The 16th annual Mustard Festival began in earnest on January 31 and will run through March 28th with various events. The idea behind the Mustard Festival is to promote tourism in the Napa Valley during the “quiet” time of the year. The weather is always iffy and the vines are all dormant, so tourists tend to stay away during these winter months. In April bud break occurs and spring flowers awake, and once again all is right in the world of the Napa Valley.
A couple of weeks ago we received our fancy brochure in the mail outlining the Mustard Festival events. The events are all too pricey for us and the only event we have participated in the past is the Mumm Napa Photo Finish. Whenever we have a good photo of mustard, we enter it in the Mustard photo contest. We have yet to win, but it is always fun to try. As the entries are submitted in March, the photographs are displayed in the Mumm Napa’s beautiful art gallery. The exhibit of mustard photos runs through May 3rd and is free to visitors at the Mumm Napa Winery. It is a great photo exhibit with outstanding work by professionals and amateurs alike.
The events all sound very exciting and interesting, but for us the main attraction is wonderous displays of mustard plants throughout the Napa Valley. It does not matter if the weather is dreary, sunny and wonderful, or the rain is pelting down, there is just something spectacular about the vibrant color of the mustard growing between the dormant grape vines.
The best way to get this free show is to drive north toward Calistoga and zigzag the Valley using each crossroad between Highway 29 and the Silverado Trail. If you have time, take a drive up Howell Mountain in search of mustard on hillsides. This is the best way to find glorious displays of mustard and some wonderful photo opportunities. The best time for photos is early morning or late afternoon and at sunset. Who knows, you could be the winner of the Mumm Napa Photo Finish.
More about Mustard
Some say General Vallejo planted the first mustard others say it was the Franciscan Fathers as they established the California Missions. Mustard begins to grow about one month after the first big rainfall in December. Some wineries plant mustard or till the soil between rows to get the mustard going. Others leave it totally up to Mother Nature. It is amazing to see one vineyard totally filled with mustard contrasted by a vineyard next to it without a trace of the mustard plant. Just before bud break occurs in April, the wineries plow the mustard under and that ends one of the most spectacular visual shows in the Valley.