If your idea of a great music experience has morphed from brown-bagging booze and stage diving in a purple velvet skin revealing outfit to something more comfy -- say, a seated meal of local duck tacos with decent (on tap) wine and music acts with sound from Meyer Sound -- then the opening of City Winery in Napa this week has potential.
We may quibble with the venue name -- does anyone think of Napa in the same vein as Nashville, Chicago, and New York, where the first City Winery outposts opened recently? Probably not, but City Winery, housed in Napa's historic Opera House is an interesting idea from CEO Michael Dorf. He brings serious entertainment cred to this project given he founded the famous Knitting Factory music venue in NYC in 1987, where acts included Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo, Bill Frisell and Cassandra Wilson.
Why visit now: Dorf and co. gave The Opera House a loving overhaul, and the upcoming acts include Richard Thompson, Steve Earl, Patterson Hood of Drive-by Truckers, 10,000 Maniacs, and Bruce Cockburn. Wines (from 400 producers) are served in Riedel stemware and the Wine Director is Erin O'Brien, who for the most part sources from nearby: St. Supéry, Michael Mondavi Wines, Massican, and Coup de Foudre; there are also gift-y retail bottles from acts like Los Lobos, Tom Paxton, Dan Hicks & the Hot Licks, or Allen Toussaint Cabernet Sauvignon for the relatively affordable price of $35.
O'Brien has a wine tap system with a whopping 36 taps, reportedly the largest of its kind in the area. Cal-Med eats from chef Joseph Panarello also skew wine friendly: County Line Farms black kale Caesar with toasted pine nuts and Parmesan crisp crumbles; Sonoma County Poultry braised Liberty duck tacos; olive oil cake with macerated strawberries. Napa Valley Transport has a neato pick up and drop off transportation service between Calistoga and Napa.
Where: City Winery, 1030 Main St., Napa, (707) 226-7372
Cost: Ticket, food and wine options can be booked online for various prices. If you are going to a few shows here, Vinofile Premier membership may be a good idea and gets you free bus service to and from shows.
Why visit now: Passport tasting reminds us of how fun pirate maps used to be when we were kids. For the uninitiated, passport wine tasting is a way to see and experience a bunch of spots in two days, and there's major satisfaction in checking your map with each stop. The search for grape-inspired treasure is happening April 26-27, where more than 50 participating wineries have themed entertainment (Old World Carnival, Louisiana Rhythm & Blues, Springtime in Paris), food, and wine tastings. The area is known for family-owned wineries producing Zinfandel, and is as beautiful as it is mellow. Our favorite producers include: Quivira, Unti, Ferrari-Carano, Seghesio Family, and Lambert Bridge, but each has its own merits.
Where: 50+ Northern Sonoma Country wineries
Cost:$120 (both Saturday and Sunday). One-day pass tickets are sold out.
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