Join Sam at Spring Place in Beverly Hills

Smith-Madrone is honored to be participating in the MICHELIN Guide: Chef Collaboration Dinner Series with Spring Place Beverly Hills on June 24 and 25.

Participating chefs are MICHELIN Guide’s Melissa Perello of Michelin one-star Octavia and Josef Centeno of Michelin one-star Orsa.

Assistant Winemaker Sam Smith will be presenting 2016 Riesling, 2016 Chardonnay, 2018 Rosé, and 2013 Cook’s Flat Reserve.

Guests will experience a six course tasting menu from Melissa Perello, partnering with Chef Josef Centeno of Orsa & Winston on these two evenings, creating a compelling food experience.

Seatings are at 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased at

Spring Place Beverly Hills, 9800 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills, 310/591-5669,


Melissa Perello

While still in high school, she gained her first kitchen based job at a local country club, where she worked 40 hours a week. She dined at Aqua, and was invited into the kitchen. She subsequently impressed the chefs and was offered an apprenticeship at the restaurant. She attended Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY from 1994-1996 and, following her passion for food, moved to San Francisco to work under the tutelage of Michael Mina at Aqua. After working with Mina, whom she cites as a major influence, Perello transferred to Aqua’s sister restaurant, Charles Nob Hill, where she worked alongside mentor, Chef Ron Siegel. She quickly became executive chef and earned accolades for her California-inspired French cuisine. While at Charles Nob Hill, Perello was awarded the San Francisco Chronicle’s Rising Star Chef honor in 2002, one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs in 2004, and James Beard Foundation Rising Star Chef nominations in 2002, 2003 and 2004. Perello then took the helm at Fifth Floor and led the restaurant to a Michelin star in 2006.

In 2009, Perello opened her first restaurant, Frances, named after her greatest culinary influence, her grandmother. Located in San Francisco, Frances quickly gained a Michelin star. Offering modern California cuisine in a relaxed neighborhood setting, Frances garnered glowing reviews and earned a James Beard Foundation Award nomination for Best New Restaurant in 2010. Additionally, Frances was named an Esquire magazine Best New Restaurant by John Mariani and one of Bon Appétit magazine’s “Ten Best New Restaurants in America” in 2010.

In 2015, Perello opened her second restaurant venture, Octavia. Named for its location, Octavia is an ode to refined yet comfortable sensibilities in both food and decor. A seamless blend of original history and modern elegance, Octavia’s natural light-soaked, open floor plan evokes a refined dining experience with a unique sense of home comfort. Octavia earned a Michelin Star in its first year with Perello being lauded as a 2016 James Beard Semifinalist for ‘Best Chef West.’

She has appeared on Food Network’s Chefs vs. City as a contestant during season one. As of the 2012 Michelin Guide, she is one of ten female chefs in the United States to hold a Michelin star.

More about Octavia:

More about Frances:

Josef Centeno

Raised in San Antonio, Texas, and now based in Los Angeles, Chef Josef Centeno comes from a family of foodies: his father was a butcher; his paternal grandfather started Centeno Market in San Antonio; and Bar Amá, one of his restaurants, is named after his maternal great-grandmother. He is also the owner of Bäco Mercat, Orsa & Winston and BÄCOSHOP.

More about Orsa & Winston:

More about his other restaurants:

Spring Place

Spring Place is an innovative and collaborative workspace and private membership social club. Launched in New York City’s TriBeCa neighborhood in June of 2016, the club caters to a global community of leading professionals and entrepreneurs shaping the business of contemporary culture. Spring Place regularly hosts events and global conferences with leading partners such as Barneys New York, Google, IMG, Independent Art Fair, TriBeCa Film Festival, and Vanity Fair as well as culinary pop-ups from the world’s best chefs and restaurants including Caviar Kaspia, Casa Cruz, among others. Spring Place comprehensively blends both collaborative and private workspaces with full scale food & beverage social spaces for enjoying and entertaining—that combine the services of a world-class professional office suite, boutique hotel-style amenities, and innovative cultural and wellness programming. Spring Place Beverly Hills, the club’s second location and first West Coast outpost, opened in October of 2018. Future locations will include London, Milan, and Paris.

More information, please visit


MICHELIN Guide was first created as a way to help motorists build out their list. The Michelin brothers made a small guide filled with important information for travelers, including places to eat and sleep. It was in 1920 that the Michelin brothers sold their first guides and started building out their hotel and restaurant lists. Throughout the 20th century the Michelin guide came to be what is known today and ranks over 30,000 establishments in over 30 territories across 3 continents.

One of 10 Best Wineries in Napa Valley in Newsweek

We’re honored to be named one of the ten best wineries in Napa Valley in the June 17 issue of Newsweek:



BY JOSIE ZEIGER, June 17, 2019

Napa Valley is an incredible experience for both novice wine drinkers and serious connoisseurs. The trick is to know where to go with the people you’re visiting with and to know the basic rules for visiting Napa Valley, which are:

  1. Gauge your group – are you planning on a party bus and day drinking with friends? A small group looking to stock up your cellars? Know the expectations of your party and everything will run much more smoothly.
  2. Many wineries are appointment-only, so be sure to call or email ahead – like, way ahead. It may seem like a lot of extra work, but an appointment can include incredible experiences like walking the vineyards or sitting down to lunch with a winemaker. And if you are traveling via limo or bus, make sure to confirm whether the tasting room can accommodate bus parking.
  3. And on that note: always – ALWAYS – book transportation or designate a responsible sober driver. This is non-negotiable and, frankly, common sense.
  4. Start your day with a good breakfast. Even if you’re spitting throughout the day, it is important to have a base in your stomach. Pack a protein-rich dry snack like nuts to stay sated.
  5. Don’t be afraid to spit. You’re going to taste a LOT of wine, and your palate will be fresher if you spit throughout the day. Save the actual imbibing for apero hour and beyond.
  6. Don’t stick your glass in your host’s face as a way of asking for another pour.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here are the top 10 wineries or tasting rooms in Napa Valley:

Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery

Experience old-school Napa Valley and a killer view here, where brothers Charles (the winemaker) and Stuart (the viticulturalist) have been making wine since 1971.

4022 Spring Mountain Rd, St Helena, CA

(707) 963-2283

Chardonnay is pure and beautiful

May 25, 2019

Tasting the 2015 Chardonnay in Las Vegas, with thanks to FermentedFruit:

I can never get enough of @smith_madrone Spring Mountain Chardonnay’s crisp, bright fruit and lemon curd nuances. It’s always so well-balanced and is the complete opposite of what many expect of #NapaValley Chardonnay. It’s not buttery or oaky, just pure and beautiful. 👌

Happy International Chardonnay Day!

With thanks to Enofylz on the 2015 Chardonnay:

View this post on Instagram

#Sample Since I’m a drink local, think global kinda guy, I'm delighted to be drinking the 2015 Smith-Madrone Chardonnay on International Chardonnay Day! 🍷🍷🍷 The wine is pale gold color with pear, Granny Smith apple, citrus cream, and savory spices with a hint of butterscotch. On the palate it's medium-full bodied with a texture that manages to be both creamy and mouthwateringly fresh with citrusy acidity. The judicious use of oak plays well here – wonderful balance. It shows apple, pear, lime zest, lemon cream and spice flavors with a long tangy finish. Fruit for this wine sourced from dry farmed 40+ y.o. vines from the Spring Mountain AVA in the Napa Valley. The wine is 100% barrel fermented. Raised in 80% new French Oak for 10 months 14.4% abv. Bravo! 🍷🍷🍷🍷 Smith Madrone Vineyards, a family run, estate-bottled winery located in St. Helena, California was founded in 1971 by brothers Stuart and Charles Smith who are the Managing Partner/Vineyard Manager, and Winemaker respectively. The name of the winery is a tribute to the Smith brothers and the predominant tree on the ranch. The Madrone is an evergreen with a red-brown trunk and branches. When the Smith brothers purchased the 200 acre ranch in 1971, it included a vineyard that had been planted over a century before. But the forest had reclaimed much of the land. The brothers had to call in loggers to clear patches of land that would become vineyards. There remain numerous historical sights on the ranch, as well as the huge array of natural beauty and wildlife. All their wines are produced exclusively from their 34 acres of hillside vineyards, planted by the Smith brothers, atop of Spring Mountain, west of St Helena. The vineyards are situated at elevations between 1,300 and 2,000 feet, on steep slopes which range up to 35%. . . #wine #winelover #smithmadrone #springmountain #ChardonnayDay, #NationalChardonnayDay #InternationalChardonnayDay

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The “Very Authentic” wines & personalities

Canadian bloggers Advinetures came to visit:

The Very Authentic Wines & Personalities of Smith-Madrone

May 22, 2019

Napa Valley wine

One of the many great things about being a frequent traveler to wine country is the stunning natural beauty that often accompanies the setting. Spring Mountain, with its undisturbed natural forests, steep vineyards and stunning views of the Napa Valley laying more than a thousand feet below is one of the more beautiful and picturesque settings we have been to. Smith-Madrone occupies a gorgeous spot high up these hills on the eastern slopes of the Mayacamas Mountains where they make wines every bit as beautiful as their site.

Napa Valley wine

Spring Mountain is a part of the Napa Valley AVA. It is really very different than the rest of the Napa Valley. Spring Mountain District obtained status as an American Viticultural Area (“AVA”) in 1993. Its mountainside location means high elevations, steep slopes and a significantly different temperature profile than the valley below, giving it a unique terroir and thus qualifying it as its own AVA. To us, there is a feature that distinguishes Spring Mountain from the valley floor even more than its unique terroir, and that is its unique people. Napa Valley during the last 30 years has seen significant transformation as it has received much favourable press about its wines, especially its Cabernet Sauvignon. With that praise has come increasing prices for vineyard lands and for the local wines.

Napa Valley wine spring mountain

Some Napa Cabs have become the darlings of collectors and attracted a near rabid following of purchasers that have pushed prices into the stratosphere, keeping up with top Cabernets of Bordeaux, and in some cases nipping at the heels of…gasp!…Burgundy! Some tasting rooms resemble high-end art galleries, charge tasting fees of $50 or more, create exclusive clubs to fashion bespoke wines for their members, and generally offer all sorts of ancillary lux to please their wealthy patrons. Spring Mountain will have none of that. High up the mountain, the steep roads are full of hairpin corners, no shoulders and enough potholes to take the under-carriage out of a cult Cab collector’s Maserati or Lamborghini. No, the winemakers up on Spring Mountain don’t seem to have any connection to that type of glitz or image-maintenance. They are just focused on good agriculture to produce great tasting wine. There is an authenticity to Spring Mountain. And Stuart Smith of Smith-Madrone Wines might just be the most authentic of that mountain bunch.

napa valley wine spring mountain

Stu first discovered the lands that are now his vineyards back in 1970. He was looking for vineyard land in the Napa Valley, having just completed his BA in Economics at Berkeley and working towards his MA in Viticulture at UC Davis. As he walked the lands of dense forest (Stu told us there are bout 600 plants per acre in the surrounding forest, three times the average of most forests), he noticed old vine stakes planted in the ground, evidence of a former vineyard. It turns out that vineyard was planted in the 1880s along the wagon route between St. Helena and Calistoga and then abandoned during prohibition. The next year Stu put together a partnership of friends and family to acquire the property. He was 22 years old. In 1973 Stu brought his brother Charlie into the partnership and now Charlie makes the wines. A recent addition was Charlie’s son Sam who is the assistant winemaker.

Napa valley wine

Those forests high on Spring Mountain have Douglas Fir, Oak, California Redwood and Madrone. The beautiful Madrone trees on the land gave the winery its name. The Madrone is of the same species as the Arbutus that grows so well and uniquely in our native British Columbia.

The original vineyard was planted on native rootstock (unusual due to its susceptibility to phylloxera, the vine-destroying louse) to Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Noir. Today the vineyard consists of 34 acres in various stages of production dating back to 1972. In addition to the 6.25 acres of Riesling, 10.25 acres of Chardonnay and 13 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, the vineyard now has 3.75 acres of Merlot and 1 acre of Cabernet Franc. The original Pinot Noir plot was grafted over to Chardonnay. Over time the vineyard blocks have been re-planted to several different rootstocks that are phylloxera-resistant. Today the entire estate is dry-farmed.

Napa valley wine

We remarked to Stu that it was unusual to see warm and cool climate varieties planted on the same farm and yet all doing so well. Outside of Washington State, we cannot think of another vineyard where both Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling are planted. “We love Riesling and it can do really well here. We harvest at a different time than most people (sooner). The longer the berries are on the vine, the higher the sugar; but the inverse is that the longer the berries are on the vine, the acidity drops or respires out. So when we harvest Riesling at 22 or 22.5 degrees brix, that’s going to give us a wine that’s 3.1 pH.” which gives his Riesling a wonderful, crisp acidity. Variation in picking dates and using the vineyards different exposures and elevations allows Smith-Madrone to make terrific wines from each of these varieties.

Napa Valley Wine

As we talk about the land that Stu is so passionate about we get a further glimpse into the unique person that he is. Stu cares very much about his land and farms it in the most sustainable way he knows how. He characteristically marches to the beat of his own drum. “And that then gets into a whole other issue which would be organic farming—is organic farming really the long-term solution for a lot of people? I don’t think it is. It’s a great brand but it doesn’t have any economic viability to it and in Napa Valley I believe it’s less than 15% of vineyards are organically grown, and we’re probably some of the most environmentally sensitive growers anywhere in the country, if not the world. If we can only get 15% as organic farming that’s not success. You need a paradigm where you can get 80-85% and that’s where I think sustainability (which has no great brand recognition) will eventually become the dominant that farmers go to because it allows Best Management Practices (BMPs) to bring in new technology & IPMs (integrated pest management). IPMs use other bugs to control pests; here we don’t use any pesticides.”

Napa Valley Wine

Stu briefly tells us that he put up a website called “Biodynamics Is A Hoax”. Obviously he does not believe in biodynamics, not any big surprise as the concept is very controversial as we wrote in our article on the subject. We highly recommend that you go and look around his website. He has not published on it since 2011 but is thinking about going back to it. Our recommendation comes not from agreeing with his conclusion (we do not) but more from the view that it is extremely well-posited, has numerous and very thoughtful comments and is revelatory of the person that is Stuart Smith. Stu’s blog shows him to be articulate and erudite, and possessing a very deep knowledge of this subject. When you read enough of his posts and his comments you realize that his blog is not really about claiming that biodynamics does not work. We didn’t read every post (there are many) but we only discovered one instance that was even close to a refutation of the efficacy of biodynamics. He knows of two attempts at biodynamic farms that failed, but he is quick to acknowledge the attempts were made by people new to farming. Rather his two big issues seem to be with some biodynamic practitioners claims of superiority and to the lack of scientific rigour behind the biodynamic paradigm. Stu takes offense to those who claim their practice is superior and that by inference if you do not follow biodynamism you are not being good to the land. Stu is clearly a firm believer in real world science. To him, validation of concept must be based upon proof, not belief, as he expounds upon in his blog. What he writes reveals a great ability to communicate, an open mind, and an even hand with his critics. He acknowledges those who make good points when disagreeing with him. On his blog he promotes a discourse that is devoid of trolling, is respectful, and is informed. A refreshing change to a blogosphere that has increasingly become populated by nasty barbs and mis-information. Stu’s blog shows him to be intellectually honest, tolerant (read it closely, strong opinion does not mean intolerant of other opinions), and highly individual.

Napa Valley wine

The winemaking philosophy at Smith-Madrone is pretty simple: the winemaker is the steward of the vineyard and of the climate that produced the grapes. Use consistent winemaking techniques that maximize what the site can produce and let differences of each vintage show through. Stu was extremely eloquent about the types of wine they try to produce: “Balance, complexity, elegance & finesse are things that we prize. I also believe that wine’s first obligation is to give pleasure and so I think wine should be hedonistic. I also think that when we talk about terroir, we tend to think and talk about a sense of place. I actually think of it one step further down the line as an ephemeral sense of art. Smith-Madrone shouldn’t exist if we make wine that is indistinguishable from everyone else. Between we the growers, we the winemaker, and the site, we want something which is unique and that’s our philosophy that goes into it which I think that is expressed in our wine. We do NOT make wine for scores, we make wine for us and we think we have good palates and as along as there are enough people who agree with us and buy our wine, we’re in business.”

Napa Valley wine spring mountain

“I never would have said this when I was younger but it’s an artistic endeavor. We are a small artisan winery and I don’t know that the word ‘artisan’ was in my vocabulary when I started, but that’s what we are and it’s why we’re still small after almost 50 years. We originally had the concept of being a chateau style winery like in Europe. We lost our way for a couple of years when we bought grapes and realized several things – we didn’t like paying for the grapes, we didn’t have the money to pay for the grapes, we didn’t like the quality we got when we bought grapes and if we’re going to buy grapes that means we’re a business. And if we’re a business, we have no business being on the mountain, because we should be down in the valley floor catching all the tourist action. Then the question we asked ourselves who are we modeling after? That really re-focused us at an important time as to what we wanted to do here and why I came here.” Stu has always believed that there are 2 fundamentals in the wine industry which are sacrosanct: you cannot make great wine from anything but great grapes & the best grapes come from the mountain. We could not agree more.

Tasting Notes

Napa Valley wine

2018 Rosé

A blend of equal parts Merlot and Cabernet Franc, this is just the style that made us into Rosé lovers. The strawberry and rhubarb profile has great intensity making this a more serious style of Rosé as opposed to the cocktail style. Components of earth, mineral and spice add complexity. There is well-judged acidity that keeps the flavours juicy and adds precision. With swirling we get tart strawberry, raspberry and red delicious apple. Wonderfully refreshing.

Very Good/Excellent (USD $25 at their tasting room)

napa valley wine

2015 Riesling

We never think of Napa and Riesling together, partly because Napa’s Mediterranean climate just does not seem to suit a cool climate grape like Riesling, and partly because we just don’t see it on the shelves (less than 2/10 of 1% of plantings in Napa are to Riesling). I guess we will have to think again because this is one damn fine Riesling! Lots of petrol notes on the nose. Flavours of apple and pear gain complexity from the mineral streak and citrus notes. Fermented fully dry, it has a medium body and terrific intensity.

Excellent (USD $32 at their tasting room)

napa valley wine

2016 Chardonnay

Wow! This is why California Chardonnay, in the hands of the top growers, can compete on the world stage with the very best. Gold in colour, we pick up bruised apple, stone fruit, melon and hints of tropical fruit. The texture of this wine is simply spectacular. The gorgeous mouth-feel is full and round and the back-end acidity maintains precise definition and gives this wine perfect balance. The Smiths found the fulcrum with this wine! The finish goes on and on and is infused with hints of mineral and lemon zest. At the winery when we tasted it we rated it Excellent/Extraordinary. We took a bottle to dinner that night. With food, this wine really shone and pushed up our rating.

Extraordinary (USD $40 at their tasting room – this is particularly good value for this quality level)

napa valley wine

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

Medium dark red colour. Notes of black cherry, mirabelle plum and boysenberry dominate the profile. The body is medium and the tannins and acidity are both moderate. There is a European sense to this wine; intense without being at all heavy. Complexity comes from the cedar and forest notes. The finish is long and mineral infused. Delicious now but likely to reward long cellaring as well.

Excellent (USD $52 at their tasting room-most Napa Cab at this quality level would sell for near twice this price)

napa valley wine

2013 Cook’s Flat Reserve

“Cook’s Flat” is what the locals used to call the 8 acre plot planted in 1972 and used to grow the grapes for this red blend. This year the cuvée was 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, with roughly equal parts of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Many Napa proprietary blends or luxury cuvées are distinguished by their power. The Smiths, always marching to the beat of their own drum, have focused on elegance in this wine. More toward the black fruit end of the spectrum than their regular Cabernet, this wine showed great intensity without any heaviness. The tannins are medium+, but they are ripe and polished. A rich mouthfeel makes it a pleasure to drink now but Stu assured us this has a long future in the cellar. With such precise balance, we have no reason to doubt him.

Excellent+ (USD $225 at their tasting room)

napa valley wineSmith-Madrone Winery

4022 Spring Mountain Road, St. Helena, California [Phone 707/963-2283]

Open by appointment only at 11:00 a.m. or 2:00 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday. Appointments must be confirmed by phone or email & tours and tastings always conducted by one of the Smith family. Tasting fee is $25 per person (fee is waived with a wine purchase).



The Very Authentic Wines & Personalities of Smith-Madrone

We’re recommended to millennials

We’re recommended in a millennial’s guide to Napa Valley:

The Millennial’s Guide To Navigating Napa’s Wine Country

by Katie Sweeney, HauteLiving, May 16, 2019

There are hundreds of wineries in Napa and Sonoma Counties—so many that planning a trip to wine country can be an intimidating and daunting task, especially to the inexperienced drinker. Where to stay? What to eat? What to drink? To help answer some of these questions, it’s best to turn to a local professional, specifically someone like Josh Phelps. Having grown up in the valley in a winemaking family (his dad Chris Phelps makes wine at Francis Ford Coppola’s Inglenook), Phelps is practically St. Helena royalty.

The handsome winemaker has been named to every list, from Forbes 30 Under 30 to Wine Enthusiast’s 40 Under 40, and can often be found pouring his wines events around the region. Phelps has learned how to make wine from Napa greats like his dad, Joel Gott, Kimberly Jones, and Leslie Rudd, and at Grounded Wine Co., he’s making a name for himself. Phelps’ wines reflect his incredible knowledge of the region—and are lovely and easy to drink. You can’t go wrong with Space Age, his pretty pink Central Coast Rosé.

With BottleRock on the agenda next week, we asked Phelps to share his favorite places in the area. Here’s his insider guide to the best restaurants, wineries, and more in Napa County.

Gott’s Roadside: Phelps says: “I grew up in St. Helena, so it’s always been the neighborhood burger joint. Joel Gott is a friend of mine, and I’ve always supported him. Although my order varies, I most often get the Texas burger with avocado. They also have great salads. When I come home from a business trip, I’ll stop by and grab a Vietnamese chicken salad.”

Cook: Phelps says: “Cook is where the winemakers and locals go to have dinner. It’s an awesome and tiny spot on Main Street. They’re best known for pasta, and my favorite is the cavatelli. It has a spicy red sauce with housemade sausage, and it’s the perfect comfort food. It’s a concise menu with a very local wine list. The owner of Cook and Cook Tavern next door is a local, who grew up in St. Helena, from a big family that I know.”

Press: Phelps says: “Press is a beautiful space, and it’s a place that people get dressed up to go out to dinner. It is my favorite hangout in the evenings, where if I’m going to meet somebody for a drink, there’s a pretty good chance it’s going to be at Press. I love to have dinner there. Press has the most amazing wine program in Napa Valley. I love it because they’re promoting Napa, which is great, and it’s 100% Napa Valley wine list, and it goes back into the 60s, 70s, and 80s. There’s such a crazy breadth of what you can order there, but you can also go and have affordable Napa wine. There’s also a level of service that I’ve witnessed nowhere else in Napa Valley. It doesn’t matter who you are, and the staff will make you feel like you’re the most important person in the room. The food is classic farm-to-table steakhouse food.”

Rutherford Grill: “There’s probably nothing better for lunch in Napa Valley then Rutherford Grill. If you want to sit at a bar and see every winemaker in the valley, you go to Rutherford Grill at lunch; you have a French dip sandwich or the sashimi platter. It’s unbelievable; it’s the power lunch spot. Sheri is the best bartender in the Valley.”

Smith-Madrone Vineyards: Phelps says: “I grew up with the Smith brothers, the next generation of Smith brothers, and Smith-Madrone is one of the oldest wineries in Napa. It’s founded by two brothers, who are my dad’s friends. It’s a salt of the earth family-owned operation, that has tremendous views. It’s all estate wine, and they have Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet, and Bordeaux varietals planted. They farm it themselves, and they make the wines. It’s a very grounded experience in Napa. It’s very real; it’s very raw. It’s like, this is what you get. The wines are old world Napa style, which I appreciate. It’s an off-the-beaten-path special place. Everyone that goes there falls in love with it, and they buy the wines, and they’re just like, ‘That was amazing’ because the wines are fantastic.

Mad Fritz: Phelps says: “Nile Zacherle is a winemaker at David Arthur, but he decided to start brewing beer about a decade ago. He does all kinds of beers and ages some of them in wine barrels. They are uber interesting craft beers and made by a winemaker, so I think that adds a little special something. He has a great palate. He makes beer for Meadowood and French Laundry, so it’s a cool project.”

El Bonita Motel: Phelps says: “El Bonita is this motel on the main drag in St. Helena, and it’s the most affordable option in the area. It’s an adequate place to stay, and it’s $200 bucks a night, which is cheap for St. Helena. There’s even a pool.”

Cadet Wine Bar: Phelps says: “If you want to go out after dinner, I recommend going to Cadet in downtown Napa. It was founded by two girls that are in their early 30s. They are both hip, young, and cool. They have a list that’s very much focused on Champagne, and Burgundy. It’s fun to go there and order bottles of Champagne. They have a DJ a lot, it’s small and intimate, and it’s an industry place.  Every Wednesday, a winemaker pours, so you have an opportunity to taste with a local winemaker, and those are pretty up-close and personal tastings, and it’s a flight for $20.”

Oat Hill Mine Road: Phelps says: “I like to mountain bike, and I love to hike, so I try to encourage people that are visiting to find some other activities besides drinking. The trail that’s my favorite is in Calistoga and called Oat Hill Mine Road. Hiking is great on that trail. You can hike four miles up and have a view of the entire Napa Valley.”


Join us in honoring Dominique Crenn

Chef Dominique Crenn is being honored with The Anti-Defamation League’s Distinguished Leadership Award at an event in San Francisco on May 23.

We will be one of several wineries and restaurants participating in the evening, which will include music as well as an auction. More details:

Chef Crenn is being recognized for her work empowering women and advocating for social justice in the food industry and beyond.

Growing up in Brittany, France, Chef Crenn’s parents had a strong influence on her love for the culinary arts. She began her formal training upon moving to San Francisco in 1988 to work at Stars under luminaries Jeremiah Tower and Mark Franz. In 2011, Crenn opened Atelier Crenn, where her “poetic culinaria” earned one Michelin Star in 2011, and its second the following year. As of November 2018, Dominique Crenn beat her own record and became the first female chef in the US to receive three Michelin Stars. Her second restaurant, Petit Crenn, opened in 2015, and her latest creation, Bar Crenn, was awarded one Michelin star in 2018.

Crenn was awarded World’s Best Female Chef in 2016 by San Pellegrino’s 50 Best and in 2018 was honored with the award for Best Chef: West by the James Beard Foundation. As an active member of the culinary community, Crenn promotes sustainability and equality through her collaboration with various organizations. Her next project is Boutique Crenn at the Salesforce Tower in San Francisco.

Smith-Madrone is one of ten to visit

In a review of the new Wine Country movie, Newsweek recommends Smith-Madrone as one of ten Napa Valley wineries to visit:



by Josie Zeiger, May 10, 2019, Newsweek

Wine Country, the new Netflix comedy, sees Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch, Ana Gasteyer and Paula Pell going on a wine tasting tour in California’s Napa Valley. Napa is an incredible experience for both novice wine drinkers and serious connoisseurs. The trick is to know where to go and what your group wants. Here are six tips to make your trip smooth and ten wineries that will make it memorable:

The basic rules for visiting Napa Valley

  1. Gauge your group: Are you planning on a party bus and day drinking with friends? A small group looking to stock up your cellars? Know the expectations of your party and everything will be much more smooth.
  2. Many wineries are appointment-only, so be sure to call or email ahead—like, way ahead. It may seem like a lot of extra work, but an appointment can include incredible experiences like walking the vineyards or sitting down to lunch with a winemaker. And if you are traveling via limo or bus, make sure confirm whether the tasting room can accommodate bus parking.
  3. And on that note: Always book transportation or designate a responsible sober driver. This is non-negotiable and, frankly, common sense.
  4. Start your day with a good breakfast. Even if you’re spitting throughout the day, it is important to have a base in your stomach. Pack a protein-rich dry snack like nuts to stay sated.
  5. Don’t be afraid to spit. You’re going to taste a LOT of wine, and your palate will be more fresh if you spit throughout the day. Save the actual imbibing for apero hour and beyond.
  6. Don’t stick your glass in your host’s face as a way of asking for another pour.

Top Ten Wineries and Tasting Rooms in Napa Valley

…Smith-Madrone Vineyards and Winery

Experience old-school Napa Valley and a killer view where brothers Charles (the winemaker) and Stuart (the viticulturalist) have been making wine since 1971.

4022 Spring Mountain Rd, St Helena, CA

New Release – 2018 Rosé

Dear Friends,

Photo of 2018 Rosé With the spring, we’re delighted to announce a truly ‘new’ wine: our very first, from the 2018 vintage. Over the last few harvests we have experimented with small lots and 2018 proved to be the charm. The wine is a 50/50 mix of Cabernet Franc and Merlot. The color is a slightly wild combination of watermelon and salmon of unusual intensity and visual interest. Aromatically it leads with fetching floral and strawberry notes, topped by a distinct element of roses. The impression of roses follows through on the palate. This element in the wine is the Cabernet Franc asserting itself. It gives way to a silky mid-palate texture and considerable depth of flavor, finally finishing with a succulent texture and considerable depth of flavor, finally finishing with a mouthwatering acidity. The overall impression is of a wine that is not only delicious and lively on the palate but is perhaps a bit more serious than most Rosés. It’s a lovely wine for summertime and will pair well with a wide variety of dishes. We have had a lot of fun with this, our first rosé adventure. We think you will enjoy drinking it with the same pleasure we had in making it. We’re offering it to our mailing list and at the winery only.$25./bottle


Riesling and Chardonnay are also great partners for the spring, no matter how you’re enjoying them. The Daily Meal recently wrote about our current 2015 Riesling:
There are a handful of Riesling producers in Napa Valley, but Smith-Madrone is the one that truly matters most. One vintage after another, they release reference-quality riesling that is delicious and often age-worthy. Peach and apricot aromas are joined by a hint of lilac. The palate is even-keeled with continuing stone fruit and a dollop of spice. The mineral-laden finish shows off a kiss of lemon curd. Firm acid provides a great backbone. Whether you drink it now or age it for a couple of decades, this wine showcases Smith-Madrone’s mastery of riesling.


The 2016 Chardonnay competes with the very best Chardonnays in the world. It is an elegant and tasty expression of the near perfect 2016 growing season. It’s a spectacular wine, with a full, forward nose and complex notes of toasted hazelnut, white peaches and Meyer lemon. Admirably restrained oak. Beautiful mid-palate that is full and succulent without being the least bit heavy. Superbly integrated acidity. Overall the wine exhibits a remarkable structure that translates to a lip-smacking juiciness. It was barrel fermented and spent 9 months in 80% new French oak. $40/bottle

We will be releasing the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2016 Riesling soon.