Fifth Annual Napa Valley Film Festival guide, Nov. 11-15

Fifth Annual Napa Valley Film Festival guide, Nov. 11-15

The Napa Valley Film Festival runs for five days in November. During these five days you can experience four wine villages, 12 screens, 125 films, 150 wineries and 30 chefs.

NVFF Opening Night Gala

SONOMA, Calif., Nov. 4, 2015 – The Napa Valley Film Festival (NVFF) is about to kick off its fifth annual festival, with this year’s theme “The Ultimate Film, Food and Wine Experience.” Napa Valley is the perfect setting for this lavish festival.

It is already well known for its wine, food and art; now it is film’s turn to shine brightly among these other established stars.

NVFF City Winery. Image: Gustavo Fernandez NVFF
NVFF City Winery. Image: Gustavo Fernandez NVFF

The Napa Valley Film Festival runs for five days from the 11th to the 15th of November. During these five days you can experience four wine villages, 12 screens, 125 films, 150 wineries and 30 chefs. The festival is filled with amazing films, food and wine for sure. Take in VIP winemaker dinners, festival galas, VIP receptions, celebrities, celebrity chefs, wine tastings, and some of the best independent films. Like dramatic films? They’ve got those. Documentaries? Check. Shorts? Comedies? Check, check. This festival has everything the big film festivals have, plus award-winning Napa Valley wine.

The festival is broken up into four festival hubs that NVFF calls “villages.” They are located in the major wine regions of Napa Valley along California Highway 29: downtown Napa, Yountville, St. Helena and Calistoga. Each of these festival hubs has its own wine pavilion, welcome center, multiple theaters, restaurants and VIP areas. At the southernmost end of the festival area is the town of Napa. It is the largest “village,” housing five theaters, and it is also the nerve center for the entire festival. Most of the big galas and events happen there.

NVFF Napa Valley Sparkling Wine Awaits. Image: NVFF.
NVFF Napa Valley Sparkling Wine Awaits. Image: NVFF.

Don’t-miss events include the festival kick-off party, opening night gala and screening, celebrity tributes, winemaker dinners, red carpet events, awards ceremonies, late night parties, wrap parties and the opportunity to drink award-winning wines and food all day and night long. Literally, festival attendees will go to see a film and have a glass of Napa wine in hand.

This year’s festival kick-off on Nov. 11 begins with an opening night pre-reception and red carpet. Sample some of Napa Valley’s best wine and raise a glass to this year’s Oscar hopefuls. Napa Valley is the perfect setting for the opening night feature: “SOMM: Into the Bottle.” This is the much-anticipated sequel to the original SOMM that debuted at NVFF two years ago. This film tries to answer the question of what makes one wine better than another. After the film there will be a Q&A and party with the master somms featured in the film where you can sip on Napa Valley’s best and overanalyze them all.

Original SOMM film debut at NVFF 2 years ago.
Original SOMM film debut at NVFF 2 years ago.

On day two of the festival, filmgoers can witness and attend a VIP red carpet gala night pre-reception before the screening of the highly anticipated Oscar hopeful film “Spotlight,” starring Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, Billy Crudup and John Slattery. This film is based on the true story of the Pulitzer prize-winning Boston Globe investigative reporters who uncovered the story of widespread child abuse in the Catholic Church.

Following the screening is the always-entertaining festival gala. The gala has been hailed as a “hoot and a holler” by Margrit Mondavi herself. If one of the winery hosts is throwing down the gauntlet, then this is a must-attend event every year. NVFF Patron Circle Members and Pass Plus and Gala ticket holders will mingle with filmmakers and celebrities at this not-to-be missed party of the year. Guests will enjoy cuisine from more than 30 of the Valley’s top chefs and wines from more than 50 of Napa Valley’s boutique wineries.

Napa Valley Film Festival Image: NVFF
Napa Valley Film Festival
Image: NVFF

Wine Tasting (and other treats to drink)

What differentiates the Napa Valley film fest from other film fests is the wine pavilions. Taste wine from the very best and biggest, to the absolute smallest artisan wineries. There is a wine pavilion in each of the four villages. Each day of the festival, the wine pavilions are open in the afternoon for tastings-a-plenty. Additionally on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, each wine village will feature a different wine experience. This is an opportunity for you to taste wines from that specific region and learn even more about why you love Napa wines.

Wine Experiences

For the first time, NVFF offers a unique wine-tasting experience with wine strolls in Yountville and Calistoga. Different from their wine pavilions, the wine strolls allow you to walk leisurely through the main streets of each town and visit each of the participating tasting rooms for a special tasting experience.

NVFF St. Helena Wine Pavilion. Image: Sherrie Perkovich.
NVFF St. Helena Wine Pavilion. Image: Sherrie Perkovich.

Wine Stroll Calistoga, 3 to 5 p.m. Nov. 13-15. Tasting suggestions: Tamber Bey, August Briggs and T-Vine and a multi-winery stop at Mount View Hotel (Bennet Lane, Charles Krug and Summers Estate).

Wine Stroll Yountville, 3 to 5 p.m. Nov. 13-15. Tasting suggestions: Priest Ranch, Cornerstone Cellars, Hope & Grace and Jessup.

Appellation St. Helena, 3-5 p.m. Nov. 14 at the Farmstead Theater. Tasting suggestions: Hall Winery, Crocker & Starr, Benessere, Pellet Estate and Raymond Vineyards.

Riverfront Promenade at the Napa River Inn, 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. Thursday through Sunday. This all-day event showcases the lovely river walk area of downtown Napa and boasts everything from morning yoga classes to a culinary demonstration stage, wine tastings in the form of a Terlato Wine Bar, and a Stella Artois lounge.

NVFF Late Night Martin Showroom Party. Image: Lindsay Dellas.
NVFF Late Night Martin Showroom Party. Image: Lindsay Dellas. 

Late Night: Why Sleep When You Can NVFF into the Wee Hours of the Night

Not only are there late-night showings of films throughout the festival, there are also epic late night parties that feature cocktails from Charbay, tequila tasting with Roger Clyne’s Mexican Moonshine, guest DJs a-plenty and all the dancing your booties can handle. Party locations include: City Winery, Martin Showroom and the Napa Valley Marriott.

Winemaker Dinners

Saturday night the festival offers various winemaker dinners. Of all the events and parties offered during the festival, the winemaker dinners are the real standout.  With nearly two dozen different winery locations featuring different local chefs and their accompanying cuisine, there is something for everyone.

VIP winemaker dinners that stand out are being hosted by: Eleven Eleven with chef Peter Hall, Favia Erickson Winegrowers & Matthiasson Wines with chef Yancy Windsperger of La Taberna, Kelham Vineyards with chef Tyler Rodde of Oenotri, Ma(i)sonry with chef Victor Scargle of Lucy Restaurant, and Priest Ranch paired with chef Morgan Robinson of Smoke.

NVFF Winemaker Dinners. Image: NVFF.
NVFF Winemaker Dinners. Image: NVFF.

Friday at NVFF

All around the world, Friday nights are often date nights for couples. This is the cas e at NVFF as well with a Friday night showing of “Love the Coopers” starring Diane Keaton, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Olivia Wilde, Ed Helms and Anthony Makie. Four generations come together for their annual Christmas Eve gathering, only to be met with surprising mishaps and unexpected guests.

Saturday at NVFF

The Saturday night featured film features John Travolta in the world premiere of “Life on the Line,” which tells the story of a crew of eccentric linemen as they scramble to upgrade an electrical grid in the midst of an epic storm. Travolta will also make an appearance at the Celebrity Tributes on Nov. 13.

Closing Night

The Napa Valley Film Festival will wrap up with an awards ceremony at 8:30 p.m. at the Uptown Theatre. Join in the excitement and anticipation as this year’s juried and audience winners are announced. “This year’s lineup is particularly diverse, including work by established directors alongside promising debuts by newly emerging talents,” said artistic and executive director Marc Lhormer. “We are so gratified to see how many directors, writers, producers, and actors are planning on attending in support of their films. The interaction between artists and audience conversing about the films and enjoying wonderful food and wine is truly magical to behold.” The evening and festival officially wrap up with a wrap party held at 10 p.m. at City Winery.

Napa Valley Film Festival Uptown Theatre Marquee
Napa Valley Film Festival Uptown Theatre Marquee

Insider Info:

Day passes for the festival start at $95, and festival passes start at $295. Be warned though, if all you have is a day pass, you are given the lowest priority for seating and you have to arrive extra early to try to get a seat. If you purchase the pass plus ($595) or the patron pass ($2,500+), you will be given seating priority.

Special events like the festival gala are an additional cost ($200); and the winemaker dinners are only for patron pass holders, sponsors, media, filmmakers and other invited guests.

Where to Stay


  • Cottage Grove Inn: very cute and private cottages tucked away only a few blocks from all the action in downtown Calistoga
  • Mount View Hotel & Spa: located right in the heart of Main Street in Calistoga, this recently renovated gem boasts an elegant spa and the always magnificent JoLé Restaurant.


  • Meritage Resort & Spa: luxury awaits at this luxurious resort and spa. Meritage is home to Spa Terra and Trinitas Cellars. Rest up before your long day of film viewing with a spa treatment and wine tasting. It also has a free shuttle to downtown.
  • Private and delicious inns: Both Inn on Randolph and Inn on First have some limited availability. They are incredibly quaint, have amazing breakfasts and are walking distance from all downtown activities.
  • Napa River Inn:  Located right in the nerve center of NVFF, Napa Inn has old school charm with amazing service and accommodations. There is a package that includes tickets to the fest.

St. Helena

  • Harvest Inn: elegant with the feeling of being remote but being centered right in the middle of NVFF. Amazing fireplace and vineyard view rooms paired with an excellent restaurant.

Where to Dine


  • Zuzu (excellent tapas)
  • Carpe Diem Wine Café (just reopened after being closed for a year post-earthquake)
  • 1313 Main (great wine flights, late nights and excellent newly offered brunch)
  • Oxbow Market (casual, something for everyone)
  • Grace’s Table (breakfast, lunch and dinner)
NVFF Outdoor Vineyard Theater. Image: NVFF.
NVFF Outdoor Vineyard Theater. Image: NVFF.



  • Redd
  • R&D Kitchen
  • Bouchon
  • Hurley’s
  • The Farmer & the Fox
NVFF Opening Night Wine Tastings. Image: NVFF.
NVFF Opening Night Wine Tastings. Image: NVFF.

St. Helena

  • Press
  • Goose & Gander
  • Gott’s Roadside


  • JoLé
  • Barolo
  • Calistoga Inn & Brewery
  • Hotel d’Amici Ristorante
  • Sam’s Social Club


Four excellent resources to help plan your trip are:

– Napa Valley Film Festival website

– Downtown Napa website

– Visit Napa Valley website/visitor center

Read more of Sherrie’s work in Wine Country Weekly and at Out And About San Francisco. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook for even more inside scoop.

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