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North Bay Business Journal

Monday, November 7, 2011, 6:30 am

Inaugural ‘Flavor’ celebration of Napa food, wine

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    Left to Right: Tyler Florence, Masaharu Morimoto, Cindy Pawlcyn, Michael Chiarello, Thomas Keller, Jeffrey Jake, Ken Frank. Silverado Resort and Spa

    NAPA — A  star-studded, four-day wine and food festival will soon take place in the Napa Valley, marking the first time the region synonymous with fine dining and wine will hold a gathering of such significance on its own turf.

    Napa County’s official tourism arm, the Napa Valley Destination Council, along with the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, Dolce Hotel Group and the Napa Valley Vitners, among others, all collaborated to bring Flavor Napa Valley to the Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa and to CIA in St. Helena. Karlitz & Company, the producers of Food Network‘s New York Wine & Food Festival, is also a major organizer of the event.

    The festival, which runs Nov. 17 to 20, is perhaps the most visible result of a countywide tourism business improvement district that was enacted last summer in order to more aggressively promote the region. The newly-formed district increased the Destination Council‘s marketing budget from a comparatively anemic $437,000 annually to about $4 million, generated from a 2 percent assessment applied to visitors’ hotel rooms throughout the county.

    Flavor Napa Valley is funded partly through the assessment as well as through numerous sponsorships.  Net proceeds of the event will benefit the CIA’s Greystone scholarship programs.

    Previously, the Napa Valley lacked the coordinated effort to put together a large-scale event such as Flavor Napa Valley, Ken Frank, the head chef at La Toque in Napa, told the Business Journal when the festival was announced earlier this year. Additionally, Napa Valley chefs would frequently run into each other at other major festivals around the country, and would often ask: Why not in Napa?

    “So many events throughout the country ‘import’ Napa Valley chefs and vintners to create incredible food and wine festivals,” said Tom Fuller, of Fuller and Sander Communications, which is helping the Destination Council promote the festival. ” It was a collective feeling that it was time for the Napa Valley to host a world class festival, and it was Michael Chiarello who was very instrumental to get the ball rolling.  Flavor Napa Valley will reinforce the Napa Valley as one of the epicenters of wine and  food.”

    The festival will feature food and wine pairings by a host of Napa Valley culinary luminaries, among them Mr. Frank,  Mr. Chiarello (Bottega), Jeffrey Jake (Silverado Resort and Spa), Thomas Keller (The French Laundry), Cindy Pawlcyn (Go Fish, Mustards, Cindy’s Back Street Kitchen) and Christopher Kostow (The Restaurant at Meadowood). That was the initial lineup, along with Tyler Florence and Masaharu Morimoto, both of Food Network Fame and both of whom opened restaurants in downtown Napa (Rotisserie & Wine and Morimoto Napa). The list has since expanded to include Stephen Barbe (Farmstead), Clint Davies (Fish Story), Scott Conant (Scarpetta Restaurant in New York), Todd Humphries (Kitchen Door) Aaron London (Ubuntu) and Brando Sharp (Solbar at Solage).

    Allison Simpson, spokeswoman for the Destination Council, said her agency would be monitoring the success of Flavor Napa Valley through several means –ticket sales, sponsor feedback, media coverage, chef and vintner feedback, guest feedback, social media and website traffic and data from Smith Travel Research, among others.

    “The [Destination Council] owns the brand entity, and our marketing investment falls within the significant range, which we define as $50,000 or more,” Ms. Simpson said.

    On the wine side, the festival will feature experts Fred Dame, president of the Court of Master Sommeliers; Ray Isle, executive wine editor of Food & Wine Magazine; Karen MacNeil, char of the Rudd Center for Professional Wine Studies at the CIA; and Andrea Immer Robinson, master sommelier and author of Great Wines Made Simple.

    The festival, organizers said, accomplishes several goals: it brings an array of chefs and wine industry experts together in the region where much of the North American industry was formed, while also promoting Napa Valley during the off season. That was a goal identified by the Destination Council to keep the tourism sector viable year-round, particularly after the industry experienced a harsh and swift downturn when the recession began in 2008.

    “Another key benefit to our destination is the enhanced awareness of the caliber of our culinary scene,” Ms. Simpson said. “Napa Valley’s wines are known throughout the world, largely because of the Napa Valley Vintners’ great work. That reputation helped establish our region as a destination for wine lovers, who also happen to be great food lovers.  That demand supported the development of a thriving culinary community that is as focused as the local vintners are on delivering extraordinary quality, and crafting products that authentically express the natural ingredients from which they originate. Like the vintners, our restaurateurs have been headliners at most of the notable US and International food and wine events for years.   With Flavor! Napa Valley, we have the opportunity to showcase that talent in their own back yard.  It is long overdue.”

    For more information on the festival, go to www.flavornapavalley.com.

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