Jeff Alexander suggests searching for samples from the Smiths’ summit

We thank Jeff Alexander for his visit and thoughts:

Smith-Madrone Wines

August 26, 2014 by Jeff Alexander

Before becoming parents, my wife and I boarded a jet for San Francisco, brimming with anticipation of mammoth Muir Woods, Thomas Keller scrumptious-ness and gallons of rich Napa juice. For the most part, the journey delivered – all breezy-valley red, white and blue sky. Life continued, and we’ve since returned with our son but the landscape, of course, is forever altered by the presence of a youngster. And, most notably, I haven’t been back to the mountain.

I wrote about the Smith brothers soon after returning from Spring Mountain, from the twisted and nearly perilous road leading to the winery’s perch. The air is cooler there, the noises less motorized – less commercial – than those found below. There were only three visitors that day – a couple from Jersey and me – and we were the sole, nearly-stationary figures at the Smith-Madrone facility where harvest was full tilt.

Certain details of that short stay will never leave me: The bright-eyed honesty (and humor) of Charlie and Stu Smith, the crispness of the cold Riesling they poured us from the barrel and the pang of disappointment I felt as I left.

The tug of separation hasn’t fully subsided but recently I was fortunate enough to sample the winery’s current releases. The Smiths keep it simple, consistently crafting Cab, Chard and Riesling, and doing it well, drawing from markedly subtler fruit than the variety found at lower, sun-bleached altitudes. Though premium-priced and available solely as special orders in Pennsylvania (minimum quantity of one bottle, however), I recommend searching for samples from the Smiths’ summit.

Smith-Madrone Riesling 2012
Can Riesling receive proper treatment in Napa? S-M’s mountain setting provides the perennial affirmation. Nectarine-scented and inviting – a layered, pretty wine with floral notes, peach, white pepper, apple and stone. Very good balance and dry edge; excellent concentration, intensity. Finishes strong. 12.5% alcohol by volume.

Smith-Madrone Chardonnay 2012
Pale yellow, sea air fragrance. Nutty and spicy, it’s a blessed break from Napa Chards with big wood. A rich mix adorned by pear, pineapple, caramel toastiness and a touch of nutmeg, it has firm acidity, mineral backing and a medium finish. A fine achievement. 14.2% ABV.

Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
A lighter touch Cab full of bell pepper at this point of its young life. With medium body, it also brings out flavors of pomegranate, cranberry, charcoal and tobacco. A two-hour decant moves the wine’s brambly elements toward darker fruit and the outstanding potential bottled within. A very good effort that will likely evolve into great. Blended with 9% Merlot and 6% Cabernet Franc. 14.1% ABV.


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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