Napa Valley hosts Mustard Festival

March 13, 2009 5:36:56 PM PDT
The 16th edition of the Mustard Festival continues this weekend in Napa Valley. It was created to bring tourists and locals to the valley during the off-season.

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Winter was the slow time of the year until a group made a plan 16 years ago.

"We were stimulating the economy, trying to get something going. People were not coming up in winter months. Winter was off beat," said Mustard Festival founder George Rothwell.

The concept was simple: take advantage of what nature creates at this time of the year and voila, the Mustard Festival.

Businesses have seen an economic impact from the mustard festival. Now visitors are being a bit more selective.

"What we're finding in our business is they appreciate their escapes that much more. They're getting away midweek, weekends," said Steve Andrews from Villagio Inn & Spa.

Yountville is renowned for its dining. But TV celebrity chef Michael Chiarello of Napa Style just opened Bottega in Vintage 1870.

"People wonder what I'm doing in the worst economy since grandpa. I actually think for me it's a good time because you really have to concentrate on the service and each and every guest," said Chiarello.

He offers a lower markup on wine and says it is good for business.

Black Stallion Winery has been open a year a half. It hosts the Mustard Awards tonight and in this economy, they're seeing fewer visitors, but bigger sales.

"We have a lot of interest, people stopping by it's pretty good," said winemaker Elaine St. Clair from Black Stallion Winery.

Robert Mondavi Winery hosts the big market place event for the weekend, where you can taste mustards -- 300 entries in 18 categories.

"I think mustard is surviving the economy fairly well, because people aren't going to stop eating and this is an affordable luxury," said Barry Levenson from the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum.

The grand prize winner is Dijon with black truffles from Oakland. It's a weekend of mustard magic.

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