Food Is the New Rock

Highlights and Lowlights From the First Annual BottleRock Napa
One of the more popular booze options, custom house wines in portable spacebag pouches, sold out quickly.

We and a legion of other Bay Area press folk — and an even larger army of Black Keys and Kings of Leon fans — hoofed it to Napa over the weekend to bask in the heat and take in the first annual music, wine, and food fest dubbed BottleRock Napa. From the organizers’ perspective it seems to have been a success, and Saturday in particular was mightily crowded at the Napa Valley Expo grounds, whose now dusty lawns probably haven’t ever seen that much foot traffic in one weekend (they’ve already announced dates for next year, May 9 to 11, 2014). From a food- and wine-lover’s perspective, it likely was a bit of a frustrating, not to mention expensive, ordeal. Prices, by and large, were higher than at the easier-to-get-to Outside Lands, which may be counter-intuitive given that the wineries had less distance to travel in order to participate. But, then again, everything in Napa is more expensive than anywhere else.

For instance: While Domaine Chandon had relatively reasonable pricing for 2 oz. and 5 oz. pours ($3 and $8 respectively, compared to Budweiser which was going for $9 a cup), race car driver Jeff Gordon’s winery was charging $14 to $17 for plastic cups of his wine — and SFoodie reports that at least one winery was charging a $21 glass price on Friday too.

Food was somewhat more reasonable, and widely varied. A collection of prominent Napa restaurants were placed close together in a “food court” sponsored by Whole Foods where, unlike the vendors on the rest of the festival grounds, one could only spend $5 tokens, which both drove up the pricing of items that might regularly have cost only, say, $12, and left some of us with extra unspent currency in our pockets that won’t be good anywhere else. Our favorite bite of the day was probably a simple pork sandwich from Oenotri (Cindy Pawlson’s pulled pork was a close second), but it was hard getting around to try much of the food given the size of the crowd. La Condesa, the St. Helena taco spot, had the longest lines by far on both Friday and Saturday, perhaps because of the pricing ($10 for two tacos), and SFoodie’s Anna Roth reports, “The meats were indistinguishable from each other … and the sauces were bland and watery.”

Cocktails, meanwhile, were only for sale in a couple of designated VIP areas, with a few refreshing $10 concoctions sponsored by Deep Eddy Vodka.

Perhaps complaining about how expensive everything is at a concert is just unnecessary harping on the time-honored tradition of over-charging a captive audience. But we’d take Outside Lambs and Wine Lands and all the relative civility of Outside Lands over this any day.

Below, some images from the festivities.

The weather was hot but pretty ideal all around — if not for sampling fine wines, at least for drinking sweet tea vodkas with lemon and soda, and beer.
The vodka vending was sponsored by Deep Eddy.
Gott’s had a popular burger truck on site.
Most of the food vendors had these odd ‘window’ setups, perhaps to shield them from the sun, and to make ordering a bit more orderly.
We enjoyed some $5 Thai-glazed wings from Up in Smoke.
The BottleRock-branded, custom-blended white and red wine pouches sold out quickly.
Even Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Farrell got into the spirit of things. He was handed a bottle of Rombauer Cabernet on stage.
Cindy Pawlson’s people put out a decent pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw.
Oenotri’s pork sausage sandwich was perhaps our favorite.
Inside the Gundlach-Bundschu wine tent.
The scene in the Whole Foods food court area around sunset on Saturday.
The crowd for Jane’s Addiction. Note the lady down front toasting with a Govino travel wine glass. Bougie, right?
Highlights and Lowlights From the First Annual BottleRock Napa