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A profile of Stu

June 17, 2018

Stu is profiled at The Wine Project:
Stuart Smith – Winemaker, Mountain Man And Napa Legend

By Amber Burke, June 15, 2018

We first met Stu a few years back when we started writing about wine. I think out of all of the wine makers we have met, he is still amongst our favorites. He’s not one of the young, slick, winemakers that you see forging forward in Napa’s winemaking scene, although he certainly started off that way. He’s not a celebrity that has turned winemaker, or someone with loads of extra money that has decided wine is sexy. No, he’s now amongst the legends that actually forged the land, and helped shape Napa into what it is today. (Although he’d probably laugh and call that a bunch of guff.)

Stu bought his vineyard in May 1971 with a partnership of family and friends. He was only 22 years old and was, at that point, working on his Master’s degree in Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis. He named his winery Smith-Madrone after their last name and the madrone trees that were found on their property.

The property he chose to build his vineyard on was steep, rocky, and full of trees and although it had been a vineyard in the late 1890’s, he had to clear all of the land before he could start the long hard process of planting his own grapes.

What really impressed us about meeting him was his passion and affinity for the land he cultivates. As we walked through the vineyard, we were mesmerized by his tales of how he learned the best ways to set up his vines on a mountain side, some of the missteps  they had along the way, and some of their triumphs. We loved his zest for knowledge, and innovation, along with his old school work ethic and no nonsense manner. He was one of the pioneers of dry farming practices in the Napa Valley. There is no denying – he’s the real deal.

Much later on, we learned a lot more about this inspirational winemaker above and beyond the excellent wines he makes. He has been involved with the communities of St. Helena and Napa Valley by volunteering and being involved with the Boy Scouts of America along with many other groups. He’s been chair of the Napa Valley Wine Auctions twice and a member of the Napa County General Plan Steering Committee, responsible for updating Napa’s General Plan. So when I said he’s been one of the people shaping Napa today, I wasn’t kidding.

Since our first meeting and tasting of Stu’s wines, we have been big Smith-Madrone fans and devotees. The Smith-Madrone Riesling is by far one of our favorite wines to drink all summer long and although now we drink wine for business reasons, it is their Riesling that we reach for when we want to drink for the pure pleasure. We are also big fans of the perfectly balanced Chardonnay they produce.

What Smith Madrone is truly known for is their excellent quality Cabernet Sauvignon. Honestly, in our opinion, it is one of the best Cabs in Napa and the price gives you true value in every sip.

The Cooks Flat Reserve is the flagship Cabernet Sauvignon wine that they produce. Yes, the price is on the higher end range, but it is a wine for celebrations and memories that will last you a lifetime.

You can visit Smith-Madrone by appointment and a tasting fee of $25 per person. A real bargain to be able to taste such high quality wines that have been in the making for nearly 50 years.



2015 is ‘an epic Riesling’

June 17, 2018

Paul Hodgins chose 10 wines for summer at ILikeThisGrape on June 16, 2018:

An epic riesling from one of Napa’s best producers of this grape; Smith-Madrone has been growing riesling in the Spring Mountain District since 1971. Unlike the 2014 vintage, which was lush, deep and round, the 2015 is the very definition of racy. It is bright, clean and delicious with a solid core of minerality surrounded by grace notes of citrus fruit and honeysuckle.


Napa has non-Cabernet choices

June 15, 2018

Six wines from Napa Valley that are not Cabernet Sauvignon, Allison Levine, June 14, 2018, Napa Valley Register

Perhaps diversity is not the first thing that comes to mind when talking about Napa Valley. Especially for people who live outside of Napa, if asked what wine comes from Napa, they will always say “Cabernet Sauvignon.” But, no matter how good the Cabernet is, Napa offers so much more.

According to the Napa Valley Vintners, there are 45,000 acres under cultivation in Napa Valley. There are more than 34 different wine grape varieties grown in Napa County, and 23 percent of the vineyards are planted to white wine grapes and 77 percent to red wine grapes. Forty-seven percent of the grapes planted are Cabernet Sauvignon, with Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel making up another 41 percent of the total grape production. That leaves 12 percent of the grapes planted to other grapes and here are six of the grapes to look out for…..


When Stu Smith first planted vines in 1970, Riesling was one of the grapes he planted. At the time, Riesling sold for the same amount of money as Cabernet Sauvignon. His 1979 Riesling was entered in the wine competition sponsored by the French restaurant guide Gault Millau and won Best Riesling over German wines. Unfortunately, a red wine boom in the 1980s resulted in much of the Riesling being pulled up. Today there are 87 acres planted to Riesling in Napa and Smith Madrone has 9 acres and produces 685 cases. The 2015 Riesling has fresh aromas of lemon, apricot, green apple and wet stones. It is crisp and bright and elegant and the acidity dances on the tongue.

A drone flew through the mist

June 12, 2018

June 2018: a drone visited:

94 points from Decanter for 2013 Cabernet

June 12, 2018

In the June 5, 2018 issue of Decanter, a review of the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon:

Premium California wines to buy in 2018

By Anne Krebiehl MW

94 points

The elegance of mountain fruit shows through here, with ripe plum coated with smoky notes of thyme. The palate has very fine, drying but pleasantly crunchy tannins with lovely grip, and there’s a sexy, smoky tint of single-malt whiskey around the edges. Lovely, crisp Cabernet structure. Drinking Window 2020 – 2035.

Sunshine in St James’s Street spelled the right kind of weather for a tasting of premium Californian wines in May, and the self-styled ‘American-inspired’ restaurant Avenue was the perfect backdrop, a space flooded with light that’s dedicated to contemporary, sophisticated American dining. The tasting was hosted by four UK wine merchants who have championed Californian wine and built up enviable portfolios of both blue-chip estates and high-achieving newcomers…including Roberson Wine.  It afforded me an excellent chance to pick out some top premium California wines that are represented in the UK, and which will offer plenty of drinking pleasure. A bonus was the opportunity to taste some of the more powerful wines with a little bottle age: it shows how well they can evolve and how much mileage there still is ahead.

California’s coastline is 840 miles long, covering almost ten degrees of latitude from San Diego to the Oregon border, creating numerous spots where vines excel. It’s this scale that helps to produce different layers of expression – how much a vineyard is exposed to the vast, cold and deep Pacific; whether it’s above or below the fog line; whether it catches the morning or the afternoon sunshine – even before we think about the myriad stylistic decisions every winemaker takes.


2015 Riesling is “delicious” and more

June 7, 2018

The Nittany Epicurean takes a look at the 2015 Riesling:

Typically, my favorite riesling is made in cool climates like the Mosel region of Germany or the Finger Lakes here in New York….that is to say a riesling that shows both bracing acidity and delicate pear and citrus notes, along with harmoniously balanced residual sugar. What I’m rarely impressed with is riesling made in warm climates. Most examples I’ve tried from California, for instance, are overly ripe juice bombs that show no skill in wine making or grape growing.

That certainly wasn’t the case, however, when I enjoyed this excellent riesling from Napa: 2015 Riesling grown, produced & bottled by Smith-Madrone (St. Helena, California).

This wine is 100% riesling from Napa’s Spring Mountain District. This delicious riesling (which in a blind tasting could easily make you think it’s cool climate riesling) comes in at 12.6% ABV and 0.68% residual sugar.

The wine showed a pale straw color. Pear, apple, lemon, slate and whiffs of petrol each arrived on a nose that slowly developed as the wine opened up. Pear, apple, lemon curd, slate and hints of stone fruit followed on the palate where the pear and apple met the ripe citrus and stone fruit on the finish. The wine exhibited great acidity and minerality, along with good structure and length. This wine would do well as an aperitif on a warm afternoon and would pair nicely with a Thai green curry.

Sam at The City of Riesling

June 5, 2018

Sam is the only Napa Valley Riesling producer participating in The City of Riesling in Traverse City, Michigan on June 10 and 11. Sam is a panelist on June 10 for Riesling & Red: Strange Bedfellows, along with wineries from the Willamette Valley, the Margaret River and the Finger Lakes. The evening continues as The Night of 100 Rieslings, featuring international winemakers, live music and heavy appetizers. More info at