Mustard Festival welcomes winter traffic

March 12, 2010 6:39:46 PM PST
The vines are dormant right now in Napa Valley since it has been raining. Still, out of the fog and mist comes the unmistakable glow of mustard. It covers the vineyards and is the golden touch on remarkable photos.

Winter time used to be the slow season in Napa with no visitors. Back in 1993, a group of people got together and decided to use the mustard as a theme to welcome tourists. They created the Mustard Festival to promote the visual with food, wine, and art.

It goes on for more than two months. This weekend is what they call "The Showcase," a big event at the new Riverwalk along the Napa River in Downtown Napa.

Ever since it started, tourism has seen a 22-25 percent increase in this weekend according to mustard officials.

It comes at a good time as U.S. exports of wine are down by 9.5 percent. Most of that wine is made in California.

The winners of the international mustard competition will be shown here. Barry Levenson heads the National Mustard Museum in Wisconsin - it is home of Poupon U.

"It showcases how versatile mustard is by itself and as an ingredient in other things, and that's what the mustard festival is all about," says Levenson.

"We use mustard is a very different way," says Neela Paniz.

Neela's is an Indian restaurant a few blocks from the marketplace. Paniz moved here from L.A. a year ago. It has been a tough year.

"This is a town that has established it likes and dislikes so they take their time coming in and finding you. Once they come in I've been able to win them over," said Paniz.

Next year she wants to be part of the Mustard Festival.

Cakebread is the host winery, known for its quality wines. They are successful, but these economic times are taking a toll. People are drinking less or looking for less expensive wines, so some wineries may not survive to see another vintage and foreclosures are increasing.

Then there is the threat of the European grape moth. The wineries have formed an alliance to work with a scientist to monitor the progress of the creature.

"We have a viticulturist who is all over that. He is working really hard with Napa County to keep it out of Napa Valley," says Julianne Laks, a Cakebread Cellars winemaker.

The Mustard Festival Marketplace is Saturday and Sunday.


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