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93 points for the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon

May 25, 2016

The July issue of The Wine Enthusiast reviews the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon:

93 points. Grown on the producer’s 1,800-foot-high, dry-farmed property west of St. Helena from 40-year old vines, this is a great wine, structured and elegantly designed to highlight cassis, clove and cigar. Thick, heady tannins soften in the glass, allowing room for enviable structure and a black pepper-dotted finish.

Gargantuan Wine looks at rootstocks and the 2011 Cab

May 25, 2016

Discussing rootstocks, dry farming and more, including the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon: “…it’s a wine that wears its 14.3% ABV nobly, and beckons you to keep drinking until there’s none left….”

And “…if you’re typically a drinker of Old World wines who won’t touch Napa Valley with a ten foot pole — or someone who pines for old California Cabernet — the dry farmed wines of Spring Mountain will dazzle you….”

Stop by Gargantuan Wine for more:


Another excerpt from Riesling Rediscovered

May 18, 2016

Another excerpt from John Winthrop Haeger’s newest book, Riesling Rediscovered: Bold, Bright and Dry, is below. More information and links for purchasing the book at

p. 343-344: In 1973, a year after Stuart Smith had planted his first vines, he was joined in business by his brother Charles, who had first chosen a career teaching in public secondary schools after earning a bachelor’s degree from San Francisco State University. Together the two men built a tiny winery using split-face concrete blocks that they hand-chiseled individually. Their original plan had been to use local rock, but after many years of picking rocks out of the new vineyards, they decided they “never wanted to handle the rock again.” In 1977, they produced the first vintage of estate wines from the ranch, including the first estate Riesling. Over time, their respective roles morphed: Charles is now the principal winemaker, while Stuart is in charge of vines. Riesling now accounts for about 20 percent of Smith-Madrone’s small total production, which hovers around 4,000 cases annually….

There is no hint of glitz at Smith-Madrone, no sparkling laboratory, no glossy brochures, and no tasting room at all. Neither fads nor fashions are pursued. But a Smith brother will happily receive visitors who  make the long drive up Spring Mountain Road from St. Helena and call ahead for an appointment…

The wines are authentic, delicious and ageworthy. I love both the Cabernet and the Riesling, which is one of California’s finest and is profoundly impressive with a few years of age.




The Rieslings are never shy, says John Haeger

May 18, 2016

Another excerpt from John Winthrop Haeger’s newest book, Riesling Rediscovered: Bold, Bright and Dry, just published by UC Press. More information and links for purchasing the book at .


p. 342-343: Smith-Madrone Estate Vineyard

In 1972, Stuart Smith, a Southern Californian raised in Santa Monica and armed with a degree in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley, and two years’ graduate work in viticulture and enology at the campus at Davis, planted grapevines on a 222-acre (90-hectare) ranch high above the Napa Valley in what is now the Spring Mountain AVA. He now farms 42 acres (17 hectares) of vines here, on hillsides with all possible variations of orientation and slope, between Mill and Ritchie creeks, whence often magisterial views extend across the north end of California’s best-known wine valley. Native madrone trees (a species of the genus Arbutus) predominate on the ranch—hence the vineyard’s name—but there is also hillside scrub and an impressive alley of huge picholine olive trees planted at the end of the 19th century……

The site gives bold, large-framed, and generously flavored Rieslings with an elegantly dusty character, considerable minerality, and a very attractive savory spiciness. Depending on vintage, a vast array of aromas and flavors is possible, but the wines are never shy. Highlights from a vertical tasting in the autumn of 2012 included the 2010 vintage, which showed lime peel and lime flowers on a stony, herbal foundation; the 2005, in which aromas of honey, petrol, and cracked black pepper introduced an elegant, rich, serious wine with a long, dry, laurel-infused finish; and the truly beautiful 2001, which opened tautly mineral and redolent of honey before releasing a near-tsunami of macerated yellow flowers, bay laurel and savory spiciness…. stunningly effective examples of Riesling’s various predisposition to age slowly and felicitously…

In California, only Stony Hill, Smith-Madrone’s neighbor in the Spring Mountain AVA, has a longer track record with Riesling.

Profiled in new book Riesling Rediscovered

May 18, 2016

Smith-Madrone is honored to be only one of two Napa Valley wineries profiled in John Winthrop Haeger’s newest book, Riesling Rediscovered: Bold, Bright and Dry, just published by UC Press. The book contains 23 full-color maps and numerous illustrations. The book discusses Riesling’s history, clones, dry vs. sweet and goes into detail about Riesling in Alsace, the Rhine, Wachau, the Danube, Alto Adige, the eastern U.S., Canada, Washington, Oregon and California’s Coastal valleys. In all, 83 vineyards/wineries are profiled. Riesling Rediscovered is a comprehensive, current and accessible overview of what many consider to be the world’s finest and most versatile white wine.

Riesling is the world’s seventh most-planted white wine grape variety and among the fastest growing over the past twenty years. It is a personal favorite of many sommeliers, chefs, and other food and wine professionals for its appealing aromatics, finesse, and minerality; for its uncanny ability to reflect terroir and for its impressive versatility with cuisines of all types. Riesling Rediscovered looks at the present state of dry Riesling across the Northern Hemisphere: where it is grown and made, what models and objectives vintners have in mind, and what parameters of grape growing and winemaking are essential when the goal is a delicious dry wine.

John Winthrop Haeger is a sinologist, historian, and academic administrator who has written about wine since 1985 for Connoisseur, Wine & Spirits, Saveur and other publications. He is the author of North American Pinot Noir (2004) and Pacific Pinot Noir (2008).

More information and links for purchasing the book at .

We will share some excerpts from the book in the next few blog posts.

 From The Introduction, page 3:

Riesling, made in any idiom, is a cocktail of minerality and fruit with flavors so varied and intense that some wine writers have wondered out loud if it might not sometimes be too flavorful for its own good. Its aromas and flavors are clean and linear and are delivered with elan and verve. It is delicious on its own, yet arguably is the most versatile of all varieties with food. These virtues arrive free of excessive ripeness and are propelled by natural acidity, and Riesling often has a degree or two less of alcohol than is normal for most of the world’s Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Viognier. So-called secondary fermentation (actually malolactic conversion) is unnecessary – though not necessarily problematic if and when it occurs – in Riesling, and the flavors of milled oak, whether as chips or as toasted new barrels, are almost always counterindicated. Riesling is the joy of every chef who works with seafood and the so-called white meats, and it works even with notorious food foes such as asparagus and artichokes. As the late, great Chicago chef Charlie Trotter (1959-2013) put it in his seafood cookbook of 1997, “It gives purity and focus to all the flavors on the table.” When Riesling is made dry, the variety’s profile is especially precise, bright, tense and lively. Riesling tastes of many things, depending on where it was grown, but no other wine in the world tastes like dry Riesling.

from John. W. Haeger’s Riesling Rediscovered: Bold, Bright and Dry

Food & Wine Magazine is a ‘big fan’

May 11, 2016


Napa Valley Dream-Trip Tips

By Ray Isle, Food & Wine Magazine, May 2016

F&W’S Ray Isle distills his vast and hard-won travel wisdom down into his absolutely essential advice. Listen up.

Being a wine writer is a little like being a doctor: People ask you for advice at parties. The difference is that doctors get asked things such as, “My toe’s been swollen like a grapefruit for two weeks—what’s going on there?” whereas I get asked, “I’m going to Napa Valley in a few months—what wineries do you think I should visit?” I’m not surprised by the question. There are more than 400 wineries in Napa Valley; figuring out which ones to visit is definitely tough.

Here are my suggestions for mapping out a winery itinerary:

Think small.
Throw in a few smaller, family-owned operations….I’m a big fan of Smith-Madrone Vineyards in the Spring Mountain District, where the impressively bearded brothers Stuart and Charles Smith make terrific, old-school Napa Cabernets….


Olly Smith in London recommends Smith-Madrone

May 9, 2016

British wine writer and tv host Olly Smith recommended our Cabernet: “…for elegant Cabernet with a bit more restraint…the excellent wines of Smith-Madrone…”

Thank you Olly!

You can read his recent Cabernet round-up here: