2015 Riesling is tasted at Wine1er

Stephen McConnell at Wine1er tastes the 2015 Riesling:

Yellow deepening now at 4. Ashy floral nose, nice petrol and grip, touches of lavender dishwater, with the crispness of bright green pear and the savory warmth of cashmere.

Easily one of my favorite Rieslings made in the new world–certainly California–rich and flavorful. My biggest problems with Riesling are usually austerity and weirdness. There are so many light, thin, uncomplicated white wines out there, why should my Riesling be that way? This is also why I typically don’t need them bone-dry. Likewise weirdness. As with any variety which achieves cult hipster-wine status, there’s gonna be some people making them weird. Don’t do that. Smith-Madrone Rieslings have never even remotely had either of these problems for me. Big and lovely, enticing and complex, never an off note, never a dull moment. And they’ve been doing this for 40 years, right smack dab under everybody’s noses in Napa Valley. Napa Valley Riesling???? Yup.

In the mouth, cool powerful goodness. Rooty clamoring against a shrill core of bitter vegetation cuttings and powdered herbs. I’m drinking this at 60°, probably a far dorkier temperature than is acceptable or even recommended, but it is pushing all the buttons up here. I was drinking it cooler a few hours ago and it honestly went *light* and far more uninteresting. YOU’RE DRINKING YOUR WHITE WINES TOO COLD, PEOPLE. I love the way the tannin comes curling in on the acid and funk late-middle, ridiculously concentrated, balanced with sweet but nearly face-melting. This is a powerful wine, mouth-filling and stunning, good for the LONG RUN. Would love to taste this in 20 years.


Napa Riesling

NittanyEpicurean tastes the 2016 Chardonnay

October 14, 2019

NittanyEpicurean tastes the 2016 Chardonnay:

This wine is 100% estate grown chardonnay. The wine showed a golden color. Apple, like zest, lemon and oak all arrived on the nose. Apple, blood orange, pithy lemon, limestone and oak followed on a palate where citrus stole the show. The wine exhibited good acidity and balance, along with good length and light-bodied. This wine would do well as an aperitif and would pair nicely with a stuffed turkey breast.



Power outage update

As of Tuesday night October 7,  our tours and tastings may be impacted. Please call us before you head our way. If we don’t answer but the answering  machine comes on, that means the power is on and we look forward to welcoming you. If there is no answer (and there is no answering machine option), then we are closed.




St. Helena prepares for possible power shutoffs

ST. HELENA — Preparations were underway across St. Helena to deal with the preemptive power predicted by Pacific Gas and Electric on Wednesday 

The St. Helena Unified School District issued a statement Monday saying that if a planned power outage occurs during a school day, the district plans to continue the school day as usual. If the power remains off for subsequent days, schools will be closed and activities will be cancelled.

On Tuesday morning, junior warden Grant Showley was getting Grace Episcopal Church ready to become a cooling station during a possible power shutdown. He was in the kitchen cutting cardboard and had pulled the church’s 11,000 watt WEN generator from a storage closet. The generator is powered by either gasoline or propane and will be used to run the church’s freezer, refrigerator and two portable air-conditioning units in the downstairs basement of the fellowship hall.

Showley said the church sanctuary will be open for 24 hours, if PG&E shuts down the power, adding that as a stone building, it keeps cool even on the hottest days. Showley is also part of the Red Cross disaster team and is the disaster preparedness coordinator for the city of St. Helena.

On Tuesday afternoon, St. Helena Mayor Geoff Ellsworth said in the event of a power outage, St. Helena City Hall will be available to the public as a charging station. Additionally, people who need information should go to the police department, which is open and staffed 24 hours a day. The fire department also will be staffed so the engines can be manned quickly, without having to wait for firefighters to respond from their homes. Ellsworth said if the power is shut down, the city’s message boards will be used at city hall and at the north and south ends of town, on Highway 29. He added it is possible that the Upvalley Campus of Napa Valley College also will be a charging station.

The St. Helena Public Library doesn’t have a generator, but even without power it will remain open from 10 a.m. until sunset, Library Director Chris Kreiden said. The library also has a solar-powered device people can use to charge their cell phones, Kreiden said.

Washington Post: 2016 Riesling is “reliably outstanding”

The Washington Post considers rieslings:

Not all riesling is sweet, and 4 more things to know about the versatile white wine

By Dave McIntyre, October 4, 2019

Riesling is arguably the most misunderstood wine. Sommeliers, wine writers, people who spend too much of their disposable income on wine, tend to love it. And yet, “I don’t like riesling — it’s too sweet,” is a common refrain from casual wine drinkers, whenever I rave about it.

That’s understandable. Generations of Americans favored sweet wine, and riesling fit the bill. Whether inexpensive plonk from Germany or generic white wine from California, we drank lots of it. But somewhere along the way, we learned that “dry” wine is supposed to be better. Chardonnay and sauvignon blanc eclipsed riesling in U.S. vineyards and American imaginations.

Today there’s a bit of a riesling renaissance in the United States. Riesling shines in certain regions, such as New York’s Finger Lakes, Michigan’s Old Mission Peninsula and Washington state’s Columbia Valley. Some dedicated winemakers are crafting exceptional riesling in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, and there are a few notable holdouts in California.

Here are five things to know about riesling and to encourage you to explore this exciting wine.

  1. They are NOT all sweet!

Riesling is a versatile wine, because it can be racy and bone dry, unctuous and sweet, and everything in between. That’s why consumers can be confused — we don’t know what we’re buying unless the label tells us. And it doesn’t, usually. But there are clues.

Rieslings from Austria, Australia and New Zealand are almost always dry, and the rare dessert wines are usually marked as such. Dry German rieslings may be labeled as “trocken,” and the top bottlings called “erste lage” or “grosses gewachs” are always dry. U.S. wineries may make a range of styles. These may be labeled as dry or semi-dry, to indicate moderate sweetness, which I prefer to call fruitiness. Ripe fruit, after all, tastes sweet.

The back label may sport a scale indicating dry, medium dry, medium sweet or sweet. This scale was developed by a group or wineries called the International Riesling Foundation, and it’s a little more complex than it sounds. A wine’s perceptible sweetness is not just a question of how much sugar is left in the wine after fermentation. The IRF scale factors in sugar, acidity and the wine’s pH level to give us an indication of how sweet or dry the wine will taste.

  1. Riesling is a great food wine.

A food-wine pairing maxim pitches sweeter wine with spicy Asian foods, because the sugar in the wine moderates the food’s heat. Riesling fits that, especially a semi-dry version. But the wine’s key is really its fruitiness and acidity, a combination that equal versatility.

“Riesling can be made in many different styles, from low to high alcohol, from dry, to off-dry and then the many dessert styles,” says Stu Smith, winemaker at Smith-Madrone Vineyards on Napa Valley’s Spring Mountain. Smith-Madrone planted its riesling vineyard in 1972 and is now celebrated as one of the few riesling holdouts in the land of cabernet sauvignon. “It goes with just about any food, meat, soup or cuisine — or all by itself.”

Riesling is great with smoked fish, salads, curries, even braised beef — one of my most memorable meals was beef braised in riesling, with spaetzle. It may have helped that I was in Germany, of course. And if you buy a bottle that turns out to be too sweet for your taste, save it for a salty cheese or dessert.

  1. Riesling is a megaphone for terroir.

A conversation with a German winemaker can turn into a dizzying discourse on how a riesling from a vineyard on blue slate soils tastes different from one grown on red slate. But you don’t have to be a geologist to appreciate riesling’s ability to express its origins.

In cool climates, such as New York’s Finger Lakes and Michigan’s Old Mission Peninsula, riesling takes on a lean, racy profile. Warmer climes such as the Columbia Valley in Washington state or Napa Valley give riesling a richer body, with riper fruit flavors.

But there are differences, and U.S. riesling is especially exciting now, as winemakers explore its different expressions. Rieslings from Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes tend to have a delicate texture with an accent of lime zest, while ones from nearby Keuka Lake are richer. Brooks winery makes more than 20 rieslings, including several single-vineyard bottlings, that vividly demonstrate the terroirs and microclimates of Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

  1. Riesling ages well.

Wine lovers who are still collectors should keep a stash of riesling in their cellars. We tend to consider white wines at their peak just a year or two after the vintage, but riesling’s acidity gives it a potential for long life.

“Why do I keep making riesling?” Smith asks. “Because I love drinking it while it’s young, and savor it when it’s aged.”

  1. They are NOT all sweet!

Delicious riesling is grown in many areas throughout the United States. Here are five from some of the top areas. Our greatest value of the week is the Barnard Griffin Riesling 2017 from Washington state’s Columbia Valley, a nice instance of what this region does with the grape. We also have a stellar bottle from the Finger Lakes, a Napa Valley holdout against cabernet sauvignon, and two nice examples from Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

Smith-Madrone Riesling 2016

Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley, Calif.

Napa Valley is the land of cabernet, but Smith-Madrone, on Spring Mountain at the valley’s northern end, steadfastly maintains some of its higher-elevation vineyards with riesling. And riesling fans know its quality is reliably outstanding. The 2016 offers flavors of ripe peach and apricot, with a dash of wild herbs, and a mouth-filling texture that refuses to quit. ABV: 12.8 percent. 



VinePair tastes the 2016 Riesling — opulent fruit and refreshing acidity

Edward Deitch tastes the 2016 Riesling:

Like many Napa Valley wineries, Smith-Madrone produces first-rate Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, the two most planted varieties in the region. But unlike most of its counterparts, Smith-Madrone also grows Riesling and has done so since 1972.

Although there is a long history of Riesling in California, these days the variety is basically a footnote, which is a shame because wines like Smith-Madrone’s 2016 Riesling demonstrate the character the wines can achieve in the region.

Key to that in Smith-Madrone’s case is the location of its 38 acres of vineyards, which are dry-farmed (they’re not irrigated) in volcanic soils at the top of Napa’s Spring Mountain.

In the winery’s 2016 Riesling, we get both opulent California fruit and the refreshing acidity that is characteristic of Riesling. The $34 wine, which is made slightly off-dry (as most great Rieslings are) but is by no means sweet, is on the same level as some top Rieslings from Europe or New York’s Finger Lakes.

And it is simply delightful to drink, with ripe fruit notes of green apple, white peach, and apricot, accented by wet stone and petrol that round out the profile of this complex and delicious offering.

For me, the Riesling is always the new release I anticipate most among Smith-Madrone’s wines. With moderate alcohol of 12.8 percent, it’s a versatile wine for food and is great to sip on its own. The 2016 accounted for 685 cases of the winery’s 3,000-case production.

This is a California classic that will expand your thinking about Napa Valley wines.

https://vinepair.com/good-wine-reviews/smith-madrone-riesling-2016-napa-valley-calif/ , September 26, 2019

Vinography tastes the 2016 Chardonnay

Vinography takes a look at the 2016 Chardonnay in the week of September 15, 2019:

Light yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon curd and a touch of caramelized oak. In the mouth, bright lemon curd flavors mix with a hint of butterscotch and toasted oak. As usual, this wine walks the line between the fresher, brighter style of Napa Chardonnay and old school richness.


Join us at our open house on October 19

Join us for our annual open house

Saturday, October 19

Noon – 3:00 p.m.

Many great wines, from current releases to new releases

including 2016 Riesling in magnum

Library wines

Great food

Top of the world scenery

Music and general good times!

An opportunity to meet the winemakers, wander through our vineyards with a glass of wine and delicious food and truly enjoy the property—only possible once a year at this open house!

Tickets are $75.00 at https://smithmadrone.simplycms.com/store

Attendance is limited and we expect to sell out, so we urge you to buy your ticket asap!

We encourage carpooling.

Stu’s harvest report for the Spring Mountain District this week

The cooler weather over the past weekend and the early part of this week has definitively given our mountain the ‘slows.’ Spring Mountain Vineyard has finished their small amounts of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon and both Stony Hill and Smith-Madrone have harvested small lots of Chardonnay. We’re all pleased with the fruit and it portends an excellent vintage. Now everyone is waiting. With the exception of 2011 this is the latest start for Smith-Madrone for the last 15 years.


Only very special wines draw you into their story….

The 2016 Riesling is  Wine of the Week in The St. Helena Star on September 12, as described by Catherine Bugue:

Aromas of heady, red apple fruit have you the minute you put your nose in the glass. Memories of crisp summer apples, their juice running down your fingers as you take a crunchy bite quickly come to mind. Yet the red apple fruit is just the beginning of your aromatic journey with Smith-Madrone’s Riesling. They draw you into this wine’s delicious depths, adding Asian pear, guava, crushed stones, mineral, and a wisp of zesty lemon as you continue along its sensory path.

Only very special wines, while seemingly inanimate in the glass, draw you into their story as you sip, and this one’s crispness, freshness and complexity is an ode to Spring Mountain roots, volcanic soil depth, and winemakers who cherish these natural influences and let them shine.


Purely Domestic Wine Report looks at the whites

New white wines are reviewed by Doug Wilder in Volume 7.4, Purely Domestic Wine Report, September 2019, http://www.purelydomesticwinereport.com/

2016 Riesling:

93 points: The nose is a fresh green apple acidity with whiffs of blossoms and ripe peach. The palate offers a bright, crisp and bone dry apple with a fragrant oiliness in the core. Excellent focus and clarity on the finish. Drink 2019-2028.


2016 Chardonnay:

94 points: The nose is a deep, oily lemon and hazelnut with notes of dry chalk, buttercream, licorice, sap and whiffs of toffee. The palate entry is a lean, pure white pear and citrus with a core of mouth-coating peach and lemon cream. Exceptional mouthfeel and texture. Drink 2019 – 2027.