Festivals and Events
By far, the biggest thing that happens in Napa every year is the grape harvest, sometimes called “Crush” because the grapes get crushed as part of the first stage of winemaking.
During September and October (dates can vary depending on the weather conditions and growing season), events spring up all over Napa Valley. Many wineries host gala festivals for their wine club members, but you must be part of the club to join in the fun.
On the other hand, the Napa Harvest Festival takes place towards the end of the season (late October); it’s open to all and is one of the best celebrations in Wine Country.
The Kiwanis Club of Napa also puts on a Napa Valley Harvest Festival (800/550-6260) in Yountville at the Lincoln Theatre, featuring fine wines, great food, live music, and local art.
If you prefer smaller crowds but bigger fun, consider coming to Napa in February or March to enjoy the events of the Napa Valley Mustard Festival (www.mustardfestival.org). Each year in the not-so-dead of winter, wild mustard plants bloom brilliant yellow throughout the vineyards of Napa. (Mustard acts as a cover crop, protecting and nurturing the soil in which the precious grape vines grow.)
Festival attendees can check the festival website and choose the opening gala, closing gala, or any of the grand events that happen on the weekends in between. Restaurants and wineries open their doors for special dinners and tasting events. Do be aware that February and March are the rainy season in Napa, so the weather for this festival isn’t always the best.
Another fun festival that takes advantage of the off-season, the Festival of Trees (707/226-6872, ext. 24) has opened the holiday season in Wine Country for the last 15 years. Put on by the Napa Valley Symphony League, this festival focuses on music as well as food and wine. Make your reservations early (starting in October) to attend the three days’ worth of events that make up this festival.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition