San Francisco Social Diary: 2016 Festival Napa Valley

The 2016 Festival Napa Valley is coming up in July, celebrating music, performance, food, and wine, at stunning venues such as Opus One winery, seen here.


Napa Valley – Festival Napa Valley, one of America’s premiere summer destination events, is presenting its eleventh season July 15-24, 2016. The glorious ten-day fete features a dazzling roster of exclusive engagements by preeminent classical, opera, jazz, and dance artists paired with intimate food and wine affairs hosted by the region’s top vintners.

Among this year’s star-studded lineup are Emmy and Tony Award-winning actress and singer Kristin Chenoweth, jazz legend Sergio Mendes, classical violinist Sarah Chang, award-winning conductor Carlo Ponti (son of actress Sophia Loren, who will be in attendance), and the San Francisco Ballet.

Visit to see all of this season’s performers and venues.


The 2016 festival is dedicated to Margrit Mondavi, founding board member and Napa Valley doyenne. “No one better represents and exemplifies the philanthropic spirit and the passion for art, music, food and wine that Margrit and the festival share,” stated newly appointed Board Chairman Timothy Blackburn.

Margrit Mondavi enjoying a past Festival Napa Valley.

Jeanne Lawrence and Margrit Mondavi at one of the previous Festival’s dinners at Opus One winery.


Previously known as the “Festival del Sole,” the annual performing arts, wine and culinary extravaganza was renamed Festival Napa Valley for 2016, to better reflect its status as the region’s flagship festival. Festival President and CEO Rick Walker said, “The new name reflects the vital role the festival now plays in the life of the community.”

I wouldn’t dream of missing Festival Napa Valley. It’s an event I look forward to every year. In 2015, the Festival played host to over 10,000 attendees with 60 events at nearly 40 different venues throughout Napa Valley. Reflecting back, here are some of the highlights from my experience last year, to give you an idea of what to expect this July. Sign up now before it’s all sold out!

Festival Napa Valley was founded in 2006; now in its eleventh season, it’s the leading funder of arts education in Napa County public schools.


Every year, the Founders Dinner is held the night before Festival Napa Valley’s official opening. The invitation-only event honors the visionaries who helped launch the festival in 2006 as well as the major benefactors and patrons, including Rick Walker, Athena and Timothy Blackburn, Tatiana and Gerret Copeland, Maria Manetti Shrem, Gordon Getty, Margrit Mondavi, and the late John Traina.

In summer 2015, the Founders Dinner was hosted by two legendary wineries: Opus One and Bouchaine Vineyards.

Opus One is the realization of a dream shared by Baron Philippe de Rothschild, of Bordeaux’s Château Mouton Rothschild, and Napa Valley Vintner Robert Mondavi. Mondavi and de Rothschild produced their first vintage in 1979 and opened Opus One as a winery in 1991.

The quiet profile of Opus One blends with the natural surroundings—the vineyards and rolling hills of the Napa Valley.

Opus One’s vineyards comprise 169 acres and are planted with the traditional Bordeaux grape varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.

Opus One founders Baron Philippe de Rothschild, of Bordeaux’s Château Mouton Rothschild, and Napa Valley Vintner Robert Mondavi.

Bouchaine Vineyards is owned by Gerret and Tatiana Copeland, two of the original Festival benefactors. Longtime supporters of the Russian National Orchestra (who are Festival regulars), Tatiana’s great-uncle was the legendary composer and pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff.

Festival president Rick Walker introduced Festival benefactors (and the evening’s hosts) Gerret and Tatiana Copeland, of Bouchaine Vineyards, and Opus One CEO David Pearson.

Festival benefactors Athena and Timothy Blackburn, who was appointed the new Festival Board Chairman in 2015.

The Opus One building was designed by Scot Johnson, who also designed San Francisco’s iconic Transamerica Pyramid.

We were invited to view Opus One’s One “Grand Chai,” where one thousand barrels of wine are aged for a year.

Guests dined al fresco in the winery’s central courtyard.

Dinner was paired with wines from hosts Gerret and Tatiana Copeland’s Bouchaine Vineyard.

Naturally, Opus One’s wines were equally represented.

Attendees were serenaded by a performance by the Russian National Orchestra (RNO), the Festival’s founding orchestra.

The RNO was also joined by their charismatic principal flautist Maxim Rubstov, one of their stars.

The final surprise of the evening was a spectacular 20-minute fireworks display set to Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.

This year, kicking off the 2016 season, the Founders Dinner will take place on Thursday, July 14 at Cardinale, one of Jackson Family Wines’ most luxurious wineries, situated on a knoll in the heart of Napa’s renowned Oakville district.

Cardinale Estate’s striking wood and stone buildings, designed to blend seamlessly into the natural landscape, are matched by staggering 360-degree views of the surrounding valley.


The 2015 Festival’s official opening night featured a concert starring 28-year-old opera soprano star Nadine Sierra and pianist Brian Zeger, underwritten by Italian-born Maria Manetti Shrem and her husband Jan Shrem, in an incredible medieval-style castle.

Guests enjoyed pre-concert receptions atop the Castello di Amorosa castle tower and in the winery’s impressive Great Hall. After the al fresco concert in the castle’s courtyard, proprietor Dario Sattui hosted dinner in the barrel room in the winery’s underground caves. It was a truly unique and stunning venue for a party, and one that I won’t soon forget.

The Tuscan-style Castello di Amorosa Winery, one of Napa Valley’s top destinations, was built in 1994 by Dario Sattui, a fourth-generation vintner and owner of V. Sattui Winery.

The 107-room medieval-style castle enchants with features like a moat and drawbridge, secret passageways, a family chapel, and stately guard towers. It’s a favorite spot for romantic weddings.

The Great Hall features hand painted frescoes and a working fireplace brought over from the Tuscan region of Italy.

Guests enjoyed live music from beginning to end on this night, starting with a live band in the Great Hall.

After enjoying cocktails in the Great Hall, guests moved to the courtyard for the opera concert.

Festival president Rick Walker with his son Patrick Walker, who has grown up with and been involved with the Festival since its inception.

James and Doreen Ho.

Jeanne Lawrence, Jan Shrem, Maria Manetti Shrem, and Stephanie Lawrence.

Festival Executive Producer Charles Letourneau made the introductions.

Since appearing at Festival in 2015, Nadine Sierra’s career has seen a meteoric rise, with engagements at the Paris Opera, the Metropolitan Opera, Teatro alla Scala, and the San Francisco Opera.

Tonight, Sierra sang a special song to event underwriter Jan Shrem in honor of his birthday.

Maria Manetti Shrem and birthday-boy Jan Shrem with friends on their way to dinner in the caves.

After the concert, guests were ushered into the castle’s barrel room for dinner.

The romantic, beautifully designed room is crafted from ancient handmade bricks.

It was another perfect evening in Napa Valley!

This year’s opening night, on July 15, 2016, will feature a performance by Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth at Castello di Amorosa, followed by dinner at The Napa Valley Reserve, a premiere private wine club with an international roster founded by famed vintner Bill Harlan. Allegro Pass holders will enjoy an after-party at Solage Calistoga, which overlooks the spectacular Palisades mountain range.

The exclusive and world-famous The Napa Valley Reserve is a tranquil property in St. Helena offering 80 acres of lush, rolling vineyards and gardens.

At Solage Calistoga, attendees will celebrate under the stars while enjoying a live performance by Irish musician and singer Eoin Harrington and classically trained vocalist Alison DiBella.


The festival partnered with Neiman Marcus to present a fashion show of styles by Italian designer Brunello Cucinelli. The afternoon affair was held at Ambassador Kathryn Hall and her husband Craig Hall’s HALL Wines in Rutherford, in honor of Ann Getty, a style doyenne known for her exquisite taste.

The HALL estate is decorated with an extensive contemporary art collection that includes works by Gerhard Richter, Jackson Pollock, Frank Stella, and Roy Lichtenstein.

HALL Wines offers views that sweep across the valley to the Mayacamas Mountains.

Gordon Getty with hosts Kathryn and Craig Hall.

Honoree Ann Getty with Gordon Getty.

O.J. and Gary Shansby.

Shahpar Khaledi of Darioush Winery, Festival Board Member Antonio Castellucci, and fashion designer Karen Caldwell.

Tatiana Copeland of of Bouchaine Vineyards, host Kathryn Hall, Maria Manetti Shrem, and Amanda Harlan.

Nancy Wertheim, Mark Wertheim, Beth Townsend, and Chip Zecher.

Guests enjoyed lunch prepared by Estate Events by Meadowood, paired with HALL’s vivid and delicious wines, for an intimate, fun afternoon.

Models mingled among the attendees while showcasing Brunello Cucinelli’s fashions.

Cucinelli’s style embodies timeless and understated elegance, fitting in effortlessly with the Napa Valley lifestyle and landscape.

Neiman Marcus returns again this year to present the Brunello Cuccinelli Fall 2016 collection at Solage Calistoga.


A can’t-miss highlight of the festival is the annual gala at Meadowood Napa Valley Resort. Bucolic wooded grounds and sun-dappled fairways provide a lovely backdrop for this most glamorous event. Guests always go all out with the dress theme, which in 2015 was the 1940s the Hollywood Golden Era, with a request to wear white.

The sold-out gala treated 450 guests to a private concert by Academy Award-winner Kevin Spacey and a surprise appearance by Grammy Award-winning singer Patti Austin. The evening raised a record $1.6 million, with proceeds supporting the festival’s free and low-cost concert opportunities for local residents as well as local public school arts education programs.

The evening’s event was held at the luxury Meadowood Resort, surrounded by vineyards. Resort guests have a choice of golf, tennis, swimming, spa, and fine dining.

Famed vintner couple Jean-Charles Boisset and Gina Gallo.

Maria Manetti Shrem with Festival honoree Margrit Mondavi.

Pamala Deikel, Ted Deikel, Ron Wornick, Anita Wornick, Roberta Sherman, Gerry Grodsky, and Daru Kawalkowski.

Stephanie Unger, Deborah Harlan, Jeanne Lawrence, Stephanie Lawrence, and Amanda Harlan.

Michael Purdy, Karen Caldwell, and Jay Jeffers.

Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Rita Castellucci, Antonio Castellucci, and Olivia Decker.

Athena and Timothy Blackburn with newlyweds Serge Troxel (Athena’s son) and Olya Troxel, who spent their honeymoon at the Festival.

With a 3-star Michelin restaurant on the premises (The Restaurant at Meadowood), the food at the gala is always fabulous.

Guests enjoyed a dinner featuring fresh, local ingredients.

In keeping with the 1940s theme, USO-style singers from the local Vintage High School performed in vintage military uniforms.

Kevin Spacey sang standards from the swing era and popular classics from the Great American Songbook.

Who knew the award-winning actor was also a singer!

Grammy Award-winning singer Patti Austin also made a surprise appearance.

Auctioneer Fritz Hatton, owner of Arietta Wines and former Christie’s Consultant and Principal Wine Auctioneer, led a lively auction offering once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

I thought the most exciting auction prize was a historic collection of Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, including a 1978 double magnum hand painted and signed by Margrit Mondavi.

As usual, the 2015 Meadowood gala was one for the ages!

The Festival Gala at Meadowood returns this year on Sunday, July 17, with the theme “Imaginarium.” It’ll be hosted by Emmy award-winning actor, singer, and comedian Wayne Brady, with a special appearance from Cirque du Soleil’s “O.” Don’t miss it!

In my next column, I’ll highlight a few more of my top choice events from the Napa festival. Start planning your trip now before everything sells out!

In the meantime, visit to see all of this season’s performers and venues.


Photographs by Jeanne Lawrence, Drew Altizer, Robert McClenahan, Paul E. Richardson, Cardinale Winery, The Napa Valley Reserve, Solage Calistoga, and Festival Napa Valley.

*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.

1 thought on “San Francisco Social Diary: 2016 Festival Napa Valley

  1. Pingback: San Francisco Social Diary: 2016 Festival Napa Valley, Part II | Jeanne Lawrence's Travels

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