Napa Valley music festivals: I heard it on the grapevine

A crop of music festivals in the Napa Valley is drawing a wider crowd of visitors up to the renowned vineyards of northern California. Gemma Price raises a toast

"Saturday, it's a Saturday!" rouses rapper David Jude Jolicoeur, as he leads the crowd in a hands-in-the-air sway. "Put your hands up if you've heard of us; put your hands up if you haven't heard of us. We're just glad that you're here, having a great time."

It seems that everybody on the packed, sun-drenched lawn does know the trio onstage, even in the quiet Californian wine city of Napa. As De La Soul work their way through a set list of hits including "Me, Myself and I", so do the 80,000 revellers, many of whom are sitting on lawn seats or picnic blankets, nursing plastic tumblers of wine from one of 25 nearby vineyard stalls.

"Any region that has an appreciation of wine and food is surely going to also have an appreciation of music," David Graham, one of BottleRock Festival's organisers, later tells me. "When you add amazing weather, you're cooking with fire."

He's certainly on to something. Located 48 miles north of San Francisco, Napa and its surrounding valley are best known for their award-winning vintners, outstanding eateries and intimate boutique lodgings. But in the past few years, the region has started to offer more than just wine tourism. BottleRock Festival, now in its second year – with a genre-spanning line-up that included Outkast, The Cure and LL Cool J – is just one of many new events aiming to lure a wider audience to wine country.

A Live in the Vineyard event A Live in the Vineyard event It's a tactic that seems to be catching on. This year will be the first time that BR Cohn Winery hosts a summer series – an intimate affair for 200 will be held in its 160-year-old Pichelin olive grove once a month until October – and CEO Dan Cohn says he's hoping to attract a younger crowd. After all, Silicon Valley's flush, twenty- and thirtysomethings are only an hour away.

"After a wine tasting, you're not necessarily ready to go out to dinner – there's a void and I thought a concert would be a great way to fill it," Cohn explains as we stroll through the olive trees that slope away from the property's charming white wooden tasting room – formerly the Cohn family home.

"For this inaugural year, I identified different genres of music that had a pretty good local following; in the future I'd like to get Pink, Katy Perry and Green Day to play." BR Cohn's summer series might be new, but the property is no stranger to hosting musicians. Dan's father and winery founder, Bruce Cohn, managed the Doobie Brothers in the late 1960s and 1970s.

Chris Hall, vice president of Long Meadow Ranch winery, is also leveraging a strong family music background and the property's gorgeous setting. "My father – who started the business – and I are both music fans. I play the sax and he plays trombone. I don't think I've ever done an event without music ," he tells me.

Now in their third year, the Sunday afternoon concerts here attract up to 400 people, many of whom come for lunch or dinner at the impressive farm-to-table restaurant; others bring picnics to enjoy with a bottle of Long Meadow Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon or Sauvignon Blanc on the lawn. "I've had a lot of inspiration growing up here, with the long-running Mondavi concert series and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band on 4 July," Hall noted.

Mondavi's summer gig roster is one of the region's longest-running. It debuted with the Napa Symphony orchestra in 1969 and artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Blondie and Tony Bennett have performed amid the To Kalon vineyard in subsequent years.

One of Napa's best-known brands, Mondavi made its name in the 1960s: Robert Mondavi's signature 1968 Fumé Blanc remains one of the company's best sellers and the Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve is one of its most celebrated labels. In addition to walk-in tastings, visitors can sign up for signature tours, the highlight of which is at twilight. As the sun sets over the Napa Valley, I join a small group on a stroll through the cool cellar and barrel-ageing rooms before retiring to the Fireplace Room for a tasting of reserve and spotlight wines, with a lavish platter of locally produced artisan cheeses.

Bottle Rock Festival Bottle Rock Festival The next big event is the mid-July Festival del Sole – a gathering of 100 wineries as well as food producers, musicians and dancers, all celebrating the best that wine country has to offer. Vintners' lunches are offered alongside yoga in the vineyards, opera and classical music.

Another key date is the opening concert of the Music in the Vineyards 20th anniversary season, featuring the music of Mendelssohn and Mozart at Clos Pegase on 1 August, followed by four weeks of chamber music at 18 intimate Napa wineries. Some of the concerts take place in wine caves, others in barrel rooms and on terraces – they're not just atmospheric venues; they're also chosen for acoustic quality. And the fun doesn't stop with summer, either – the three-day Live in the Vineyard series offers the chance to win access to private and exclusive acoustic concerts that bring together recording artists, top-tier winemakers and world-renowned chefs in November. I'll drink to that.

Travel Essentials

Getting there

The gateway to the Napa Valley is San Francisco, served from Heathrow by British Airways (0844 493 0787;, Virgin Atlantic (0844 209 7777; and United Airlines (0845 607 6760;

Staying there

Auberge du Soleil, Rutherford (001 707 963 1211; Doubles start at $675 (£421), including breakfast.

Visiting there

BottleRock Festival; 29-31 May, 2015 (

Summer Music Series at BR Cohn Winery; until October (

Sunday afternoon concerts at Long Meadow Ranch; until October (

Mondavi concerts at Robert Mondavi Winery; until 19 July (

Festival del Sole; 11-20 July (

Music in the Vineyards at Clos Pegase; 1-24 August (

Live in the Vineyard; 6-9 November (

More information

Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to vitriol, no one on attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Automotive Service Advisor - Franchised Main Dealer

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful, family owned m...

    Recruitment Genius: Product Advisor - Automotive

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to the consistent growth of...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Automotive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ex...

    Recruitment Genius: Renewals Sales Executive - Automotive

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ou...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable