Come in and taste through 30 local tap wines and enjoy Chef Joe Panerello’s fresh, local menu selections -
Congratulations to our best dressed winners above who attended the Mad Men Season 7 premiere showing at City Winery NYC yesterday! Everyone looked fabulous, but these colors really stood out. Congratulations on winning a bottle of City Winery wine!
We will be showing episode 2 of season 7 this coming Sunday, April 20th. Please RSVP to attend this free viewing! Great cocktails and food will be available!
For visitors to Napa Valley, day trip itineraries generally look something like this: Visit the wineries, soak in the architecture and valley views, eat a delicious dinner, then check out the bar or live music scene downtown. Thanks to the new City Winery Napa—a live music venue, restaurant, and bar that opens today—you can do all of these in the one delightfully buzzy and beautiful space.
The brain behind the operation is Michael Dorf, the go-getter impresario who also founded New York City’s legendary Knitting Factory, as well as two other City Wineries in Manhattan and Chicago (there’s one in the works in Nashville, too). Now, Dorf’s taking his recipe for success to the west, and sparing no cost: After millions of dollars of renovations to Napa Valley’s Opera House, a stately two-story building dating back to the 1880s, the beloved landmark will once again be host to a hip nightlife scene. Here’s what to expect:
GRUB ON THE GROUND FLOOR: The chefs characterize the concept as “wine-inspired food,” but rest assured this restaurant won’t be just for oenophiles. Expect Mediterranean-inspired large plates built for sharing and pairing, like braised Sonoma duck tacos and olive oil with California strawberries. Sit inside in the woodsy 90-seat dining room or grab one of the coveted 30 seats on the outdoor patio overlooking the Napa River. The kitchen will stay open until midnight on weekends.
LIVE ENTERTAINMENT UPSTAIRS: Just above the dining room, a refurbished flat-floor ballroom, seated concert hall and events space has room for 300, as well as cabaret-style dinner tables where you can see the show—be it indie, rock, jazz or stand-up comedy—as you dine and drink. That will come in handy for the 200 live events they plan to host this year. Among the first few performers will be comedian Lewis Black and musicians Graham Nash and Leo Kottke.
A 500-BOTTLE WINE LIST, PLUS 30 (MOSTLY LOCAL) WINES ON TAP: The Napa-grown sauvignon blancs and cabernets will be flowing like water, naturally, but be sure to try some of the more eclectic picks offered among the 30-plus tap system, including the stellar Massican vermouth. The bottle list, too, will focus on west coast offerings and include some wines made in collaboration with musicians.
SHUTTLE SERVICE TO AND FROM: When the live acts retire for the night and last call strikes—or anytime before that— you can hop on a venue-provided shuttle service for a ride home. A small fee to ride, shuttles will make stops in Napa and Calistoga as well as nearby Yountville and St. Helena.
f your idea of a great music experience has morphed from brown-bagging booze and stage diving in a purple velvet skin revealing outfit to something more comfy — say, a seated meal of local duck tacos with decent (on tap) wine and music acts with sound from Meyer Sound — then the opening of City Winery in Napa this week has potential.
|Barrelheads function as taps at City Winery’s new Napa location.|
We may quibble with the venue name — does anyone think of Napa in the same vein as Nashville, Chicago, and New York, where the first City Winery outposts opened recently? Probably not, but City Winery, housed in Napa’s historic Opera House is an interesting idea from CEO Michael Dorf. He brings serious entertainment cred to this project given he founded the famous Knitting Factory music venue in NYC in 1987, where acts included Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo, Bill Frisell and Cassandra Wilson.
Why visit now: Dorf and co. gave The Opera House a loving overhaul, and the upcoming acts include Richard Thompson, Steve Earl, Patterson Hood of Drive-by Truckers, 10,000 Maniacs, and Bruce Cockburn. Wines (from 400 producers) are served in Riedel stemware and the Wine Director is Erin O’Brien, who for the most part sources from nearby: St. Supéry, Michael Mondavi Wines, Massican, and Coup de Foudre; there are also gift-y retail bottles from acts like Los Lobos, Tom Paxton, Dan Hicks & the Hot Licks, or Allen Toussaint Cabernet Sauvignon for the relatively affordable price of $35.
O’Brien has a wine tap system with a whopping 36 taps, reportedly the largest of its kind in the area. Cal-Med eats from chef Joseph Panarello also skew wine friendly: County Line Farms black kale Caesar with toasted pine nuts and Parmesan crisp crumbles; Sonoma County Poultry braised Liberty duck tacos; olive oil cake with macerated strawberries. Napa Valley Transport has a neato pick up and drop off transportation service between Calistoga and Napa.
Where: City Winery, 1030 Main St., Napa, (707) 226-7372
Cost: Ticket, food and wine options can be booked online for various prices. If you are going to a few shows here, Vinofile Premier membership may be a good idea and gets you free bus service to and from shows.
City Winery owner Michael Dorf has no qualms about diving into a tight, competitive Napa entertainment market and competing head-to-head with the Uptown Theater for similar acts.
“I believe we built a better mousetrap,” he says. “The question is really for the artist: Where would they prefer to play?”
The difference is in the details: City Winery, which opens April 10 with Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn in the $2.5-million renovated Napa Valley Opera House, holds 300 seats. The Uptown has 850 seats.
The audiences for both venues skew toward the baby boomer end of the age range, with fans flocking to see roots, Americana, blues and classic rock artists more often than not.
But the biggest difference lies in the experience. At the Uptown, you can have a beer or glass of wine to go with the show. At City Winery, you’ll be tapping into barrels from all over Napa Valley and choosing from a locally sourced menu crafted by chef Joseph Panarello, who arrives fresh from Izzy’s Place in the East Bay.
“We’re shooting for that higher-end experience,” Dorf says. “But I don’t think it’s ostentatious.”
Much like Yoshi’s jazz clubs in San Francisco and Oakland, cabaret table seating runs up to the stage. Fans can eat dinner while watching the concert or arrive just for the show and order drinks at their table. There’s also a separate restaurant dining area and back patio if you’re not into the music, a private dining room and a bar with 35 wine barrels on tap.
A week before Thursday’s grand opening, Dorf admits he still has the usual jitters. “You start worrying about, did I remember to invite this person or that person? And will anybody come?”
But he’s been through this before. When the first City Winery opened in New York in 2007, it was designed as more of an East Coast crush pad for rich bankers who wanted to make their own wine. When the economy tanked, they were left with thousands of gallons of wine and no one to drink it. So they tapped into the barrels, literally, like a brewer taps a keg, and booked live music to go with the wine.
City Winery does book music, but its founder and longtime events producer, Michael Dorf, needs a larger forum from time to time.
The place: Carnegie Hall.
Mr. Dorf and his team put on an annual tribute concert at this world-class venue, with all of the net proceeds going to music education for underprivileged youth at seven local schools.
Raising nearly $1 million in the last decade, the fundraisers have celebrated the music of the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen (who performed at his own night), Bob Dylan, Elton John and Prince.
This year’s hat tip, on Monday night, was to Paul Simon. (The singer-songwriter didn’t attend; he was tied up with a recording session.)
“We want people to take this in different directions,” Mr. Dorf said of his decidedly eclectic line-up.
“They are all different performers so you are also curating a bit,” he went on. “You try to punctuate different things at the right moment during the show—because if it was all beautiful singer-songwriters, it just wouldn’t work as well.”
In all, there were 22 performances—from Heart’s Ann and Nancy Wilson to newer singer-songwriters Josh Ritter and Brett Dennen to punk rockers Bob Mould of Husker Du, Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers and John Doe of X.
Also on hand: soul’s Bettye LaVette and Sam Moore, folk icon Judy Collins and Allen Toussaint, from the New Orleans R&B scene.
Folk singer Judy Collins Getty Images
“The thing I’m most excited about is Snow Guilfoyle and Megan Doyle, who are these two 13-year-old girls from Church Street School of Music and Art. They are doing a duet of ‘Scarborough Fair/Canticles,’” Mr. Dorf said. “It’s just beautiful. They’ve been in the school for six years.”
One of the biggest rounds of applause of the evening was for the girls.
Other standouts included the Wilson sisters on “America” and Joe Henry singing “The Boxer.” Mike Gordon of Phish offered up a fun version of “Late in the Evening” and the African singer Angelique Kidjo wowed the crowd with “You Can Call Me Al” from the “Graceland” album.
The night ended with everyone on stage singing “The 59th St. Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy).”
Backstage, the scene was pretty relaxed with musicians hanging out, waiting their turn to go on stage.
“When they first asked me, I said I’d do ‘Bridge Over Troubled Waters,’ but Judy Collins was doing it,” said Mr. Moore, who first met Mr. Simon on the set of the movie ‘One Trick Pony.’
“So I picked ‘Loves Me Like a Rock’ because it has the Dixie Hummingbirds on background vocals that I always loved,” he said.
Cellist Ben Sollee Getty Images
Madeleine Peyroux didn’t try to hide her anxiety about playing such a famous venue.
“I’m a little nervous that something will go wrong, like I’ll forget the words,” said Ms. Peyroux. “The excitement of playing Carnegie Hall isn’t lost on anybody.”
Mr. Toussaint hailed both the night’s honoree and Mr. Dorf’s club.
“I’m here because of Paul Simon, but also the Winery. I’ll be involved with anything that City Winery does because I love that place,” said Mr. Toussaint, who played “Take me to the Mardi Gras” a few minutes later.
“It seemed proper that I’m doing that one, so I’m glad no one picked it before me,” he said.
Many of the artists and friends wrapped up the evening at City Winery.
After an opening set by Nicole Atkins Band, the Brooklyn-based afrobeat band Antibalas took over as the house band for a jam session. (They had backed up several of the singers at the tribute.)
Mr. Dennen did a great version of Bob Marley’s “Them Belly Full.” Then, Ms. LaVette let loose with a version of Bill Withers’s “Ain’t No Sunshine”—she danced and scatted with each band member and pronounced Antibalas “one of the best bands I’ve heard in 20 years.”
After three and a half months of construction and renovation to the historic Napa Valley Opera House in downtown Napa, City Winery staff and management are gearing up to open up to the public in the days to come. Today not only marks the first day for our staff to see the space after our approval for a TCO on Friday, we’re even welcoming a few lucky VinoFile wine fans in the tap room to get a peek at our unique wine tap system recently installed by Head WIne Maker, David Lecomte and his Chicago Wine Maker, Robert Kowal. The training / tasting will include a preview of most of our winery tap partners featured on the tap system including; Ackerman, Bacigalupi and Saddleback, who will also join us for some unique wine pairing dinners in the weeks to come.
Last week, City Winery Chicago hosted a cheese and wine pairing class discussing the basics of pairing these two delicious fermentables. City Winery’s Beverage Director Rachel Driver Speckan and Provenance Food & Wine’s Cheesemonger Nicole Benjamin were as well paired as the fare that evening, each engagingly sharing their expertise and taking questions. There was a great variety represented among the 5 cheeses, as well as some stellar wines.
Of the 5 pairings, my 3 favorites were:
Petit Exquis D’argental (French cow cheese, triple crème) and Huet Petillant 2009 (sparkling Vouvray): The acidic, bubbly Vouvray cuts through the all that rich, wonderful fat in the cheese.
Meister Eagle Cave Reserve (Wisconsin cow cheese) and Movia 2005 (Slovenian Pinot Nero): The earthy tones in both the wine and the cheese complement and accentuate one another. Fun fact: cheese can pick up different flavors from the particular cave in which it is aged (or what I am henceforth referring to as “cave terroir”).
Rogue Smokey Blue (Oregon cow cheese) and Quinta Noval 10 Year Tawny Port: The silky sweetness of the port contrasted nicely with the super smokey and bold blue cheese. Both the cheese and the wine had a nice kick to them too!
Some basic advice on pairing and cheese storage:
-Tannic reds do not pair well with soft cheeses
-Triple crèmes go especially well with Champagne, as well as Burgundy (red or white) and Pinot Noir
-To best preserve cheese, wrap it in wax or parchment paper
-Blue cheese is best stored in Tupperware
If this post made you salivate a little, I’d highly recommend coming to our next wine and cheese class featuring Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese on April 10. See you there!
-Alex Weaver, City Winery Chicago
Michael Dorf, owner of City Winery, will be hosting a “Downtown Seder” at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco on Wednesday, April 9th, just prior to the official start of the holiday. For Dorf, the Downtown Seder has become an annual tradition, having hosted this ritual feast for the last 13 years at City Winery New York, and for the last two at City Winery Chicago. These Downtown Seders take place prior to the start of Passover so attendees can bring home the perspectives and one-of-a-kind interpretations of the artists, writers, comedians, and political figures brought together by Dorf, and share them at their own Seder.
For this year’s Seder, Dorf’s first west coast event, he has assembled a passel of entertainers and thinkers, including Annie Sprinkle, Nato Green, Sara Felder, and Israeli superstar David Broza, to share their unique and personal points of view on the ancient Passover story. There will also be the world premiere of Lewis Black’s video “Plagues,” created by the popular comic who will be headlining at City Winery Napa later this year.
Milk & Honey Catering, known for bringing fine Kosher cheeses to Northern California, will be serving a Kosher vegetarian meal, with wines being provided by Napa’s only Kosher wineries, Covenant and Hagafen. Winemakers Jeff Morgan and Ernie Weir will be there to pour the traditional four glasses of wine. This will surely be a Seder supper you won’t soon forget.
For more information or to buy tickets for the Downtown Seder, click here. Tickets cost $95 for standard seating or $115 to be seated closer to the stage and with the artists. The Jewish Community Center of San Francisco is located at 3200 California Street and the doors open at 7 p.m.
This event will provide delicious insight to City Winery’s 30 winery tap partners with tastings from distinctive barrel selections and 60 gallon lots. The cost of admission includes a meet and greet with some of the Valley’s best winemakers and winery owners who will be pouring and exploring various varietals, clones, appellations, terroir, and winemaking techniques. This is a great opportunity to taste many rare wines and get a behind-the-scenes look before City Winery Napa officially opens its doors.
For the surprisingly low price of $75 per year, VinoFile members get access to events like the one mentioned above as well as this list of membership perks:
To get in on this City Winery preview featuring wines from Crossbarn, Judd’s Hill, Luna Vineyards, Saddleback Cellars, and more, click here. City Winery is located at 1030 Main Street in the heart of downtown Napa. The event starts at 3 p.m. and goes until 6.