The 380-room Silverado Resort & Spa is nestled among 1,200-acres in the rolling vineyards of California Wine Country. The hotel’s meetings-focused management company, Dolce Hotels & Resorts, hosts 30,000 events and 4 million corporate clients on average throughout 27 upscale hotels, resorts and conference centers in North America and Europe. Pioneering the brand is former meeting planner, Andy Dolce, and a team of creative professionals who know how to leverage Napa Valley’s exclusive spoils.
“When the setting is Napa Valley, great food and flowing wine are a given,” says Richard Maxfield, chief operating officer of Dolce Hotels & Resorts. “The Dolce brand is about exceeding the expectations of a given destination, creating inspiring environments that easily bring people together.”
Flavor! Napa Valley, a four-day food and wine festival on the heels of the annual grape crush, is the perfect case in point. The festival, which is the brainchild of Food Network’s Michael Chiarello, bolsters tourism between the fall harvest and winter holidays—meeting planners are drawn to its attractive pricing, which expands the realm of possibility for showcasing Napa Valley in all its F&B glory.
This past November, over 1,000 revelers wearing wine tasting cups around their necks met at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone for the “Appellation Trail,” featuring wines from over 100 wineries and 25 restaurants. Along the famous wine trail, Beringer Vineyards, Robert Mondavi and Rutherford Estates hosted tastings, tours and expert seminars.
Kicking off the event was a dazzling welcome dinner hosted by the Silverado, a co-founder and major sponsor, with bellhops in humming golf carts ushering guests along tree-shaded walkways. A different guest chef prepared each of the five courses with vintner paired local wines.
“The goal is to celebrate the spirit of the area, which is why we created Flavor! Napa Valley,” Maxfield says.
Flanked by simmering oversized pots, I joined a line of giddy foodies waiting for autographs from the larger-than-life Masaharu Morimoto, of “Iron Chef” fame. Later, I took a seat in the kitchen theater to watch Roy Choi, father of L.A.’s food truck movement, reveal the secret behind his popular Kogi barbecue.
“Massage the meat with delicious intent,” he whispered. “Inject the marinade with everything you are, and may be some things you wish you weren’t.”
The Silverado Resort & Spa is a plantation-style mansion familiar to viewers of the iconic ‘80s nighttime soap “Falcon Crest,” used as an on location backdrop for the series. First built in the 1870s, the white-washed mansion houses the registration area, an airy lounge and multiple board rooms that can accommodate groups of 15 to 50 for coffee breaks, cocktails and breakout sessions.
A sun-splashed indoor/outdoor terrace with wrought iron tables that overlook a colorful and well-manicured garden is a popular spot for luncheons and brunch buffets. Four-course Winemaker Dinners, co-hosted by Silverado’s Executive Chef Jeffrey Jake and local vintners, are held in the Royal Oak restaurant with seating for 75 guests, featuring prix fixe local specialties prime beef carpaccio, Monterey Bay abalone and warm stone fruit cobbler.
Guests are served around communal tables and treated to anecdotes from the hosts, whose family vineyards date back for generations. The meal concludes with a bow from the kitchen staff and guests are given a bottle of lavender oil, courtesy of a local grower.
“Today’s groups want to drink in a destination—to become a part of it all,” Maxfield says. “They want the package, and that’s what we do.”
Adjacent to Royal Oak is a 15,000-sf conference center, anchored by the Silverado Ballrooms, which together accommodate 560 guests. The center is currently undergoing aesthetic and technology revamps. Silverado co-owner and golf legend Johnny Miller has spearheaded a 360-acre renovation to North and South courses, featuring water crossings, elevation changes and routing through oak, pine and redwood trees.