In 1990, a friend invited me to fly with him over the Napa Valley area, which provided me an excellent opportunity to add to my collection of slides used in the California Wine Appreciation course I taught at the time. Note in the sparse vegetation along the Silverado Trail and around Conn Dam Reservoir, which are on the east side of the Napa Valley near St. Helena. In contrast, the west side has dense forests, except where vineyards have been planted, such as at Spring Mountain Vineyards. Greystone, which is just north of St. Helena also has dense forest of redwoods behind it and alongside Hwy 29. Just north of the Greystone Building is Booth State Park, a good place for bargain accomodations (see tip).
Since I live less than 30 minutes away from the wine country, and love going up there, you would think maybe I've seen them all. Not so. Yes, I am a frequent visitor, but each time I go up, I discover a new winery, a new canyon, a new ridge, a new mountain, a new vineyard, a new terroir.
On our last trip to Napa in September 2005, we decided to try Spring Mountain near St. Helena. We had just read about the area in a magazine and were intrigued because it is truly off the beaten path. After driving on a long and winding road, we finally made it to Robert Keenan Winery, a producer of an excellent chardonnay, but even better known for its cabernet sauvignons. The location is idyllic -- so quiet and beautiful. But then that is only because harvest hasn't started yet. Give this place another week or so, and it will be a hub of activity. We got to do some barrell tasting (tasting of the wine before it is bottled), and even the stuff in the barrell was excellent.
Spring Mountain road is just west of the main part of St. Helena, and winds up a narrow forested canyon.
For admirers of Robert Louis Stevenson, the Silverado Museum (Tel: 963-3757, 1490 Library Lane) contains over 8,000 items, including original letters, manuscripts, and memorabilia. Stevenson lived in Napa for a time and wrote about his experiences in 'Silverado Squatters'. The museum is free and open 12pm to 4pm every day except Mondays and holidays.