Late winter and spring in the Napa Valley finds vineyards knee deep in healthy grasses, clovers and cover crops, but none of them take your breath away like vineyards filled with the vibrant blooms of yellow mustard, peeking up between the gnarled bark of the dormant vines. Legend has it that mustard seeds were spread along El Camino Real by the Franciscan Friars so that others could find their way. Although most of the mustard growing is wild and continues to rebound each year, today many vineyardists actually sow the seeds between the rows as a cover crop to pull moisture out of the soil.
For many years, our community celebrated the mustard each winter with a series of events under the guise of the Napa Valley Mustard Festival. Currently taking a year off to find further sponsors, this festival usually hosts weeks of events including music, wine dinners, fine arts, and cooking classes, culminating in a mustard photo display/competition at Mumm (and great bubbles). Such dignitary as the Curator of the National Mustard Museum (who would have thought there even was one?) was set to judge the mustard competition.
On the same theme, when in the Napa Valley, Mustard’s Grill is a great stop if for nothing more than their shoestring onion rings and our Two Old Dogs Sauvignon Blanc. But their grilled meats and fresh produce from their own vegetable and herb garden makes it a “must” stop – even (for a mojito) in your busy day of wine travels.
And don’t forget the Napa Valley Olive Oil Manufacturing Company, an Italian grocery store with all your picnic needs at the end of Charter Oak Ave. in St. Helena. In the back room near the olive press and the hanging salami you can find dozens of gourmet Napa Valley mustards; none of which contain mustard seed from Napa Valley, some of which are not even produced in Napa, but all of them flavorful and worth taking home as a small memento.