You might imagine that Steve Russon, a Napa Valley tour guide and self-professed wine geek, would get tired of taking groups around to wineries. And you would be right, at least when it comes to "the usual suspects, the no-brainers," as he calls some of the larger wineries along State 29. But there's one appellation that continues to fascinate him no matter how many times he goes. "I like to bring people up to Spring Mountain because it takes a little more effort, a little more study and knowledge," Russon says.
Effort, because all the wineries here require appointments for tasting. Knowledge, because all are hidden among the trees along a rugged, winding road so steep it can make your ears pop. So why bother? As Russon puts it, "Spring Mountain is undeniably, incomparably beautiful; the wines have beautiful intensity; and you get to talk to people who are involved in what they're doing, have a stake in what they're doing, and are actually doing it themselves."
One of the Napa Valley's smallest appellations, with fewer than 20 wineries and 25 vineyards, Spring Mountain is in many respects the anti-Napa. Until just last year, when a Spring Mountain District Association finally formed, wineries here operated as lone rangers, with minimal signage and directions almost laughable in their folksiness: "Where the road turns to dirt, look for the cluster of mailboxes, turn right, and 500 yards down you'll see a gate with no sign. If you can't find it, try calling the winery. If you get lost, call us, though your cell phone might not work out here."