Hot Summer Concerts
Here’s where to groove to Wine Country beats all summer long.
Broadway Under the Stars in Glen Ellen // Rebecca Call
There’s no question wine country is California’s best place for sampling some of the state’s finest juice. In summertime, however, Napa and Sonoma are great destinations for live music, too. We’re talking outdoor and indoor concerts of just about every genre imaginable. Big names. Small names. Up-and-coming names. They all play here. Here’s our rundown on the best the region has to offer.
Your guide to the best alfresco summer music festivals and concerts in wine country.
Broadway Under the Stars
Get your music, theater, and dance fix at Jack London State Historic Park in Glen Ellen.
The sun setting behind the performers in the Broadway Under the Stars shows at Jack London State Historic Park provides a stunning backdrop. The shows, which are performed by Sonoma’s Transcendence Theatre Company, are held alfresco, among the ruins of a winery that dates back to the 1860s.
“The space itself provides so much awesomeness,” says Amy Miller, CEO and artistic director of Transcendence. “We’ve had meteor showers on people’s high notes and birds flying in tandem overhead at the dramatic end of a song.”
This year’s lineup includes a revue of Broadway showstoppers mixed with popular music; a family-friendly program that mashes up Broadway tunes with Disney favorites; musical theater dance numbers; and dramatic favorites during the annual Gala Celebration.
Check Transcendence’s website for dates and times. Also look for singular performances from icons of the musical theater world. Last year, crowds went wild for Megan Hilty, who starred in Smash.
As for tickets, it’s always best to splurge. VIP tickets cost $134 for most shows, but they are some of the best reserved seats in the “house.” Plus, they come with access to the KZST Bubble Lounge, where volunteers pour all-you-can-drink sparkling wine. The VIP tickets also include access to a special picnic area with light hors d’oeuvres as well as more convenient parking. Don’t forget to bring a blanket; even with the hottest talent on stage, nights in Glen Ellen can be downright chilly. transcendencetheatre.org.
Wine Country is home to some of the world’s best music fests. These are three of our faves.
Festival Napa Valley / Napa
Formerly called Festival del Sole, this 10-day event pairs world-class musicians with top-notch chefs. Most of the events are held at the valley’s most exquisite wineries, which means each Festival Napa Valley concert is an unforgettable evening of cultural bliss.
This year’s festival kicks off July 15 with a concert by Wicked’s Kristin Chenoweth at Castello di Amorosa, an after party at Solage Calistoga, and a patron dinner at The Napa Valley Reserve. Another highlight: July 23 features the Young People’s Chorus of New York City at the Lincoln Theater in Yountville, with a patron dinner at Far Niente celebrating Margrit Mondavi. festivalnapavalley.org.
Robert Mondavi Summer Concert Series / Rutherford
The way the story goes, one day Margrit Mondavi looked out on the lush lawn at her family’s Rutherford winery and asked her late husband, Robert, “Why don’t we do a concert?” The ensuing concert, held in the summer of 1969, has become one of the longest-running concert series in the Napa Valley.
Performances usually span genres, such as country, folk, and easy listening. This year, indie rock band American Authors kicks off the concert series with a performance on July 2, Grammy award–winning rock group Blues Traveler performs on July 9, Ingrid Michaelson brings indie pop to the winery on July 23, and O.A.R. closes the series on July 30. You can get general admission tickets, but higher-level passes include reserved seating, wine, and a pre-concert dinner prepared by the winery’s chef. robertmondaviwinery.com.
Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series / Healdsburg
The scenic Concert Green at Rodney Strong Vineyards sits smack in the middle of the main vineyard, meaning that live music here is as bucolic as it gets. Visitors are encouraged to bring blankets, slather on the sunscreen, and unplug as big-name performers such as Boney James and Morgan James take the stage. We can’t wait to see Smokey Robinson on July 23, and Huey Lewis and the News on August 21. rodneystrong.com.
Here are a few iconic performing arts venues and hotspots we’d be happy to hit for live tunes.
Green Music Center / Rohnert Park
This state-of-the-art venue at Sonoma State University grabbed headlines when building costs ballooned to more than $145 million. But the facility—and acoustical space—truly are second to none. The center is actually two venues: the 1,400-seat Weill Hall for artists ranging from Jason Mraz to The King’s Singers, and the 240-seat Schroeder Hall better suited for intimate jazz shows.
This summer’s lineup includes acclaimed Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Gavin DeGraw (Sept. 11) and country music star Chris Young (Sept. 24). Grab a glass of wine and a two- or three-course prix-fixe dinner at Prelude Restaurant, the on-site eatery. The menu is limited, but the food is delicious. gmc.sonoma.edu.
Uptown Theatre / Napa
Pop and rock headliners coming through Napa make a point of playing at the Uptown. Originally built in 1937, the venue boasts stellar sight lines; even the “worst” seats are intimate. (The last row is only 98 feet from the stage.)
Artists scheduled to perform this summer include Judy Collins (July 1), Art Garfunkel (Sept. 16), and Iris DeMent and Loudon Wainwright III (Sept. 23). Before the show, grab a pint and a burger at the Norman Rose Tavern around the corner. uptowntheatrenapa.com.
Mystic Theatre / Petaluma
Built in 1911, the Mystic Theatre originally hosted vaudeville entertainment. In 1992, it was renovated for music performances for 550 guests. Since then, it has achieved a bit of a cult status. It’s one of the most popular performing arts venues in Sonoma County, beloved for its down-home feel. It is the go-to spot for folk and country singers coming through town.
Don’t miss Jackie Greene, who rolls into town on June 11. Before or after a show, hit up the Wild Goat Bistro in the Great Petaluma Mill, where the four-cheese fig and pig pizza with prosciutto and figs may trigger an addiction. (Consider yourself warned.) mystictheatre.com.
Luther Burbank Center for the Arts / Santa Rosa
Santa Rosa’s premier performing arts center recently changed its name, but, thankfully, the programming hasn’t changed one bit. This means it will continue its family concert series, which includes musicals, acrobatic performances, and educational theatrical shows. It also means it will continue to attract huge names, such as Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Chicago, and Emmylou Harris. Kenny Rogers is scheduled to play June 28. For good grub before the show, head around the corner to Willi’s Wine Bar, where wine and international small plates are always available. lutherburbankcenter.org.
Blue Note Napa Valley / Napa
Blue Note Napa Valley, which took over the Napa Valley Opera House space, isn’t slated to open until later this summer. But that doesn’t mean we can’t get excited over the prospect of having great jazz (and other genres) performed live in the historic 1880 building. The venue plans to host daily shows, most featuring national and international artists, plus Bay Area and regional favorites. Fine wines and farm-to-table dining will be available in the Blue Note Jazz Club on the first floor, which will also be used as a performance space for local musicians. bluenotenapa.com.
Meet: Kellie Fuller
For many Napa residents, Kellie Fuller is synonymous with good music. She was the host of the Kellie in the Morning radio show on KVYN, and she sings at local clubs. We asked Fuller where she loves to perform and why music pairs so well with Wine Country.
Q: Where do you like to perform?
A: I love Silo’s. Because it’s so intimate, every show is a different journey with the audience. My daughter performs as well, and sometimes we’ll sing together there. That’s special for me on a number of levels.
Q: What’s the best show you’ve ever been to in Wine Country?
A: I’d have to choose the time that Mel Tormé performed at the Lincoln Theater in Yountville. I was the chief concierge at Meadowood, where he was staying. Before his arrival, I informed the bell captain that I would be a bellman for Mr. Tormé! So yes, in a skirt and high heels, I drove him in the golf cart to his room and helped check him in. He was a delightful person, and I was over the moon to meet one of my idols.
Q: Do you ever get the jitters about performing?
A: I get a little nervous before a big show, but within seconds of being on stage, I’m as happy and relaxed as anyone would be at home in a robe and slippers. I guess I was born to perform!