It was bound to happen here in Napa.
Struggles with the software governing this web site — why do they call it “soft” when it’s so damn hard? — and multiple receptions one must attend meant I wound up seeing no films on Day Three, Friday, of the Napa Valley Film Fest.
I did, however, attend the NVFF’s Celebrity Tributes in Yountville’s Lincoln Theater hosted by Access Hollywood’s Billy Bush.
Tributes went out to Rising Stars Adam Driver (so busy rising that he was unable to attend as he was on a plane from Australia to the U.S. due on work) and Imogen Poots (“A Late Quartet”), Trailblazer James Marsden with the Spotlight (read a Career Achievement Award of sorts) going to veteran Scottish-born actor Alan Cumming.
Unlike last year where the tributes never seemed to end, Bush kept the show at a brisk 90 minutes. Brisk and light enough that most of the on-stage Q&As with honorees are not worth reporting.
Highlights: Marsden’s career owes a lot to chance. He took drama and music to raise his grade-point average in high school in Oklahoma.
Then on a family vacation to Hawaii, he ran into Kirk Cameron and family, struck up an acquaintance with Cameron’s sister and wound up spending time in L.A. with the young star’s family. He decided this was a career for him.
As for roles he wish he hadn’t passed on, he admitted, “I’ve passed on very few things.”
Cumming, when asked the same thing — Bush prepped the same questions for everyone — mused that it was more the other way around, roles he was grateful he did pass on.
We also learned that friends can go on Wikipedia and write garbage into one’s biography indirectly from Marsden when Bush asked him why he’s such a Barry Manilow fan.
“Where did that come from?” he asked in astonishment after he recovered from the question. Then he remembered a friend who might have sabotaged his Wikipedia bio.
Cumming, who mused he once placing # 51 on a list of the 100 Most Influential Scots in the World, allowed that he did indeed lend his name to a cologne, Cumming. He said he is now considering another cologne called Second Cumming.
(That was the evening’s best line.)
For me, the highlight was Marsden receiving his Trailblazer award from one of Napa’s trailblazers, 89-year-old winemaker and head of Grgich-Hills, Miljenko Mike Grgich. Born in Croatia, Grgich made the Chardonnay (for Chateau Montelena) that was victorious at the famous 1976 Judgment of Paris wine tasting.
Grgich presented Marsden with a three-liter bottle of his ’05 Reserve Cab from the Yountville Collection.
“The vineyard was planted in 1929, the wine is from seven years ago and it will last 50 years if you don’t drink it,” Grgich told him on stage. But I think he’s going to drink it.
Moments later, we piled on a shuttle bus headed for the Boisset Estate for an intimate gathering for 100 VIPs to which 300 or so people showed up bringing cars that were not allowed — it’s on a hill where there’s no parking — causing pure gridlock. But I’ll let my wife, Mira, take over the account of Day Three from here.
The 40-minute trek in a shuttle bus inching up to Wappo Hill was worth the wait. We were on our way to a soirée hosted by Napa’s power couple — Jean-Charles Boisset (JCB) and Gina Gallo.
Now called Boisset Estate, the hilltop house above Silverado Trail was once the residence of Robert and Margrit Mondavi. The first time I visited this amazing home was back in 1997 when Kirk and I (then dating) were invited for brunch by the late vintner during the Auction Napa Valley weekend.
The same house with an indoor pool now has a different vibe. Starting with two large crystal chandeliers hanging above the pool and small plastic sharks floating in it. This is JCB’s playfulness, which translates to Versace meets Vegas.
Large scale Dali’esque paintings and whimsical sculptures are the work of Aspen-based artist Stanislas Kostka, who appears to be the in-house artist as his touches are evident all over.
MIchel Cornu, the in-house chef of Raymond Winery (owned by Boisset), whipped up delectable French bonbons and macaroons as well as lamb sliders, braised sweetbreads with chanterelles and smoked salmon.
Paying homage to JCB’s Burgundian heritage, there was a good selection of fromage including aged Conte, Cambazola, Brillat Savarin and my favorite, the pungent unpasteurized cow’s milk cheese Époisses de Bourgogne.
Too bad the host didn’t pull out some Burgundy from his family’s prized estates there.
There was the newly created label of JCB sparkling wine from Burgundy and a selection of Boisset-owned California brands.
Among them Raymond’s 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, De Loach 2010 Chardonnay from Russian River, 2008 ZInfandel from Sonoma County and The Count, a red blend from Buena Vista.
Then there was Gallo. Very upscale Gallo. A luscious, fruit-packed 2010 Russian River Chardonnay with just a trace of oak and a young (2011) yet silky Pinot Noir from Monterey’s Santa Lucia Highlands.
Wines that could make you a Gallo fan!