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Photo courtesy of the Napa Valley Film Festival

Move over, Sundance: A little film festival in California wine country is poised to make big waves. In its second year, the five-day Napa Valley Film Festival (November 7 to 11) will show more than 100 independent films and expects to attract nearly 50,000 attendees.

Founder Marc Lhormer and his wife, Brenda, have high hopes for the festival’s success as an end-of-year bookend to Sundance, which kicks off the movie-going season each January in Utah. In addition to paying homage to independent film, the festival also showcases Napa Valley wine culture. Set up like four festivals in one, it features approximately 150 wineries across Napa, Yountville, St. Helena and Calistoga—towns that directly participate in the event. Best of all, each city has its own wine pavilions, meaning attendees don’t need to drive and are free to slow down and enjoy each other’s company. The festival has an old-fashioned European vibe, according to Lhormer. “You never actually have to leave your town,” he says. 

This year’s highlights include the festival gala, with a gourmet meal cooked by 22 top Napa Valley chefs, and, of course, California wine tastings (November 8). As for film, sommeliers and foodies from all over the world are flying in for the world premiere of Somm, a documentary about four sommeliers preparing for the notoriously difficult Master Sommelier exam (fewer than 200 people have passed the test since 1969). “We look for positive stories about people trying to do great things, or working through challenges and finding hope and inspiration,” says Lhormer of his selection process. “Those are the movies we like and they tend to go better with the wine.” November 7 to 11; day passes, from $50; patron passes, from $2,500; 707-226-7500;


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