by Annie Lesser

This past weekend, the fourth annual BottleRock festival in Napa attracted 40,000 attendees who all came to see dozens of bands and try some of the best culinary treats that Napa Valley has to offer. The headliners alone (Stevie Wonder, Florence and the Machine and the Red Hot Chili Peppers) were reason enough that the festival sold out again this year, but like Outside Lands this is almost just as much a food festival too, with tons of wine, cocktails, and more flowing all three days.

The event features a culinary stage that not only has demos from the likes of Iron Chef Morimoto, who sliced up a 132-pound tuna, but also Cheech and Chong making “smoked” cocktails and scallops with chef Chris Cosentino; and Man Vs. Food’s Adam Richman rapping with the members of hip-hop group The Pharcyde, who later brought him out on stage during their set because they had so much fun with him. Gordon Ramsay, who did a demo on Friday, commented how amazing Napa is for having fresh foods and really sticking to ingredients that you can find all in a hundred-mile radius. He also revealed that he personally stays at Meadowood, the resort in St. Helena, when he's in town.

Meadowood also catered the Platinum VIP lounge, which was the highest tier of ticket available to the public. The lounge featured rare wine tastings, craft cocktails, full meals, catered bites, meet-and-greets with artists and culinary education programming every day. The second tier of VIP ticketing was the sky deck which had box seats overlooking the main stage as well as catering all weekend from Oenotori and La Toque. While La Toque tried to recreate dishes off their own menu, Oenotori used signature ingredients to enhance easy-to-eat favorites, such as putting Calabrian chili on chicken wings.

Regular VIP featured popular local treats such as macaroons and salads from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery as well as exclusive access to pop ups from local restaurants, the best of which came from recently opened Miminashi who had an insanely refreshing dish of cold soba noodles made from matcha and buckwheat. While VIP featured a plethora of deluxe dining options it wasn’t the most accommodating for those with dietary restrictions, for example even though the the soba noodles were gluten free they did feature bonito flakes making them not vegetarian. General Admission on the other hand had food from both vegan/gluten free/organic vendors Jack in The Wild and Lydia’s Lovin Foods. GA food vendor, Pinup Girl Coffee owner, Sebrina Grillo commented how she definitely feels the crowd sees it as a food destination saying that one couple from Florida tells her how they seek out her coffee every year when they come to BottleRock.

The BottleRock experience expands beyond the festival grounds, with many downtown Napa restaurants open early for special brunch menus and local venues hosting intimate after-shows with the artists. We tried brunch on Saturday at Angele, and on Sunday when we didn’t want the festival to end, we partied with Waters and Robert DeLong at the historic Uptown Theater where everyone’s butts were out of their seats and shaking.

Highlights from the weekend included performances from The Lumineers, who drew the largest crowd at the festival, Death Cab For Cutie, Ziggy Marley, Gogol Bordello, Buddy Guy, Walk The Moon, and X Ambassadors.