2010 Chardonnay: “impressive structure…power and grace..”

Rarified Crus California’s Mountain-Grown Chardonnay

By Andrew Braithwaite and Luke Sykora

October 2013

In our Wine & Spirits tastings over the last few years, these mountain Chardonnays have again and again struck us, sometimes for their precisely balanced power, sometimes because of their bracing acidity and coastal cool, but the overarching theme has been one of transparency—the sense that the wines are speaking about the places where they grow, above and beyond the nuances of winemaking. Why does chardonnay seem to have an affinity for the mountains? We asked winemakers and viticulturists working with chardonnay at high altitudes why these wines might tend to show such character and clarity.

At Smith-Madrone on Spring Mountain, Stu Smith and his brother Charles elected to compound the cooling effect of Napa’s mountains by planting on a more shaded north-facing slope. The vines, some dating back to 1972, contend with a terroir that features, according to Stu, “bright red rocks, some the size of small pick-up trucks.”

Their Smith-Madrone 2010 Spring Mountain Chardonnay: a full-bodied white with both power and grace, expressing the somewhat warmer climate of its Napa environs while maintaining impeccable balance. A variety of factors may explain the wine’s impressive structure: old vines; the relatively cool northern exposure with slopes that hit 30 percent; thin volcanic soil at almost 2,000 feet of elevation. Whatever it is, the fruit has more than enough stature to absorb the all-new oak elevage into its crunchy, mineral frame (94 points, Wine & Spirits June 2013).

“There are only two or three other chardonnay producers on Spring,” says Smith. Still, the Smith brothers persist, captivated by the balance of fruit flavors, structure and “fabulously good mouthfeel” that they get from their mountain fruit.







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 http://www.julieannkodmur.com. 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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