Thursday, February 12, 2009

Adventures in the Napa Valley During Mustard Season

A trip to the wine country is an adventure in sights, smells, sounds and of course… tastes. Every season has something different to offer and its own unique beauty. In the spring the grass in the hills are a lush green and the canes are beginning to sprout on the vines. By summer the grass has turned brown but the vines now abound with grapes. Around mid July the grapes change color as they go through verasion. Then the hustle and bustle of autumn arrives as harvest takes place and the grape leaves begin to turn to various shades of light green, hues of golden yellow and red.

But of all the seasons I find that winter is the most beautiful, particularly in the Napa Valley in the months of February and March. Oceans of Mustard flowers fill the vineyard landscape resulting in picturesque views along Highway 29 and the Silverado Trail. The old vines that have been pruned look like gnarly arthritic hands and in between each row are layers of mustard flowers, California poppies and purple lupines.

It can be a little challenging to find a nice day to take pictures during this time for this is also the rainy season. But when Providence offers you a break in a storm to venture out into the vineyards, it is the perfect opportunity to grab your camera and snap away.

The ground is usually fairly muddy so you’ll need good hiking boots or old sneakers that you don’t mind messing up. You may also want to bring along with you a step ladder so you can get the “over the hedge” shot of the rows of vines. Otherwise your photos will be restricted to only the eye level.

So, every year I throw a 6 foot ladder into the back of my truck and when the weather is right I head out early in the morning with camera in hand, driving from Los Carneros all the way up to Calistoga in search of the perfect shot. The above video is a collection of pics I took over the past two years.

The Napa Valley has many mustard related events this time of year as they celebrate the Mustard Festival ( ) The Napa Valley Mustard Festival “celebrates the food, wine, art and rich, unique agricultural bounty of the Napa Valley” and there are a number of events that go hand in hand with the "Mustard Season" from January 31st - March 28, 2009.