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“Elegant, refined” 2014 Cabernet

January 19, 2019

Our thanks to ACorkInTheRoad:

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A Spring Mountain Cab for under $60 🦄 yes, unicorns do exist. And this might even be my favorite terroir-driven style and expression of mountain fruit from Napa Valley. . . . Brothers Stuart and Charles Smith of @smith_madrone have been producing classic Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Riesling (!!) at their Spring Mountain property since 1971. They are OG Napa and consistently produce top-quality wines year after year. Madrone refers to an evergreen-type tree that grows on their property, and their tasting room is by appointment only…because you legit stand in their workshop and drink wine with the winemaker when you visit ☺️ . . We brought this bottle home to ATL after tasting with Charles in November, and now I’m spoiled by the quality-to-price ratio because it doesn’t get better than this. An elegant, refined Cabernet Sauvignon with a soft mouthfeel and notes of licorice, holiday spice, and savory dark fruits. Paired it with my husband’s homemade chicken wings and mushroom risotto 👌🏻 . . #NapaValley #SpringMountain #ClassicNapa #winenotes #winepairing #winetravel #winestories #cabernetsauvignon #peopleofwine #meetthewinemaker #smithmadrone

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Chardonnay included in 50 Great Wines of 2018

January 10, 2019

The 2014 Chardonnay was included in Fredric Koeppel’s 50 Great Wines of 2018:

50 Great Wines of 2018, Fredric Koeppel, January 9, 2019

The “50 Great Wines of 2018” represent regions of France, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Argentina and various AVAs in California, Oregon, Washington and New York, and, of course, a wide range of grape varieties and styles of wine. Prices range from a fabulously low $15 to a pretty high $140, with plenty bottles falling into the sweet spot between about $20 and $30; a great wine does not have to be expensive. These are wines that I not only admired but loved during my reviewing last year. The roster could have been expanded by 10 or 12 wines, but I like to stick to 50 — as I have for many years — because that number forces me to be analytical as well as emotional and totally subjective. For the first time in preparing this annual list, I include snippets of the original reviews to lend My Readers some clues as to why I doted on particular wines. No technical information is included. With one exception, these wines were samples for review.

Smith-Madrone Vineyards and Winery Chardonnay 2014, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley, California. 850 cases. Exceptional.
“… amazing purity and intensity … crystalline tone and chiseled presence.”

Here was the review from June 2018:

12 California Chardonnays I Liked

You may be thinking apropos the title of this post, “F.K., why didn’t you just say ’12 California Chardonnays’? Why add ‘I liked’”? Because, Dear Reader, I don’t like many chardonnays made in California, so when I come across a dozen that I can write about together, I want to emphasize that fact. The reason, as you probably know from having been a devoted reader of this blog — bless your little pointy heads! — is that so many chardonnays from The Golden State are saturated with swamps of oak that I open even one with trepidation, and when I’m looking for an appropriate white wine to drink with dinner, I will open just about anything other than chardonnay. It’s a real crap-shoot, this whole chardonnay business. The wines reported on in this post age in French oak barrels for varying amounts of time and using various percentages of new barrels, but the important point is that all 12 achieve a state of balance among all elements, sometimes pushing the boundaries, it’s true, but sometimes that bold, risky factor adds a frisson of appreciation. Other selections here are more elegant and restrained. Today we range from Santa Barbara County in the south to Mendocino County in the north. Vintages represented are 2014, ’15 and ’16, with the ’14s really coming into a state of grace. These wines were samples for review, for which I thank the wineries and marketing people involved. 
How can a chardonnay that was 100 percent barrel-fermented and aged nine months in 100 percent new French oak barrels display such amazing purity and intensity, such crystalline tone and chiseled presence? Certainly, a factor must be the 42-year-old, dry-farmed vines that struggle to find nutrients in the hillside vineyard, sending roots ever downward in search of water. In any case, the Smith-Madrone Vineyards and Winery Chardonnay 2014, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley, a favorite in our house whatever the vintage, offers a medium gold hue and arresting aromas of peach, pear and quince that unfurl notes of lemon balm and apple blossom, gunflint and limestone. Supernal in its lithe, supple texture and exquisitely poised between zephyr-like softness and riveting acidity, this chardonnay delivers spare and elegant citrus and stone-fruit flavors that culminate in a finish of glittering limestone minerality. 14.3 percent alcohol. Now through 2021 to ’24. The Smith brothers concocted 850 cases. Exceptional.


Lonely Planet recommends a visit

January 2, 2019

Have you read Lonely Planet’s Wine Trails: Plan 52 Perfect Weekends in Wine Country?

On p. 296 you’ll find:


Fans of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon will often be heard debating the respective merits of “mountain” Cabernet vs. those from the Valley floor. Those curious enough to taste the difference for themselves should head up  Spring Mountain to the rustic but welcoming winery of Smith-Madrone, where brothers Stu and Charlie Smith have been making some of the  Valley’s most under-rated Cabernet (not to mention Riesling and Chardonnay) since 1971. These are wines that not only taste great when they are young, but also age superbly if you have the patience to stick them away for a few years.

A visit to Smith-Madrone not only gives you the chance to spend time talking and tasting with some of the friendliest and most genuine winemakers in the business, it also offers up some of the most spectacular vistas in the entire Napa Valley. The old barn is full of charm….


WineForNormalPeople takes a look

December 26, 2018

December 2018

Elizabeth Schneider at WineForNormalPeople takes a look:


2015 Riesling is pitch perfect

December 23, 2018

On December 22 Peg Melnik at The Santa Rosa Press Democrat recommends “wines that will impress:”

Playing host over the holiday? If so, be forewarned. In Wine Country, guests have high expectations; they feel entitled to have their palates pampered.

With top winemakers in this region rivaling the best on the planet, it won’t be hard to impress.

They are world-class experimenters who push the envelope. They don’t settle. These people don’t punch a timecard. On the contrary, they work crazy hours and it’s most evident during harvest when they are sleep-deprived for days on end.

The wines listed have been palate-tested and they’re prime examples of the best crafted in the region. They will no doubt prompt your guests to ask for another pour. When you fill their glasses, you can smile with peace of mind; these wines make you look good.
—Smith-Madrone, 2015 Spring Mountain District Napa Valley Riesling, 12.9 percent. This complex riesling has layered notes of papaya, petrol and honeysuckle. It’s nice and dry, with bright acidity. Pitch perfect balance. Impressive.

“Reference-quality Riesling” for the holidays

December 19, 2018

26 Drinkable Gifts Fit for Any Occasion

by Gabe Sasso, December 20, 2018, TheDailyMeal

The 2018 holiday season is here, and it brings so many things with it. A big one is of course gift-giving, which is fun and gratifying but can also be time-consuming and stressful. Don’t worry, though, we’re here to make the process easier (and possibly even fool-proof). Nearly everyone has a wine or spirits lover on their gift list. The number of choices out there can be dizzying, but we have some amazing selections to share.

One of the great things about wine and booze as gifts is that concerns about size, style, and color go right out the window. A well-considered bottle of wine or hard alcohol always brings a smile from the recipient. As far as the “well-considered” part, we’ve got you covered.

Over the last few weeks we’ve tasted dozens of wines and spirits and selected 26 that are delicious, distinct, and a really good value. So whether your budget is less than $20 or over $500, you’re covered. This list comprises producers big and small, too, so whether you’re buying for someone who is going to be flattered by a well-known name or someone who leans toward lesser-known artisanal beverages, there’s a drinkable gift on this list for nearly everyone.

Smith-Madrone Riesling 2015 

There are a handful of riesling producers in Napa Valley, but Smith-Madrone is the one that truly matters most. One vintage after another, they release reference-quality riesling that is delicious and often age-worthy. Peach and apricot aromas are joined by a hint of lilac. The palate is even-keeled with continuing stone fruit and a dollop of spice. The mineral-laden finish shows off a kiss of lemon curd. Firm acid provides a great backbone. Whether you drink it now or age it for a couple of decades, this wine showcases Smith-Madrone’s mastery of riesling.


Stu a guest on WeLikeDrinking

December 18, 2018

The gang at WeLikeDrinking had Stu on the show on December 14: