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.

Highlights and Lowlights From the First Annual BottleRock Napa