vineyard ages its wines to be food-friendly and drinkable on release, so oenophiles can enjoy them immediately.
Elizabeth Thieriot and Dr. Jason Bazilian.
Dr. Wendy Bazilian, who led the day’s wellness conversation, with Maria Manetti Shrem.
OPERA GALA AT LINCOLN THEATER
The Festival del Sole’s extraordinary 2013 season ended on a brilliant note with a final evening of operatic areas performed by Kelly O’Connor and Raymond Aceto, accompanied by the Russian National Orchestra.
The program included works by Tchaikovsky, Dvorak, Bizet, Mozart, and Verdi. “The tenor was unbelievable and the Samson and Delilah was a favorite,” said board member Athena Blackburn. “He looked great and she was gorgeous and so expressive.”
Pianist Vadym Kholodenko, in his first concerto performance since winning this year’s Van Cliburn Competition, opened the evening.
Carlo Montanaro once again conducted the RNO at the Napa Valley Performing Arts Center at Lincoln Theater.
The concert was underwritten by Clos Pegase Winery founder Jan Shrem and his wife Maria Manetti Shrem as part of the “Vocal Arts Series,” which brings more vocal performers to the Festival.
As we left the theater, I noticed glasses of vodka were awaiting the RNO performers. Is that a Russian tradition?
CLOSING NIGHT DINNER AT SINEGAL FAMILY ESTATE
After the Opera Gala, guests headed to the “last supper” hosted by David and Shelley Sinegal at the new Sinegal Family Estate winery. David, son of Costco co-founder and former CEO James Sinegal, recently purchased the original Inglewood Estate and then the Wolf Family Winery.
The 30-acre historic St. Helena estate features a stone winery, tasting room, seven acres of planted vineyards, guesthouse, pool, tennis court, olive orchard, gardens, and a 25-acre lake.
As the sun set, guests made their way to the lawns of the main property, where they enjoyed a gourmet dinner paired with hand-selected wines from Sinegal winemaker Tony Biagi.
Hosts David and Shelley Sinegal.
Gus and Martha Spanos.
Lisa and Brad Oberwager, Alyson and Brad Harrington, and Kimberly Miller.
Kimberly Miller and Michael Polenske.
Rita and Antonio Castellucci.
Jeanne Lawrence, Charles Letourneau, Raymond Aceto, and Christine Bélanger.
Kate Watson and Eoin Harrington.
Becky and Tommy Drake.
Vic and Sandra Motto, with Dorothy and Brad Jeffries.
Mary Gonsalves Kinney and Jason Kinney.
Afsaneh Akhtari and Curtis Tischler.
Gerret Copeland, Kathryn Hall, Tatiana Copeland, Craig Hall, and Pepper Jackson.
Anabelle Walter and Rich Nybakken.
George and Karen Peterson.
Charles Letourneau with actress Tamara Tunie, IMG’s Greg Calejo, and TV personality Star Jones.
The young, attractive crowd was representative of the changing face of Napa Valley winemaking. It’s nice to know that interest in this lifestyle is alive and well in the new generation.
David Sinegal in front of the property’s Victorian home.
The 30-acre Sinegal Family Estate includes seven acres of vineyards, whose olive orchards and gardens seem lusher than other wineries’.
I felt as if I was in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
Maria Shustorovich, Margrit Mondavi, and Star Jones.
Alexander Shustorovich and Star Jones.
Tamara Tunie, Greg Calejo, and Jeanne Lawrence.
Kelly O’Connor and Rick Walker.
We dined in the garden amid oak trees, enjoying delicious food served on candlelit tables, with sparkling conversation to animate the evening.
“The festival is unique,” said Italian guest conductor Carlo Montanaro. “The music is fantastic, the setting is great, the food and wine are spectacular. No event offers all the elements that make up the art of living quite like the Festival del Sole. The sponsors take care of everything, and we have only to dress and to arrive.” And enjoy—which isn’t hard.
We raised a toast to another spectacular season, promising we would return for Festival del Sole 2014 and again enjoy the Napa Valley hospitality.
Mark your calendars for July 11 – 20, 2014, for a visit to Napa Valley unlike any other. Patrons interested in buying tickets next year can find more information on the Festival’s website, http://festivaldelsole.org.
Photos by Jeanne Lawrence, Drew Altizer, and Moanalani Jeffrey.
*Urbanite Jeanne Lawrence reports on lifestyle and travel from her homes in San Francisco, Shanghai, and New York, and wherever else she finds a good story.