Guide to the Fourth Annual Napa Valley Film Festival, November 12-16, 2014

Napa Valley Film Festival 2014 Image: Gustavo Fernandez

NAPA, CA, October 26, 2014 – The Napa Valley Film Festival (NVFF) is about to kick off its fourth 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.

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


The Napa Valley Film Festival runs for five days from the 12th to the 16th of November.  During those five days you can experience four wine villages, 12 screens, 125 films, 150 wineries and 50 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.

If stargazing is your cup of tea, or should I say, glass of Cab, then the red carpet and celebrity tribute events should be on your list. Festival-goers can ogle celebrities such as Kevin Costner, Michelle Monaghan, Shailene Woodley, Mike Myers, and up-and-comer Jeremy Jordan.

Dave Grohl at NVFF in 2013 Image: S. Perkovich
Dave Grohl at NVFF in 2013
Image: S. Perkovich


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 their own wine pavilion, welcome center, multiple theatres, restaurants and VIP areas. At the southernmost end of the festival area is the town of Napa. It is also the largest, housing five different theatres, and it is also the nerve center for the entire festival. Most of the big galas and events happen there.

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.

Napa Valley Film Festival Opening Night Party Image: NVFF
Napa Valley Film Festival Opening Night Party
Image: NVFF

This year’s festival kick-off on Wednesday, November 12th, 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. Opening night will feature The Imitation Game.  Fresh off winning the audience award at the Toronto International Film Festival, The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, tells the story of famed code-breaker Alan Turing and his team at Britain’s top-secret Government Code and Cipher School who are desperate to crack the German military’s Enigma encryption during the darkest days of World War II. The rag-tag group of scholars, mathematicians, linguists, chess champions and intelligence officers have a powerful ally in Prime Minister Winston Churchill who authorizes any resource Turing requires (courtesy of The Weinstein Company).

NVFF The Imitation Game, Opening Night Film Feature
NVFF The Imitation Game, Opening Night Film Feature

Director Morten Tyldum is expected to attend. Following the screening, NVFF Patron Circle Members and other VIP guests will enjoy an Opening Night Party at the Napa Valley Museum catered by Estate Events by Meadowood. Not tired after the long day of film, food and wine? Then head to the Opening Night Pool Party at Indian Springs Resort and Spa in Calistoga. This party will start in cocktail attire and end in bathing suits.

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 Black or White, starring Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer. This film tells the story of successful attorney Elliot Anderson (Kevin Costner) who has raised his granddaughter Eloise since his daughter died in childbirth. Suddenly finding himself a widower following his wife’s car crash, Elliot’s world is turned further upside-down when the child’s African American grandmother Rowena (Octavia Spencer) demands that Eloise be brought under the care of her father Reggie. This suggestion is a complete non-starter for Elliot who believes Reggie to be a drug addict whose lifestyle and negligence led to the death of his daughter. All bets are off in Mike Binder’s fresh look at race, class, family and the American Dream.

Napa Valley FIlm Festival feature film, Black or White
Napa Valley FIlm Festival feature film, Black or White

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 20 of the Valley’s top chefs including Ken Frank (La Toque), Bob Hurley (Hurley’s), Joseph Humphries (The Fox and the Farmer), and Victor Scargle (Lucy at Bardessono), and wines from more than 50 of Napa Valley’s boutique wineries.

Napa Valley Film Festival Premium Wine Tasting Experiences
Napa Valley Film Festival
Premium Wine Tasting Experiences


Wine Tasting (and other treats to drink)

What differentiates the Napa Valley film fest from other film fests are 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. A few to seek out are:

  • Miner Family Winery (Yountville Pavilion)
  • Ma(i)sonry Napa Valley (Yountville)
  • Chandon (Yountville)
  • B Cellars (Yountville)
  • Cairdean (St. Helena)
  • Hall (St. Helena)
  • Silverado (Napa)
  • Bennett Lane (Calistoga)


Napa Valley FIlm Festival Stag's Leap House of Cab Image: NVFF
Napa Valley FIlm Festival Stag’s Leap House of Cab
Image: NVFF

House of Cab

Stags Leap District will once again be putting on the House of Cab Wine Pavilion. Guests will receive exclusive Cabernet Sauvignon tastings from the Stags Leap District member wineries. Wineries not to miss include Regusci, Silverado, Pine Ridge, Terlato and Ilsley.


Spring Mountain District

There will also be a special Wine Pavilion in St. Helena featuring the wines of Spring Mountain District. Up above the Napa Valley on the eastern slopes of the Mayacamas Mountains lies Spring Mountain. This collection of wines will be as diverse as the topography, climate and soils of the region. Saturday, November 15th at 2:30pm.

Napa Spring Mountain Winery, private wine tasting Image: S. Perkovich
Napa Spring Mountain Winery, private wine tasting
Image: S. Perkovich


Non-Traditional Varietal Tasting

Think you know wine? Try the Non-Traditional Varietal Tasting on Saturday, November 15th at 2:30pm in Calistoga. Sure, Napa Valley is well known for its Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc, but what else is grown here? This is a unique opportunity to sample some of the lesser-known grape varieties such as Chenin Blanc, Viognier, Roussanne and Tempranillo.



For a mini-break from wine, check out Charbay’s Cocktail Takeover: Shake, Stir and Sample event on Thursday, November 13th at 2:30pm in Yountville. The great folks at Charbay (they also make killer wine, by the way), are taking over the Yountville Wine Pavilion as three mixologists from the Bar Stars panel will shake up craft cocktails to sample.


Napa Valley FIlm Festival Winemaker Dinners Image: NVFF
Napa Valley FIlm Festival Winemaker Dinners
Image: NVFF


Winemaker Dinners

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

A Winemaker Dinner top performer year after year is the Sullivan Family Winery intimate dinner. This dinner is hosted by the Sullivan family and features their reserve wines and a mouth-watering, perfectly paired menu. The very gracious and hospitable Sullivan Family makes some beautifully elegant wines, and is one of the small family-owned wineries still in Napa.

Other VIP winemaker dinners that stand out are being hosted by: Hall Wines with Chef Corrie Beezley, in-house; Cairdean with Chef Joseph Humphrey from Farmer and the Fox; Miner Family Winery with Chef Ken Frank from La Toque; and B Cellars with Chef Brian Michael Green, in-house.

Napa Valley Film Festival Gala Image: Gustavo Fernandez
Napa Valley Film Festival Gala
Image: Gustavo Fernandez


Late Night Parties

Not getting enough wine and partying in during the day and early evening hours? Not to worry, NVFF has you covered with special Late Night Parties all festival long. On Friday, November 14th, check out the Martin Pass Plus Bash where the MARTIN Showroom balances art, engineering, aesthetics, and personality with wine, beer, and specialty infused cocktails. Throw in a live performance by the Tennis Pros, and you’ve got yourself a raging party.


Closing Night

The Napa Valley Film Festival will wrap up with a moving closing night screening of Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me, which is an intimate and devastating look at the final tour of musical legend Glen Campbell as he faces the end of his career due to Alzheimer’s disease. The film will be followed by the awards ceremony at City Winery, and the festival wrap party at The Thomas in downtown Napa.

NVFF Feature Film: Glen Campbell
NVFF Feature Film: Glen Campbell


“This year’s lineup is particularly diverse, including work by established directors alongside promising debuts by newly emerging talents,” said Artistic & 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.”


Insider & Ticket 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.

Napa Valley Film Festival 2013 Marquee
Napa Valley Film Festival 2013 Marquee


Four excellent resources to help plan your trip are:

– Napa Valley Film Festival website

– Downtown Napa website

– Visit Napa Valley website/visitor center

– Out and About’s write up on visiting Calistoga, Napa Valley


Social Napa Valley Film Fest


Twitter: @NapaFilmFest

Instagram: @NapaFilmFest


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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