Anklyosauruses and Riesling on Napa’s Spring Mountain

Napa is a remarkable place. But I’m pretty sure most people have no idea just how remarkable.

Yesterday, for example, myself, Kathy and Henry George took a trip up Spring Mountain…nearly to the top…to spend a nice evening with our friends Stu and Julie Ann. On the way up the treacherous Spring Mountain Road, my son, Henry George, revealed that Spring Mountain should be better understood as the “Forest of the Ankylosaurus”:

Henry: Daddy, did you know that this is the forest where Ankylosaurus live?

Daddy: I didn’t, Henry. That’s remarkable. I thought there were no more Ankylosauruses.

Henry: They only live here.

Now, I know what you are thinking. Four year-olds say the darndest things. Well, that’s true. But consider the densely packed forests, sprays of ancient redwood trees that dot the mountain, the collection of fern beds and the eerie fog that can linger at certain elevations on the Mountain. Spring Mountain does have a primordial feel to it.

Moreover, It’s not as though Henry has no experience with paleontology. The boy has thoroughly consumed (over and over) Wonder of Learnings’ edition of “Discover Dinosaurs”. He’s studied portions of all the Jurassic Park films. And not a day goes by that he doesn’t study the intricacies of model dinosaurs while he bathes. Henry George is not without learning on this subject.

“Also daddy, did you know that Ankylosauruses like grapes? They are herbivores and like to eat grapes when they are thirsty and there are lots of grapes here.”

Also true. There are lots of grapes on Spring Mountain.

Now, when we eventually got to the top of Spring Mountain and collected ourselves with Stu and Julie Ann in front of what is surely the most spectacular view of the Napa Valley from their property at a nearly 2,000 foot elevation, it’s true that neither Stu nor Julie Ann could confirm ever laying eyes on one of the Ankylosauruses that inhabit Spring Mountain. This despite the fact that Stu has worked the mountain and grown grapes there for more than four decades:

“Well, we do have big and small cats up here, a couple different kinds of foxes, moles and voles, snakes including the occasional rattlesnake along with king snakes, a variety of birds, and some evidence that a bear has been in these parts.”

“And Ankylosauruses too,” Henry reminded us.

Stu is a pretty rugged guy. Over the years he’s carved out a remarkable collection of hillside vineyards up on Spring Mountain, while constantly pushing back against the Mountains displeasure with being tamed. It’s very hard work  of which that Stu has always taken the brunt. And it’s a reminder of just how soft are the grapegrowers in the Valley. Stu’s explanation is, “if you aren’t stubborn when you arrive on the hill, it will make you stubborn.”

But back to the Ankylosauruses.

As we felt the sun retreat west behind the Mountain, drank riesling and shared stories, Henry was watching. Closely. Earlier Stu had taken Kathy, Henry and me on a trek through his property and vineyards on his four-wheeled gizmo. From taking the the tour, Henry knew exactly where to watch for glimpses of the Ankylosauruses. On one occasion, Henry ran back from the edge of the vista point to the table where his dad poured another glass of Riesling to whisper, “the Ankylosauruses live in the trees.” Then he sprinted back to the steep vista point, looking every bit as though he was going to launch himself into the vineyards below.

Again, who knew that these secret, huge, elusive, 100 million year old creatures who command Spring Mountain actually lived in trees. Again, I need to remind you that this boy has done his research. Why should I doubt.

Henry kept a close look out.

Riesling was once much more common in Napa Valley than it is now. Today, few Napa vintners hold out and make the grape into wine. Stu is one of them and it’s a fact that most wine-knowledgeable people in the country agree that his Spring Mountain Riesling is among the finest made in the United States. I know this from experience and have not been influenced by his beautiful and talented publicist wife, Julie Ann.

Thinking it might draw out the Ankylosauruses, Henry pitched unripe persimmons into the vineyard below. We watched. He’s not quite Sandy Koufax, Stu noted. I agree.

There’s a primitive quality to Stu and Julie Ann’s place on Spring Mountain, despite its semi-manicured moments. The grove of 130 year-old olive trees. An old and small and unassuming winery. The quiet. The way the mountain forest liberally encroaches on everything. The isolation. It’s an easy place to gain clarity even as it hastens one to get lost in their thoughts. And there’s the Riesling too.

We drove slower down the mountain than we did on the way up. It was dusk and harder to see. Still, from his safety seat in the back of the car, Henry tried to stay eagle-eyed even as his head swung side to side as he battled sleep.

Finally, about half way down the mountain, Henry saw his first and only Anklyosaurus. “Daddy there’s the Ankylosaurus. It’s in the forest of the Ankylosaurus.”

Who am I to doubt.

Napa Valley is a remarkable place.



7 Responses

  1. Carole Meredith - July 27, 2018

    I’m a believer. We have a few of them up here on Mount Veeder too.

  2. Patricia - July 28, 2018

    Good to know that there are still very young schoolchildren who do research and become experts in their topic. If you are ever in Firenze then you should visit the Natural History Museum there which has a very fine dinosaur skeleton (originally found in Arizona, USA) or, if in London, the Natural History Museum which has a fascinating collection of dinosaur skeletons and bones.

  3. Bob Henry - July 28, 2018


    When I read the headline of your piece — “Anklyosauruses and Riesling on Napa’s Spring Mountain” — I thought: “Geez, must be a Greek grape similar to Assyrtiko and Agiorgitiko growing up on Spring Mountain.”

    Thank you, Henry George, for “schooling me” on this armoured dinosaur.

    Kinda looks like a big (make that VERY big) armadillo.

    ~~ Bob

  4. Julie Ann Kodmur - July 31, 2018

    Please tell Henry we’ll keep our eyes peeled…and then there’s this:


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