Wine and art have always paired well. There are as many references to wine in the great Rumi's poetry as to love itself, and I'm confident that the ancient Romans adorned the walls of their temples with mosaic tiles between sips of indigenous swill.

Much of the modern art and wine movement is owed to Margrit Mondavi and her work in Napa Valley. She launched the first winery fine arts program at the Robert Mondavi Winery in the 1960s. Her summer music festivals were the first large-scale music events in the valley, drawing visitors with big-name acts, such as Ella Fitzgerald and Harry Belafonte.

Handmade by Marketta proprietor Marketta Fourmeaux was a guest on Judd Finkelstein’s popular web TV series, "Wine Booty."
Handmade by Marketta proprietor Marketta Fourmeaux was a guest on Judd Finkelstein's popular web TV series, "Wine Booty." (Devin Joshua/Judds Hill Winery)

Today, most wineries double as galleries, their tasting room walls hung with paintings and their courtyards filled with one-of-a-kind sculptures. But a wave of contemporary and experimental art is hitting Napa Valley, and those of us who can't stomach another framed watercolor chateau are jazzed.

The third annual Arts in April, which takes place at wineries and other venues throughout Napa, promises to cement the valley as a destination for the arts -- one that rivals any big city. The timing is good, too, as it warms hipsters up for May's Bottle Rock, the much-anticipated multiday rock music festival. Coachella, be warned: Napa is prettier than Indio, and the weather's much better.


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This month, you'll be able to participate in a wine-and-painting pairing (April 14, Beaulieu Vineyards), check out the U.S. debut of Rolling Stone photographer Baron Wolman's exhibit "The Groupies" (April 13, Markham Vineyards), and rub elbows with Oakland electronic artist Alan Rath, who is known for his robots and tongue-in-cheek digital video sculptures (April 27, Hess Collection).

The lineup gets even cheekier on April 26: Judd's Hill winemaker Judd Finkelstein plans to open his studio for a live audience taping of his popular web-based TV talk show, "Wine Booty," the swashbuckling, wine-soaked love child of "The Colbert Report" and "Pirates of the Caribbean."

For the past two years, Finkelstein has hosted a who's-who of Napa's food, beer and wine scene with his trusted sidekick, Captain Whylee Raven, a pirate Finkelstein says he found on the Vallejo waterfront. He posts episodes on YouTube and the winery's website, www.juddshill.com.

Featured guests have included winemaker Heidi Barrett, craft brewer Don Barkley and chefs Hiro Sone and Lissa Doumani of Terra Restaurant in St. Helena. Finkelstein says he's pretty excited to be included in the Arts in April mix.

Judd’s Hill winemaker Judd Finkelstein (right) and his sidekick Captain Whylee Raven (left) at the premiere gala of Finkelstein’s quirky web TV
Judd's Hill winemaker Judd Finkelstein (right) and his sidekick Captain Whylee Raven (left) at the premiere gala of Finkelstein's quirky web TV talk show series, "Wine Booty." (Devin Joshua/Judds Hill Winery)

"The art scene has broadened in the Napa Valley, and I think it's wonderful that the Arts Council is celebrating that," says Finkelstein, who has a degree in TV production from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University.

The "Wine Booty" taping will act as a closing weekend gala, with 50 studio audience guests sipping Judd's Hill wines and eating popcorn and hot dogs. Now, that's art.

Contact Jessica Yadegaran at jyadegaran@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow her at Twitter/swirlgirl_jy.

arts in April

Napa Valley Arts in April showcases permanent and rotating art collections maintained by more than 30 wineries, including Bennett Lane Winery, Domaine Chandon and St. Supery Estate. Works on view during the month range from Belle Epoque to contemporary electronic creations, plus special tastings, exclusive gallery events, lectures and artist receptions. Proceeds benefit Arts Council Napa Valley. Learn more at www.visitnapavalley.com/artsinapril.