Count down to celebrating the winery’s 50th anniversary….

The winery is counting down to starting its 50th anniversary celebration on May 14. NPR is also turning 50:

Opinion: As NPR Turns 50, Scott Simon’s View From Behind The Microphone


As NPR celebrates 50 years on the air, host Scott Simon reflects on how the network has grown, and his time travelling the world, covering wars, famines, elections and more.

2017 Chardonnay is “impressive”

AttorneySomm tasted the 2017 Chardonnay:

The best view comes after the hardest climb. Or in the case of Napa’s Spring Mountain, after a hard drive up a long and winding mountain road! But once you reach the summit you can enjoy spectacular views and equally impressive wines!

Near the top of Spring Mountain, for example, you will find Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery. Founded 50 years ago, Smith-Madrone has 34 acres of vineyards on its 200-acre ranch. The vineyards are planted on steep slopes at elevations ranging from 1,300-2,000 feet. Smith-Madrone was an early proponent of dry farming. Dry farming causes the grapevines to struggle and search of water and nutrients. The result is lower yields with small grapes that have high skin-to-juice ratios and produce concentrated fruit. This fruit, in turn, leads to wine with greater intensity and concentration than wine made from grapes that are the product of high yields.

I recently tasted the 2017 Chardonnay. Smith-Madrone has 7.5 acres of Chardonnay vines. Because Chardonnay performs best in cooler temperatures, these Chardonnay vines were strategically planted in the coolest vineyard on the estate with north-facing slopes.
The 2017 Chardonnay is impressive! The flavor profile was almost as rich as the golden hue. The intriguing flavor profile included pineapple, peach, Meyer lemon, blood orange peel, honeysuckle, oak and spice mix. There was a rich, creamy mouthful. This wine was full-bodied and opulent, yet well-balanced with ample acidity! This wine paired perfectly with perfect weather and a lazy Saturday on the patio!

Steeeep slopes pay

On April 22 Kathleen Wilcox tasted three current releases:

The 200-acre Smith-Madrone can be found atop Spring Mountain in St. Helena; their dry-farmed estate vineyards range from between 1,300 and 2,000 feet on slopes that range up to 34%. Stu Smith pairs slopes and exposures with specific varietals: eastern steeps for Riesling, southern and western flat stretches for Cabernet Sauvignon, north-facing slopes for Chardonnay. The soils are primarily Aiken Stoney Clay loam, volcanic, well-drained, rocky.

Riesling 2017: Fantastically pure and crisp, grapefruit and stones, texture and spirit, zest. A precise white screamer in the best way. Steeeeeeeeep slopes pay.

Cabernet Sauvignon 2016: The Cab gets a little pop of Merlot and Cabernet Franc, and brings a basket of black and red fruit, mountain brambles, with leather, cedar, smoke, as structured, quiet and powerful as an old church. Dark, mysterious, captivating. Yet another reminder (as if I needed it) that mountains create special flavors.

Chardonnay 2017: Sun-yellow, peaches, apricots, buttered toasted biscuits, caramelized white flowers, earth and pears.

2017 Riesling is Wine of the Week

The Santa Rosa Press Democrat chose the 2017 Riesling as Wine of The Week: read on for Peg Melnik’s review and Michelle Anna Jordan’s companion review and recipe.

Wine of the week: Smith-Madrone 2017 Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley Riesling

April 20, 2021, 2:52PM

This week’s blind tasting: Tasty Whites

4.5 stars. A gorgeous riesling with aromas and flavors of honeysuckle, mineral and grapefruit. It’s intense yet nimble and light on its feet. Finishes crisp. Striking.

“The work for the last year has been harder than ever because of the bumps in the road to a smooth operation,” Smith said. “Almost everything that went easily before the pandemic is now difficult. Getting equipment and supplies, getting things repaired, ordering supplies, glass, label, corks, chainsaws — it’s all more difficult.”

The plainspoken Smith is behind our wine of the week winner — the Smith-Madrone, 2017 Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley Riesling, 12.9%, $34. It’s a gorgeous riesling with aromas and flavors of honeysuckle, mineral and grapefruit. It’s intense yet nimble and light on its feet, and it finishes crisp. It’s striking.

As for the Smith-Madrone riesling, Smith said he prides himself in his hands-off winemaking.

“The amazing thing about riesling is that it’s the only varietal where you get the purest expression of the grape in a great wine,” he said. “If there’s ever such a thing as terroir, this is the wine. And there’s no other varietal that’s at its best with this absolute minimalist intervention. Here, the grapes speak loudest, and it’s truly a case of the winemaker shepherding the wine and its flavor.”

What’s surprising about riesling, Smith said, is that the vast majority of Americans don’t know what a compelling grape it is.

“They don’t understand that there’s such a thing as a dry-style riesling, and I’ll be bold to say our 2017 vintage represents a great wine at a very affordable price,” he said. “Riesling is also one of the most versatile wines. It’s the most versatile varietal when matching food and wine together.

“The other interesting thing about riesling is that it ages every bit as well, if not better than, the best cabernets at half the price.”

Smith, 72, never knew his calling would be to bottle grapes. He grew up in Santa Monica and earned a degree in economics from UC Berkeley in 1970. But he later was fascinated by the art of fermentation and studied viticulture and enology at UC Davis before he founded St. Helena’s Smith-Madrone in 1971.

What gives the Smith-Madrone riesling the edge, Smith said, is that it’s mountain-grown.

“I think what sets our riesling apart from others is our steep mountain vineyard, our volcanic soil and our cool mountain climate on Spring Mountain,” he said. “What also is inextricably there is my brother Charlie (Smith), my son Sam (Smith) and my commitment to the varietal. We love this varietal. We think it’s one of the greatest varietals in the world, and as such we treat it with the respect that we think it is due. And that respect comes out in the quality of our wine.”


Vietnamese Noodle Salad pairs perfectly with Smith-Madrone’s dry riesling

Smith-Madrone, 2017 Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley Riesling, our Wine of the Week, is absolutely gorgeous. Aromas are delicate and evocative of spring flowers, including rose and jasmine.

On the palate, the wine is bright, refreshing, delicate and engaging, with flavors of honeysuckle, white grapefruit, Meyer lemon, lime, peach, cantaloupe, white pineapple, sweet orange zest and hints of minerality suggestive of celery. It is a beautiful expression of this varietal and how it blossoms into its full self in rocky mountain vineyards.

This dry riesling has broad appeal at the table. It is excellent with mild curries and an excellent pairing with Asian-style chicken salad. You’ll enjoy it with Caesar salad or Caesar salad pasta with sautéed chicken thighs. It is a great match with carrots, too, as in carrot fritters, carrot risotto and carrot salads. Petrale sole with sautéed celery and pan-roasted grapes makes a stellar match, as does teriyaki chicken.

The wine also engages well with cabbage, which suggests you can enjoy it with Hawaiian kalua pig served over a bed of sautéed cabbage. Alsatian cabbage dishes make great matches, too.

For today’s recipe, I’m revisiting a favorite dish, a Vietnamese noodle salad. I’ve adjusted the dressing a bit so it engages perfectly with the wine. If your serrano is extremely hot, you’ll want to remove the seeds and the inner fibers before mincing it, as too much spicy heat can turn the wine bitter, though a bit of heat enhances it.

Bün (Vietnamese Noodle Salad)

Makes 4 servings

For dressing:

2 large garlic cloves, crushed and minced

1 small serrano, stemmed and minced

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

2 tablespoons sugar, plus more to taste

3 tablespoons fish sauce, plus more to taste

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice, plus more to taste

For salad:

8 ounces thin rice noodles (rice vermicelli)

Hot water

3 cups Savoy cabbage, cut into very thin, crosswise ribbons

1 cup pea shoots

6 scallions, trimmed and cut into very thin diagonal slices

½ cup julienned cucumber

½ cup peeled and julienned carrots

½ cup fresh cilantro leaves

¼ cup very small fresh spearmint leaves

¼ cup very small Thai basil leaves, optional (use only when in season)

Protein of choice (see note below)

½ cup crushed dry-roasted peanuts

Cilantro sprigs, for garnish

Put the garlic, serrano, ginger, sugar, fish sauce, lime juice and a tablespoon of water into a bowl and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Taste and correct for acid and sugar balance. Cover and set aside for at least an hour and as long as several hours.

Put the noodles into a large bowl, cover with hot water and set aside while you prepare the vegetables.

When the noodles are tender, in about 15 minutes, drain them thoroughly and set aside.

Put the cabbage, pea shoots, scallions, cucumber, carrots, cilantro, spearmint and basil, if using, into a large bowl and toss gently. Divide among four large soup bowls.

Divide the noodles among the servings, mounding them on top of the vegetables. Top with your protein of choice and garnish with the peanuts and cilantro springs.

Drizzle dressing over each portion and enjoy right away.

Tune in to Winephabet Street

And here is the link for this program:


As the hosts explain:

Winephabet Street is a monthly webinar series where Debbie Gioquindo, Hudson Valley Wine Goddess,and Lori Budd, Exploring the Wine Glass, go through the Winephabet one letter at a time. With each letter, we learn about the history of the grape or wine region, characteristics, and we talk about food pairings and more. This month it’s all about Riesling with special guest Stu Smith from Smith-Madrone Vineyard and Winery. Stu is amazing, knowledgeable and so are his wines! We will be tasting his 2016 Riesling. Join us Monday, April 19, 2021 at 8pm ET / 5pm PT. The webinar is free, but you must register:

PullThatCork tastes the 2017 Riesling

Smith-Madrone Riesling: A Brilliant Reflection of Its Mountain Origin

By Nancy Brazil, April 16, 2021

Today we are sipping Riesling from Napa Valley’s Spring Mountain District. I know Riesling isn’t the first variety you associate with Napa Valley, but the last thing Stu and Charles Smith seek to do is conform to the expected; if they did, Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery would be located on Napa’s valley floor. Once you taste Smith-Madrone’s Riesling, you too will be glad they are non-conformists. We received this wine as a tasting sample.

Stu Smith found the property at the top of Spring Mountain in 1970. He really never considered other than a mountain location for Smith-Madrone. The site had been a vineyard many years prior, but was abandoned and reclaimed by the forest. Stu’s brother, Charles, joined him in 1973 and the following year they built the winery themselves. They have always done it all themselves and are now joined by Stu’s son, Sam. They have always used only estate grapes, known exactly the kind of balanced wines they want to make and how to go about making them. 

Their thirty-four acre vineyard sits at 1,900 feet above sea level on slopes as steep as 34%. It is planted to Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and a little Cabernet Franc. Young plantings are watered by drip irrigation only until they are established, then they are dry farmed. As a result, the vines send their roots deep into the mostly deep-red, volcanic soils. Because Riesling loves the mountainside, steep eastern-facing slopes are reserved for Riesling. 

2017 Smith-Madrone Riesling, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley—light golden color in the glass with aromas of petrol and stone fruit. Flavors follow with white peach and pear, stony minerality with a bit of roundness in the mouth. The fruit flavors might lead you to think the wine is off-dry but the finish tastes dry with generous and juicy acidity. 1449 case made. 12.9% abv. SRP $34

This Riesling has just been released. Obviously, the Smiths don’t rush their winemaking. The flavors are lively, with a bit of roundness in the mouth and notable acidity. It is a pleasure to sip on its own and it loves food. The first evening we enjoyed this wine with Thai Peanut Chicken Salad in Butter Lettuce. The richness of chicken from coconut milk and peanut butter was perfectly balanced by the acidity and flavors of the Riesling. 

On the second evening we sipped this charming Riesling with guacamole and chips. Should you have the restraint to make this Riesling last, it will be delicious for several days corked and stored in the refrigerator. 

Smith-Madrone Riesling is made to age. We recently opened a bottle of 2013 Smith Madrone Riesling and were treated to a wine that had darkened in color and become more concentrated in flavor, but still maintained its brilliant acidity. It was a pleasure to sip and still very youthful.

The 2017 Smith-Madrone Riesling is available on the winery website in 750ml and 1.5L bottles. If you are curious about what Smith-Madrone Riesling tastes like as it ages, look for the 6-bottle vertical of Riesling on the website. The collection includes 2014 through 2019 vintages.


2017 Riesling: “perfectly balanced” and more

Our thanks to cmkwine for tasting the 2017 Riesling on April 13, 2021:

…..The Smith brothers have been producing pure terroir driven wines for decades on their estate. This wine opened up beautifully with a whiff of petrol, jasmine and citrus blossoms. Crisp and clean wine. A great textured wine with flavors of honeysuckle, warm summer peach, apricot, orange zest, limestone, and jasmine. Perfectly balanced, with a silky texture, zesty minerality, and a long finish. This wine is delicious out the gates but will evolve for a decade or more.


“Wowza” and more

Eve Bushman tastes the current releases.

Smith-Madrone: Chard, Cab and Riesling Oh My!

APRIL 16, 2021 

When was the last time you tried a new wine from Napa…but wait…let me re-phrase that: When was the last time you had a wine from Napa that you never had before, that has been around since the 1970s, and that you found to be damn good? Well I was what they say “today years old” when I had chance to review three new-to-me wines from Smith-Madrone. Below are my tasting notes, information about the winery and some links for more details.

Smith-Madrone 2017 Riesling, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District, Estate Bottled

This wine has the exact shaped bottle a Riesling from Germany has, long with a slender neck, meant to mimic a perfume bottle. Aromas of white flower, lemon-lime, white peach and cool, wet pebbles. The taste was not sweet, so if you are expecting an overly sweet Riesling, this isn’t it, or in other words, this is not your Mother’s Riesling. It’s all grown up and it leaves the sugar behind. Bone dry, lemonade, limeade, and fresh fruit including pineapple and melon. We had this with a Caesar Salad topped with warm grilled chicken. Perfect.

Smith-Madrone 2017 Chardonnay, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District, Estate Bottled

Sweet cream, vanilla bean, crème brûlée, unsweetened butter – just a lot of vanilla/dairy notes on the nose that I found really interesting. From there I also got toasted oak, caramel candy, fresh sliced apple and pears in light syrup. Wasn’t sure what to expect from the taste but in I went…and found a full and round mouthfeel, mild acidity – not as much creaminess as I expected from the nose but wholly pleasant – some earth, the pears and apple again as well as a hint of buttery corn on the cob. And hour later my husband and I were just finishing the bottle, and even with less chill on the wine, it was still being discussed. Wowza, I want this one again. I had this with a Falafel burger with lettuce, pickles and tomatoes. Again, it was perfect.

Smith-Madrone 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District, Estate Bottled

Blackberry, blueberry, ash, cigar, incense, stewed mushrooms, char, earth and dark chocolate – all aromas I found on the nose. The flavors reminded me of the darkest of fruit, bursting with spices and layered with rich tannins and pepper. The finish was extremely long. I might like to lay this one down a few years and see how it develops. Was fine right now with Short Rib Ravioli.