St. Helena, Napa Valley and San Francisco, February 2016—-Stu Smith, Enologist/General Partner at Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery, will be a panelist at Community Alliance for Family Farmers’ panel discussion—“How Green Is Your Wine?”—and tasting on February 22. Organized by Community Alliance for Family Farmers (CAFF) and The Center for Urban Education on Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA), the event takes place from 6:00 p.m. to 8: 30 p.m. at the Ferry Building (Port Commission Hearing Room, 2nd floor, 1 Ferry Building, San Francisco 94111).
The evening will begin with a panel discussion and then continue to a walk-around wine tasting which includes farm-to-table small bites from The Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. Tickets are $20 a person and can be purchased at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/how-green-is-your-wine-a-discussion-and-tasting-tickets-20798702479 .
The event celebrates wineries who grow their grapes in dry farmed vineyards and use other sustainable methods. “You may eat at farm-to-table restaurants and buy local, organic produce at farmers’ markets, but what about the wine you drink? Come hear California vintners and wine grape growers discuss organic vineyard practices, dry farming techniques, and what actually goes into their wine bottles. Dry farming was common in California until the 1970s, when drip irrigation enabled growers to irrigate hillsides. In this era of drought and climate change, will dry farming make a comeback? Discover how wineries are producing top-quality wines by reintroducing dry farming and practicing environmental stewardship,” explains one of the event coordinators, Sayla Kraft of CAFF.
Stu Smith of Smith-Madrone is the only panelist from the Napa Valley. The other panelists are Jason Haas (Tablas Creek Vineyard), David Gates (Ridge Vineyards) and Steve Gliessman and Roberta Jaffe (Condor’s Hope).
Wineries participating in the tasting following the discussion are Smith-Madrone, AmByth Estate, Captain Vineyards, Condor’s Hope, DaVero, Frog’s Leap, Porter Creek, Preston Farm and Winery, Quivira Vineyards, Ridge Vineyards and Tablas Creek Vineyard.
CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture) is dedicated to cultivating a sustainable food system through the operation of the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and educational programs.
CAFF (Community Alliance with Family Farmers) builds sustainable food and farming systems through policy advocacy and on-the-ground programs which create more resilient family farms, communities and ecosystems.
Smith-Madrone is one of Napa Valley’s authentically artisanal wineries, founded in 1971 by Stuart Smith. Winemaking and grape-growing are handled entirely by the two brother-proprietors, Stuart and Charles Smith, iconoclasts known for their staunch adherence to dry farming on their mountain vineyard, and Samuel Smith, Assistant Winemaker. All of Smith-Madrone’s wines come from the 38 acres of estate vineyards surrounding the winery, planted 45 years ago by Stuart and Charles. The vineyards extend across steep mountainsides, at elevations between 1,300 and 1,900 feet, on slopes angling up to 34%. Total production each year is less than 4,000 cases; the winery makes Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cook’s Flat Reserve. More at www.smithmadrone.com.
Vinography takes a look:
The Smith-Madrone Chardonnay breaks the stereotypical mold, and offers juicy bright citrus fruit without overt oak.
2013 Smith-Madrone Chardonnay, Spring Mountain District, Napa, California
Pale, bright greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon curd, and a hint of melted butter. In the mouth, lemon zest, lemon curd, and pink grapefruit flavors mix with a hint of cold cream and fennel. There’s a woody fennel seed note in the finish. Excellent acidity and length.
On the red end of the spectrum……….I enjoyed the leaner style of the Smith-Madrone Cabernet, whose more savory qualities make for a restrained and elegant mouthful.
2012 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District, Napa, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry, green herbs, and pipe tobacco. In the mouth, black cherry, crushed green herbs, black pepper, and carob flavors turn decidedly earthy as leathery tannins enclose the fruit. Very good acidity keeps the fruit lifted and juicy through the long, earthy finish.
Michelle Williams at Rockinred tastes the 2013 Chardonnay and 2012 Cabernet:
Almost exactly a year ago today The Daily Meal awarded Smith-Madrone Winery as their first ever winery of the year. The competition was fierce. One Washington winery, three California wineries, one Virginia winery, three French wineries, one Portuguese winery and one Australian winery. According to The Daily Meal there are about 8,000 wineries in the US, 28,000 in France and over 900,000 in Italy! Furthermore, The Daily Meal was very clear in what they were looking for: “Our intent was to choose one property or enterprise, anywhere in the world, that has not only produced excellent wines consistently over a substantial period of time but has also served as an innovator and/or inspiration in the wine business, whether dynamically or simply by example.” Therefore, you can clearly see that being chosen as the 2014 Winery of the Year is quite an honor! It is an even further honor for me to once again share with you two of Smith-Madrone’s latest releases.
I first introduced you to Smith-Madrone wines in my article last January titled, “Taking It Easy with Smith-Madrone Wines.” I really enjoyed their wines last year; that seems to be a trend because I have enjoyed them once again this year. The brothers Smith produced their first vintage in 1977; ironically there is still a world of American wine consumers who have never heard of them or tried their wines. However, everyone that does try their wines love them. They have a stellar reputation in the wine community as hard working, innovators that consistently craft high quality wines at lower than average Napa Valley prices.
The Daily Meal considers the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon:
Year after year this is one of the very best cabernet sauvignons in Napa Valley at any price. Hints of cigar box, red cherry, and black pepper notes show up on the engaging nose. The palate is rich and layered with proportionate fruit flavors. Cherry and bits of cassis are of note. Earth, savory herbs, and a host of spice join continued red fruits on the long, persistent finish. You could pour this wine for any special occasion; it’s so good everyone will think you splurged. But for the incredibly reasonable price, why wait? Drink it on a Monday night with leftovers and treat yourself to this outstanding wine.
In The Sentinel Source in Florida today, Fred Tasker recommends the 2013 Chardonnay as a winter wine to warm up with:
Toasty oak, crisp acids, full body, concentrated flavors of ripe apples, long finish.
The 2011 and 2012 Cabernet Sauvignons are both chosen in Wine & Spirits Magazine’s “Year’s Best U.S. Cabernet” section in the December 2015 issue:
Wine & Spirits, December 2015
Year’s Best U.S. Cabernet, p. 85
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon
Stu and Charles Smith planted 20 acres of vines in 1972. Given the remoteness of their site, on steep slopes rising to 2,000 feet, they decided to plant without rootstock. Nearly two acres of the original cabernet vines still survive, now part of a 34-acre, dry-farmed vineyard producing riesling, chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon. This wine, ripened above the fog line, feels untroubled by the cool, late 2011 harvest. In fact, it feels saturated with brisk Pacific air, with deep flavors of black currants and the spicy scent of the redwood forest that surrounds these vines. The texture is gentle, without an overt sense of tannic extract, the wine’s intensity built on cool-ripened fruit.
Wine & Spirits, December 2015
Year’s Best U.S. Cabernet, p. 895
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon
Minty and tense, this is a narrow vintage of cabernet from the heights of Spring Mountain. There’s black-fruited flesh to it, along with pine forest scents that make it both rich and skinny (can a wine ever be too skinny and too rich?). A potent, youthful cabernet, this is built for the cellar.
Fredric Koeppel reviews the 2013 Chardonnay:
How do the Smith brothers do it? Normally, I would find a chardonnay that was 100 percent barrel-fermented and aged in 100 percent new French oak barrels (for eight months) undrinkable because of the influence of wood, but Charles and Stuart Smith, who produce only limited bottlings of chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and riesling, manage, once again, to deliver a chardonnay notable for its bright, clean brilliance; its chiseled restraint that still allows for the grape’s natural richness; its lithe, supple juiciness. Perhaps this result has to do with the age of the mountain-side vineyard, where the vines were 41 years old for this vintage, or with the fact that the vineyard is dry-farmed, seeing no irrigation during periods of little rain, so the roots have to struggle to find nutrients and moisture, a sort of vinous variation on the “no pain-no gain” principle. In any case, the Smith-Madrone Chardonnay 2013, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley, is a beauty. The color is pale straw-gold with a faint green tinge; classic aromas of ripe pineapple and grapefruit carry a thread of mango and cloves, with high notes of jasmine, talc and limestone. The intimation of limestone, and its aide-de-camp, flint, in the nose expands righteously on the palate, and combined with chiming acidity produces a chardonnay of crystalline clarity that feels lit from within. Despite the oak regimen, any wood activity lies in subtly shaping and sculpting the wine, a significance as gentle but urgent as a xummer zephyr. Flavors are more stone-fruit — peach, yellow plum — than citrus, and all elements devolve to a long, limpid and luminous finish. 14.1 percent alcohol. An essential chardonnay, exquisite in its parts, elegant in balance, dynamic in total. Production was 806 cases. Drink now through 2018 to 2020. Exceptional.