In the Napa Valley, January through March is mustard season. A celebration of a new spring to look forward to after the rainy winter. The weather during mustard season is usually quite good. Daytime temperatures are often in the 60s and 70s (Fahrenheit). The sun is out, the hillsides are green, and the valley is bustling with workers pruning the vines and preparing for the growing season ahead. It’s a great time to visit and enjoy all that Napa Valley has to offer!
The famed Napa Valley is busy, especially during the harvesting of the grapes. Every year huge harvests are made in the blink of an eye. Trucks, workers, and machinery arrive and make short work of gathering the prized red and white grapes. There is no time to spare when the fruit is at the peak of ripeness.
Once the harvest is over, the whole valley can let out a collective sigh of relief. Another successful year is in the barrels. The wait begins for the wine to ferment, the judging to start, and medals to be awarded. Who will win this year?
While the season changes from fall to winter, the vines go dormant. Rain arrives and starts the process of replenishing the land. Grasses grow again, and the land is green, healthy, and ready to provide another bountiful harvest.
Mustard plants protect the vines at many Napa Valley vineyards. Legend has it that a Jesuit priest scattered mustard seeds to keep from getting lost. Every year the mustard plants return on their own to provide for yet another year. The plants are left to bloom into bright yellow blankets that cover the ground. Their yellow flowers pop up everywhere and provide erosion and pest control. Their appearance signals that winter will soon end and spring will bring new vines to the Napa Valley.
There are many opportunities to see the dormant vineyards with their yellow mustard plant blooms throughout the Napa Valley. A leisurely drive through wine country during February and March is an excellent time to experience the explosion of yellow flowers that only happens once a year. The roads are less congested, the hotels and restaurants are less busy, and the wine tasting rooms welcome you with open arms!
1. The Silverado Trail
Driving the Silverado Trail is a great way to see the vineyards. I like to start from Yountville to get a coffee and croissant from Bouchon Bakery, but you can start from Napa, Calistoga, or anywhere you wish to travel through this world-famous wine region.
From Yountville, follow signs to the Silverado Trail. There are many vineyards with yellow mustard blooms on the Yountville Cross Road, which is why I recommend it. Take your time and enjoy the scenery.
As you get close to the turn for the Silverado Trail, you will see a sign for the Stags Leap District wineries. The Stag’s Leap Winery produced the famous cabernet that shocked the wine world by winning the 1976 Judgment in Paris.
Head north on the Silverado Trail toward the town of St. Helena. There are many vineyards along the way, some with mustard plants. I compare the look of the vineyards while driving. Some have grass, others have mustard, and a few have an attractive orange-flowered plant in the rows. Notice the way the well-trimmed vines are shaped and pruned. Many methods are employed to prepare the vines for spring. Tending the vines is an ancient art passed down from generation to generation.
2. Visit Frog’s Leap Winery
Frog’s Leap Winery is several miles off the Silverado Trail. Use GPS to arrive at the entrance. Their vineyards are covered with thick mustard plants, displaying a beautiful yellow cover. It’s incredibly bright and vibrant on a sunny day.
The extensive story of how Frog’s Leap came to be is an amusing tale to be enjoyed by all!
Several other wineries are close to the Napa River and nearby, but Frog’s Leap Winery seems to be the only vineyard with mustard blooms to enjoy.
Pro Tip: Like so many others, Frog’s Leap Winery requires a reservation for a tasting. Be sure to book ahead.
3. A Private Vineyard On The Silverado Trail
While driving the Silverado Trail, not all vineyards that you come across will have tasting rooms. This vineyard had sufficient room to get safely off the road for a few photos. The shape and texture of the ancient vines are somehow pleasing to the eye. The vines are pruned a little later in the season.
Pro Tip: For safety, avoid stopping along the Silverado Trail unless the road has a wide shoulder to park on safely.
4. Driving North To Calistoga On The Silverado Trail
Another vineyard covered in yellow blooms just off the highway, a beautiful vantage point from the road prompted another stop. No sign of a wine tasting room or even a driveway. Perhaps another private residence? Many vineyards produce grapes and sell them to other wineries.
- Follow the Silverado Trail signs north to Calistoga.
- Drive through town.
- Stop and have a look around!
- Beautiful Calistoga has hot springs, mud baths, breweries, and restaurants.
- Turn left onto Highway 29 South.
- Proceed back toward Napa or Yountville.
5. Wolleson Vineyards Calistoga
After driving through the town of Calistoga, heading south on Highway 29, a large vineyard appears with lovely mustard blooms. The vines are old. The vineyard has been in the same family for well over 100 years. Wolleson Vineyards is currently up for sale.
Other Things To See And Do Along The Way
Their beautiful rooms, grounds, and pool facilities will be a highlight of your stay in the Napa Valley. It is offered January through March during the traditional mustard season.
Bardessono is the sister hotel of Hotel Yountville and a fantastic place to stay. The property is LEED Platinum-Certified, employing geothermal and solar power to provide most of its energy needs. The hotel designers used reclaimed wood to build furniture, and downed trees provided tables, counters, the bar, and other items throughout the property. Local tufa stone from the old cellars decorates the main lobby area walls. Artwork is tastefully placed around the property for everyone to enjoy. Some are available for purchase.
Their boutique spa also offers a Mustard Season package for their guests. After your spa treatment, visit the rooftop pool and enjoy a beautiful view of the sunset!
Castello Di Amorosa is a beautiful castle constructed with stone and repurposed materials, some from Europe. Dario Sattui built the authentic castle in Tuscan-style. A tour of the castle grounds will create a lifelong memory. Visit the fabulous rooms and reserve a wine tasting that is a not-to-be-forgotten experience. Read Dario’s blog posts before you go to understand his struggles to build this fantastic winery and castle. Reservations are required to drive up to the parking lot. Highly recommended!
The Culinary Institute Of America At Greystone (CIA) is a working school where the restaurants are classrooms for the students to gain hospitality and cooking skills. A bakery and café are available, along with the Gatehouse Restaurant. The building is enormous and a must-see stop when driving along Highway 29.
Book a reservation for the Gatehouse Restaurant online. Book early, as the restaurant is trendy. Choose to eat outside on the terrace to enjoy the vineyard view across the road.
Gott’s Roadside in Saint Helena serves burgers and tacos that please! They offer outdoor seating and pet-friendly tables. People from all over stop at Gott’s to get their favorite comfort food served in a pleasant atmosphere. Gott’s is more extensive than it looks from the road. Shaded tables on green lawns are perfect for families, friends, and puppy dogs to enjoy a fun meal while visiting Saint Helena.
The name Mustards Grill comes from the yellow mustard plants growing in winter and spring. Mustards Grill is an excellent place to eat when on the road in the Yountville area. Listed in the Michelin Guide, Mustards Grill is a perfect choice for lunch or dinner. Be sure to make a reservation!
Pro Tip: The Napa River runs the length of the Napa Valley. By driving the Silverado Trail (east of the river) from either Napa or Yountville, you can return by going through the town of Calistoga and coming back on Highway 29 on the west side of the river. Start and finish this loop at any point you wish. Vineyards and wineries abound for a leisurely drive through some of the most scenic areas of California. Memories made that will last a lifetime, under 3 hours are needed to drive the Napa-to-Calistoga-to-Napa loop. Use the official Napa Valley Wild Mustard Season map to plan your journey!
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