Made from dry-farmed, mountain-side grapes, the Smith-Madrone Riesling 2017, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley, reveals its typical purity and intensity of purpose and effect in every molecule. The color is a radiant medium golden hue with a tinge of pale green; aromas of jasmine and honeysuckle, peach and apricot, lime peel and flint are permeated by riesling’s classic note of petrol or rubber eraser, every element impeccably seamless and integrated; on the palate, the wine is rich with apple and grapefruit flavors that tend toward quince and ginger, all animated by riveting acidity and a burgeoning tide of limestone minerality; the texture is almost sumptuous yet deftly held in check by a sense of spare elegance, the whole point being perfect balance in all parts, top to bottom; a few minutes in the glass bring in hints of candied orange zest and a wild, earthy note that partakes equally of meadows and forests; the finish is bracingly dry and saline. 12.9 percent alcohol. Production was just under 1,500 cases. A masterpiece, not to be missed by lovers of the grape. Exceptional.
A whiff of petrol really entices, as orange blossom and cantaloupe tones all combine brilliantly on the nose. The palate has just a kiss of sweetness and comes off fat on the tongue, giving this an air of unctuousness. Ripe melon fruits mingle with starfruit, lemon rind, stony minerals and smoky undertones on the palate. Seriously good now, this has another decade of life ahead of it. Drink 2021-2028.
In the spring 2021 issue of The American Wine Society Journal, Ellen Landis compares cool climate wines to warm climate wines.
Smith-Madrone 2016 Riesling from Napa Valley’s Spring Mountain District (with cool days and warm nights, yet generally warmer than the Finger Lakes):
The wine opens with scents of citrus and a fragrant white floral bouquet. Peaches, savory apricot jam and nectarines marry nicely with underlying river rock elements on the palate, and the texture is silky. This wine is complex and lush, while maintaining fine balancing acidity and a thread of minerality through the extended zesty finish.
Come behind the curtain with us. As winemakers, we’re constantly tasting—our wines, other wines, barrel samples …leading up to making blends, calculating percentages, imagining how age will impact a wine’s character. We often blind-taste other wines. We call it a “misto” wine: our slang for an unknown wine that the other two taste without knowing what it is. Sometimes we even use opaque black wine glasses so we can’t know the wine color.
What’s the varietal, is it new world or old, what AVA, how old, how good is it and do we like it? We enjoy doing this because it keeps our palates tuned up. If we only taste our own wines then there’s the danger of getting a “house palate.” Only by challenging our senses with the unknown can we stay grounded and maintain our humility.
With that said, we wanted to share a glimpse of the wine world which we think is just wonderfully entertaining. This is how wine professionals taste behind closed doors. Here is a link to a clip from Somm TV’s Blind Tastings series. It features two highly regarded professionals, author/expert Kelli White and Dave Gibbs from Augustine Wine Bar (Sherman Oaks, CA).
You might guess the outcome but if you have four minutes…..take a look! This put a smile on our faces and we hope it will bring a smile to your face too.
If you’ve enjoyed this, please consider subscribing to Somm TV. We were given a discount code to share with you: it’s a 60% discount for six months of SOMM TV. The code is SMITHMADRONE and here’s the link where you can input that code.
SOMM TV is a food and wine streaming network launched in 2019, maybe best known for its SOMM Series, which follows the world of the Master Sommelier exam.
While you have wine on your mind, we welcome you to shop! The $1. shipping offer continues.
Wine1ercent tasted the 2016 Cabernet on March 9, 2021:
I grew up in the mountains of California, and one of the things which has always struck me about these wines is how palpable the mountain air is on the nose. The way the volcanic soil and rocks and towering conifers, sprawling oak and manzanita play so headily into how the wines smell–right down to the kinnikinnick underfoot. Tiger-lilies along the creek and dogwood flushing out, lazy alder sitting in the shade of sycamores down in the draws, beds of lush nettle and blackberry brambles running up from the water into the warm sunshine where wild ceanothus and chaparral mingle. These are the magical points of mountain wines, and while valley-floor wines can be lush and well-fed, typically predictable by vintage variations, the hillside stuff doesn’t really see that kind of weather–or homogeny.
This stuff pours dark and dense, and obviously generous decanting is advised–especially at this ridiculous age. Nearly impenetrable and glass-staining, the black ruby comes to an abrupt edge. Black cherry and even blacker berry lie thick in the nose, accented by dusty mint and eucalyptus, mascarpone and petrichor driving it all along.
In the mouth, the calm, balanced integrity of the wine takes center-stage. It is not jammily effusive, not chunkily gobb-stopping; what really rolls your eyes back into your head is the even distribution of everything across the palate. The only sharp edges come from the crazily-young structure, and even they are polite in their attack. Black and bitter mid-palate, completely uplifting the original focused fruit to concentrated status. The briar and spice are mellow and well-integrated, just serving as more subtle points contributing to the whole. Tannins are so easy, but impossible to ignore.
Drinking a wine like this quite shines a light on other Napa offerings shooting for the stars and the RP96 in distilled fruit pudding, hi-alcohol and breath-taking tannin. This wine is just so PURE. So REAL. So absolutely PERFECT.
Dear Friends, Spring is almost here and we’re getting a jump on it with the release of the perfect springtime wine: our 2017 Riesling.
When we began planting vineyards almost 50 years ago, we knew that one varietal would be Riesling. We thought then, as we think now, that Riesling is one of the great wine varietals of the world. Our volcanic soil, our fog shrouded micro-climate at 1,800 feet elevation, along with our steep mountain slopes and our absolute commitment to this varietal are what allow us to produce wonderful wines consistently year after year. And might I also say that to occasionally use the word “great” wouldn’t be misplaced.
We believe that Riesling is unique because the finished wine is the purest expression of the grape itself in all of “grapedom.” Consider that with Chardonnay we ferment and age in French oak barrels, we then stir the lees (sediment) for several months and the wine goes through a secondary malolactic fermentation. With red wines, we may blend in small amounts of other varietals, also age in French oak barrels and have the wine undergo a malolactic fermentation, all to make the wine more complex and enjoyable.
But not so with Riesling. The harvested grapes go directly through the stemmer/crusher, are then settled, fermented in stainless steel tanks and bottled out of those stainless tanks. It’s 100% Riesling, there’s no oak aging, no malolactic fermentation or lees stirring. It’s a straight line, direct from the vine to the crusher, to the fermentation tank to the bottling line to a spectacularly beautiful, and may I say, great wine.
Up to the 1983 vintage we labeled our Riesling as “Johannisberg Riesling.” With that vintage we petitioned the BATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Alcohol) to change the label and allow us to use just the word “Riesling.” This is the name known and accepted throughout the world, but not in the U.S. They said no, that if we didn’t want to use “Johannisberg Riesling” we could use the other permitted name of “White Riesling.” We let them know that both names were wrong and should be unacceptable for use. Johannisberg is a several hundred-year-old winery in Germany and that is their name and should be unacceptable for our use. White Riesling is also unacceptable because there are no “Red Riesling” grapes in the world and thus it is redundant and more importantly, it is not the accepted name of the varietal around the world. After a six-month battle, we won. They approved our label to use just the word “Riesling” and we were the only winery in America for the next 15 years that labeled the varietal by its true name. Some years later the BATF did a 180 degree turn and outlawed the term “Johannisberg Riesling” but they still allow the incorrect term “White Riesling,” which in our opinion is still wrong.
The accolades for our Riesling seem to flow continuously, like a mighty river. We proudly display them on our website. In particular, we are very proud of our Riesling being named the best Riesling in North America by Riesling expert and wine writer Stuart Pigott in his 2014 book Best White Wine on Earth: The Riesling Story.
We harvested these grapes September 1-3; we made only 1,449 cases. Buy: $34.00 We also continue to have 2016 Riesling in handsome 1.5L bottles available. Buy: $ 75.00
A deep dive into Riesling:
A Six Bottle Vertical Collection: 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019. All in 750 ml bottles. Buy: $250.00