Our thanks to FoodandWineChickie for reviewing the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon: Nearly black and opaque in the glass, this California Cabernet Sauvignon features incredible aromas of ripe cherries with chocolaty, earthy and oaky undertones. In the mouth, it’s a big and bold wine with dark berry and licorice flavors balanced by just the right level of tannins. As far as idyllic California Cabernet Sauvignon goes…a super example.
The wine critic and wine competition mastermind Robert Whitley tweeted about the wine with his dinner last night:
2006 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon,
Napa Valley, is beginning to sing.
Outstanding with dinner last night.
Our thanks to Robert Whitley for recommending the ’06 Cabernet to Santa!
Wine Review Online’s blog, December 19, 2012 by Robert Whitley
I am frequently asked for specific wine recommendations to fit specific occasions…‘Tis the season, however, and no question shall go unanswered despite the degree of difficulty…. First and foremost, I want to give a gift of extremely high quality without spending so much money it makes the person receiving the gift uncomfortable because they might not have spent an equivalent amount on your gift…I have crafted a wish list that runs the gamut of prices from $14 to $95, with most of my suggestions falling somewhere in the middle…if you must have a Cabernet Sauvignon from a top-notch property, the best option for something special is the 2006 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon that’s made from estate grapes farmed on the side of Spring Mountain, overlooking St. Helena. Proprietors Stu and Charlie Smith stubbornly refuse to raise their prices to compete in the status arena with their trendy neighbors. Gotta love how those Smith brothers think. But other Napa Cabs of comparable quality are going to cost a good deal more.
If you’re in Denver this week, please stop by The Wine Cellar to enjoy the 2006 Cab in a flight of Napa reds, with our thanks to Barney Treadway & his team: “…The Romans knew about the benefits of planting on hillsides and the Smiths agree with these vines growing on slopes up to 35% at almost 2000 ft elevation. Somewhat subtler than the others in the flight, this 85% Cab, 6% Merlot and 9% Cab Franc blend is elegant with warm flavors of dark cherry, cassis and cedar…”
Blogger Cortney Roudebush drove up to see us: here is her account:
Spring Mountain is one of my preferred sub-appellations of the Napa Valley (along with Howell Mountain and Stag’s Leap District) and there are many wineries worth visiting up there. If you only have time to visit two, I highly recommend Terra Valentine (a long-time love of mine) and Smith-Madrone (a new favorite), which provide two totally different experiences.
I recently had the opportunity to spend an afternoon with Smith-Madrone founders and brothers, Stu and Charlie Smith.
The tour starts in the vineyard with Stu. Perched 1900 feet above the valley, the sweeping views from Smith-Madrone are amazing. The rows of Riesling, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignon zigzag over the landscape. As Stu explains, they have been laid out to maximize sun exposure for early ripening. He discusses the challenges that come along with growing grapes on a steep hillside and the difficulties they had clearing the space almost 40 years ago. They now have a total of 38 acres planted to vines; the rest of their property is still covered in forest, densely populated with Douglas Fir, Manzanita, and oak trees.
Stu points out the large single madrone tree in the middle of the young Riesling vineyard and explains that this tree was the inspiration behind the name of the winery. He and Charlie wanted to put their name on the label, but they also wanted something more original than “Smith Winery” and “Smith Brothers” was already synonymous with cough drops. So they settled on Smith-Madrone (admittedly, it has a better ring to it than Smith-Douglas Fir or Smith-Manzanita).
From the top of Spring Mountain, the valley below looks so peaceful and quiet below, which is not really the case at least this time of year. Most wineries are currently in the throes of harvest right now, with traffic congesting sections of Highway 29, but the Smith brothers are calm and relaxed—they have already picked the last of their estate-grown grapes and they don’t source additional fruit from any other vineyards.
Stu leads us back down to the winery and inside the barrel room, where we are handed wine glasses and introduced to his older brother Charlie. An old oak barrel turned upright serves as a table as we taste through the estate-bottled current releases.
The 2006 ($45/bottle) Cabernet Sauvignon is a dark, brooding beauty. Blended with 9% Merlot and 6% Cab Franc, it is still very youthful with tight tannins and the promise of more to come. Smelling this wine is like sticking your nose into a bag of dark chocolate-covered cherries! Yum. On the palate, flavors of bright red currant, cherry cola, and black plum are complemented by savory notes of tar and exotic spice. The finish is ripe and brimming with impressions of blueberry and juicy black fruit.The 2009 Chardonnay ($30/bottle) is a refreshing delight (it was about 95 degrees the day of our visit). It is crisp and clean despite going through 100% malolactic fermentation. No buttery or popcorn flavors in this glass! A pale straw hue, this wine has mouthwatering acidity with zesty citrus and tropical fruit aromas. The entry is alive with flavors of Meyer lemon, pear, and minerals while the mid-palate offers richer notes of crème brûlée, sweet cream, and stone fruit. This Chardonnay, although particularly light in body, would pair nicely with many types of foods.
With lower alcohol, the Smiths design their wines for longevity. The 2006 Cab has only 13.9% abv, which is relatively low compared to most Napa Cabs. That being said, I found the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon (to be released soon!) very approachable. With blue and black fruit aromas and a velvety mouthfeel, I would probably drink the 2007 sooner than I would the 2006. I was surprised to hear that Charlie had recently tasted their 1984 Cab and it was holding up very well.
There wasn’t an extra bottle of that vintage around for us to sample, but we did try one more wine. The 2011 Riesling ($27/bottle) at 12.6% abv, is a terrific wine to enjoy at lunchtime or as an aperitif. The perfume is effusive and reminds me of Juicy Fruit gum with kumquat, mandarin and grapefruit. Light and delicately flavored, this wine would be the perfect pairing for Asian cuisine, salads, and on its own!
For what started as a hobby, the Los Angeles-born Smith brothers have achieved great success in crafting unique small-production wines from their Spring Mountain estate vineyards. You won’t find an art-filled tasting room or chef-endorsed food pairings at Smith-Madrone; the experience is rustic and replete with old-Napa charm—and that’s what makes it so wonderful. Like most of the wineries on Spring Mountain, make an appointment first. And enjoy the drive!
Gold medals were awarded to the 2009 Chardonnay, 2010 Riesling and 2009 Chardonnay at the San Francisco International Wine Competition!
As for the Cabernet, the 2006 is both elegant and powerful. A wine with focused and pure mountain fruit, the dry-farmed Cabernet has a structure that is firm but giving as the tannins and fruit open up after a little while in the glass. Like the Chardonnay, the Cabernet has very bright acidity that keeps the wine fresh. Though delicious in its youth, I can see the Cabernet lasting quite awhile in the cellar which will reward those with patience as the secondary characteristics of cocoa, black pepper and spice are buried in the wine now, but will come to the fore over time.
“Certainly one of the better Napa Cabernets under $50. The wine opens with a rich textured nose of cherry and ripe plum with notes of cedar and leather. A round mouth-feel offering flavors of cherry, dark fruit, cocoa and plenty of dark spice. Nice Cabernet complexity enhanced by balanced acidity and supple tannins.” http://wine-blog.bacchusandbeery.com/wine-blog/winereview/cabernet-sauvignon-wine-reviews/smith-madrone-cabernet-sauvignon-2006/
Richard Jennings spent two days tasting at the Family Winemakers event at Fort Mason this past week and stopped by to taste the wines Stu was pouring:
2011 Riesling – Light yellow color; ripe lime, green melon nose; ripe lime, green melon palate; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)
2009 Chardonnay – Light yellow color; hazelnut, tart pear nose; hazelnut, tart pear, apple palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
2006 Cabernet Sauvignon – Very dark red violet color; menthol, tart currant, bay leaf nose; menthol, tart currant palate; medium-plus finish (w/ 9% Cabernet Franc, 6% Merlot) (91 pts.)
Read all of his tasting notes and the trends he observed in general: http://www.rjonwine.com/cabernet-sauvignon/california-wines-family-winemakers-tasting/
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry, woodsmoke, and tobacco. In the mouth, bright acidity brings flavors of black cherry, cassis, and cocoa powder to life on the palate, even as a fleece blanket of tannins drapes over the tongue. Needs some time, but will likely emerge an elegant, restrained wine.