The old Copia building on First Street was bubbling over this weekend with a reported 1,000 food and wine enthusiasts gathered for the Taste of Napa, one of the major events of the Festival del Sole.
Over 90 businesses set up tables Saturday in the event space, including some three dozen wineries, attracting tourists and locals in breezy summer clothes who strolled with family and friends, while holding souvenir plastic wine glasses.
Leo and Monica Radakovitch from Virginia were in Napa for a vacation, and made Festival del Sole part of their itinerary.
“I always wanted to do a wine tour before,” Leo Radakovitch said. “We’ve had some great experiences.”
This was one of the more populist events tied to Festival del Sole, with tickets priced at $75. The following night, guests paid $1,000 to hear Kevin Spacey sing at Meadowood Resort
While many of the vendors were relatively new to Napa Valley, some have been Napans for decades. Among these were Mexican immigrant and Gallegos Wines owner Ignacio Gallegos, who first came to Napa in the early 1960s.
Before getting into the wine business in 1975, Gallegos said, he picked prunes and walnuts. “I just like it (the wine business) so much,” he said. “My two sons do the same.”
Taste of Napa also hosted the Town and Country Cookoff — where a team of San Francisco chefs were pitted against a team of Napa chefs — and a “reserve tasting salon,” where guests who paid $139 could taste luxury boutique wines. The extra money from VIP guests went to underwrite Festival del Sole’s free concerts.
Tom Van Zant, who was visiting from Marin with a friend, summed up the attitude of many Taste of Napa guests.
“I only have so many things I can do, and wine tasting on a beautiful afternoon is at the top of the list,” he said.
Vendors were excited about the extra publicity and potential increased sales. According to festival general manager Sonia Tolbert, all vendors at Taste of Napa were required to be Napa locals, and they could set up booths at the festival for free.
“What we’re finding is they’re very wine- and food-savvy people,” Tyffani Sedgwick, public relations manager for V. Sattui Winery, said of the ticket-holders. “A lot of people are already familiar with the winery, and they’re telling their friends.”
While the main attraction at Taste of Napa was wine, there were also food vendors, including specialists who make gourmet bread, salsa and mustard.
“It’s been a good experience for us,” said Paul Brown, the savory chef at the St. Helena-based Model Bakery, who was serving up slivers of sandwiches. “It’s good for relations with the local community.”
The attendance was incorrectly reported in the first posting.