Sometime between January and March each year, Napa Valley explodes with a vibrant carpet of bright yellow mustard blooms. Large swaths of yellow flowers provide a cheerful contrast to the rows of stark winter vines and signal the onset of spring.
Surprisingly, the mustard plant is not a native species to Napa. Local legend holds that a Franciscan missionary was the first to spread mustard seed across the California landscape, including Napa Valley, while scouting locations for California’s missions. Some say the priest was so fond of the condiment, he scattered the seeds wherever he went. Others claim he had a notoriously poor sense of direction and secretly left a trail of mustard seed whenever he made journeys as an assurance he could find his way back.
Regardless of how the mustard plant first got its foothold in Napa, its proliferation continues to this day because it remains a popular cover crop that is planted between vineyard rows to replenish the soil with nutrients, attract beneficial insects and help take up extra ground water in years with more rainfall.
While the August through October Harvest months are Napa’s peak tourist season, Mustard Season is an increasingly popular time to visit just to see these spectacular blooms. It’s not unusual to see a line of cars spontaneously pulled over on the side of Highway 29 or Silverado Trail with a gaggle of selfie-seekers wandering into a particularly vibrant field.
That said, mustard season in Napa Valley is still remarkably quieter compared to the main May through October tourist season, making it an awesome time to visit! Hotel rates are lower, dinner reservations are easier to come by – look for special menus offered during Napa Valley Restaurant Week – and the wineries are much less crowded. This is also a great time to snag off-season deals, which you’ll find marketed as Cabernet Season specials. Our most popular bike tours are discounted $25/person through the end of February.
The weather during mustard season is generally cool and mild, from the mid-50s to low-60s, but it’s also not unusual to see a warm spell with temperatures reaching the low 70s. It’s perfect weather for outdoor adventures. Several of our favorite mustard-spotting locations are within an easy bike ride of Yountville including Yount Mill Road, the wineries along Napa Valley Vine Trail south of Yountville, including Elyse Winery, Silenus Winery and Laird Family Estate.
There really is a reason for every season in Napa Valley. If you haven’t experienced the magic of Napa’s mustard season yet, what are you waiting for?