Rare is the wine festival that does not include some sort of music. The type of music doesn’t seem to matter; the wine-drinking experience just seems to be enhanced by melodic sounds.
We’re now deep into America’s music festival season, and it dawned on me that not nearly as common is the music festival that includes some sort of wine — other than bland, by-the-jug offerings. It may have to do with necessary permits, or perhaps lack of wine knowledge among festival staffers.
Whatever the reason, there’s a way to deal with a wine-less or wine-challenged music festival: Visit a wine-focused restaurant in the festival’s home city before or after the day’s performances.
Space limits our ability to offer dining suggestions for all of the upcoming festivals this year, so we’ve decided to focus on six, each of which offers a nearby “wine experience” for any music lover who is so inclined…
• Lollapalooza — Aug. 1-3 at Grant Park in Chicago. Headliners include Eminem, Outkast, Kings of Leon, Arctic Monkeys, Skrillex and Calvin Harris.
Dining suggestion: NoMI Kitchen, with its floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Michigan Avenue, is that rare restaurant that serves up both magnificent views and magnificent food. Choices range from light bites to five-course culinary extravaganzas, and the wine list is one of the best in the city.
• Newport Jazz Festival — Aug. 1-3 at Fort Adams State Park in Newport, R.I. This year marks the 60th anniversary of this multi-generational celebration of jazz, with performers including the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue, Bobby McFerrin, and Dr. John and the Nite Trippers.
Dining suggestion: 22 Bowen’s has been described as “sophisticated, elegant and easy going.” In other words, much like a glass of Pinot Noir or Merlot. Prime steaks and fresh-catch seafood are the specialties of the house, and the wine-by-the-glass list is one of the most comprehensive and well selected that we’ve seen.
• Outside Lands — Aug. 8-10 at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. The extensive, eclectic lineup includes Kanye West, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, The Killers and Death Cab for Cutie. More so than other festivals, there’s a big emphasis on food and wine, with the 2014 Taste of the Bay Area taking place on the festival grounds, and a Wine Lands tent housing dozens of labels, including Caymus, Hess Collection, Joseph Phelps, Navarro and Scharffenberger.
Dining suggestion: While San Francisco is home to hundreds of outstanding restaurants, we suggest eating at the festival since so many types of food will be available, including a lamb and shrimp mixed grill (from Beast and the Hare), fried chicken and waffles (from Farmer Brown’s Little Skillet), Gilroy garlic mac and cheese (from Homeroom) and Baja fish tacos (from Tacolicious).
• Bumbershoot — Aug. 30-Sept. 1 at Seattle Center in Seattle. The festival gets its name from the colloquial term for umbrella, which seems appropriate for a city that gets so much rain. It’s perhaps the most all-encompassing music festival in the country, with genres ranging from hip hop to Americana, and from rock to jazz, with a bit of electronic and soul thrown in for good measure.
Dining suggestion: Purple Café and Wine Bar, with four locations including downtown Seattle, features new American cuisine with a menu that changes by the season, complemented by a phenomenal wine list. If you’re feeling adventurous, wines are available in creative flights, as are cheeses.
• Americana Music Festival — Sept. 16-21 in Nashville. Nine venues, all in proximity to the downtown area, will host 165 music performances. The lineup includes performers both famous and under-the-radar, with names like the Avett Brothers, Billy Joe Shaver, Carlene Carter, Greensky Bluegrass, Marty Stuart, Rodney Crowell, Paul Thorn and Ruthie Foster.
Dining suggestion: Flyte World Dining and Wine features the talented Chef Matthew Lackey, who strives to offer responsibly sourced meat and fish, along with locally grown produce, whenever possible. Middle Tennessee and the surrounding area provide a vast selection of delicious artisan foods. And the superb wine list, developed by co-owner Scott Sears, features an abundance of by-the-glass choices.
• BottleRock Napa — May 29-31, 2015, at the Napa Valley Expo in Napa, Calif. Lessons learned from the longer 2013 festival and the scaled-back 2014 event should make for the best BottleRock yet next spring. The Cure, Railroad Earth, Outkast, Heart, The Fray and Eric Church were the headliners this year. If you can’t decide whether you love music or wine more, BottleRock will put your eardrums and palate at ease.
Dining suggestion: Napa Valley is packed with famous and multi-starred restaurants, but in the city of Napa, it’s tough to beat La Toque. New French cuisine is presented with creativity and flair, especially when it comes to the seasonal dishes. And the wine list, among the best in the entire valley, features nearly 2,000 options.