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Vinography looks at the Chardonnay and Cabernet

August 14, 2017

Vinography Unboxed: Week of August 6, 2017

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week’s wines included a couple of very interesting wines….

The real star this week, however, was the current release Cabernet from Smith-Madrone, a small producer high on the slopes of Napa’s Spring Mountain, where Stu and Charlie Smith craft honest, unpretentious wines with an old-school approach. The perfection of the 2013 vintage helps take what is usually an excellent wine and push it into outstanding territory. Truly fantastic, if you appreciate Napa Cabernet with poise and restraint, you’ll swoon over this elegant bottling. Highly recommended.

 
2014 Smith-Madrone Chardonnay, Spring Mountain District, Napa, California
Light yellow-gold in color, this wine smells of buttered popcorn and cold cream. In the mouth, brilliantly juicy flavors of lemon and pink grapefruit are shot through with the saline notes of melted butter and kelp. Lovely pink grapefruit pith lingers with a salty snap in the finish. Great acidity. 14.3% alcohol.

2013 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District, Napa, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and tobacco and espresso with a touch of green herbs. In the mouth, beautiful cherry and tobacco leaf flavors bounce with excellent acidity. Hints of graphite and leather and mint swirl in the billowy cloud of fine grained tannins. Poised and elegant, this is a wine that will go two or three decades without blinking. Fantastic. 14.2% alcohol.
http://www.vinography.com/archives/2017/08/vinography_unboxed_week_of_aug_5.html

A Chardonnay feast on Twitter

August 13, 2017

A Chardonnay feast!

Rick Fillmore takes a look

August 13, 2017

Rick Fillmore takes a look at the current releases:

A blaze of red cherry

August 10, 2017

Meg Houston Maker takes a look at the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon:

A fruit-scented Cabernet from Spring Mountain, estate-grown at 1,800 feet. It offers aromas of cassis, black cherries, and black raspberries, but also juniper leaf and cedar bark, a crackle of black pepper. The weight is light, with a blaze of red cherry at the mid-palate. There are more black fruit notes here, too: blackberries and their seeds, coffee, cedar-earth, savory black currant. The finish is grippy, vigorously so, but the wine has the acidity, tannic structure, and fruit to carry it forward, and the tea-staining of age will taste good on it.

 

http://makerstable.com/2017/08/09/2013-smith-madrone-cabernet-sauvignon-spring-mountain-district-napa-valley/

Ranking #6 in The Daily Meal’s 101 Best for 2017

August 8, 2017

101 Best Wineries in America 2017

by Colman Andrews, August 2, 2017

Our panel ranks the top producers from California and 13 other states, Washington to Virginia, Maryland to Texas. When Leif Erikson dubbed the North American coast “Vinland” or “Winland” back around 1000 A.D., he may or may not have meant to call our continent a land of vines (linguists say the term might also have meant “land of meadows”) — but a land of vines is what we’ve become. The sheer quantity and variety of good and great wine being made in America has grown exponentially in recent decades. It is now produced in all 50 states — and there are bottles worth savoring from almost every source.

Narrowing our national enological wealth down to a mere 101 wineries, then, is a daunting task each year. To help us meet the challenge, we reach out annually to experts in the field, from all over the country — sommeliers, wine writers and bloggers (including our own contributors, of course), chefs and restaurateurs, and of course the wine-savvy editors at The Daily Meal — asking them to nominate their favorite wineries (as many as ten per person) and to tell us what they like about them.

This year we invited about 60 of these professional (or passionate amateur) wine-lovers to weigh in….Collating the nominations, we ended up with a list of more than 250 wineries, old and new, large and small, many of them nominated numerous times. We factored in our own tasting notes of recent vintages, consulted the leading wine publications and newsletters, and considered recent awards from prestigious competitions, and narrowed the choices down to 101.

In the nomination process, we asked our panel to consider not just the obvious places but the entire country. The majority of our choices, 61 of the wineries listed, did turn out to be Californian; as noted, plenty of other places are doing a good job with wine, but the Golden State is still by far the largest producing state and still boasts the largest number of great wineries. The Pacific Northwest (Idaho included) is well-represented too — but you’ll also find wineries from New York (both the Finger Lakes and Long Island) and Virginia, and from Maryland, Texas, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut.

What you might notice missing are some of the most famous California “trophy wines” — the ones that would cost you $500 to $1000 or more per bottle, if you could even locate one for sale. These are absent because, for whatever reasons (and we could guess at a few of them), our panelists simply didn’t vote for them. That said, some wineries on our list do command top dollar, and some are difficult to find in ordinary retail channels and go primarily to longtime mailing list customers. On the other hand, there are plenty of easily accessible wines represented, too, many of them offering excellent wine at fair prices.

  1. Smith-Madrone Vineyards and Winery, St. Helena, Calif.

A couple of amiable, bearded-and-mustachioed brothers, Stuart and Charles Smith (no relation to prolific Washington State winemaker Charles Smith, No. 94) — vineyard manager and winemaker, respectively — make their winery home near the summit of Spring Mountain, long known as the home of some of  Napa Valley’s best producers. Here, they farm about 34 acres of cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and riesling, with small quantities of merlot and cabernet franc for blending. Production remains small — about 5,000 cases a year — and Smith-Madrone wines seldom show up on trophy lists, but connoisseurs who really know wine tend to love them. The chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon regularly win gold medals around the country, and the winery’s exquisite riesling was named “Best Riesling in the World” in 1979 at the International Wine Championships sponsored by France’s Gault & Millau magazine. They’re under the radar, but on top of their game — which is why The Daily Meal named Smith-Madrone its 2014 Winery of the Year. Wine writer Gabe Sasso raves that “each Smith-Madrone offering is consistently delicious, vineyard-focused, and age-worthy, and also incredible value. Smith-Madrone’s cabernet sauvignon, which sells for just under $50, is as good — one vintage after another — as any in the Napa Valley, regardless of price.”

https://www.thedailymeal.com/drink/101-best-wineries-america-2017-slideshow/slide-97

https://www.thedailymeal.com/drink/101-best-wineries-america-2017

Really delicious mountain Chardonnay

August 8, 2017

TheWineGuys taste the 2014 Chardonnay:

August 3, 2017

Grape-Experiences takes a long look…..

 

Fascinating Smith-Madrone:

The People, The Place, The Wines

Nestled on Spring Mountain Road, a mere 30-minute drive from St. Helena, is Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery, a 200- acre ranch partly planted as a vineyard over one hundred years ago. Where California black bears and other wildlife once flourished, gigantic 120-year-old Picholine olive trees now thrive on land that overlooks Napa Valley and Napa Valley State Park. World class vineyards do, too.

As an homage to the realized dreams of Stuart Smith, Managing Partner and Enologist and Charles Smith III, Winemaker, as well as the distinguished Madrone tree that grows throughout the estate, the name Smith-Madrone was given to this winery, one that is producing some of the finest examples of Riesling, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignon I’ve tasted.

The Eclectic Smith Family

But first. Who are the intriguing people behind these notable wines?

Having just received his B.A. in Economics from UC-Berkeley, a young Stuart Smith entered the wine industry as he took classes towards his Master’s in Viticulture and Enology at UC-Davis. Through a family friend, he discovered a forest on the most remote and highest point of Spring Mountain, an area that had not only been part of a vineyard but was a segment of the wagon trail route between Napa and Santa Rosa. In May 1971, Stuart Smith and a partnership of family and friends purchased that land now known as Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery. His leadership and expertise in the wine industry is legendary.

The Winemaker and “general factotum” for Smith-Madrone Vineyards and Winery is Charles F. Smith. In 1971, he obtained his teaching certificate after attending UC-Berkeley and San Francisco State University. But the wine life beckoned and Charles Smith joined his brother, Stuart, at Smith-Madrone in 1973.

Don’t assume that the wine industry consumes the time of these gentlemen; after reading about their everything-but-wine activities, I certainly won’t. Just as rich, broad, and interesting as their wines are the lives of these brothers.

Stuart Smith serves as auctioneer for the Omaha Nebraska charity auction each year and has chaired the 1986 and 2006 Napa Valley Wine Auctions. He served on the Napa River Watershed Task Force for many years and was appointed by the Board of Supervisors to sit on Napa County General Plan Steering Committee in 2006. He’s an avid canoeist, Boy Scout supporter, and family man with five children and two grandchildren, all of whom I hope do or eventually will appreciate good wine.

In his “wild oats years” (his words, not mine!), Charles Smith held jobs as a probation officer, a furniture mover, and taxi cab driver. He’s a top-notch croquet player who has represented the United States in international competitions. Apparently, his dubious claim to fame is that he was a co-participant in the longest single game (over 7 hours!) in the history of the World Croquet Federation, a game that was played against the Japanese champion in the 1992 World Championships.

Sam Smith, Assistant Winemaker, holds a degree from UC-Santa Barbara. Prior to his stint at Smith-Madrone, Sam traveled extensively, worked harvests at a variety of wineries, and held positions as a sommelier at international restaurants. A Napa Valley native, his athletic background on the football field, tennis court, and golf course allows him be a crucial player on the winemaking team at Smith-Madrone.

The Unique Vineyards

34 acres of estate vineyards, some dating to 1972, are at elevations between 1300 and 2000 feet on the steep slopes of Spring Mountain. For the most part, the rocky soils are deep-red Aiken Stoney Clay loam that are volcanic-based, well-drained, and deep. I found it interesting (and the soil geek in me was thrilled) that the geology of the area is the Franciscan Assemblage that includes “altered mafic volcanic rocks, deep-sea radiolarian cherts, sandstones, limestones, serpentines, shales, and high pressure metamorphic rocks, all of them faulted and mixed in a seemingly chaotic manner as a result of tectonic plate activity”.

To establish a vineyard, the team employs drip irrigation. Yet, Stuart Smith pioneered dry farming in the area and now, older vines “send their roots deep to search for water and nutrients, only producing the precise amount of fruit exactly appropriate for their vigor, small berries with a large skin-to-juice ratio” is used. Stuart Smith explains…

The Exceptional Wines of Smith-Madrone

All wines are produced from grapes cultivated in the estate vineyards surrounding the winery atop Spring Mountain. Stuart Smith chose specific slopes with differing exposures for each varietal: Riesling grapes are planted on east facing vineyards, Chardonnay can be found on cool, north-facing slopes, and Cabernet Sauvignon thrives on flat parcels with southern and western exposures.

At Smith-Madrone our goal is to make artisanal wines which are distinctive and are an expression of both the vintage and us, as vintners, but above all else, are wines which bring pleasure to the senses. Every year our wine is made from the same vineyards, pruned by the same people in the same way, cultivated in exactly the same manner and harvested at similar levels of maturity, yet Mother Nature stamps each vintage with a unique set of flavors, senses and character. Vintage dating is a celebration of that uniqueness and diversity. Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery

If the goal of those at Smith-Madrone is to craft wines that bring pleasure to the senses, these incredible wines deliver and that mission is achieved.

Smith-Madrone Riesling 2014  – Absolutely delicious, this bright and lively 100% Riesling prompted several “Wows!” and more than a few “Riesling from Napa?” remarks when I poured tastes for friends. All of us were delighted and rightly so. Fresh aromas of lemon, yellow flowers, orange peel, stone fruit, and minerality burst from the glass. Clean and gracious, notes of juicy citrus and minerality, zesty acidity and a round mouthfeel were dominant with each sip. The finish on this crisp, dry Riesling? Long and luscious.

Smith-Madrone Chardonnay 2014  – I was blown away by the taste sensations of this glorious Chardonnay that spent nine months in 100% new French oak. Elegant aromas of lemon, juicy citrus, apples and pears enticed and I was anxious for that first sip. On the palate, I discovered notes of tropical fruit such as melon and citrus, brilliant acidity, oak, and a creamy, buttery texture. All led to an exceptionally long finish and I savored every moment.

Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 – Bold, yet light and refreshing, I remarked after a few velvet-like sips that this luscious Cabernet, aged in French oak for 18 months, is one that I could drink anytime, anywhere, with or without food. Consisting of 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc, and 6% Merlot, I was mesmerized.  Intense aromas of deep rich black cherries, freshly picked blueberries, vanilla, and a dash of black pepper led to flavors of dark fruit compote, baking spice, wet earth, and savory herbs. Of course, soft tannins and lively acidity provided the foundation to a wine that should be in everyone’s glass.

A tour and tasting at Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery, with one of the Smith brothers as your guide, should be on your must-see list when you’re planning a visit to Napa Valley.  (You can make an appointment here.) Be sure to savor a bit of Napa Valley history, the stories that Stuart or Charles will share, and each sip of some outstanding wines.

http://www.grape-experiences.com/2017/08/fascinating-smith-madrone-the-people-the-place-the-wines/