Stu is a panelist (Mountain Vs. Valley Floor) at Somm Journal’s bootcamp in October

The Somm Journal

October/November 2022

Photo: The Mountain Versus Valley Floor seminar panel: moderator Chris Sawyer, Stuart Smith, Smith-Madrone; Michael Scholz, St. Supery; Alex Guarachi, Guarachi Family Wines and Michael Baldacci, Baldacci Family Vineyards.

It’s not a competition

“Let’s be clear,” said Chris Sawyer, our moderator for the Mountain Versus Valley Floor seminar. “We don’t mean ‘mountain versus Valley floor’ in a competitive way—it’s all good wine.” The NorCal native made an excellent point: regardless of where a Napa wine is made, it has the potential to become one of the best in the world. Which isn’t to say that our winemakers didn’t have preferences regarding where their fruit is grown. Take Smith-Madrone founder Stuart Smith.

“It’s a long, circuitous story of how I got there, but in 1971 I was able to purchase 200 acres at the top of Spring Mountain. The reason I went there was because I felt how I feel now: Napa makes the best wine…You can only make great wine from great grapes. And the best grapes come from the mountain…I was also nuts,” said Smith, noting how difficult making wine on a mountain is, especially at that time; getting equipment and other materials up or down the mountain was a feat on its own.”

However, sips of the Smith-Madrone 2017 Riesling and 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon made us all grateful for Smith’s pioneering determination. “What makes Spring Mountain different?” he asked. “It’s the structure. Some years, the wine is red fruit-dominated; other years it’s black-fruit, but there’s always the structure.”

p. 88-89

Author: corkingnapa

Julie Ann Kodmur is a second-generation Californian who was born in San Francisco and grew up in La Jolla. As an eighth grader she was the runner-up in the state spelling bee. She’s lived in Italy and New York and now lives in the Napa Valley with her family. She is a marketing and publicity consultant in the wine industry. Her business life can be seen at This is the home for the overflow. The ‘title’ is a reference to a sculpture honoring an Argentinean journalist who practiced his craft in the 1930s before literally dying for his words. No such drama here, just hopefully some provocative fun.

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