The Spring Mountain American Viticultural Area has more than a dozen wineries, which lie along or just off Spring Mountain Road a few minutes west of St. Helena. To aid in your explorations, wine writer Karen MacNeil, a Spring Mountain resident and frequent Sunset contributor, offers her pick for a must-try wine at each place. Be sure to call for an appointment before you visit.
Barnett Vineyards. At the very top of the ridge, the pretty Tuscan-looking winery has perhaps the best views on Spring Mountain and a picnic
table where you can take it all in.
MacNeil's pick: The powerful 2002 Spring Mountain District Merlot ($45), packed with cassis and cocoa flavors, makes Cabernet fans sit up and take notice.
Info: Tastings Thu-Mon; $20. 4070 Spring Mountain Rd.; www.barnettvineyards.com or 707/963-7075.
Cain Vineyard and Winery. Tastings take place in the dining room of the home that serves as winery headquarters.
MacNeil's pick: Cain's 2001 Concept ($46) is a Bordeaux-style blend with a chocolate-raspberry character.
Info: Tastings and tours Fri-Sat; free. 3800 Langtry Rd.; www.cainfive.com or 707/963-1616.
Paloma Vineyard. Tastings are done in Barbara and Jim Richards's own kitchen or on the back porch, where hummingbirds swarm around feeders
that Barbara carefully tends.
MacNeil's pick: The 2002 Merlot ($51). If you love thick, opulent Merlots, this one's for you, with black-cherry pie, dark chocolate, and espresso flavors. Very saturated and concentrated.
Info: Tastings daily; free. 4013 Spring Mountain Rd.; www.palomavineyard.com or 707/963-7504.