Hollywood invades Wine Country for five action-packed days during the 7th Annual Napa Valley Film Festival (NVFF), November 8-12, 2017.
This year’s festival features more than 100 screenings of new independent films and plays host to 300 filmmakers, actors and other industry execs. Meanwhile, Napa Valley does what it does best, serving up world-class food and wine from 150 participating wineries and 50 local chefs, to round out the ultimate wine country experience.
The 2017 NVFF lineup features familiar stars like Burt Reynolds, Maude Apatow, Nick Offerman, Ariel Winter, Lea Thompson, Ellen Burstyn and Amy Madigan, plus famous musical artists Usher and Ashanti. The independent films are organized into categories, like Narrative Features and Shorts, Documentary Features and Shorts, and Special Presentations, and you’ll even have the chance to preview the films most likely to be in the running for a Golden Globe or Academy Awards nomination. In the past, the NVFF has screened award winners like Silver Linings Playbook , Wild , and Lion .
Screenings are held at eight venues throughout Napa Valley, like the historic Napa Valley Opera House, Jam Cellars Ballroom at the Margrit Mondavi Theatre, and Uptown Theatre, but the coolest spots to catch a flick will be at the pop-up theatres, set up at wineries Charles Krug and Freemark Abbey. You’ll also get the chance to chat with the filmmakers after each showing during Q&A sessions.
Forgive us for stating the obvious, but you can’t have a festival in wine country without copious amounts of wine, and it’s promised to be flowing throughout the NVFF. Wine will be available for purchase at some screenings, but one of the best opportunities to get a total taste of Napa is to take a wine tasting break at either the Napa Intermission at the “Down Valley Hub”, the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) at Copia, or the St. Helena Wine Pavilion at the “Upvalley Hub” Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch. There you can unwind and sip wines from 150 local vintners from 3-5 p.m.
Passholders also have full access to the Culinary Theatre at the CIA at Copia, host to daily cooking demonstrations, leaving you with plenty of kitchen inspo for when you return home.
One thing you really might not want to miss: Actor Dennis Quaid as lead singer in a rock band called Dennis Quaid and the Sharks. Kick off the NVFF with one of two live shows at Blue Note Napa on the opening night (Tuesday). Tickets to these shows are not included in the festival passes, and you can buy tickets online through Blue Note Napa.
Want to get a selfie with a celebrity? These after parties and special events are your best shot at mingling with Hollywood’s A-listers, and often feature surprise performances from top musicians.
Saturday’s Festival Gala is the NVFF’s biggest, most glamorous party, where you’ll actually get your moment in the flashing lights on the red carpet. You must have a Pass Plus, or be part of the VIP Patron Circle (see more below) to get on the list.
Two dozen Vintner’s Circle Dinners will take place on Friday night at various Napa Valley Wineries throughout the festival, where winemakers, filmmakers and celebrities sit down to an intimate and unforgettable dining experience. Only those lucky enough to be in the VIP Patron (inner) Circle can snag a seat.
Other don’t-miss events include the Awards Ceremony, Celebrity Tributes, Variety’s 10 to Taste, where a panel of celebrity chef judges taste dishes inspired by iconic movies, and the Festival Wrap Party at Materra | Cunat Family Vineyards.
From single film rush tickets to a VIP festival pass, there are ticketing options for every budget, schedule and level of interest. Use this cheat sheet to find the perfect fit for you. Note: all of these passes give you access to culinary demonstrations and the Napa Intermission and St. Helena Wine Pavilions.
If you want to see all the films, plus party with all of the filmmakers and celebs: The Pass Plus ($695), covers all screenings throughout the festival and gets you into the week’s big events and parties, like the Opening Night Red Carpet Screening, Awards Ceremony and Festival Gala, and Wrap Party. (Save $50 when you use our special code ‘WINECOUNTRY.COM’ at checkout.)
If you can’t get away from work during the week: The Weekend Pass ($225) covers screenings throughout Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Work? What Work? If you want to see as many films as possible: The traditional full Festival Pass ($295) gives you access to screenings throughout all five days of the festival.
If you’re busy all weekend: The Midweek Pass ($125), covers screenings on Wednesday and Thursday.
If you’re not much of a planner and/or can’t predict your crazy schedule: A new offering this year, the Flex Pass ($125) is good for five screenings throughout the festival (any days, any times).
If you want the VIP treatment: The VIP Patron Circle ($2,500+), much of which is tax deductible, gets you everything included in the Pass Plus, and then some, like a seat at a Vintner’s Circle Dinner and access to the festival’s most exclusive parties. You’ll also enjoy perks like special reserved seating during screenings and you’ll never have to wait in line.
If you don’t want to spend a lot and/or just want to check out a film or two: Rush Tickets are available at most venues, ranging from just $10-20. Pro Tip: The best way to secure a seat is to head to the bigger venues, like the Lincoln Theatre and Uptown Theatre.
Book a room at the Napa River Inn, where you’ll have views of the Napa River and be within walking distance to many of the NVFF downtown Napa venues, like the Uptown Theatre, JaM Cellars Ballroom and the CIA at Copia. Have a little too much fun the night before? Order breakfast to your room from downstairs bakery Sweetie Pies.
If you’re looking for something more intimate, the Inn on Randolph fits the bill. Though housed in a charming and restored 19th century Victorian, its rooms and cottages are undeniably modern. You’ll find it tough to leave this wine country retreat, but if you do, it’s right downtown and within walking distance of many NVFF venues and all the food and wine you could ever want.
St. Helena’s romantic Wine Country Inn is a good resting spot in between screenings and events Upvalley, with the pavilion at Farmstead, and film venues Native Sons Hall, Freemark Abbey, Charles Krug and the Cameo Cinema all nearby. With breakfast served al fresco overlooking five acres of sprawling vineyards and gardens, this luxurious bed and breakfast is the definition of country chic.
Pro Tip: Book through NapaValley.com to take advantage of exclusive deals and perks.
If you happen to have any free time around all of the screenings, wine tastings and parties—don’t forget to get some shut eye too—use it to discover some of Napa Valley’s newest establishments. In downtown Napa, check out Compline, a wine bar and restaurant where you can try rare vino that you’d otherwise have to get on a very long flight to taste, or sip some of the best zinfandel around at Brown Estate’s stylish new tasting room, Brown Downtown. Grab dinner at The Charter Oak, the new restaurant from chef Christopher Kostow (of Meadowood), or the Acacia House, from chef Chris Cosentino, who was a winner of Top Chef Masters. Both are great options following activities Upvalley.
Want to work off all that fun you’re going to have? Rent a bike from Napa Valley Bike Tours and take an early morning ride down the Napa Valley Vine Trail, which stretches 12.5 miles all the way to Yountville.