Stu BBQs a salmon

Stu put a whole salmon on the BBQ for lunch with friends. Here’s how he did it:

1 whole salmon, scaled, with guts removed

Olive oil

Kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper

6-10 wooden skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes (before you’re ready to use)

Kitchen string

Vegetable oil

1 onion, cut in half horizontally


Mix of fresh parsley, dill, cilantro, other herbs if you wish

Thinly sliced lemons (or oranges or other citrus)

Thinly sliced onions (any type)

Fire up the bbq, with coals arranged for direct grilling.

Prepare the fish: drizzle the cavity generously with olive oil, then with salt and pepper.

Stuff the cavity with the ‘stuffing.’ Then insert the skewers to hold the flaps of skin together. Depending on the size of the fish, you may want to also use string to keep the flaps closed.

Using a very sharp knife, make long, 1/4-inch-deep diagonal slashes at 2-inch intervals on both sides of fish. Rub the exterior of the fish with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. If you have stuffing left over, tuck it into the slits. Season the head and tail as well if you have fish aficionados as guests—they will enjoy those!

Check the size of the fish and the size of your grill. After you have stuffed the fish, you may need to cut it in pieces to fit it on the grill.

Brush the hot grill with the onion halves (dipped in vegetable oil).

Place the fish on the grill. Cook, undisturbed and uncovered, until undersides are charred and flesh along gills on undersides turns opaque, 5 to 7 minutes or longer.

Turn fish with 2 large spatulas. If they stick, wait a few seconds until skin sears enough to release cleanly. Grill on other side until charred and fish are just cooked through and opaque, 5 to 7 minutes more.

Alternatively, add olive oil to foil and grill the fish on the foil.

If possible, have a Therma-pen or other instant-read thermometer handy to check the fish for doneness.

The entire cooking time will vary depending on the size of the fish.

Serve fish with lemon quarters and a sauce, if desired.

Put the fish on a platter and allow guests to peel back the skin and serve themselves.

Mustard Dill Sauce

¼ cup Dijon mustard

1 TBSP sugar

2 TBSP apple cider or white vinegar

1 tsp dry mustard

1/3 cup olive oil

3 TBSP chopped fresh dill (the finer, the better; you could whirl the dill in the processor before you begin the process).

Combine first four ingredients in a food processor; slowly add oil until thick. Fold in the dill at end.

Wondering about which wine? Both the 2017 Chardonnay and 2017 Riesling were magic but the 2016 Cabernet would have been a happy partner also.

“Restrained and Old World” is the 2017 Chardonnay

Los Angeles-based Brianne Cohen tasted the 2017 Chardonnay:

Smith-Madrone is a pioneer of Napa Valley, especially Spring Mountain, which can be cooler than the rest of the Valley because of elevation. A Napa Chardonnay for those who don’t dig Napa Chardonnay. Restrained and Old World in style. The fermentation starts in stainless steel tanks and then moves to barrel to complete the fermentation. It is then aged in 85% new French oak for 10 months. How do we get a “not too oaky” Chardonnay with that much new oak? The secret is that they source tightly grained barrels, which impart less oak aromas and flavors than looser grained ones. I learned something new today with that tidbit!

50th Celebration Continues

Dear Friend,

It’s the 14th of the month, and the second month of our year-long celebration of our 50th anniversary. We are continuing to offer a number of specially curated and extremely limited sets of wines— precious wines from our cellar.

Our 50th anniversary offerings for this month:

Two For The Ages

Two 750 mls, 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon.
Fascinating, full heady aroma dominated by dark fruit — ripe plums and black cherries — with hints of graphite, spices and white truffles. Why drink it, when you can have a peak experience with just the aromatics? But of course, drink it you must; on the palate it is everything you hoped, everything your nose leads you to expect. Full, rich and round, it is absolutely startling and completely delicious. What a beautiful glass of wine! How, you may well ask, could this wine be 18 years old? Truly, this is a wine for the ages!
Buy $400.00

Mountain Magnum II

One 1.5L, 2012 Cook’s Flat Reserve in a wooden box.
The wine is seductive, rich, dense and structured. The aroma has whispers of plum, rosemary, and forest floor. The palate is the definition of ‘seamless,’ where Bordeaux flavors are integrated into the tannins in a velvety progression of power. This full, deep mid-palate is joined by a layer of complexity, with bright acidity keeping the wine lively, focused and distinctly Smith-Madrone. The finish is beautiful and elegant.
Buy: $500.00

Let us also share some very exciting news.

Sam Smith, Stu’s son, who has been the winery’s Assistant Winemaker since 2010, has been developing his own wine brand, which he is launching today.
Before joining Smith-Madrone, Sam was a ‘flying winemaker,’ having worked in wineries around the world from Germany to Australia to New Zealand. From that extended international experience he has created an impressive red wine from grapes grown on the steep volcanic hillsides of the Smith-Madrone property. He’s aged this beautiful 50/50 Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc blend for 8 years, patiently waiting for the perfect moment to release.

Let him tell you the great story about why he has named it Curly St. James, The Ostentatious Parlay: hint—it came from a long conversation with a customer when he was a sommelier in Tasmania. We urge you to give it a try and support Sam’s new project: please check it out at 

In other news, SommTV came to the winery and filmed an episode with Stu, Charlie and Sam earlier this spring. Please watch for the segment of Behind The Glass airing as of July 6 on SommTV.

Help us continue to celebrate our golden anniversary! We’ve only just begun……look for our next anniversary letter on July 14, where we’ll share news of re-opening the winery and more!

Stu, Charlie, and Sam

“One of our favorite CA Rieslings year after year”

The Tasting Panel Magazine tasted the 2017 Riesling in the June 2021 issue:

94 points: Grapes grown on steep mountain vineyards continue to create one of our favorite California Rieslings year after year. Aromas of beeswax, buttercup and wet stone are enticing, and flavors of passion fruit are accentuated by fine acidity and a remarkable mouthfeel. Daisy, lemon blossom and freshly sliced Anjou pear feel serene as saltiness refreshes the palate, urging another sip.

“Consistently one of the most exciting California Rieslings”

Isaac Baker at tastes the 2017 Riesling:

94 points: Smith-Madrone’s Spring Mountain Riesling does it again; it is consistently one of the most exciting California Rieslings I’ve come across. Light yellow color. Aromas of gorgeous limes, orange peels, exquisite fruit mixed with white flowers, new tennis balls, wild mint, with chalky and saline tones. Pristine acidity, zesty, a chalky and salty appeal with white flowers, white pepper and wild green onion tones. Lime, orange and kiwi fruit provide generous support for this intense but refined wine. Perfume, focused, dry yet ripe, this is complex and age-worthy, and a consistently spectacular California Riesling.

MyRedWineGuys on our 50th and more

On June 3 MyRedWineGuys wrote about a recent interview with Stu:

Recently My Red Wine Guys sat down with Stuart Smith, founder of Smith-Madrone Wineries – Spring Mountain, Napa Valley for conversation and wine. Smith-Madrone is a 200-acre boutique winery celebrating their 50th Anniversary in 2021. And while the past year has been challenging with fire and COVID shutdowns, Stu’s passion for making and sharing great wines has not dimmed.

We started out the evening with a 2017 Riesling. Wow, what a surprise! All of us were anticipating a sweet wine that we would try to move quickly beyond. Not the case here! Stu’s passion for this varietal is strong as he speaks about this Alsace style wine. A beautiful dry wine with a floral and peachy bouquet. Smith-Madrone is one of the last wineries in Napa to grow this grape. If you gravitate towards red wines, then this white wine might be an OMG moment for you. Truly an exceptional wine.

Next up was the 2017 Chardonnay. With the first smell and taste you can tell this clear golden wine was aged in French oak. Not a butter bomb by all means, but definitely a wine for the Chardonnay lover. Interesting side story, Stu told us about the time they tried to blend their award-winning Riesling with Chardonnay. It turns out even with the minimal percentage of Riesling in the blend, it still tasted like a Riesling.

The third wine was a 2016 Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. A 100% Spring Mountain Bordeaux style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc with aromas of blackberries, dark cherries, cedar and forest floor. Best to decant this wine for an hour for balanced tannins with a long finish.

Our evening together, along with the wine was over way too soon. We would like to thank Stu for spending time with My Red Wine Guys and eagerly await the reopening of their tasting room.

Chardonnay is a “fabulous value”

Rich Mauro, Colorado Springs Gazette, tasted Chardonnays recently:

Scents and tastes of lemon and apple and sometimes peach, pear, nectarine, or apricot, and even topical fruits. A lush, often creamy texture that unfolds across the palate. Fresh, lingering impressions as the wine finishes. It’s no wonder chardonnay is the most popular white wine in America. And here are several examples why…..

The 2017 Smith Madrone Spring Mountain District ($40), from a dry farmed, mountain-grown estate vineyard, shows light oak notes preceding intense, tangy fruit, a touch of almond and a graceful palate. A fabulous value.

“Lasting and satisfying” is the 2017 Chardonnay

On May 26 Andy Chalk reviewed the 2017 Chardonnay:

Consistency might be the watchword at Smith-Madrone, a winery that perennially turns out good quality wines at non-stratospheric prices. This chardonnay will win over most schools of chardonnay lover. While in an indubitably New World style it doesn’t mask the intrinsic qualities of this remarkable grape, resulting in satisfaction on several levels.

Appearance: Deep gold. Nose: Intense tropical fruit (mango, pineapple). Lemon, ripe apricot, vanilla. Palate: As well as confirming the fruit in the nose this wine has a pronounced phenolic backbone. This translates into a lasting, satisfying finish.