Additional articles BY COURTNEY COCHRAN

Festival 411

Your how-to guide to wine country festivals

Before I attended my first wine country festival, I didn’t know what all the fuss was about.

To be sure, I’ve put in my fair share of time at festivals of all sorts over the years, from music festivals to art festivals to boating festivals (don’t laugh – I was in Monte Carlo and figured “when in Rome;” plus, it was sponsored by Prada). And although I’ve always enjoyed myself, I can honestly say I never left a festival feeling I simply HAD to make it back the next year.

That is, until I attended last year’s Taste Napa Valley, the day-long festival that marks the beginning of the hugely successful Auction Napa Valley.

Wine Country Festival: Napa Style
An impossibly colorful, decadent and fabulously bacchanalian event celebrating all things Napa Valley, the festival held annually on the eve of the valley’s celebrated live auction features barrel tasting, celebrity chef cameos and a who’s-who crowd of wine personalities, winemakers and local luminaries. All this, and there’s some fantastic fashion sported by guests, including plenty of Prada.

In short, it’s everything a girl like me could want in a festival, and I didn’t even have to travel outside my wine country comfort zone to find it.

Making the Most of Wine Country Festivals
Whether it’s the Prada, the Pinot or the prosciutto that does it for you, wine country festivals bring together wine country’s best assets in one place, usually along with a dash of live music, dancing and games. Add amazing surroundings to the mix and you’ve got a recipe for a seriously good time.

And although spontaneity is undeniably stylish, observing a few rules of thumb while attending festivals like this weekend’s highly anticipated Sonoma Valley Film Festival will help ensure that you get the most out of your festival experience.

Plan Ahead
Festivals invariably involve a wonderfully wide array of things to do, see and taste, which means participants run the risk of missing highlights amidst all the distractions. Taking a few minutes to scan a list of vendors, activities or – in the case of this weekend’s Sonoma celebration – films to see will help ensure you don’t miss out on something good.

Prepare for the Elements
Many wine country festivals take place at least partially in the beautiful outdoors, especially around this time of year. Sunscreen and a good hat are indispensable at these events, and it’s always a good idea to drink plenty of water.

Try Something New
Festivals are virtual smörgåsbords of new experiences, from the culinary to the artistic. So whether it be a new film, wine or food stuff, be sure to try something new next time you’re at a festival – you may even discover a new favorite.

Pace Yourself
Festivals are long, the sun is hot and there are always lots of things to see and do. Especially when there’s wine involved, try pacing yourself by substituting plenty of water between alcoholic drinks. That, and be sure to line up a designated driver.

After all, you want to make sure you can make it back next year.

About Taste Napa Valley
The day-long celebration will be held this year on Friday, June 8 at Trinchero Family Estates in the heart of Napa Valley. Learn more at

About The Sonoma Valley Film Festival
The festival runs April 11th-15th at locations throughout Sonoma Valley. Screenings of more than 75 new films from around the world are open to the public at a cost of $10 per guest. The weekend’s highlight – the Festival Gala – will be held Saturday, April 14th in the barrel room at Cline Cellars in Sonoma. Tickets are still available for the celebration of wine, food and music and cost $100. Learn more at

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