We were delighted to welcome Nancy Sabatini from Chicago recently. She returned home and here is an article she wrote for the April issue of Western Springs Neighbors. Please stop by and see here at Mainstreet Wine & Spirits!
Budbreak in Napa
Spring is a time of awakening. On a recent trip to Napa Valley the vineyards were busting with buds. During the winter, a grapevine’s buds are isolated from the vine’s vascular system to protect them from the cold. As the temperatures rise in the spring and the buds are rehydrated, they begin to swell and break through the outer layer of the cane, i.e. bud break.
The weather plays a huge role in the health of grapevines and the crop they will yield. While no one can predict what Mother Nature will do, grape-growers have some control over how the vines will produce through pruning. The buds that will swell, break free and turn into shoots are left carefully in place by pruners; two buds on each spur. These buds will provide all of the new year’s growth, and eventually its bounty.
I had the opportunity to get into the vineyards to prune on Spring Mountain with Stu Smith of Smith-Madrone Winery, known for age-worthy, balanced wines that also tend to be released at relatively reasonable price.
Smith-Madrone is one of Napa Valley’s pioneer estates. It was founded in 1971 by two brothers, Stuart and Charles Smith, Stu, who sports a greying beard and impressive bushy moustache. As the morning light streams into the ivy-covered barn winery and the sunlight dappled the landscape, the cool morning air was a delight high on Spring Mountain.
The Smiths are proudly old school in their winemaking philosophy, the age-worthy, balanced wines they make and the informal way they welcome visitors adds to the genuine love they have for the land. The winery is the tasting room and visits are by appointment only. My guides for the day were Stu and his lovely wife Julie Ann. We tasted at a small picnic table outside the winery, discussed wine trends, wine buying habits and I expressed my love for Riesling. We opened the 2017 Riesling to pair with lunch, an Ahi Tuna Poke bowl. This is a zippy, dry, elegant, and refreshing wine – even at five years of age – a straightforward and true approach to the variety while being both sophisticated and very approachable. This Riesling may possibly be my favorite wine from Smith-Madrone, a wine that is rare and very special from the mountains of Napa Valley, with only 8 acres planted in this special pocket of Napa Valley.
Then onto the meat of the mountain fruit-cabernet sauvignon. Another example of silky, sexy fruit in the glass. There is a freshness to this wine that is appealing and instantly draws you in. This is a prime example of what a mountain cab should be with its terroir-driven style that screams Smith-Madrone. The wine is aromatic, structured and complex, with notes of black currant, dried cherries, cocoa, and spice. The palate is balanced and complex with layers of dark fruit and spice.
What makes Smith-Madrone so compelling is its authenticity in a glitzy place devoted to image maintenance. After nearly 50 years, this is still a small estate winery whose reds and whites reflect the beliefs of two men who don’t tone down their opinions, whether controversial or not.