13th Annual Festival Napa Valley, Part II — The Galas

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Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth was the featured headliner at the Festival Napa Valley Arts for All Gala, one of the many incredible festivities this summer.


Festival Napa Valley recently “uncorked” its 13th season. I made my annual pilgrimage, one of a delighted 10,000 attendees who enjoyed wine, food, and cultural events over ten days at different venues throughout the Valley’s Wine Country.

Continuing my coverage of the Festival’s opening weekend, this week I share two fabulous gala-style events I attended.

The internationally recognized Festival Napa Valley gets better and more popular each year, with waiting lists for many of the 2018 programs. Bravo to all involved!


The patron dinner at historic Trefethen Family Vineyards was a Festival highlight and a landmark occasion celebrating Trefethen’s 50th anniversary.

Trefethen, which pioneered the idea of cross-promoting wine and food in the 1970s, offered a bounty of local delicacies and award-winning wines. The legendary Cuban band Grupo Compay Segundo performed, and an after-party lasted until the wee hours.

One of the largest private wine land holdings in Napa Valley, Trefethen Winery is still owned by the family rather than a brand conglomerate.
This year marked the 50th anniversary of Trefethen wines, though the winery itself is more than 130 years old.
John Trefethen and his children, Hailey Trefethen and Lorenzo Trefethen.


Trefethen Family Vineyards is one of Napa Valley’s most historic wineries. Originally constructed in 1886 by a Scottish sea captain who designed several wineries, it was named “Eshcol” after the Biblical valley where grapes were grown.

In 1968, the first generation of Trefethen wine makers, Eugene and Catherine, purchased Eshcol and six adjoining properties to create Trefethen Family Vineyards. The winery had fallen into serious disrepair, but after years of careful research and work, the couple’s son John and his wife Janet restored it to its former glory.

Trefethen is Napa’s only wooden, gravity-flow winery that has survived from the 19th century. The wine is made from Trefethen’s own grapes, never purchased from other growers.
Built in 1886, Trefethen’s distinctive pumpkin-colored structure—listed on the National Register of Historic Places—is made of redwood rather than stone.


John and Janet Trefethen produced their first commercial wine in 1973. Six years later, the Trefethen 1976 Chardonnay earned “Best Chardonnay in the World” honors at the 1979 World Wine Olympics organized by French food and wine magazine Gault Millau.

The Wine Olympics win boosted the image of the Trefethen winery and helped elevate the status of California wines in the world’s eyes.


Since the patron dinner was my first trip to Trefethen, I was eager to see the winery. As the evening began, between sips of estate wines, I looked around at the vineyards, pool, and lush garden. The expansive size and beauty of the property amazed me.

Guests arriving to the historical winery were serenaded by musicians throughout the property.
Guests admired Eugene Trefethen’s 1952 Corsair, now a treasured family heirloom.
Festival board member Michael Polenske, Kathleen Korb, Steve Abbott, and Diana Abbott.
L to R: Claire Stull and Festival board treasurer Steven Stull; Sabrina Nash, Dave Nash, and Valerie Evans.
Festival donors Pepper and Michael Jackson, who also have a home in Palm Beach, with Elizabeth Moffitt.
Shahpar Khaledi, Nina Wemyss, Darioush Khaledi, Maya Yazdi, and Farrok Yazdi.
Rob Garza, Maza O’Sullivan, Magdalena Sarkissian, Adam Damico, Maria Castellucci, and Parker Coomans.
Timi McCarthy, Ashley Fontanetta, Liz Anderson, Lauren Peterson, and Rich Peterson.
Dean and Kellen Scanlon.
Melissa Montoya, Parker Coomans, Kari Lincks, Magdalena Sarkissian, and Nikki Prock.


In his welcoming speech, Trefethen patriarch John announced he and his wife Janet were passing the baton to their children Lorenzo and Hailey, who currently run the operations.

The winery was passed to John and Janet in the 1970s by John’s parents Eugene and Catherine Trefethen, the winery’s founders. Now a third generation is continuing the family credo: “One Family, One Estate, One Passion.”

John Trefethen, Hailey Trefethen, and Lorenzo Trefethen toasted to another glorious 50 years of family winemaking.


Who hasn’t heard of Buena Vista Social Club? The 1997 album, performed by an ensemble of Cuban musicians, revived the music of pre-revolutionary Cuba. One of the ensemble members was the late Compay Segundo, leader of the band Compay Segundo y sus Muchachos and inventor of the seven-stringed, guitar-like armónico.

Today, Segundo’s son, bassist Salvador Repilado (who also participated in the Buena Vista Social Club project), performs with some of his father’s former Muchachos bandmates under the name Grupo Compay Segundo.

“It’s that rhythm that excites people,” Salvador Repilado told us. “It makes you get up and dance and feel good.”
Trefethen hosted the exclusive engagement of the legendary Grupo Compay Segundo, their first U.S. concert in nearly two decades.
By the end of the performance, just about everyone was in the aisles dancing and jumping!
After the performance, many local young friends and wine-lovers enjoyed an after-party with open bar and food stations and stayed late to continue celebrating this special anniversary


It was no surprise that the 2018 annual Arts for All Gala raised a whopping $2.5 million, thanks to the presence of headliner and Tony- and Emmy-winner Kristen Chenowith, and to a dozen once-in-a-lifetime auction experiences on the block.

Proceeds from the biggest arts charity event of the year will support public school arts education programs in Napa County, scholarships for emerging musicians, and the festival’s tuition-free Blackburn Music Academy.

Driving down Highway 29, you can’t miss Hall Winery’s 35-foot-tall Bunny Foo Foo, by sculptor Lawrence Argent.
Guests of the Arts for All Gala were greeted by silvery goddesses on stilts, starting the evening off with some fun.
Columnist Jeanne Lawrence lends a helping hand.


The venue for the Gala was at HALL St. Helena Winery, owned by Kathryn and Craig Hall. The former Ambassador to Austria, Kathryn Hall grew up working in her family’s Mendocino vineyards, and has realized her long-held dream of opening a winery that celebrates both fine wine and fine art.

HALL’s Rutherford winery, one of two locations, houses an extensive collection of contemporary art that includes works by Gerhard Richter, Jackson Pollock, Frank Stella, and Roy Lichtenstein.
The philanthropical Craig and Kathryn Hall split their time between Napa and Dallas, where Craig is also a top real estate developer.


The highlight of the evening was Kristin Chenoweth’s high-voltage performance. Through my involvement with the New York Drama League, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing her onstage several times.

Festival COO Sonia Tolbert and Board Secretary Robin Baggett introduced headliner Kristin Chenoweth.
Chenoweth is delightful; her infectious personality and talent that have taken her from a small Oklahoma town to a marquee presence on Broadway.
Musicians from the Blackburn Music Academy, the tuition-free summer conservatory for pre-professional musicians, accompanied Chenoweth.
A group of vocal arts students selected from Napa County public high schools joined Kristin Chenoweth on stage to perform at the end of the program.


The evening was a colorful delight, from the performances to the food and décor.

Stephanie Lawrence, Hailey McDonough, and Jennifer Mancuso.
Headliner Kristin Chenoweth, Craig Hall, Kathryn Hall, Thomas Brissman, Paul Pelosi, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Gregg Fields, Monica Mancini, and Festival President Rick Walker.
Carol Norfleet, Napa Valley Reserve director Philip Norfleet, and Claire Stull.
Clarke Swanson of Swanson Vineyards (now owned by Vintage Wine Estates), Mary Agee, and Festival board member Dario Sattui of V. Sattui Winery.
Rich Frank of Frank Family Vineyards, Festival board member Leslie Frank, Kim Cardoza, and Michael Cardoza.
L to R: Jonathan and Janice Zakin; Jerry Grodsky and Roberta Sherman, who is an member of the Seattle Art Museum Board of Trustees.
L to R: Fariba and Iraj Zolnasr; Romana Bracco and Monica Savini.


After the musical performances, guests bid on a dozen enticing auction experiences, including Kentucky Derby tickets in the Jet luxury suite, accompanied by breakfast by Chef Bobby Flay; three nights in Italy’s Monteverdi Tuscany village, with a dinner at singer Andrea Bocelli’s home; and a dinner with actress Sophia Loren in Geneva, Italy.

Popular wine auctioneer Fritz Hatton is also the owner of Arietta Winery.
The dinners with legendary singer Andrea Bocelli and actress Sophia Loren were among the most coveted auction items.
Luxury realtor Olivia Decker and Maria Castellucci cheered on her father Antonio Castellucci as he placed a bid.

Festival Benefactors Michael Covarrubias and Kathleen McIntosh applauded another winning bid.


After the auction and dining, guests enjoyed a lively after-party in the winery, where more libations were poured.

It wouldn’t be a party without props and a photo booth!
Debbie Kennedy, Sarge Kennedy, Heather Chaput, and Martha Spanos.
Scott Rounds, Mike Chaput, Mike Casey, and Frank Pennington.
It was another unforgettable night in Napa Valley provided by the Festival.


Being a guest in the historic Ink House during the Festival Napa Valley made the trip even more special. Staying there is like having your own private house in Napa while enjoying impeccable service.

Ink House was opened in February by the Castellucci family: Antonio, Rita, their daughter Maria, and son Marco. The Castellucci family had the vision to transform the 130-year-old property into a luxurious Wine Country inn.

Angela Longyear, Marco Castellucci, Maria Castellucci, Rita Castellucci, and Antonio Castellucci: The Castellucci family continues a tradition of Italians making their mark in Napa.
Originally named the Hilios Ranch when it was built in 1885 by Napa Valley pioneer Theron H. Ink, the property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
For 130 years, Ink House has been a prominent fixture on the famed Highway 29 that meanders through Wine Country.
The Castelluccis enlisted architect Howard Backen to gut and replace the Ink House interiors that had seen many previous reincarnations, lastly being split into 13 small rooms.
The interiors weren’t the only thing that got a facelift—the grounds were also beautifully renovated.
With an Italian family at the helm, naturally the property now offers a bocce court.
Today, the two-story Ink House has been renovated in a clean, fresh style suiting modern sensibilities, with luxurious appointments and brand-new baths.
Columnist Jeanne Lawrence and her daughter Stephanie Lawrence.
Breakfast is served daily, but if guests want to prepare a bite to eat, the “open access” kitchen also offers a fully-stocked pantry of first-rate ingredients.


With the feeling of a private residence in Wine Country, and offering large and well-appointed rooms, Ink House is a perfect place to rent with a group of friends. More luxurious and better than an Air B&B, here you have staff to take care of every little detail, from preparing breakfast, to making all your itinerary arrangements, and even driving you around Napa Valley in a Bentley so you can visit wineries without worry.

One room has been named for Elvis Presley, who made the inn his home during the filming of Wild in the Country in 1960.
Decorated in mid-century Hollywood style, the Elvis Room pays homage to the King with accessories that include movie posters and black and white photographs.
The Theron Room is done in warm leathers and natural textures inspired by the independent and adventurous spirit of the Inn’s original owner.
The Helios Room blends the old and new, with a private, north-facing portico and a cozy four-poster bed that make it feel like a home of one’s own.
On the top floor is the “Ink Well,” a widow’s watch ideal for reading quietly or enjoying regional wine with friends.
From the Ink Well, guests are treated to 360-degree views of Napa Valley and the mountains beyond.


I was so disappointed at having to leave before the ten-day festival was over (and to return to a gloomy, rainy New York besides!). Just some of what I missed:

• Violinist Joshua Bell reuniting with composer John Corigliano for the world premiere of The Red Violin, with an orchestra accompanying the full-length feature film

• The new Festival Live! Chamber Series featuring faculty and students (from three continents and eight countries!) from the Festival’s Blackburn Music Academy

• A Bernstein Centennial concert featuring selections from West Side Story performed by tenor Michael Fabiano and soprano Larisa Martínez

Over the years, the Festival has introduced me (and thousands of others) to artists, local vintners, and wineries that aren’t on the tourist route maps. I’ve loved having an insider’s view of the California wine country lifestyle.

If you want to share this terrific experience—with great music, food, and drink, and a chance to meet the locals—mark it on your calendar for July 12-21, 2019 (and for 2020 as well!).

Photos by Drew Altizer, Bob McClenahan, Paul E. Richardson, Jeanne Lawrence, Wikimedia Commons, and courtesy Hall Wines.

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