Good Thoughts & Great Wine from Spring Mountain, Napa Valley
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.
Clive Pursehouse at Decanter took a look at Rieslings around the world.
He tasted our 2018:
Classic Riesling aromatics of petrol, tropical fruit and petrichor. Stu Smith is one of the founding fathers of the variety in California’s Napa Valley, choosing east-facing slopes for his Riesling vines. The wine offers ample ripeness, with tropical fruits, zesty lime, fleshy ripe peach, and some phenolic notes on the palate.
On International Riesling Day, Decanter’s US editor shares some of the best Rieslings from the United States. Riesling’s homeland is, of course, Germany, where it all started. Likely a descendant of wild grape vines growing in the Rheingau region, Riesling was first noted in 1435 and recorded as ‘Riesslingen’ in a record of a sale of grape vines made on 13 March of that year. As a result, the date has been designated as the variety’s unofficial birthday and decreed International Riesling Day.
Riesling’s fortunes rose and fell throughout the centuries. It had its moments; in the 18th century, based on a decree made in the Mosel Valley, all grape vines were removed and replaced with Riesling. In the 19th century, its prominence rose to equal that of Bordeaux and Burgundy.
California Riesling in the Napa Valley and beyond
…… Smith-Madrone is seen as one of the variety’s pioneers in Napa’s Cabernet country. ‘There are very few producers of Riesling today in the Napa AVA because so many producers didn’t, and don’t know, how to make it,’ says Stu Smith of Smith-Madrone. ‘They don’t understand that our steep volcanic soils and warmer climate produce a slightly different grape from northern Europe and that to get the best out of the varietal, it cannot be made as it is made there,’ he adds.
In 1989, the vinNEBRASKA Foundation was founded to make the Omaha community a better place through shared appreciation for fine wines and the great state of Nebraska. Today, what was once a small group with a common goal has blossomed into a grand celebration of premier wines, internationally recognized winemakers, generous philanthropy, and scholarship opportunities. To date, vinNEBRASKA has raised over $7 million for local charities. This year guests’ generosity will support the Stephen Center, a combination shelter, rehabilitation facility, and soup kitchen—one of the most impressive and effective organizations in the Midwest.
Smith-Madrone’s lot will be a set of four etched magnums of Cabernet Sauvignon from 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005 and a dinner at the winery, located at the top of the Spring Mountain District in Napa Valley.
California is becoming a state of extremes. The wildfires, the drought and now the snow and rain….
We believe it was 1973 when the top of Spring Mountain had well over two feet of snow and Spring Mountain Road wasn’t passable until the fourth day. This year, starting on February 24, we received just under a foot of very wet and very heavy snow. Throughout all of Napa County very large limbs and trees came down blocking roads, taking down power lines, leaving motorists stranded and causing all sorts of damage. It was clearly the most damaging snow storm in the last fifty years . Stop by our Instagram to see lots of photos of the 11 inches of the white stuff that blanketed the ranch February 24 – 27 and more!
There was significant damage to our 140-year-old olive trees (heavy snow snapped a lot of branches). The snow then melted gracefully and gave the vines a great drink of water: all good!
Like good Boy Scouts we were prepared and there’s been no run-off nor erosion. It should be a bountiful wildflower crop this year!
We have four new sets of wines to announce for your purchasing pleasure.
It’s time to release the 2018 Riesling. The grapes were harvested September 6-8, 2018 and we made only 1,611 cases. Riesling is a grape we’re fiercely proud of growing and making. Here are the key attributes: steep slopes (up to 34%), at mountain-high elevation of up to 1,800 feet, 100% Riesling, mostly dry-farmed, one of very, very few in Napa Valley. Riesling for us is a labor of love, not a profit center.
The 2018 Riesling opens with abundant floral notes buttressed by underpinnings of lime, lemon and exotic oranges. This delicate, fetching aroma leads one to expect a wine on the lighter, more delicate side and, when tasted, this expectation is confirmed. On the palate the wine is stylish and elegant, demonstrating a brilliant acidity that is at once fine and lively, tasty and fun and not the least off putting. The acid feels just right; it’s very much like biting into a delicious, crunchy Riesling flavored apple. For a wine of this delicate construction, it still manages to retain a solid core of vibrant fruit. It’s svelte and elegant, it’s drinking beautifully now and shows great promise for the future.
The grapes were harvested August 27 – September 5; we only made 806 cases. 100% Chardonnay, 100% barrel fermented, in 100% new French oak. We’re re-releasing it now as part of our tradition of offering occasional (outstanding) library wines.
Over the past few years 2013 has begun to emerge as an outstanding vintage for Smith-Madrone. The Cabernet Sauvignon, the Cook’s Flat Reserve and the Riesling are uniformly stellar and happily the Chardonnay fits right in.
After ten years in the bottle the wine has evolved into a wonderful example of a hillside chardonnay at the top of its game.
Most chardonnay, of course, is drunk within the first year or two of bottling, and with good reason. This wine, however, is different. Rich green-gold in color, it opens with a textbook varietal perfume of nuttiness, ripe apricots, lemon curd and toast. On the palate it is medium weight with a middle that is strikingly lush, round and creamy. There is a distinct succulence pushing up from the center. At the finish the wine flows seamlessly into a zesty acidity that belies the wine’s age and lends it an elegant youthful flair. Over all, it is simply a marvelous glass of an older wine in top form and is a lovely argument for stashing away a bottle or two of your favorite current vintage of Smith-Madrone Chardonnay in order to find out what happens to it a few years down the road.
Last year we offered a six-bottle Riesling vertical, which was very popular. We’re revisiting this idea with a slant to the future: a trio of Rieslings consisting of the 2018 along with two advance peeks—the 2019 and 2021 vintages. We didn’t make a 2020 wine, of course, because of the Glass Fire. We expect to release the 2019 wine in early 2024 and the 2021 in early 2025, so consider yourself a connoisseur of Riesling futures when you acquire this set (i.e. our pricing will probably move upwards!).
We think you’ll enjoy tasting the same varietal, from the same estate, grown and vinified by the same hands, with only the vintage as a differentiating variable.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Cook’s Flat, Riesling: one bottle each
Another new offering is a very unusual horizontal tasting set: four wines from the 2019 vintage. These provide a delicious look into the future since the two whites won’t be released for at least one if not two years from now. Rarely does a winery offer a ‘horizontal’ such as this: four different varietals (and blends), from the same vintage and from the same estate vineyards.
All our wines are made entirely from our mostly dry-farmed estate vineyards surrounding the winery on top of Spring Mountain in the Napa Valley. Our goal is to make artisanal wines which are distinctive and are an expression of both the vintage and us, as vintners, but above all else, are wines which bring pleasure to the senses.
Every year our wine is made from the same vineyards, pruned by the same people in the same way, cultivated in exactly the same manner and harvested at similar levels of maturity, yet Mother Nature stamps each vintage with a unique set of flavors, senses and character. Vintage dating is a celebration of that uniqueness and diversity.
Frederick Koeppel rated the 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon as Exceptional and included it in his 50 Great Wines of 2022.
“…..Here it is, the annual list of 50 Great Wines from 2022….. it’s a highly subjective tally of what I perceive to be the greatest wines that I encountered during that year. By “great,” I mean exciting, provocative, transcendent, the ultimate translation of a grape or grapes into their best and most laudable purpose. These factors rely on my personal taste, experience, judgment and intuition…”