Yes! Flower Piano in San Francisco!

Smith-Madrone is honored to be the winery partner for the sixth year of San Francisco Botanical Garden’s Flower Piano program, taking place September 17 – 21. The Botanical Garden is located at Strybing Arboretum in Golden Gate Park, at 1199 9th Avenue and Lincoln Way.

Over five days, Flower Piano features twelve pianos placed throughout the Botanical Garden. Participants are invited to explore the Garden’s global living plant collections and savor beautiful music throughout. Each of the pianos has scheduled professional performances as well as open play time for participants, attracting a range of genres, ages, and cultures.

Full program details are available at https://www.sfbg.org/flowerpiano. Flower Piano is free with general admission (https://sfbg.secure.force.com/ticket/#/events/a0S4P00000AKINdUAP) from 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. daily.

Take a look and listen to some videos from past years: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mN2-gkibxM  and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqQ2D5m6QsY

And some photos from past years: https://www.sfbg.org/press?pgid=kpn05qc8-69f04947-5618-4734-a6a4-e570e351c800 (Tom Jonesing plays the Redwood Grove, 2019) and https://www.sfbg.org/press?pgid=kpn05qc8-dae5534d-8e7a-457b-81bc-1dc104431a96 (Allison Lovejoy with Elektra Schmidt & Members of Awesome Orchestra, Carnival of the Animals, with Marionettes by Niki Ulelha, Puppeteer)

Flower Piano is presented in partnership with Sunset Piano. “After five successful years, and a pause in 2020 due to the pandemic, we are excited to welcome the community to the City’s outdoor concert hall where everyone is invited to play and listen,” explains Dean Mermell of Sunset Piano. “We are thrilled to have music back in the Garden,” says Stephanie Linder, Executive Director, San Francisco Botanical Garden.  “Flower Piano brings the Botanical Garden to life like nothing else we’ve ever seen.”  

“Smith-Madrone Winery is honored to be a part of this event,” commented founder Stuart Smith. “Our name pays tribute to the madrone tree, prevalent on our property in the mountains. Madrones are wonderful evergreens with reddish bark and flowers that turn into berries. It’s a great link to supporting the Botanical Garden and its mission,” he added.

San Francisco Botanical Garden

San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum connects people to plants, the planet, and each other. A living museum within Golden Gate Park, San Francisco Botanical Garden offers 55 acres of beautiful gardens displaying nearly 8,000 different kinds of plants from around the world, including many that are rare and endangered. Established in 1940, it is a public/private partnership between San Francisco Botanical Garden Society and the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department. More: https://www.sfbg.org/ .

Other Flower Piano sponsors include the John & Marcia Goldman Foundation, Delle Maxwell & Patrick Hanahan, The Ronald Whittier Family Foundation, Almonte Spa, Outside Lands Works, Silicon Valley Bank, Sarah & J. Stuart Ryan, DC Pianos, Fiorella, Kawai, O’Melveny, Seiler LLP, Sue Ann Levin Schiff, Center for New Music, Duchess C.T., Jennifer Rosdail Real Estate Team,  Tiedemann Advisors, and the Tully & Elise Friedman Fund.

The Drunken Cyclist talks to Stu

Jeff Kralik, aka The Drunken Cyclist, Zoomed in to taste and talk to Stu: excerpts are below and the link to the complete article (with video):

A few (several?) months ago, I sat down with Stu Smith, who, along with his older brother Charlie, founded Smith-Madrone Winery on Spring Mountain in the Napa Valley in 1971. Yeah. Fifty years ago. While that is just a drop in the bucket when it comes to some European wineries, it would not take very much time to count the number of American producers who have reached their golden anniversary.

…..If you have not heard of the winery, you are certainly not alone as their production is fairly small and most of it is allocated to the dedicated folks on their mailing list (Stu was quick to point out that it is not a “wine club” as there is no requirement or expectation). But I can say without hesitation that Smith-Madrone is one of the best producers in Napa Valley and certainly one of my favorites in all of California.

2017 Smith-Madrone Chardonnay, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley, CA:  This Chard? Whoa. While there are certainly markers that this is from California (rich, luscious fruit), it also pays homage to its French heritage with near-bracing acidity (keeping that fruit in check) and a judicious use of oak (even though this wine sees 85% new French oak, the barrels are made from an oak species in between the Loire and Burgundy regions that has a much tighter grain, which ends in a lower oak “influence”). Whoa. Rich lemon curd and rind on the nose along with an impressive minerality, a touch of white pepper, and just a hint of oak. The palate? Whoa (again^2 or is it ^3?). Tart, fruity, mineral, rich, just about everything you would want in a Chard. And then a bunch more. Outstanding. 94 Points. 

2017 Smith-Madrone Riesling, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley, CA:  I try to avoid hyperbole. Nor do I ever (OK, rarely) suggest that one should buy a particular wine. But. What I have in my chubby, sausage-fingered hands (OK, I really have delicate, piano-player-like hands even though the only musical instrument I play is the car radio) is quite possibly the best American Riesling (although the argument also has to include Brooks Winery in the Willamette). And it comes from, wait for it… Napa Valley. Yowza. All cards on the table? My Riesling chops were sown (grown?) in an odd combination of Alsace (where I studied), Germany (where I was a bicycle tour guide), and the Willamette Valley (where my spirit animal resides). And yes, this wine rates right up there with all of them. Crisp, “varietally correct” (which is a stupid notion, but nonetheless…), light straw in the glass, bright citrus, a healthy dose of minerality, and the omni-present(?) petrol component that defines Riesling (at least for me)–this wine has it all and then some. Simply put, if you don’t like, nay, love this wine? You will never enjoy Riesling and we could never be friends. Outstanding. 95 Points. 

2016 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley, CA:  89.7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3.4% Merlot, 6.4% Cabernet Franc. Another wine that I had the pleasure of tasting online with Stu Smith of Smith-Madrone. While our conversation meandered quite a bit with this bottle open, we eventually came back to the wine. While rather shy initially, this eventually opened up over the course of the conversation. It never, however, becomes a big, Napa, mountain Cab–no, it is demure, with subtle red and black fruit notes, cedar/forest floor, a hint of cigar, and a decided green note. When I suggested that the green (which I enjoy) is often seen as a flaw in Napa Cabs, Stu agreed but quickly added: “it shouldn’t be.” He went on to explain that while that green pepper note is usually associated with Cab Franc, he also asserted that its offspring (i.e., Cabernet Sauvignon–the “child” of Cab Franc and Sauvignon Blanc) can (and should) express it as well. The only way to get rid of it is to allow the fruit to become over-ripe, which results in an unbalanced wine. Well, I have yet to hear anyone accuse Smith-Madrone of producing an unbalanced wine, and they did not start here. Wonderful. Excellent. 91 Points.

It’s time for Nimbash in St. Helena!

We are honored to support Nimbus Arts’ annual fundraiser on September 11, taking place at Charles Krug Winery in St. Helena.

Come find us—we’ll be pouring Riesling and Chardonnay and come early so you can enjoy all of the art activities and silent auctions. Tickets are sold out but you can still bid: the catalogue will go online later this week at https://www.nimbusarts.org/nimbash/auction-catalogs/.

The funds raised at Nimbash support Nimbus Arts’ general funding as well as local artists.

Nimbus Arts is a community-owned 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 2005 with the mission of giving the Napa Valley Community access to art. We are dedicated to fostering creative expression, nurturing curiosity, innovating through collaboration, and building a sense of community. In addition to on-site classes and camps, open studios, and lectures, we offer free public events, community service programs, classes in public and private schools, and collaborative art projects throughout Napa County.

More at https://www.nimbusarts.org/nimbash/.

50th Celebration Continues — The Perfect Summer Wine

Cabernet Sauvignon grapes near the winery, undergoing veraison (photo taken August 13)

Dear Friends:
We hope a great summer is unfolding in your world.


Here we’ve had consistent sun and warmth, making the quality of this year’s grapes looking excellent.


Despite the worst drought in California history, our vines are doing amazingly well. It’s as though the vines understand they’re in a water crisis, so they’ve stopped growing earlier than usual, thus moving from the vegetative growth cycle to ripening sooner and have protected themselves by producing a smaller crop than normal. Perhaps the vines are anthropomorphic and are responding to nature’s changes in a way that we humans can’t intuit?


We think we’ll be harvesting around the last week of the month—we’ll share photos and news as it happens. Usually we harvest Chardonnay first, followed by Riesling and then the red varietals.

News flash: we are re-opening for tours and tastings this month. Tastings are by appointment only (see the Tock button on our home page) and they will take place outside. We look forward to welcoming you back.

Meanwhile it’s time for the fourth in our series of 50th anniversary celebratory emails and special offers.


This month’s anniversary offer consists of two sets of wine:

2016 Riesling 1.5L:

We only rarely make Riesling in a magnum bottle…and to take you behind the scenes, sourcing this bottle was an adventure. That said, the wine is fabulous—from a great vintage, with strong floral notes and hints of lime, stone fruits and minerality. Serving this wine, from this statement bottle, will be a source of happiness AND ‘good taste’ for you and your guests.

One 1.5L bottle, 2016 Riesling:
$75.00

A Sneak Peek:

Riesling may simply be the perfect summer wine, so we are also offering a sneak peek of our not-yet-released 2018 Riesling, in a set of three. We anticipate that this wine won’t be released until early next year, so this is a chance to enjoy it now and then set aside a couple of other bottles so that you can taste it over time to experience how wonderfully Riesling ages.
This is a stylish and nuanced wine, with mouth-watering acidity. As Charlie says, “it’s like biting into a delicious, crunchy Riesling-flavored apple. It’s svelte and elegant, drinking beautifully now and shows great promise for the future.”

Three 750 ml bottles, 2018 Riesling:
$100.00

As the months of our 50th anniversary roll by, we’re hearing from lots of friends and customers with their own memories of visiting and enjoying our wines. We’d love to hear from you, whether by email or snail mail or by posting on our Facebook page or Instagram.


Sincerely,
Stu, Charlie and Sam

2016 Cabernet is “sophisticated”

Cheryl Garst and Ashley T. Martinez at CaliforniaDateNight reviewed the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon on August 11, 2021:

There are many ways to enjoy the 2016 Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon by Smith-Madrone and we happen to think that relaxing by the San Diego Harbor at dusk is one of them. From the Spring Mountain District in Napa Valley, this wine is demure and sophisticated and is deep garnet in color. The blend is 89.7% Cabernet Sauvignon with just a bit of Cab Franc and Merlot. Both red and black fruits are present in the aroma and flavor but they are subtle and balanced by leather, tobacco, clove and a hint of green pepper. This wine is neither too bold (like many Napa Valley Cabs) or too light, it’s perfectly medium-bodied, acidic yet rich, and the mountainous tannins frame a full mouthfeel and lingering finish. This is a Napa Cabernet that is equally enjoyable to drink on its own or with food. It paired perfectly with the jalapeño venison sausage that Cheryl’s dad makes but would also be great with smoked brisket or a pungent Taleggio cheese.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CScO3vTFlse/

“An absolute stunner” is our 2017 Chardonnay

CaliforniaDateNight tasted the 2017 Chardonnay:

Add this gorgeous old world style Estate Grown Chardonnay from Smith-Madrone in the Spring Mountain District of Napa Valley to your next summer picnic date and thank us later! This is what Chardonnay is supposed to taste like…. This mineral driven wine has layers of golden apple, stone fruits, butterscotch, vanilla and lemon curd with a bit of nuttiness on the finish. These elements work together, none overwhelming the others. The rich flavors are delicately restrained by the acidic bite by which it pays homage to the grape’s French background. An absolute stunner! The Smith-Madrone Chardonnay will pair nicely with rich semi-soft cheeses, grilled chicken dishes or a creamy Pasta Carbonara.

“Everything we want in California Chardonnay”

TheWineGuys taste the 2017 Chardonnay:

94 points:  Trends are temporary, but old school is here to stay—and with this Chardonnay from Smith Madrone, it’s everything we want in California Chardonnay. Notes of Meyer lemon, lemon curd, white florals toasted oak, crushed rock, citrus peel, apple, and hazelnut. Luscious and rich orchard fruit on the palate that gives an upfront weight which screams California until you reach that mid-palate with warm, toasty aromas that gets enveloped with a wave of acidity. Well structured, we found that the wine really came into form on day two—when we left about half the bottle out. More of that stony mineral notes near the finish that really cleans up the character of this wine. One of the great Chardonnays of Napa, and a true gem for the price. Classic California, give it an hour or two in the decanter if you can.  

94 points for 2017 Riesling in Wine Enthusiast

In the September 2021 issue of Wine Enthusiast, the 2017 Riesling is reviewed:

94 points: This atypical variety for the area shines from the producer’s steep, dry-farmed estate vineyard. Light, complex and silky on the waxy palate, it offers flavors of green apple, apricot and grapefruit alongside touches of honey and wet stone.