The Wine Knitter in New York discusses the 2013 Riesling:
The other evening a friend and I shared a bottle of 2013 Smith-Madrone Riesling from the Spring Mountain District of Napa. This 100% Riesling is 12.6% alcohol and comes from Stu and Charles Smith’s 42-year-old vines. This pale yellow wine is vibrant with lively acidity and is quite refreshing. Aromas of stone fruit, apples, honeysuckle and a hint of grapefruit were present. The palate was a feast of lime, apricot, honeysuckle, citrus notes and a hint of spice. The finish was long with a creaminess lingering on the palate. I wouldn’t hesitate to serve this at Thanksgiving!
Eric Asimov in The New York Times recommends wines to bring as gifts for Thanksgiving:
“….If you want to spend more and buy American, your options are many… Napa cabernets that would make superb gifts include Smith-Madrone….”
Gabe Sasso has just compiled the 10 Best Cabernets in America for The Daily Meal. We’re honored to be included:
Cabernet is king. It always has been and probably always will be. Need proof? Think about this: Cabernet sauvignon is the most widely planted red grapes in the world.
Many of the best winemaking regions strive to make great cabernet that gets stellar ratings. The styles range from big and bold to more subtle and refined. The best ones have terrific fruit and tannins along with killer acidity, which aids their long term aging potential..
Here are 10 of the very best cabernet sauvignons in America. Decide which one sounds best to you and get your cabernet on!
Smith-Madrone 2009 Cooks Flat Reserve, $200
Quite simply one of the very best wineries in the world. Everything they do is top shelf. A few years ago they released the first vintage of this reserve wine, the first in their history. No surprise, brothers Stu and Charlie Smith hit it out of the park, but that’s what they’ve been doing for over 40 years. While it’s labeled as a proprietary blend, it’s composed of 75 percent cabernet sauvignon and the rest is cabernet franc, so legally it’s a cabernet sauvignon. Bits of toast and dark fruit dot the expressive nose. Blackberry, cherry, and more fill the palate, which shows off a bit more fruit-forward than their other red. The flavors here are layered and complex. Dark dusty cocoa, continued cherry, and a hint of espresso are all present on the finish. Cooks Flat Reserve is going to age well for at least 20 years, but if you’re impatient, pair with a standing rib roast this Christmas for a glorious experience.
We recommend acquiring a copy of Kelli A. White’s Napa Valley Then & Now, and not just because there is a Smith-Madrone chapter…..
That said, here’s a peek:
The Smith-Madrone wines are never flashy or overripe, nor are they rustic or lean; they occupy instead a sensible, delectable middle ground.
2013 Riesling: The 2013 Smith-Madrone Riesling is stunning, surely one of the very best to come out of Napa Valley. An extremely floral nose of soapstone, quinine, papaya, smoke and roses greets the nose. On the palate it is both concentrated and elegant, with a very high acidity, though it does gain some honeyed fruit with air. The finish is quite long and wonderfully rocky.
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon: One of the very best 2011s, the Smith-Madrone is utterly gorgeous, with a complex nose of red apple skin, crushed flowers, dried herbs, freshly ground nutmeg and a stately pine. The palate is surprisingly ripe and rich, but with an extra touch of lift and focus. The long, spicy finish is elegant and racy. Superb.
As most of you know California is experiencing the worst drought in the last 500 years. Fortunately, we are in a relatively small pocket where the drought is not that dire. Bad? Yes, of Biblical proportions, no – at least not yet. That will all change if El Nino is a bust, and that is something we simply cannot contemplate. You may know that we dry farm our vineyards, which means the only water our vines receive is the water that falls as rain from the skies. We do irrigate newly planted young vines and then over the next five or so years we give them less and less water until we cut them off. We do this first because the vines will produce smaller berries that will have a greater skin to juice ratio and thus more intense flavors and secondly, we believe that as farmers using the least amount of water is also being a good steward of the land.
Winery of the Year: One of our greatest honors!
The prestigious New York-based food and drink mega-site The DailyMeal.com chose Smith-Madrone Vineyards and Winery as its 2014 Winery of the Year this past February. “For their passion and for their activism, but most of all for a long history of quietly making excellent wines at sensible prices, we name Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery as The Daily Meal’s first Winery of the Year,” TheDailyMeal.com said. Smith-Madrone was chosen “for creating, without fanfare, some of Napa Valley’s best wines for almost 45 years, for industry leadership in labeling reform, and for utilizing innovative vineyard techniques that have led the way for other producers.” The entire article can be accessed from our website. We couldn’t be more proud.
Another honor was being chosen, for the second year in a row, as one of Wine & Spirits Magazine’s Top 100 Wineries of the Year. You can read their article for choosing us also on our website.
Farming – what one hand gives, another takes away. With the 2014 vintage, we returned to an almost normal crop level since Phylloxera first started to kill our vines at the turn of the century. Unfortunately, this spring, during bloom, the weather was colder than during January and February with fog and clouds hanging low on the mountain; this is the worst possible weather for this most delicate period of growing wine grapes. The higher on the mountain, the foggier and colder the weather and the poorer the set of the clusters. We are happy that our harvest was down only 50% from last year. To put this further in context: one of our neighbors, who normally harvests 50 tons, harvested eight. It’s like this all around the Valley’s mountaintops and to a much lesser extent on the Valley floor. Fortunately, what little fruit there is, has great balance, color and flavor, so we’re expecting great wines from the 2015 growing season.
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon:
The 2012 vintage was picture perfect, one of pure joy. After the previous three very cold and difficult vintages, we reveled in such a “normal” Napa Valley winter, spring, summer and harvest. It’s definitely a great vintage. The 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon has eight per cent Cabernet Franc and ten per cent Merlot. It has an amazingly deep, very dark red color, pure, well-defined fruit aromas of Cabernet Sauvignon, complex, with cedar, cigar box, oak and that spicy very specific aroma of Cabernet Franc. The taste, fully integrated with the aromas, reveals a wine of depth, complexity, power and finesse. There is some tannin but not excessive; the overall impression is a soft and smooth wine with a long and complex finish and a lively tangy core in the mid-palate. This is a great wine. In a recent blind tasting by some wine industry professionals it bested four 100 point wines — three from France, one from California. We don’t normally say this, but this vintage of our Cabernet Sauvignon will not last long. 1,790 cases, $48/bottle
The 2013 vintage was also a picture perfect vintage and also one of pure joy. The 2013 Chardonnay is barrel fermented in 100% new oak barrels made from trees harvested from the central French forests of Alliers, Trancais and Nevers. It is here where the oak trees grow very slowly and have a tight grain that we think matches up so well with our mountain grown grapes. The Chardonnay ages for nine months in those barrels before bottling. There is a lively aroma of pear, apple and melon with just a hint of the oak flavor. The palate carries through with those pears, apples and melons, confirming the aromas. Here’s a wine of structure, power, boldness along with elegance, bright acidity and a lovely long lingering finish. There is no doubt that this wine’s heritage is from the mountains. 807 cases, $32/bottle
There is still some of the 2013 Riesling available. We think this wine is a hedonist’s delight: with hints of stone fruit, lime and white peaches, grapefruit and apricot, there is a core of stylish minerality. It’s a complex, distinctive and delicious wine, a dry style with 0.75% residual sugar; it’s also a wine which will age beautifully. With very few exceptions Riesling pairs with almost everything and is perfect for the upcoming holidays. The wine has received fabulous reviews which can be accessed on our website. $27/bottle
Thanks and enjoy,
A wide ranging chat with Stu: listen in!
Venture beyond the Valley floor in Napa
By Esther Mobley, San Francisco Chronicle, October 22, 2015
If you’re a casual visitor to the Napa Valley — the kind of person who wants to just drive up, without a strict schedule and without over-reliance on your phone’s GPS — you’ll likely spend your whole visit on Highway 29 and Silverado Trail, the two main highways that run parallel, north to south, through the valley. It’s a gorgeous drive, and even the non-aficionado will experience the thrill of name recognition…..
But if what you’re after is not only great wine and arresting vistas but also some kind of intangibly authentic encounter of a wine property and the people who run it, veering off the paved roads is worth it. I promise.
All the wineries here make outstanding Cabernet. For recommended wines, I’m suggesting other varietals that I liked a lot.
Spring Mountain wineries
Smith-Madrone: “Structure is what characterizes Spring Mountain wine,” says Charlie Smith, who has operated Smith-Madrone with his brother Stu since the early 1970s. Along with Stu’s son Sam, who joined the family business full time in 2013, the Smith brothers craft firm, angular Cabernets; salinic, unctuous Chardonnays; and floral, barely sweet Rieslings from their 36-acre property here. The Smiths hold tastings themselves, at a small table in the barn that functions as both tasting room and barrel chai. It doesn’t get much more down-home than this in Napa, and in fact, the slightly hospitality-averse Smiths will often send visitors to a clearing above the vineyard for a picnic just to buy themselves a little more time for actual winemaking. They concede that they should probably collect a tasting fee, but “the idea of charging is just so against our grain,” says Stu. Listening to the brothers’ back-and-forth banter is almost as much fun as drinking their wines.
The wine to try: Riesling 2013 ($27)
4022 Spring Mountain Road, St. Helena, (707) 963-2283, www.smithmadrone.com . By appointment, 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.