Napa Valley is best known for its world-class wine, but its oft-overshadowed cultural offerings could alone merit destination status. The region pushes its artistic leanings into the spotlight each spring with the Arts in April initiative, when many of the more than 70 area wineries maintaining public art collections host docent led art tours, special exhibitions, lectures and artist-in-residency programs.
The artistic ethos of the valley runs deep. Many of its resident wine entrepreneurs possess a sophisticated appreciation for art as well as the passion and means to accumulate museum-worthy collections and hire celebrity architects. The internationally renowned Hess Art Collection from Donald Hess, a Swiss-born Napa vintner who is one of the world’s foremost art collectors, employs an in-house curator for its monumental collection that spans three stories and a garden. In the Carneros appellation, di Rosa is home to the most noteworthy collection of Bay Area art in the world, a world-class compilation of around 2,000 works that underscores artists who were pushing the envelope in their times. And some of Ansel Adams’ most recognizable images are on permanent display at Mumm Napa’s fine art photography gallery. A prime example of the blended art and wine experience is the freshly renovated St. Supéry Estate Vineyards & Winery. The winery has devoted almost the entirety of its second story to a gallery that has large windows overlooking the tank room. Throughout the region, the artistry in the architecture of the wineries and residences, both historic and modern, demonstrate another facet of Napa Valley’s artistic propensity.
The Arts in April agenda encompasses works that span the realms of photography, fine art, film, architecture and new media. Past events have included a short film series screened at Domaine Chandon in conjunction with the Napa Valley Film Festival and an exhibition and workshop on molecular food photography with local “Top Chef” contestant Elizabeth Binder at Jessup Cellars, a winery known for its diverse styles of art and sophisticated sense of the current art world. Last year Stags’ Leap hosted a traditional artist-in residency program, inviting an artist to live and work on its Silverado Trail property for a month. This year, visitors will again find a wealth of diverse opportunities to experience the double sensory bliss of tasting fine wine while simultaneously admiring artistic masterpieces.
Tip: Visit The Napa Valley Collection for a comprehensive guide to the region’s significant art, music and cultural attractions.
Slideshow: Public Art Collections Throughout the Valley