To our friends,
It was Yogi Berra who said “it’s déjà vu all over again” and that’s how October felt for those of us in the San Francisco North Bay. Memories of the October 2017 fires flooded back into all of us, only this time most of us had our power pre-emptively shut off on three separate occasions. It was both disturbing and disorienting.
While Napa was spared this time around, our friends in Sonoma were not. It was not nearly as bad as in 2017, but that doesn’t matter to those who lost their homes, wineries or out buildings. We defiantly reject that this will become the new normal. Our state government and utilities will get a handle on this and the moniker “wine country” will not lose out to “fire country.”
People often refer to us as ‘authentic’ and ‘artisanal.’ These are wonderful terms which are easy to say, yet hard to define and validate. Let me give you the background or the rationale for why those terms apply to us.
There are many difficult binary choices made in a lifetime and in 1970 I faced just such a choice with creating a vineyard and winery on the floor of the Napa Valley or on the mountains above. For me, it was one of the easiest choices of my life, because at the heart of this endeavor, this quest if you will, was the desire to go to the mountains to make great wine. I believe then as I believe today, that as Virgil said in 43 BC, “Bacchus amat colles,” Bacchus loves the hills. I made a life-long commitment to the goal of making great wine at a time when that was unusual. Many people came to the mountains later…but I went to the mountains in 1970 expressly and purposely to grow the very best grapes possible, to make the very best wine possible. That quest became Smith-Madrone.
We wanted to model the classic European concept of an estate-chateau by making wine only from grapes that we grew ourselves. Absolute control over the grape supply was essential for wine quality. What was the point of being on the mountain if you purchased grapes from others, and what was the limiting factor to size? From a purely business point of view, there were no limits, except in hiring capable people and constantly growing production and sales. That was the side of the wine business that just didn’t speak to us.
We also looked to Europe for the defining elements of great wine, such as balance, complexity, elegance, finesse, restraint and the concept that wine should give pleasure, it should be hedonistic. In the new world, we’ve used the concept of a sense of place as an analogy for terroir, yet I believe that wine should be a reflection of those who grow and make it along with the vineyard site itself and that those three elements should create what I call an “ephemeral sense of art,” a sense of uniqueness.
When we began, the word ‘artisanal’ hadn’t been invented yet (so to speak). And yet today it does define us in that my brother Charlie, my son Sam and I do the work. We also don’t hire consultants and we don’t make wine for scores. We believe we understand and know what is great wine and we make wine for our own palates, with the courage of our convictions that others will agree with us that allows us to stay in business.
Have we been successful in our quest of making that great bottle of wine? I think the truthful answer is, yes, sometimes we are successful. Yet ultimately it is you, the consumer of our wines, who makes that ultimate judgement.
Thank you for supporting us with your purchases. Here are some new additions and also what is currently available.
In case you missed our open house, please keep your eyes peeled for when we announce our next one next year: a good time was had by all, and that included opening some large format Cabernets from the library.
Let’s move on to the release of our 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2016 in magnums, in time for Thanksgiving and the season of feasting. .
2015 CABERNET SAUVIGNON
The 2015 crop was smaller than 2014. The 2015 Cabernet has great style and wonderful drinkability. Aromatically and on the palate it delivers remarkable complexity; you’ll smell and taste black currants, red plums, lavender, spices, violets, green olives and more. There is a silky texture that leads to a bright finish; overall, the impression is one of effortless elegance, sleek, svelte and delicious—not to minimize the wine’s mountain heritage, which will bode well for cellaring. The blend is 84% Cabernet Sauvignon and 16% Cabernet Franc. The wine spent 18 months in 65% new French oak and 35% one-year-old French oak. $52
Only once before in our history (for our tenth anniversary) have we released magnums of Riesling. For the 2016 vintage, we made a limited number of Riesling in magnum (include a hand-waxed capsule). You already know that this is 100% Riesling from the vineyards surrounding the winery. This vintage has strong floral notes with an admixture of lime, stone fruits and minerality. It has a succulent mid-palate and is Alsatian in style with a delicate forcefulness that finishes with a bright and lively acidity. Please order soon; we know these will fly out of the winery quickly. $75 (1.5L)
2016 CHARDONNAY, $40
2016 RIESLING (750 ml) , $34
2013 COOK’S FLAT RESERVE, $225
Other news: on August 1 our 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon received an enormous accolade by Esther Mobley in The San Francisco Chronicle: you can read the entire piece here: https://smithmadrone.com/news/download-2004cab.html. Our wine was part of a group of thirty-three 2004 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons tasted blind. As Esther said: “….What makes the Smith-Madrone so compelling is that it’s a product not of fashion but of principle. It abides by fundamental standards of wine quality — balance, simplicity — that have never gone out of style, and never will….But sometimes, when something stays the course, ignores the fads, keeps it simple, we get a taste of timelessness….”
Another update: we have just transitioned to a new shipping system, so you will see a different format when you order. If you have any questions, please call or email us. This new approach initially may mean that shipments take a bit longer to fulfill, so we ask your patience. We have adopted this new system because of the recent Supreme Court ruling because of the recent Supreme Court ruling allowing states to collect taxes on e-commerce.
As always, we thank you for your business and look forward to welcoming you at the winery hopefully soon.
Stu, Charlie & Sam