Perks of the Patron Circle at Napa Valley Film Festival

Actor Will Ferrell on the red carpet at the Napa Valley Film Festival Celebrity Tributes. (Photo: XSight Photography)

It’s one of the most anticipated annual events in wine country. Every year, celebrities and up-and-coming filmmakers descend on Napa Valley for an unforgettable event that features dozens of films, tens of thousands of film lovers and all the delicious food, wine and drinks you can imagine.

This year’s edition, which wrapped up Sunday night, had the added importance of helping to reinvigorate the local economy, bringing people back to the region after the wildfires tore through the area. It was the biggest edition of the festival yet—120 films were featured (out of more than 1,000 submitted) and cover categories such as narratives, documentaries, features, shorts and special presentations. The event featured 300 filmmakers, 150 wineries, 30 chefs, numerous parties and culinary demonstrations and a variety of industry panels in Napa, Yountville, Calistoga and St. Helena.

Actor Elijah Wood and CIA Chef Sandy Satuer participating in a Culinary Demonstration. (Photo: Bob McClenahan)

The Patron Circle Experience
Film attendees who like the “best seat in the house”, often opt for the Patron Circle pass. Membership gives attendees an elevated, insider experience with access to certain events they would otherwise not be able to attend.

Here is a quick overview of some of the main events of each day of the festival, as well as several of the Patron Circle benefits that were available for each day:

Wednesday: Opening Night
The festival officially began! During the day there were plenty of film options for attendees to see, including LA 92 – a look at the events that led up to the 1992 uprising in Los Angeles following the Rodney King beating by the police. Directed by Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin. At 3:30 there was an opening-night pre-reception at Acumen winery, and the opening night film was The Upside starring Bryan Cranston, Kevin Hart and Nicole Kidman, airing at Uptown Theatre in Napa at 5:30. Afterward, Patron Circle guests enjoyed the opening night VIP party at Italics Winegrowers, with plenty of wine, cocktails and dancing!

Napa Valley Film Festival Officially Begins!

Thursday: Celebrity Tributes
The big event of this day was the Celebrity Tributes from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Lincoln Theater in Yountville. Access Hollywood’s Natalie Morales sat down for Q&As with guests being honored, such as famous filmmaker Nancy Meyers, actor Michael Shannon, Michael Stuhlbarg, Ian Somerhalder and Niki Reed. After the tributes Patrons headed to the Napa Valley Museum for a reception and top supporters at the A-lister and Movie Mogul level headed to Eleven Eleven Winery with the Tribute Honorees where they got to enjoy a four course meal and live entertainment.

Of course, there were plenty of films to check out during the day, including Call Me By Your Name, a story of first love set in northern Italy.

Eleven Eleven Winery and Celebrity Tributes (Photo Credit: Bob McClenahan & XSight Photography)

Friday: Will Ferrell, Vintner Dinners and Martin Bash
For comedy fans, a special Will Ferrell tribute ran from 5:00 to 5:45 p.m. at Lincoln Theatre in Yountville. Will himself was there to receive the Caldwell Vineyard Maverick Tribute and take part in a conversation with Andrew Steele, famous writer and producer. (SNL and Funny or Die)

The Vintner Circle Dinners were a signature part of the Patron Circle experience – more than 20 wineries hosted guests for a memorable feast. I was lucky enough to attend the “Movie Mogul Dinner” at Meadowood Napa Valley. This was the top filmmaker-winemaker dinner, pairing Napa Valley’s most sought-after wines with some of the finest cuisine from Meadowood Napa Valley. It was attended by top vintners, filmmakers and celebrities, including Will Ferrell. The food was prepared by Estate Chef Alejandro Ayala. “All of the members of our Vintner Circle deserve attention from our patron circle members,” said Napa Valley Film Festival Co-Founder Marc Lhormer. “A few, like Charles Krug, Raymond/JCB, Caldwell Vineyard, and Materra | Cunat Family. Vineyards go above and beyond in sponsoring tributes and special events. Their wines are all spectacular.”

To cap off the night, Patron guests flocked to the Friday Night Bash at Martin Gallery – a lavish party that’s always the talk of the festival.

Actor Will Ferrell during Movie Mogul Dinner at Meadowood Napa Valley. (Photo Credit: XSight Photography)

Saturday: Rising Star Showcase, Awards and Gala
The first main event of the day was the Rising Star Showcase, held at Materra | Cunat Family Vineyards. The event was considered a highlight for Patron Circle members. During the showcase, 6 young actors were recognized: Alex Wolff, Analeigh Tipton, Gregg Sulkin, Odeya Rush, Austin Stowell, and Ana de Armas. “The opportunity to get to know new talent on a deeper level was quite special,” said Marc Lhormer.

The awards ceremony happened at 6:30pm at the Uptown Theatre in Napa, with the gala beginning at 8:00 p.m. at CIA Copia in Napa. Guests were dressed to the nines to cheer on their favorite filmmakers and to find out who will take home the Juried and Audience awards. “The gala is a wonderful way to wrap up the week, and the Patron Circle Lounge was open all night long to give members access to the very best in food, wine, spirits and entertainment,” said Festival Maitre d’ Michael Fox.

Of course, there was still plenty of time to catch a flick or two before the evening! One of the highlights of the day was Blood Road, which follows the journey of ultra-endurance mountain bike athlete Rebecca Rusch as she rides the Ho Chi Minh Trail to reach the crash site and final resting place of Rebecca’s father, a U.S. Air Force pilot shot down over Laos some 40 years earlier.

Rising Star Showcase and Festival Gala

Napa Valley Film Festival Vintner Circle
The Vintner Circle is an exclusive group of Napa Valley wineries that pairs directly with the festival’s Patron Circle. In addition to providing wine for NVFF’s year-round and festival-week Patron Circle VIP experiences, the wineries of the Vintner Circle each host an intimate dinner for patrons, celebrities, and filmmakers. This year’s Vintner circle included: Acumen Wines, RiverHouse by Bespoke Collection, Caldwell Vineyard, Castellucci Napa Valley, Charles Krug Winery, Darioush Winery, Davis Estates, Duckhorn Portfolio, Eleven Eleven Winery, Grgich Hills Estate, Italics Winegrowers, John Anthony Vineyards, Ma(i)sonry Napa Valley,  Materra | Cunat Family Vineyards, Raymond Vineyards, Reynolds Family Winery, Rombauer Vineyards, Tamber Bey Vineyards, The Hess Collection and VGS Chateau Potelle.

“We were honored to be the official sparkling wine sponsor with our JCB bubbles being poured at multiple events throughout the week,” said famous French vintner Jean-Charles Boisset.

Vintner Circle (Photo Credit: XSight Photography)
Everybody Take Five

In between events, you need a place to recharge and power up for your next film, dinner or party. There are plenty of great choices for lodging in Napa Valley including Napa Valley Lodge and the Vintage House – both located in Yountville. Relax on their outdoor balconies or garden patios, kick up your feet in the sitting areas. Both hotels have a wood burning fireplace, plush robes, comfy bedding and vanities for getting ready for the next festival event on your schedule. Guests also enjoy a complimentary buffet breakfast in their dining rooms.  “This annual festival is one of the best for film, food and wine lovers. It attracts people to our region from all over, which is needed now more than ever. It’s always so fun when guests share their experience with us after watching an inspirational movie or attending a luxurious Patron Circle festival event”, said Nancy Morgan, Napa Valley Lodge Sales Director.

Napa Valley Lodge (left) Vintage House (right)

What Makes the Patron Circle so Special?
“The Patron Circle exists as an exclusive collection of people who support the mission of the Napa Valley Film Festival, thanking them by giving them the most intimate access to the filmmakers and celebrities in attendance at the event, as well as the very best food and wine,” said Napa Valley Film Festival Co-Founder Brenda Lhormer.

Members are able to become Patron Circle members at several different financial levels, each of which has its own unique set of perks and levels of recognition. “Patrons never have to wait in lines, they get additional concierge services and reserved seating, they have access to special lounges at events where all the celebrities hang out and they’re invited to special dinners,” said Lhormer. “The icing on the cake is the Tax Deduction. A portion of your pass purchase supports our education program and is a qualified tax write off.”

Napa Valley Film Festival Passes range in price from a few hundred dollars for a general pass to $25,000 for the “Movie Mogul” pass, which is the Ultimate VIP experience. The Patron Circle pass costs $2500 per ticket. Mark your calendar for the 2018 Napa Valley Film Festival, which runs from November 7 to 11!

About the Author:

Jennifer Boden is a popular travel writer who features luxury lodging, top restaurants and events. She works and plays in Sonoma County. Follow her social Instagram or Facebook channels for her latest travel news. For inquiries or appearance requests, please email her at 

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