Napa's New Lease On Nightlife

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By Deirdre Bourdet

nightlife.jpgWhen I moved to Napa from San Francisco a few years ago, everyone warned me I was entering a nightlife dead zone. Everything shuts down at 9:00pm.  While that may have been true in the past, a slew of newcomers and new ventures by long-time residents has kicked things up a notch around here.

After nearly a decade of tortuously slow renovation, the Uptown Theatre re-opened its doors this May to reveal its newly restored deco-fabulous style. Fresh faced and fully equipped with all the modern amenities, the Uptown offers an unbeatable combination of historical charm and contemporary sophistication. 

The restored original ceiling murals and light fixtures custom built to replicate the originals radiate classic 1930s style, but the sound system and the seats are 100% modern--21-23 inches wide, as compared to the original theatre's 16-17 inch seats, and staggered to ensure there's not a bad seat in the house.  Even the nosebleed seats have perfect unobstructed views of the stage and perfect acoustics. A full bar offers patrons their choice of libations, including local wines and bubbly by the glass. 
But just as importantly, the shows have been spectacularly eclectic.  Lyle Lovett, The B-52s, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, The English Beat, Chrissie Hynde, Rufus Wainwright, Cyndi Lauper, Ron White, the Gipsy Kings, and many others have already performed on the Uptown stage, and the next few months bring even more variety and interest to Napa evenings.  Eighties icon Foreigner performs September 22, edgy comedienne Margaret Cho on September 26, and country king Randy Travis on October 24.  BB King takes the stage Halloween night, and Clint Black on December 16th. Special package deals through the theater allows you to pair your Uptown experience with some of the best restaurants in Napa Valley--including the French Laundry, La Toque, Bottega, and Don Giovanni--and some of the finest hotels. AVIA Hotel, the Westin Verasa, the Meritage resort, and the Villagio Inn all offer package deals with the theater to maximize your wine country experience.

For more music on Thursdays, Fridays, or Saturdays, stop in at Silo's speakeasy-like space tucked into the back of the Historic Mill.  World class jazz singers and performers like Wesla Whitfield and Mike Greensill (who have performed in Carnegie Hall, the White House, and countless national venues) perform here regularly, simply because they now call Napa Valley home.  Visiting artists provide a refreshing mix of familiar covers and original music, for covers that range between $10 and $25 at the door.  And, lest you forget you're in Napa, the wine list at Silo's offers some of the most famous and sought-after local wines by the glass, bottle, and case, in addition to local Napa Smith beers, espresso drinks, Tillerman teas, and non-alcoholic sparkling juices.  Wine prices range from $8 for a glass of St. Supery's (excellent) Estate-bottled sauvignon blanc, to $126 per glass for the 2001 Kayli Morgan Vineyard cabernet sauvignon from Hundred Acre.

Downtown Napa has responded to the music scene by staying open later and offering visitors something to do after 10pm.  John Anthony Vineyards' tasting room next to the AVIA Hotel stays open until midnight daily, and hosts parties like the recent Monday night "White Party" for industry people and anyone else who may wander in to join them.  Check Twitter for updates from @JAVWine to stay informed.  Bistro Sabor stays open until midnight Tues-Thurs and until 2am on weekends, with its full menu of Latin American street food favorites available to dine in or take out.  Every Saturday night, the restaurant also transforms into a salsa club with free lessons and no cover charge (no partner necessary, either).  Oenotri's kitchen also typically serves late on Uptown concert nights, and their 24-hour pizza ovens enable them to crank out their unbelievable pies even when other food operations may be shutting down.  

The AVIA Hotel's newly unveiled Riddling Rack bar serves its crowd-pleasing menu until midnight on weekend nights, and until 10 on weekdays.  Creative cocktails made with Agave wine, cane rum, and rice-infused vodka rub shoulders with an excellent selection of Champagnes and bubblies in keeping with the super cool, glass-enclosed riddling rack bar counter.  Portobello fries with black truffle aioli, organic popcorn with your choice of salt and pepper, truffles or parmesan, tuna tartare, club sandwiches, and a serious "C.A.B. burger" are all available for late night weekend noshing, as well.  If you're craving some fresh air and seclusion for your nightcap, bring your beverages up to the terribly romantic inner courtyard on the 2nd floor, where love seats, heaters, and a live fire pit help you finish out the evening with style.

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John Anthony is open until 10am-2am daily. See you there!

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