WineByBenito sits down with the current releases

Smith-Madrone Winery was founded on Napa’s Spring Mountain in 1971 by Stuart Smith and currently produces about 4,000 cases a year. Despite having heard of this venerable Napa producer, looking back over my notes I’ve never actually tried any of their wines. I had always assumed that Madrone was the other half of a partnership, but it turns out to be the most common tree on the property. The beautiful flat leaf evergreen is featured on the label.

Fredric Koeppel taught me to always pay close attention to the mountain sub-appellations of Napa, and they’ve never let me down. These wines come from the Spring Mountain District AVA in the Mayacamas Mountains near St. Helena.

2011 Riesling: Starting in 1983, they stopped calling this wine Johannisberg Riesling and simply sold it as Riesling. It’s always interesting to go back and look at labels from the 70s and 80s–not that long ago–and you’ll see some slightly unusual grape names, like “Pinot Chardonnay”. This Riesling has a crisp green apple aroma and flavor. Bright acidity but light and dry. A perfect summertime sipper, and highly recommended for picnics.

2010 Chardonnay: Lots of buttered popcorn on the nose of this classic California Chardonnay. Bold oak structure and an underlying flavor of ripe apricot. Long, lingering finish. This one would be perfect with a quarter of a roast chicken and fingerling potatoes with lots of sea salt. 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon: On the very first sniff I got a lot of pyrazine, that molecule that gives the aroma of tomato leaves and tobacco. I love that scent, and after more swirling the wine opened up with deeper black cherry and leather aromas. On the palate it is full of dark fruit and medium tannins, leaving a long and savory finish. Well-aged and ready to drink now, though it could easily go for a few more years. Strongly recommended with rack of lamb and a cherry reduction sauce.

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Author: corkingnapa

Julie Ann Kodmur is a second-generation Californian who was born in San Francisco and grew up in La Jolla. As an eighth grader she was the runner-up in the state spelling bee. She’s lived in Italy and New York and now lives in the Napa Valley with her family. She is a marketing and publicity consultant in the wine industry. Her business life can be seen at This is the home for the overflow. The ‘title’ is a reference to a sculpture honoring an Argentinean journalist who practiced his craft in the 1930s before literally dying for his words. No such drama here, just hopefully some provocative fun.

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