Review: Food, Wine and Music at BottleRock Napa 2016 with SPG
Last weekend, TPG Points & Miles Editor Sarah Silbert attended the Starwood-sponsored BottleRock festival in Napa. Here's her report on the event's food, drink, music and more.
When it comes to Memorial Day weekend escapes, it's hard to beat Napa. Home to some of the best wine and restaurants in the country, not to mention some seriously scenic surroundings, this destination is a little more than an hour away from San Francisco Airport (SFO). Despite some traffic due to the holiday weekend, it was well worth the trip thanks to the BottleRock music festival, which TPG Editor-in-Chief Zach Honig and I attended as guests of Starwood, one of the festival sponsors.
Like our lucky giveaway winners, we enjoyed VIP access, which included a dedicated entrance; all-inclusive food and drinks at the SPG Amex lounge (accessible to Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express cardholders); access to celebrity chef meet-and-greets; premium restroom access (a huge perk) and more. Plus, in addition to the enormous selection of food and wine vendors at the festival, there was a very solid lineup of musical acts to enjoy — the first day included Lenny Kravitz and Stevie Wonder, while Florence and the Machine and the Red Hot Chili Peppers were slated for the second and third day.
Paying out of pocket for the VIP Plus package, which includes access to the more exclusive SkyDeck in addition to other premium viewing areas, would set you back $1,100 per person for a three-day pass. Starwood also auctioned off VIP packages through its SPG Moments program — a potentially good use of Starpoints, if you're able to grab a package before they sell out. Be sure to keep an eye on SPG Moments early next year, just in case these packages pop up again.
The SkyDeck and Starwood Lounge
We arrived early — a little after noon — on the first day of the festival, and though it wasn't too crowded then, it quickly became clear that the SkyDeck was the place to be to escape the midday sun and even grab a seat. The festival planners didn't seem prepared for the number of guests in this area, since latecomers weren't able to find any seating, and any time Zach or I got up for even a moment several people came up to ask if they could take our seats. If you're planning to attend in 2017 and spring for a VIP Plus pass, my advice is to come early and make sure one person in your party is always at your seats, since these are clearly a hot commodity.
The SkyDeck wasn't completely covered; it had a partial awning that blocks out most of the sun, but you'll still want to bring sunblock and try to claim a place in the shade. There weren't any fans either, so it did get quite balmy.
Starwood also had a Card Member-only lounge on the second floor of the SkyDeck, where we enjoyed some very refreshing lavender-infused cocktails and a variety of dishes throughout the day. Lounge access was limited to holders of the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express — anyone with an SPG package ended up with a purple wristband, which guaranteed access, while other attendees could step inside by flashing their credit card.
There were plenty of food options open to all festival goers, but VIP Plus attendees had access to an additional selection. The SPG Amex members-only lounge served a variety of dishes throughout the day, including plenty of seafood plates and some smaller snacks.
On the day we attended, food was provided by local (and very highly rated) restaurant La Toque. Items included soft-shell crab sandwiches and ahi tuna — everything was fantastic and fresh.
La Toque served many different dishes throughout the day, with new items arriving every 1-2 hours. Options ranged from tenderloin carpaccio to asparagus soup, so there was definitely something for everybody.
There was also an enormous selection of local food vendors, serving everything from pizza to burgers to noodles. After seeing other attendees with an especially delicious-looking pizza, we decided to try that for lunch. It was as tasty as expected, but at about $20 for a personal-sized pie, it was definitely on the expensive side.
All guests with access to the SkyDeck got complimentary unlimited alcoholic beverages, and while these didn't include the best wines from local vineyards, the chilled Sauvignon Blanc (and maybe a Coors Light or two) did the trick.
That said, those in search of something more specific had plenty to choose from: There were plenty of local wineries on hand, including Clos du Val, Cakebread, Francis Ford Copolla Winery, JaM Cellars and Schramsberg Vineyards. Beer from companies like San Francisco-based Anchor Brewing Company was available as well. Since we spent the previous day sipping sparkling wine and Pinot Noir at Domaine Carneros, we didn't indulge in any of these options, though the selection looked great.
The selection of food and wine at the festival are reasons to attend in and of themselves, but all-day music rounds out the experience — and the acts didn't disappoint. Earlier in the day, artists including The Deadlies and The Score played, and by the time the sun started to set Lenny Kravitz took the stage. It was hard to get an unobstructed view of the stage from the SkyDeck, but there were plenty of screens that let us catch the action, and the sound quality was great.
When Stevie Wonder took the stage around 8:30pm to close out the night, the crowd went wild. It was definitely a treat to see such a legend in person, and he played all the classics like "Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I'm Yours)," "Sir Duke" and "Superstition."
In addition to the extensive selection of food, wine and music, BottleRock included some fun activities like a silent disco, where attendees could borrow a pair of headphones and enjoy a free dance party (minus the noise for other festival-goers). There was also a kids' area with arts and crafts — a nice amenity for the many parents who brought their children.
In addition to the main stage where the biggest acts played (and near where the SkyDeck was located), there were some smaller stages featuring additional musicians and DJs with fun dance sets at night. Plus, there was a culinary stage, where chefs such as Gordan Ramsay and Masaharu Morimoto did cooking demos. Sadly we didn't catch any of these (since that would have meant giving up our comfy SkyDeck seats), but it's awesome that the festival had so many things going on at any given time.
If you're at all interested in food or wine, Napa's a must-visit. The BottleRock festival does a great job of presenting this destination's gourmet goods, and a great lineup of performers keeps the crowds happy all day long. While a VIP Plus package isn't cheap, the ability to grab a seat and stay (mostly) out of the sun could make it worth it — and you can save significantly on food and drinks if you don't need fancy pours from the wineries with booths on the festival grounds.
Ultimately, we had a great time at the festival, and having access to the SPG Amex lounge made the experience even better. Attendees who booked through Starwood also walked away with a goodie bag at the end of each day, including a water bottle, a blanket (it gets chilly at night) and a wine bottle holder. BottleRock is only in its third year, but I could easily see making this a personal Memorial Day tradition.