Music News & Reviews

Food, wine, music an irresistible combo at BottleRock

The crowd at BottleRock’s Jam Cellars stage gets down to a set of classic hip-hop from Public Enemy.
The crowd at BottleRock’s Jam Cellars stage gets down to a set of classic hip-hop from Public Enemy.

With a baseball cap cocked to the side and a clock around his neck, Public Enemy’s Flavor Flav could have rapped “Fight the flour” instead of “Fight the power.”

At the BottleRock music festival Saturday, the legendary hype man was getting the Culinary Stage crowd going. With “Top Chef” champion Michael Voltaggio looking on, Flav dredged a batch of soon-to-be fried chicken as the audience cheered. Many yelled: “Yeaaaaaah, chicken” – a riff on one of the rapper’s signature sayings.

BottleRock’s mash-up of music, food and wine continues to win fans. A combined audience of more than 100,000 – including many Sacramentans – was expected to have descended on the Napa Valley Expo by the time No Doubt wrapped up the three-day event Sunday night. Other headliners included Imagine Dragons, Foster the People, The Avett Brothers, Robert Plant, Snoop Dogg and Public Enemy.

But as Plant and Gwen Stefani handled the key vocal duties at BottleRock, food served as a kind of lead guitar. Instead of pump-cheese nachos and foil-wrapped hot dogs, BottleRock is the kind of festival where munchies are created by “Iron Chef” Masaharu Morimoto and other culinary stars. The wine program featured such popular Napa vintners as Silver Oak, Rombauer, Clos Du Val and about two dozen more.

The Williams-Sonoma Culinary Stage was a new addition to BottleRock this year, finding such pairings as Snoop Dogg and Morimoto and Ben McKee of Imagine Dragons and Rick Moonen of “Top Chef Masters” joining forces for cooking demos.

“We’re trying to create a food-and-wine festival inside a music festival,” said Chuck Meyer, BottleRock’s culinary director.

Though final attendance numbers aren’t expected to be released until Monday, the BottleRock crowds seemed to be the largest of its three-year run. Organizers said that Sunday’s event was sold out with more than 30,000 tickets purchased.

“It’s absolutely a bigger crowd than last year,” said Jason Scoggins of Latitude 38 Entertainment, which produces BottleRock, in between songs from The Avett Brothers. “Some of the bottlenecks from the past have been eliminated, and that’s made for a much better experience overall.”

BottleRock’s food sales also remained robust. Drewski’s Hot Rod Kitchen truck from Sacramento served more than 900 orders Friday, going through almost half its weekend pork supply. Owner Andrew Blaskovich predicted he’d fill 1,500 orders Sunday and set a single-day sales record for his truck.

That bustling food business extended to nearby downtown Napa, where long waits for tables for brunch and lunch were the norm along Main Street. As BottleRock shut down nightly at 10 p.m., lines stretched out the door at Downtown Joe’s Brewery, the Thomas and Fagiani’s Bar and other downtown eateries and watering holes.

“Compared to last year (of BottleRock), we’re twice as busy,” said Ali Yildirim, co-owner of Napkins Bar and Grill. “We’re not short staffed but overly busy ... . We had to turn away 50 people, and it’s hard to do that.”