BottleRock Napa Valley

Napa Valley and Sonoma County up the meetings tempo

The scene may be BottleRock Napa Valley, but to the delight of music fans of all genres, Napa Valley and Sonoma County continue to expand their repertoire of regional and nationally recognized music festivals.

Some of these music festivals are annual one-day events; some are season-long series. Many are held on weekends, ideal for the come-early and stay-laters at these popular destinations—or for your VIPs or incentive winners, especially if you’re combining a general sales meeting with an incentive.

The built-in advantages that make Napa Valley and Sonoma County ideal to host these festivals also make the destinations ideal for meetings: a temperate climate, a wealth of venues, scenic vineyard and mountain backdrops, and a range of nearby hotels and meeting spaces to host the ROI elements of your meeting. It’s also a win-win for the properties, as festivals showcase their venues for planners and their potential groups.

“Napa Valley provides a variety of opportunities to enjoy live music in a variety of gorgeous venues, and live concert events are scheduled throughout the Napa Valley year-round, with something for every musical taste,” says Teresa Savage, vice president of sales for Visit Napa Valley.

An outdoor venue near downtown Napa…under the lights, after a gleaming, sun-filled day of music, food and wine, an enthusiastic, fist-pumping, arm-waving crowd rocks out to the headlining sets of Florence & the Machine, Motown icon Stevie Wonder and, closing out the three-day, packed lineup, the Red Hot Chili Peppers in typical shirtless, acrobatic style…

meritage-lobbyThe Meritage Resort and Spa, Napa

Napa Valley 

Music festivals in Napa Valley are as much a part of its Wine Country calendar as bud break. Held primarily from June to October, they run the gamut of genres and glittering locales. It’s an opportunity for the small town to showcase its historic downtown buildings, farmers markets, award-winning wines, street performers, live music and art.

BottleRock Napa Valley

A star-studded, three-day festival in May, BottleRock quickly grew from a local to a nationally known event in its four years of existence.

Held at Napa Valley Expo, this year’s show featured 75-plus bands across four stages, with a “something-for-everybody” lineup that, along with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Stevie Wonder and Florence & the Machine, featured artists such as Lenny Kravitz, Ziggy Marley and Buddy Guy.

The festival is a mashup of music, wine, food (including a culinary stage for renowned chefs such as Gordon Ramsay, Masaharu Morimoto and Michael Mina) and craft beer that drew more than 100,000 fans over Memorial Day weekend. VIP benefits can put your group on an elevated viewing platform just off the main stage, on stage or directly in front.

According to Forbes Magazine, BottleRock Napa Valley is “like Coachella for grown-ups” (it rocks, but it’s mellow). Passes for 2017 go on sale in January.

By the way, if you want to rub elbows with rock stars, consider staying at The Meritage Resort and Spa, Napa’s largest hotel, with 322 guest rooms and 50,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. A favorite among BottleRock performers, Meritage has its own wine cave, a terrace that overlooks Napa Valley and a 22,000-square-foot Spa Terra.

A downtown favorite for any occasion or no occasion at all is Andaz Napa. This 141-room boutique property is near stellar dining options and multiple wine-tasting rooms. The intimate meeting space includes 1,890 sq. ft. of traditional meeting space, a 999-square-foot glass-enclosed sun room and 4,140-square-foot terrace.

concertLawrence Neuman (left), Victor Ascuncion (center), and Burt Hara (right), at Freemark Abbey Winery as part of Music in The Vineyards, Napa

Festival Series

Bluegrass-Fed Concerts at Long Meadow Ranch: Fiddles, banjos, mandolins and upright basses all come together (acoustically) from July through early October at Long Meadow Ranch in St. Helena during its annual, down-home music festival. The stars? Acts such as David Grisman Bluegrass Experience, The Brothers Comatose and Fruition headlined this year. The majority of concerts are held on their lawn (capacity 350; the barn is 130), which is surrounded by vineyards and gardens right in downtown St. Helena.

Food from their noted restaurant kitchen is available, as is a selection of their wines, cocktails and craft beer. Dates are yet to be determined (generally sometime between July and October, with actual dates depending on artists’ schedules). Work with the guest services team to make your own event happen here.

Festival Napa Valley: This 10-day classical, opera, jazz and dance extravaganza celebrated its 11th season in 2016, with hosts as highly recognizable as its guest artists: Auberge du Soleil, Castello di Amorosa, Calistoga Ranch, Cliff Lede Vineyards, Hall Wines, Meadowood Napa Valley, Solage Calistoga and many more. It’s a dazzling array of music paired with intimate food and wine events. This year’s kickoff was a twilight preview concert at Calistoga Ranch; it wrapped up at VGS Chateau Potelle. Next year’s season runs July 14−23; packages are available now.

Music in the Vineyards: Held indoors at 13 exceptional winery venues, Music in the Vineyards is a feast of classical chamber music that’s been held in August for the past 22 years. Quickly sold out, this series may also include extra events such as this year’s garden reception at a private estate, followed by lunch on the terrace and a pre-concert talk, and a closing-night wine reception and buffet dinner on the Meadowood Napa Valley lawn in St. Helena, where your group can mingle with the festival’s 35 internationally renowned musicians.

The luxurious 99-room Meadowood offers 5,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, Michelin dining and a spa. Complimentary wine tastings are offered at all concerts. The festival will be held from Aug. 4−27 next year.

Winery Concerts

Beringer Vineyards Summer Music in the Backyard: You’d be hard pressed to find a more eclectic music series than that offered by Beringer Vineyards, a historic winery in St. Helena that dates back to 1876.

This year, music fans rocked out (or boogied or samba-ed, as the case may be) in Rhine House Backyard to a lineup that featured modern jazz, bossa nova, country classics and contemporary, honky-tonk, Western swing, rockabilly, blues and R&B. Next year’s September/October afternoon programs are likely to be similar. Food and drink are available for purchase, and a bocce court is available by reservation—reserve early.

For executive meetings and retreats, a convenient place to stay is the new Las Alcobas, A Luxury Collection Hotel, which opens in December next to Beringer Vineyards. The hotel’s 68 guest rooms and suites feature outdoor terraces with fireplaces, with vineyards or winery views; eight guest rooms boast outdoor soaking tubs situated on private balconies. The 2,200-square-foot event barn can host up to 200.

Robert Mondavi Summer Concerts: As the story goes, when Margrit Mondavi took a look at the vast expanse of lawn on her new vineyard estate in Oakville, she said, “This is a wonderful lawn. Why don’t we do a concert?” The rest is history, with 46 years of summer music festivals where a who’s who of music legends, including Tony Bennett, Boz Scaggs and Lyle Lovett, have performed at the annual July series.

This year’s performers included American Authors and Blues Traveler, among others. Sign up your VIPs for top-tier tickets, which include a private cocktail reception in the wine cellar and a preconcert, family-style dinner prepared by the house chef at the edge of historic To Kalon Vineyard, one of the most celebrated Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards in the world.

hyatt-santa-rosaHyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel & Spa, Sonoma County

Sonoma County

Sonoma County’s music festivals are more than a mix of genres: They’re an introduction to its diverse destinations.

“We offer a mixture of experiences that make us uniquely Sonoma County. There is nowhere else like this,” says Charmaine Louzao, meeting and sales service manager for Sonoma County Tourism.

Given the range of venues and mild year-round climate, “any time of year is a great time of year to book your conference,” Louzao says.

Country Summer

Pack your Tony Lama boots and head for Country Summer, the biggest country music festival in Northern California, to the tune of 27,000 fans from 35 states and four countries. Held for three jam-packed days at Carnival Field at Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa, this annual June event corrals some of the hottest acts in country music.

This past summer, for instance, Lady Antebellum, The Band Perry and Billy Currington—among others—appeared on stage amid Western-themed attractions and plenty of food and libations. A secondary stage hosted local musicians in between the big-name entertainers. Book ahead for June 16−18, 2017; tickets go on sale in mid-December.

Nearby meeting hotels include Flamingo Conference Resort and Spa, which exudes a 1950s vibe. The 170-room Santa Rosa hotel, which was renovated in 2014, features 15,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including a 6,300-square-foot ballroom. Hyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel & Spa is a Mediterranean-style property in downtown Santa Rosa, with 155 guest rooms and 64,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor event space. Brasserie Restaurant is popular with locals.

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Sonoma Wine Country in nearby Rohnert Park has 245 guest rooms, and 50,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor meeting space. There are two 18-hole championship golf courses.

Hometown Festivals, Big-Town Talent

Healdsburg Jazz Festival: This 10-day festival in June attracts 5,000 jazz fans to tony Healdsburg’s celebrated restaurants, galleries and vineyards—plus nearby venues—for a major lineup of jazz artists and groups. This year’s festival featured more than 40 bands, including Billy Hart Quartet, Julian Lage Trio and Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra, and wrapped up on the last day with a New Orleans traditional jazz celebration at Dry Creek Vineyards. Other venues included Healdsburg Shed, Sonoma-Cutrer Winery, Paul Mahder Gallery, Dry Creek Kitchen, Spoonbar and Hotel Healdsburg. Similar dates for 2017 can be expected.

Petaluma Music Festival: From Egg Capital of the World to artists’ haven to tech startups, the slowly gentrifying city of Petaluma has a unique character, melded by its history. Its annual music festival in August reflects its varied roots, primarily with regional stars and local favorites, such as Jackie Greene (with Mark Karan), The Highway Poets and David Nelson. Held at the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds, the one-day event includes sponsorship and beers from trendy, homegrown Lagunitas Brewing Company. Get your in-the-shade VIP tickets (which also support music in Petaluma schools) for Aug. 5, 2017.

Russian River Jazz and Blues Festival: If ever a festival gives a sense of place, Russian River Jazz and Blues Festival in Guerneville is it. The river ambles lazily in summer along Johnson’s Beach & Resort, the site of the event, surrounded by forests of towering redwoods in Sonoma County. It attracts big-name entertainers such as Chaka Khan, Sheila E., Keb’ Mo’ and many others for the two-day September event, which celebrated its 40th anniversary this year. Next year’s dates have not been announced, but this year’s was a sellout at 5,000.

Winery Concerts

Cline Cellars Wine and Dixieland Jazz Festival: If your group swings to Dixieland syncopation, this annual one-day festival in July in the city of Sonoma will get their feet tapping—and maybe dancing. This year’s festival (its 20th) featured nine bands (among them the Devil Mountain Jazz Band, Jambalaya Big Swing Band, Fog City Stompers and Royal Society Jazz Orchestra), plus ragtime and blues piano sets on this Sonoma winery’s tasting room lawn. The 2017 date is undetermined as of yet.

Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series Presented by Montgomery Village: The B-52s, aka the World’s Greatest Party Band, closed out the 26th annual Rodney Strong Concert Series, a star-studded, intimate event held at this famed winery, located just south of Healdsburg. The 2016 lineup, performing at the scenic Concert Green & Terrace in the vineyards, also included Dave Koz and David Sanborn Side by Side, Huey Lewis and The News and other top headliners. The dates have not been finalized, but are expected to be similar to this year’s five events from June through September. Reserve tickets online about mid-May through the courtesy desk.

Wrapping Up

Obviously, there’s more to Napa Valley and Sonoma County than world-class wine and food, along with resorts and boutique hotels that are perfect for meetings and events.

Consider adding a live-music event to your wine country agenda: It will act like the baseline in a song, filling the gap between the rhythm of the drummer and the melody of the guitars and/or the keyboard, for a full, rich, harmonic experience.

Carolyn Koenig is the former editorial director of Smart Meetings and is a frequent contributor.

Year-Round Music


While music festivals tend to take place outdoors, in the gorgeous summer weather, there are plenty of indoor, year-round live music options to keep your meeting-goers tuned in. Here are a few to consider:
Blue Note Napa

Making its grand debut in downtown Napa Oct. 25, Blue Note Napa is brought to you by the same folks as the famed original in New York. Located on the first floor of the historic Napa Valley Opera House, this year-round nightspot offers a stellar lineup of national and international artists, along with Bay Area and regional favorites, performing live seven days a week. It also presents musical headliners upstairs at the Margrit Mondavi Theater.

Luther Burbank Center for the Arts

This newly renovated Sonoma County venue in Santa Rosa (pictured), formerly the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts, features an eclectic mix of music genres, as well as other performing arts. The Ruth Finley Person Theater is large—1,681 seats—but its unique configuration guarantees that no seat is more than 75 away from the front of the main stage. It’s the largest year-round venue in Sonoma County.

Green Music Center

An acoustical gem in Rohnert Park on the Sonoma State University campus, Green Music Center encompasses two separate venues: the smaller, cathedral-like Schroeder Hall (240 seats) and the bright, airy, three-story Joan and Sanford I. Weill Concert Hall (1,400 seats). Music performances range from chamber music and symphony orchestras to jazz, bluegrass and cabaret. It also hosts an outdoor summer music series on the expansive lawn.

Major Meeting Venues

Napa Valley

Andaz Napa

Chic boutique property in the heart of downtown; 141 contemporary guest rooms; free Wi-Fi; 1,890 sq. ft. of meeting/event space; 999-square-foot glass-enclosed sun room and 4,140-square-foot terrace; ideal property to take advantage of downtown tasting rooms.

Auberge du Soleil

Luxury resort tucked into a 33-acre olive grove in Rutherford; renovated in 2016; 50 guest rooms; Michelin star restaurant with Mediterranean-inspired cuisine; 6,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.


Elegant, LEED Platinum hotel and spa in Yountville; 62 guest rooms; Lucy farm-to-fork restaurant and bar; Garden-to-Glass team-building opportunity; 1,665 sq. ft. of indoor and 4,000 sq. ft. of outdoor meeting space.

Calistoga Ranch


A 157-acre luxury resort located just outside Calistoga in secluded canyon; 50 freestanding lodges; spa with soaking pools; private restaurant overlooking Lake Lommel; 14,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.

Embassy Suites Napa Valley

Mediterranean-style hotel on seven landscaped acres near downtown Napa; 205 two-room suites; 7,000 sq. ft. of indoor meeting space, including two ballrooms; 3,000 sq. ft. of outdoor space.

Harvest Inn by Charlie Palmer

AAA Four Diamond property set on 8 acres of vineyards in St. Helena; 78 guest rooms, including new Vineyard View Collection rooms; spa; Charlie Palmer’s Harvest Table restaurant.

Hotel Yountville

Boutique hotel in downtown Yountville, within walking distance of shops, restaurants; private dining in Hopper Creek Kitchen; spa; 80 guest rooms; 4,400 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor event spaces including two patios and terraces.

Meadowood Napa Valley

Luxurious retreat on 250 acres in St. Helena; recent $60 million property-wide renovation, including nine-hole golf course; 99 guest rooms; 5,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; new freestanding spa; Michelin three-star restaurant.

Napa Valley Marriott Hotel & Spa

Newly renovated contemporary hotel in Napa; 275 guest rooms; more than 22,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor meeting space, including three ballrooms; brand new pool; spa; VINeleven restaurant.

Silverado Resort and Spa


Historic Napa Valley resort on 1,200 acres; 390 guest rooms; more than 15,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; new 30,000-square-foot Mansion Gardens indoor/outdoor venue to open in late 2016.

Solage Calistoga

Upscale contemporary resort on Silverado Trail; 89 guest rooms; 15,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; spa, Michelin-starred Solbar restaurant; two regulation-size bocce courts and patio area for groups of up to 20.

The Carneros Inn

Ultra chic boutique property on Carneros Highway; currently undergoing $6.5 million renovation, set to wrap up in 2017; private Hilltop Dining Room; two ballrooms, 3,276 sq. ft. and 1,872 sq. ft.; 4,500-square-foot courtyard; spa.

The Meritage Resort and Spa

Located two miles south of downtown Napa; the city’s largest hotel, with 322 guest rooms; 22,000- square-foot Spa Terra; the region’s largest amount of meeting space, 50,000 sq. ft. with numerous options.

The Westin Verasa Napa

Contemporary hotel in heart of downtown Napa; dining, tasting rooms; 180 guest rooms; 12,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; outdoor saltwater pool; bocce courts; complimentary wine tasting daily.

Vintage Estate

23-acre property in Yountville; 112-room Villagio Inn & Spa and 80-room Vintage Inn; outdoor pavilion and gardens combine to offer 16,000 sq. ft. of event space; historic barrel room has 2,700 sq. ft.; award-winning restaurants and wine-tasting rooms within walking distance.

Sonoma County

Best Western Sonoma Valley Inn

Downtown Sonoma property, five minutes from plaza restaurants, shops and tasting rooms; adjacent Krug Event Center has more than 2,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor meeting space; free Wi-Fi; outdoor pool.

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Sonoma Wine Country

Rohnert Park property near Santa Rosa and Petaluma; 245 guest rooms, 18,000 sq. ft. of indoor meeting space; 32,000 sq. ft. of outdoor event space; two 18-hole championship golf courses, heated outdoor pool.

Flamingo Conference Resort and Spa

Historic landmark resort in Santa Rosa with retro-1950s vibe; renovated in 2014; 170 guest rooms; 15,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including 6,300-square-foot ballroom; spa; Olympic-size pool; health club.

Hilton Sonoma Wine Country


Santa Rosa property with 250 guest rooms and 18,000 sq. ft. of flexible indoor and outdoor meeting space; 2,950-square-foot ballroom; pool; Nectar Restaurant and Lounge; pool.

Hyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel & Spa

Mediterranean-style hotel in downtown Santa Rosa; 155 guest rooms; 40,000 sq. ft. of function space, including 15,000 sq. ft. of indoor space, 15 meeting rooms; 22,000 sq. ft. of outdoor space; Brasserie Restaurant.

The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa

Elegant luxury resort in Sonoma Valley; 226 guest rooms; 19,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor meeting space; 40,000-square-foot Willow Stream Spa; 18-hole championship golf course; Michelin-starred Sante Restaurant.

The Lodge at Sonoma Renaissance Resort & Spa

AAA Four Diamond property in Sonoma; all 182 guest rooms have patio or balcony; 23,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor event space, including 3,080-square-foot ballroom, largest in Sonoma Valley area; spa.