Mark Aselstine
May 9, 2013 | Mark Aselstine

Bottle Rock in Napa Valley

Bottle Rock is the first annual concert, bringing 35,000 visitors and some top musical acts like Bay Area locals Train, the Kings of Leon and the Black Keys among others to Napa Valley.

As far as concerts go, the lineup impresses, but isn’t otherwise noteworthy if it were happening in say San Francisco, New York or LA though.

What makes the event unique though is that it is happening in Napa Valley.  Bottle Rock is a different take on music in Napa on two different levels.  First, it represents a sea change in the type of music most wineries think their guests might be interested in.  To this point wineries have catered to what they believe to be their average customer, people over the age of 50.  That means they’ve lined up jazz artists, more jazz artists, an easy listening set and then a couple more jazz artists.


It’s worked fairly well, but the Valley has become green with envy when vintners started seeing the type of unique events happening at urban wineries, which are bound to cut into their market share if they don’t adapt.

This is clearly a step in the right direction.  The bands playing are as varied as the music we currently hear on the American Top 40 countdown.  Country efforts from the Zack Brown Band, Train and hip hop socially conscious Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.

Other than the music though, bringing 35,000 people into Napa for a concert represents the culmination of over 40 years of infighting within Napa Valley.  Since its inception Napa has been dominated by two groups, grape growers and the vintners who make the wine.  For many years, that complex and symbiotic relationship has been largely governed by the Ag Preserve in Napa which not only sets out how much land must be kept for open space and agricultural space, but also set up a series of roadblocks to control and in many ways minimize the type of marketing that the average winery in Napa could do on a yearly basis.

Allowing a major concert to come to Napa along with the virtual shutdown of the Valley for 5 days (the concert site shows a Thursday-Sunday lineup, but Wednesday night was a charity based evening) shows the current thinking in the Valley.  It’s time to compete again for consumer dollars


Personally, I hope the Ag Preserve continues to allow the history and agricultural base of the Valley to continue to shine through-but I also hope that events like this become the rule and not the exception.


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