Do you have time for a blind tasting?

Happy spring time!

Kelli White with Dave Gibbs in the Augustine Wine Bar

Come behind the curtain with us. As winemakers, we’re constantly tasting—our wines, other wines, barrel samples …leading up to making blends, calculating percentages, imagining how age will impact a wine’s character. We often blind-taste other wines. We call it a “misto” wine: our slang for an unknown wine that the other two taste without knowing what it is. Sometimes we even use opaque black wine glasses so we can’t know the wine color.

What’s the varietal, is it new world or old, what AVA, how old, how good is it and do we like it? We enjoy doing this because it keeps our palates tuned up. If we only taste our own wines then there’s the danger of getting a “house palate.” Only by challenging our senses with the unknown can we stay grounded and maintain our humility.

With that said, we wanted to share a glimpse of the wine world which we think is just wonderfully entertaining. This is how wine professionals taste behind closed doors. Here is a link to a clip from Somm TV’s Blind Tastings series. It features two highly regarded professionals, author/expert Kelli White and Dave Gibbs from Augustine Wine Bar (Sherman Oaks, CA).

You might guess the outcome but if you have four minutes…..take a look! This put a smile on our faces and we hope it will bring a smile to your face too.

If you’ve enjoyed this, please consider subscribing to Somm TV. We were given a discount code to share with you: it’s a 60% discount for six months of SOMM TV. The code is SMITHMADRONE and here’s the link where you can input that code.

SOMM TV is a food and wine streaming network launched in 2019, maybe best known for its SOMM Series, which follows the world of the Master Sommelier exam.

While you have wine on your mind, we welcome you to shop! The $1. shipping offer continues.


Stu, Charlie, Sam

Make the Case for Spring

Dear Friends,
Spring is almost here and we’re getting a jump on it with the release of the perfect springtime wine: our 2017 Riesling.

When we began planting vineyards almost 50 years ago, we knew that one varietal would be Riesling. We thought then, as we think now, that Riesling is one of the great wine varietals of the world. Our volcanic soil, our fog shrouded micro-climate at 1,800 feet elevation, along with our steep mountain slopes and our absolute commitment to this varietal are what allow us to produce wonderful wines consistently year after year. And might I also say that to occasionally use the word “great” wouldn’t be misplaced.

We believe that Riesling is unique because the finished wine is the purest expression of the grape itself in all of “grapedom.” Consider that with Chardonnay we ferment and age in French oak barrels, we then stir the lees (sediment) for several months and the wine goes through a secondary malolactic fermentation. With red wines, we may blend in small amounts of other varietals, also age in French oak barrels and have the wine undergo a malolactic fermentation, all to make the wine more complex and enjoyable.

But not so with Riesling. The harvested grapes go directly through the stemmer/crusher, are then settled, fermented in stainless steel tanks and bottled out of those stainless tanks. It’s 100% Riesling, there’s no oak aging, no malolactic fermentation or lees stirring. It’s a straight line, direct from the vine to the crusher, to the fermentation tank to the bottling line to a spectacularly beautiful, and may I say, great wine.

Up to the 1983 vintage we labeled our Riesling as “Johannisberg Riesling.” With that vintage we petitioned the BATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Alcohol) to change the label and allow us to use just the word “Riesling.” This is the name known and accepted throughout the world, but not in the U.S. They said no, that if we didn’t want to use “Johannisberg Riesling” we could use the other permitted name of “White Riesling.” We let them know that both names were wrong and should be unacceptable for use. Johannisberg is a several hundred-year-old winery in Germany and that is their name and should be unacceptable for our use. White Riesling is also unacceptable because there are no “Red Riesling” grapes in the world and thus it is redundant and more importantly, it is not the accepted name of the varietal around the world. After a six-month battle, we won. They approved our label to use just the word “Riesling” and we were the only winery in America for the next 15 years that labeled the varietal by its true name. Some years later the BATF did a 180 degree turn and outlawed the term “Johannisberg Riesling” but they still allow the incorrect term “White Riesling,” which in our opinion is still wrong.

The accolades for our Riesling seem to flow continuously, like a mighty river. We proudly display them on our website. In particular, we are very proud of our Riesling being named the best Riesling in North America by Riesling expert and wine writer Stuart Pigott in his 2014 book Best White Wine on Earth: The Riesling Story.

2017 Riesling

We harvested these grapes September 1-3; we made only 1,449 cases.
Buy: $34.00
We also continue to have 2016 Riesling in handsome 1.5L bottles available.
Buy: $ 75.00

A deep dive into Riesling:

A Six Bottle Vertical Collection: 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019. All in 750 ml bottles.
Buy: $250.00

2017 Chardonnay

Buy: $40.00

2016 Cabernet Sauvignon

Buy: $58.00
2016 Cabernet Sauvignon in a 1.5L magnum bottle.
Buy: $150.00

2016 Cook’s Flat Reserve

Buy: $225.00
Offered in a 1.5L magnum bottle.
Buy: $500.00

Terrific Threesome

Spring Whites Case

Our three most popular wines:2017 Riesling, 2017 Chardonnay and 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, all in 750 ml bottles.
Buy: $132.00

Our “Spring Whites” package, 6 bottles each 2017 Riesling and 2017 Chardonnay. All in 750 ml.
Buy: $444.00

With Covid still bedeviling us, we are continuing to offer $1 shipping for all orders, as our gesture of thanks for your business.
Stu, Charlie, and Sam

News & Holiday Offers

Holiday greetings!

Photo Glass Fire
Glass Fire 2020

Yes, this release letter is very overdue. The Glass Fire got in the way….we have many stories to tell but most importantly Smith-Madrone stands. Our forest perimeter burned and caused enormous damage to infrastructure such as 2,500 feet of pipe (which brings water from our springs up to the winery), 10 gates, more than 100 fence posts, etc. Stu and the vineyard crew will be busy for months getting everything back together; one example is that there are 15,000 feet of fence to repair. That fence took years to build and get right; now that work must be done as quickly as possible. Our power is only recently back, and it looks like we won’t have land-line phone service until next year (the winery phone now rings at my home!). The vineyards, the barn, the winery building—all survived.

But. We are here and very grateful and feel so fortunate, since so many friends and neighbors did not fare as well.

In brief, we slept at the winery for seven nights, watching, waiting. I was quoted in The New York Times and The San Francisco ChronicleWine-Searcher let me tell my story day by day.
I also shared a lot of what I was seeing on the winery’s Instagram.

And during these times we heard from many of our customers, sending their good ‘karma’ and best wishes. We are so grateful for that: thank you so very much. From far flung places we got such encouraging messages: it means a lot.

On to wine news!

During these difficult times we must all try and do something to help one another. While it’s not a heroic act we are continuing our $1 shipping for all orders, as a small gesture of support for you, our customers.


For California shipments ONLY, for holiday wine to arrive by December 24, please order by December 17.


Unfortunately, given uncertainties with shipping and weather, it is unlikely orders to all other U.S. destinations will arrive before Dec. 25th.

Riesling Vertical Photo

A drumroll please…. We’ve spent some time in the cellar and have assembled an unusual vertical of Riesling.
Six Bottle Vertical Collection of Smith-Madrone Riesling: 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019:The 2014 and 2015 vintages are only available in very small quantities in the winery library.The 2017, 2018 and 2019 offer a peek into the future: these wines are not released yet.The 2016 is our current release.
Buy: $250.00

As you know, Riesling is our signature. Read about this in more detail here.

2016 Riesling

Riesling Photo

Please also consider adding our current vintage of Riesling, the 2016, to your holiday wine table.
Buy: $34.00

This wine is also available in a 1.5L magnum. We make magnums of Riesling only very infrequently.
Buy: $75.00

2016 Cabernet Sauvignon

We have released the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s a blend of 89.7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3.4% Merlot, 6.4% Cabernet Franc and spent 19 months in 45% new French oak and 55% used oak.We made only 1,375 cases.
Buy: $58.00

This wine is also available in 1.5L magnums.
Buy: $150.00

2017 Chardonnay

Bottle Photo

We have released the 2017 Chardonnay. The wine was barrel fermented for 10 months in 85% new French oak. We made only 991 cases.

Buy: $40.00

2016 Cook’s Flat Reserve

Bottle Photo

We have released the 2016 Cook’s Flat Reserve. It’s a blend of 54% Cabernet Sauvignon and 46% Cabernet Franc and spent 10 months in 100% new French oak barrels. This is the wine we lovingly make to compete with the first growths.We made only 111 cases.
Buy: $225.00 (proprietary tissue-wrapped)

This wine is also available in 1.5L magnums.
Buy: $500.00

For one last ‘taste’ of Smith-Madrone before you sign off, fly over the property here with us.

Once again, happy holidays.


Stu, Charles and Sam

Stu’s Homecoming Wine Tasting

Join the fun! The popular UC Berkeley Homecoming tasting event can now be viewed on demand.

On the weekend of October 16 – 18, UC Berkeley welcomed more than 6,000 people to its Reunion & Parents Weekend at Homecoming.

Chancellor Carol Christ described it as a “an amazing weekend filled with wit and wonder, spirit and connection, and grit and gravitas.”

As a proud alumnus (Class of 1970), Stu was invited to conduct a virtual tasting of three Smith-Madrone wines (2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2017 Chardonnay, 2016 Riesling).

Several hundred people tuned in live and that experience is now on Cal’s “playlist” on YouTube where you can enjoy it at your convenience.

Here are the wines to purchase so you can taste along with Stu:

Here’s the YouTube link:

Fire Update October 2 a.m.

We thank you so much for all of the messages of support. The winery is fine and we are assessing other impacts of the fire. We will be following up with a detailed update.

While conditions are not ‘normal,’ — no phone or power– we are able to maintain business operations and fulfill orders. Please understand we may have slower response times.

You may direct any questions to or (which we can access remotely).

Again, thank you for your messages and we send our sympathies to all of our neighbors and friends fighting the fires.