It’s not going to take a lot of strong writing to convince you to buy your BottleRock tickets for next year. You’ll read in the glowing paragraphs below of my three days spent in the heart of wine country, drinking Napa wines while dancing to the tunes of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Stevie Wonder, and the Lumineers. Be prepared for jealousy, and a rash airline purchase for May 2017.
The beauty of having a music festival in the middle of Napa Valley is that you have a music festival in the middle of Napa Valley. I mean, seriously. You drive from your hotel to breakfast and you feel like you’re driving through Photoshop.
You arrive at the festival and immediately notice that the entirety of the grounds are covered in turf. It was so sparkling green that people were lying out without blankets and walking around barefoot. This is a serious upgrade from the mud-pit festivals I’m used to.
Other noteable callouts include the ridiculous amount of food tents (see “food” below!), a free braid bar, an actually-worth-it VIP experience, and free Camelback water stations everywhere.
Because Napa’s capacity doesn’t allow for a ton of teeny boppers with shallow pockets, the festival goers are a mostly classier bunch. Given the close proximity to San Francisco, you won’t avoid the flower crowns and plethora of crochet crop tops, but you also won’t feel nearly as ancient as, say, Governor’s Ball in New York, and I didn’t see one person being whisked off by ambulance, which is shocking. Maybe it’s the atmosphere, or the pricier craft beers and local wine offerings that keep people under control. Or maybe it’s the jam-packed schedule of quality artists that make people want to pace themselves. Either way, I loved enjoying the festival without feeling like a grandma, and I thought the people were really pleasant.
Lucky for you, BottleRock has consolidated all of the best vendors from the surrounding area (arguably some of the best food in the country) and put them in one place. This festival is a foodie heaven. I ended up canceling all of my outside reservations when I saw representation from Frozen Kuhsterd, Morimoto, Bouchon Bakery, Four Barrel Coffee, and Mustards. The list goes on. I averaged 4-5 meals a day thanks to this insane lineup.
Between about thirty local wineries offering their best pours and an equally impressive amount of local breweries, BottleRock isn’t the place to drink a Coors Light. Expect a slight hangover from switching between a Crispin Cider, a wine from Cakebread, and a craft beer from Knee Deep Brewing Company. It’s worth it.
It’s hard to pick a favorite day.
Between Stevie Wonder on Friday, Florence and the Machine on Saturday, and The Lumineers/Red Hot Chili Peppers on Sunday, there were some serious headliners. The “lowliners” offered hours of talent, from Ziggy Marley and Walk the Moon to Buddy Guy (my favorite of the weekend).
There were four stages, which helped with crowd control and allowed you to get up close and personal. The VIP area helped.
My only low moment of the performances was when Stevie Wonder got weird and started DJing other artist’s songs on stage for roughly 20 minutes…but then I remembered it was Stevie Wonder and stopped complaining.
The VIP Experience
If you were lucky enough to snag VIP tickets, you’re in for a treat. This was a first for me, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to go back. VIP at BottleRock grants you your own access and walkways throughout almost all of the stages, your own VIP village with premium food and beverage options, a shaded tent with acoustic artist sessions, and amazing air conditioned bathrooms with no lines. That last point alone is worth the money.
Skydeck is a whole additional level of VIP, with an elevated deck that extends the length of the main stages and includes free booze. There was also an abundance of charging stations for every electronic you could think of, which was a blessing after all my festival Snapchatting.
Starwood was a big sponsor of the Skydeck, and had a flurry of activities for premium American Express card members, from a meet and greet with Chef Morimoto, to wine and food pairings from the head chef of La Toque in Napa. Jealous onlookers eyed the chosen ones wrapped in purple branded Turkish towels as the temps dropped, snacking on liquid nitrogen ice cream and signature cocktails on tap.
I wouldn’t know, but I would highly recommend booking a hotel in town and walking! Acura was a big Bottlerock sponsor, and they offered complimentary daytime shuttles to the event from the Westin Verasa, which was sweet. I’d avoid getting an Uber/Lyft home at all costs. We made the mistake of trying that on the first night, and ended up rejected on a curb after four Uber cancellations in a row at four times the rate!
In addition to some official after parties with music performances, we found ourselves at Gott’s Roadside for decadent burgers every. single. night. They extend their hours to accommodate us festival hooligans, and it was glorious. Because, you know, we didn’t eat quite enough between the five meals in the concert.
The Bottom Line
Amazing. Must do once in your life…or every year. Must book VIP tickets. And last but not least, must tie in to a larger Napa trip (check back in for our Napa vacation guide, coming soon).