Festival Napa Valley Gala Dinner At Nickel & Nickel Winery Raises $4.2 Million

Food & Drink

It is due to her love of music and the arts that every year for the past 17 years, Beth Nickel, Proprietress of Far Niente, Nickel & Nickel and other famous wine brands in Napa Valley, has been involved in Festival Napa Valley – a 10-day charity event devoted to art and music.

This year was no different, as Nickel and her team welcomed more than 400 guests to the gala dinner and charity auction at Nickel & Nickel. Over the years, the 10-day event has raised millions to present free and affordable concerts, tuition-free training academies for young musicians, and inspiring arts education programs for Napa County public schools.

Last year’s gala surpassed all previous goals by raising $3.9 million; however, this year, the Arts for All Gala broke all records by achieving $4.2 million.

The top grossing auction lots included an 8-day trip for 4 people to New Zealand with Leslie & Rich Frank, which raised $450,000 for charity, as well as a weeklong trip for 4 people to visit the Antinori Family Estates in Italy, which resulted in $400,000 for charity.

Gala Dinner Featured Grammy Award Winning Star, Carrie Underwood

Part of the excitement this year may have been due to the featured gala dinner country music star, Carrie Underwood, and the multi-course meal prepared by Michelin-star chef, Charlie Palmer.

“We look forward to hosting the gala,” stated Nickel. “This is our 17th year to be involved with Festival Napa Valley. This year, I was so excited when I learned that Carrie Underwood would be performing. My late husband and I are from Oklahoma,….. and so is Carrie. We think of her as our native daughter.”

Indeed, during Carrie Underwood’s one-hour performance after the dinner and auction, most everyone at the event stood or danced to the compelling music. “Carrie Underwood has recorded 85 million records, has won Grammy awards, and has sang in 10 seasons for NBC’s Sunday Night Football,” announced Gala Committee Chair, Leslie Frank, when introducing Underwood.

Underwood surprised many by wearing a gold lame pants suit with gold boots. “When I learned I was coming to Napa Valley, I tried to think what it would look like to dress like a glass of Chardonnay. This is what I came up with,” stated Underwood. The crowd roared in approval and laughter.

Another entertaining event of the evening was when students from American Canyon High School performed an excerpt from the musical Newsies. These students were coached by Broadway star, Christina Maxwell, as part of Festival Napa Valley’s commitment to bring professional artists into local classrooms.

“Funding the arts is so important,” announced Maxwell. “Statistics show that students who have access to music education are three times more likely to graduate high school and two times more likely to attend college.”

Multi-Course Gourmet Meal Served by Chef Charlie Palmer

Gala guests were treated to a multi-course meal served by Michelin-star chef, Charlie Palmer in the gardens of Nickel & Nickel winery. It commenced with exotic appetizers of steak tartar, rockfish ceviche, beet & quinoa cake, and melon gazpacho shots. This was paired with Veuve-Clicquot Champagne, Bella Union Sauvignon Blanc and Rosé, as well as trendy and creative cocktails made with Far Niente Dolce – a Dolce Mojito and Dolce Sidecar.

The lavish main meal was served in an elegant white tent with crystal chandeliers and bouquets of pink roses decorating the beautifully set tables. Guest feasted on a salad of Heirloom Tomatoes and Burrata paired with Nickel & Nickel Chardonnay. This was followed by Snake River Farm Wagyu Sirloin paired with two Nickel & Nickel single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons, and concluded with a Peach Almond Tart matched to the delectable Far Niente sweet Dolce wine.

When asked how he decided which dish to pair with which wine, Chef Palmer replied, “I always start with the wine and then determine which dish to pair with it. However, it’s not just the food and wine – it is a discovery process, and it is that discovery process that makes it so exciting.”

Festival Napa Valley Offers Many Admission-Free Events

Part of what makes Festival Napa Valley so compelling is their mission to bring the arts to all people. One way they do this is to offer admission-free events daily, as well as programs for students, assisted living facility residents, seniors, and veterans.

“The 2023 summer season features one-of-a-kind performances and events surrounded by the incomparable beauty and enchantment of Napa Valley,” said Festival President & CEO Richard Walker. Walker was also one of the founders of the Festival in 2006.

“This year’s Arts for All Gala was a tremendous success and exceeded our expectations,” said Leslie Frank, Festival board member and Gala Chair. “Thanks to the spirited generosity and passionate commitment of our donors and sponsors, Festival Napa Valley is having a profound impact on the quality of life in Napa Valley and beyond.”

Over the years the festival has also offered summer camps to students, created a young art & concert series, established a music academy, as well as vocal arts and dance series. Many of these events are held at different wineries throughout Napa Valley, who also provide financial support and other assistance through the year.

In 2023, the Premier sponsors for Festival Napa Valley were Bouchaine Vineyards, Audi, Kaiser Permanente/Thrive, Pomellato, and The Meritage Resort and Spa.

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