San Francisco Social Diary: 2016 Festival Napa Valley, Part II

The 2016 Festival Napa Valley is coming up in July, celebrating music, performance, food, and wine, at stunning venues.


Festival Napa Valley, one of America’s premiere summer destination events, will offer a dazzling roster of cultural and culinary attractions from July 15-24, 2016, its eleventh year. Eminent classical, opera, jazz, and dance artists will perform, and intimate food and wine affairs will be hosted by the region’s top vintners.

Over the years, the Festival has introduced me, along with other visitors, to many artists, local vintners, and wineries that aren’t on the tourist route maps, which has given me an insider’s view of the California wine country lifestyle. If you want to share this experience, have a terrific time, and meet the locals, this is the way to go. Put it on your calendar for this year (and next, as well!).


The star-studded talent lineup for 2016 includes 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.

For the complete listings, go to

This year’s events promise to match and (judging from the past) probably even exceed the excitement and quality of previous ones. In my last dispatch, I shared highlights of last season. Here, I’ll share more of the memorable events and hints of what you can expect this year:


The evening at Darioush Winery is one of my personal favorite Festival events, eagerly anticipated by veteran attendees. Hosts Shahpar and Darioush Khaledi provide lavish décor, food, and music with exotic Persian flair that conjures up another world.

Darioush Winery’s architecture was inspired by Persepolis, the ceremonial capital of Iran (formerly Persia) from 550–330 BCE.

Hosts Shahpar and Darioush Khaledi. Darioush grew up in Shiraz, one of Iran’s prominent wine-producing regions.

The winery’s design is unique, with a Persian straw travertine stone entrance flanked by 18-foot columns topped with carvings of bulls.

The up-lit columns provided a striking backdrop for a musical performance.

Todd Traina and mother Dede Wilsey, with vintners Elizabeth and Clarke Swanson.

Palm Beach’s Donna Long, vintner Jean-Charles Boisset, Jeanne Lawrence, and Festival patron Dede Wilsey.

Rita Castellucci, Antonio Castellucci, Festival President Rick Walker, and Dede Wilsey.

Persian-influenced tabletop décor incorporated mirrors, oriental carpets, and colorful patterned cloths.

Exquisite attention to detail meant no space went overlooked.

The grand tent was dramatically lit with chandeliers aloft and lanterns on tables.

The Persian influence extended even to the artistic labels on the Darioush wine bottles.

The setting transported us back in time and gave us memories for the future.


One of the most popular nights of the Festival, the Dance Gala brings together internationally acclaimed stars from the world’s top dance companies. Among those featured in 2015’s Dede Wilsey Dance Series was Joshua Thake from Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, an all-male drag ballet corp.

The 2016 Dance Gala will include a performance by the San Francisco Ballet, America’s oldest professional ballet company, with music by the SF Ballet Orchestra.


Quintessa Wine Estate, founded in 1989 by Valeria and Agustin Huneeus, is another of my favorites, as its graceful, environmentally sensitive architecture blends in with the lush vineyards.

Last year, we guests received a red-carpet welcome to dinner under the stars, an incredible acrobatic performance by vertical dance group Bandaloop on the stone wall of Quintessa, and a lively dance party afterward in the winery’s tank room.

The contemporary Quintessa Winery features a graceful crescent-shape design of local tufa stone that complements the beauty of the vineyards and countryside.

Quintessa proprietors Valeria and Agustin Huneeus.

The Huneeus parents were joined by their offspring: Agustina, Agustin Jr., and Antonia.

Pamala Deikel tried out the $2 million Pagani car, a Festival sponsor.

Festival General Manager Sonia Tolbert, Linnea Pearson, and Michelle Fields Baggett.

Phantom of the Opera Star Franc D’Ambrosio, with Lisa Grotts, John Grotts, and Lois Lehrman, publisher of the Nob Hill Gazette.

Mai Nguyen, Kevin Walker, Karen Walker, and Festival President Rick Walker.

We dined al fresco under the stars.

Our gourmet meal was paired with—what else?—handcrafted Quintessa wines.

Singer Franc D’Ambrosio is known as the “World’s Longest-Running Phantom,” a title he maintained for more than a decade.

Bandaloop weaves together dynamic physicality, intricate choreography, and the art of climbing to turn the dance floor on its side—literally!

Attendees were dazzled by the Bandaloop wall dancers.


Last year marked my first visit to the home of the Anita and Ron Wornick, longtime Festival supporters and collectors of contemporary art and crafts. Their home, Seven Stones, nestled among the hills of St. Helena, is named after the massive seven-stone outdoor sculpture that dominates the vista as you drive up to the estate.

The 45 acres of the Seven Stones Winery estate are filled with master artisan pieces made from wood, ceramics, glass, fiber, and metal.

Hans Van de Bowenkamp’s Three Ents (1998).

Bruce Mitchell’s Duet (2010).

Seven Stones Winery has 360-degree views of Napa Valley.

During toasts, Ron recalled that when he and Anita moved here in 1996, the property was intended to be simply a family estate. They planted a few vines for landscaping purposes only.

But as is often the case in Napa Valley, the next thing you know you’re making wine! They’ve since won several top scores for their Cabernet Sauvignon, including a 99+ from Wine Advocate for the 2005 vintage.

Hosts Anita and Ron Wornick, with Rick Walker, Maria Manetti Shrem, and Jan Shrem.

John Grotts, Lisa Grotts, Charles Rashall, and Adrianna Baryla.

Ron Wornick, Lorna Meyer-Calas, and Dennis Calas.

Stephanie Lawrence with a Roy Lichtenstein painting.

Chefs Jeff Baker and Lori Baker, formerly of Baker & Banker.

Lunch featured fresh, local ingredients accompanied by Seven Stones wines.

The lovely, leisurely meal perfectly exemplified the Napa lifestyle.


The Festival’s 2015 season closed with a breathtaking performance by Japanese violinist Midori, known as “Queen of the Strings,” opera singerIldar Abdrazakov and the Russian National Orchestra.

The visit by the Russian National Orchestra, a perennial Festival favorite, was made possible with grants from Tatiana and Gerret Copeland, and Athena and Timothy Blackburn.

Before the concert, Darioush Khaledi announced that after five years, he was stepping down as Chairman and passing the torch to Festival Co-Founder Timothy Blackburn.

Japanese-American violinist Midori with conductor Constantine Orbelian.

Bass Ildar Abdrazakov sang a selection of famous Russian opera arias by Mussorgsky, Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky, Rubinstein, and Borodin.

Conductor Constantine Orbelian (third from right) and singer Ildar Abdrazakov (second from right) with friends.


The Odette Estate was a perfect choice to host the 2015 Festival’s closing night dinner. One of the newest wineries in the area, it made history when its first vintage—the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve—scored a perfect 100 from Wine Advocate.

Odette Estate is part of the PlumpJack brand, which is owned by the Getty family, and was named for the French wine judge who in 1976 put California on the international wine map.

Odette Estate is surrounded by the palisades of the Stags Leap District.

The mountainous area provides a dramatic backdrop to Odette’s contemporary architecture.

The wine cave is tucked unobtrusively into the hillside.

The evening began with guests enjoying a selection of Odette’s acclaimed wines, while overlooking the estate vineyards.

Dinner was served al fresco, amid 45 beautiful acres of vineyards.

Under the stars, we bid adieu to the festival’s tenth season.

Odette Cabernet Sauvignons are noted for their combination of power and elegance, while simultaneously showcasing the unique properties of the viticultural area.

Odette is part of a wine family trio that includes PlumpJack in Oakville and CADE in the Howell Mountain district.

Odette General Manager and Partner John Conover with Partner Gordon Getty.

Pam and Dick Kramlich, whose St. Eden Cabernet is sold under the mantle of Bill Harlan’s BOND wine portfolio.

Vintners and Festival benefactors Gerret and Tatiana Copeland. (She is the grand-niece of Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff).

Festival Executive Producer Charles Letourneau with famed Japanese-American violinist Midori.

San Francisco-based gallerists Serge and Tatiana Sorokko.

Stephanie Lawrence, Jean-Charles Boisset, Jeanne Lawrence, Kathleen Martinez, and Jose Luis Nazar.

As the 2015 season came to a close, we agreed that once again the Festival had managed to exceed even our high expectations.


Festival Napa Valley is ten days of bliss, and I can’t wait to see all the performances and venues on this year’s roster.

Vintners’ Luncheons will be held at a range of winery estates. These are a wonderful way to meet the Napa Valley locals and vintners while enjoying great California food and wine, some of the best in the world. Among the wineries lined up for 2016:

Cliff Lede Vineyards, whose vineyards are named after classic rock songs and albums.

Mary Novak’s historic Spottswoode Estate, located at the foot of the Mayacamas Mountains.

Mike Grgich’s Grgich Hills Estate, where a French-inspired luncheon will commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Judgment of Paris.


The Patron’s Dinners will take place at several fabulous locations. Among them:

Timothy and Sabrina Persson’s historic, art-filled Hess Collection Winery (founded by Swiss art collector and vintner Donald Hess).

Robin Baggett and Michelle Fields Baggett’s rustic, farm-style Alpha Omega.

Pamala and Ted Deikel’s luxurious Round Hill Estate.

Festival Napa Valley takes place from July 15 – 24, 2016. Get your tickets now before everything sells out! Read more at


Photographs by Jeanne Lawrence, Drew Altizer, Robert McClenahan, Paul E. Richardson, Festival Napa Valley, Round Hill Estate, Alpha Omega, Hess Collection, Cliff Lede Vineyards, Spottswoode Estate, and Grgich Hills Estate.

*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.

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