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My wife and I went to the BottleRock festival in Napa over Memorial Day weekend, and it was notable for several reasons.
- First, I had never stayed at the Westin Napa before.
- Second, the Napa Valley is home to some of the best wineries around and because the festival had drawn everyone away most of them were deserted.
- And third it’s a great example of an experiential points redemption opportunity — I’m not a huge concert-goer but I definitely can enjoy watching from a Starwood American Express suite rather than from the the packed grass.
In general points from a travel provider are best used for travel with that provider, although Starwood’s points are great for transfers to airline miles as well. One exception to ‘travel points for travel’ is experiential redemptions. There are opportunities to use points for things you’d never spend money on, or could never access at any price (like Pizza in Motion redeeming points for his wife to have tennis lessons with Andre Agassi).
The festival featured bands like Maroon 5, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and the Foo Fighters.
In this case I was there as a guest of Starwood. They’ve been inviting me to events of all sorts for years and I’ve always declined. My schedule is insane and I can never make it work. I loved the opportunity though and to be clear my policy (like with the recent United Polaris media flight) is to make a charitable donation when I receive something from a travel provider.
VIP tickets with ‘Skydeck’ access (the main Skydeck was sponsored by Alaska Airlines, which is trying to make its mark in California with the Virgin America acquisition) were $1200 apiece for the full 3 days of the festival. Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express cardholders could purchase VIP tickets that came with SPG Skydeck access which was even better.
The SPG Skydeck was directly off the main stage.
There were snacks through the day, a premium open bar (my first glass of wine was a Cakebread chardonnay), and heavier food in the evenings. They also had wine tastings in the suite. The Sonoma-Loeb Bateman Vineyard Pinot Noir, which I hadn’t tried before, was out of this world good.
I especially loved that the suite was so well branded, with SPG’s signature purple, and a backdrop of overwater bungalows.
Not as much as I loved seeing Tom Petty from a comfortable perch. And the Foo Fighters.
Yet the highlight for me may have actually been the greatest porta potties I have ever seen in my life. This is something that the SPG Amex Skydeck had access to, but not the Alaska Airlines Skydeck. Literally faux marble and glass bowl sinks with running water. Truly, that’s the only way to festival.
Outside the Skydeck there were wine tastings, hair braiding, food booths (some quite good). And a whole lot of people.
When not retreating to the Skydeck we headed back to our room at the Westin Napa. The hotel’s key selling point is its location, walking distance from downtown Napa.
During the BottleRock festival they had a complimentary shuttle service running throughout the day in conjunction with Acura. That ended at 6 p.m., but they do have a complimentary house car available which we availed ourselves of on Saturday night heading back to see Tom Petty at 8 p.m.
The grounds of the property are beautiful.
During the week rates can be under $300 a night. Over weekends you’ll normally see $600+ and rates can be as high as $900. This is the perfect example of a hotel where I like to use points, and why I like the value that award charts provide at a hotel. The property is an SPG category 6, so standard rooms are 20,000 points per night. You wouldn’t redeem that many points on a normal weeknight, but you do really well (even at that high a points-price) on key weekends.
I was assigned a suite, complete with kitchen and dining room.
The suite had a full guest bath in the entryway.
The bedroom had a Westin Heavenly Bed, and off of it a much larger bathroom.
Suite aside, the property isn’t super generous with Platinums. I wasn’t asked for my Platinum amenity choice at check-in, and I learned in the morning that it had defaulted to points. I switched to breakfast, and was given coupons for a Continental breakfast or valid for $10 each towards menu items.
That’s compliant with program rules, of course, but fairly un-generous especially for a property commanding these rates and point redemption levels.
Food in the restaurant was good, service was friendly, although there wasn’t substantial variety. (I never ordered room service while on property, but that menu was exceptionally modest.)
The first morning at breakfast we were brought a complimentary basket of fresh churros to start. That didn’t repeat on our second morning however. They were delicious but I did limit myself to two (and they were small).
The hotel charges a $20 resort fee per night (included in redemption bookings). I hate these charges, of course, since they’re really part of the room rate and should be included in pricing when searched. However the property provides complimentary valet parking so there’s some value to its ‘inclusions’ at least.
The Westin could use an update, but everyone is friendly and the property is nice — certainly one of the best options in Napa and great for enjoying BottleRock and as a base to explore several wineries.
A bit touristy, but I visited the old wine caves at Beringer. I also visited Grgich Hills for the first time in many years. It was in their tasting room where I first tried their Zin back in 2000. I served it at a work dinner a month later. As it happened, one of the people there wasn’t going to stay for the dinner but did because of the wine pairing and it was worth over a million dollars to us at work as a result. No one ever disputed my wine choices after that. A fabulous Memorial Weekend.