Purely Domestic Wine Report tastes 2009 Cabernet, 2011 Chardonnay, 2012 Riesling

The December issue of Purely Domestic Wine Report tastes and reports:

2009 Cabernet

Blue fruits, berry and plum with over-arching mint. The palate is firm yet full of sweet supple blue fruit and essences of mint, medium weight with graphite and forest floor in the core with bright acidity on the finish. Drink 2014 -2022.

2011 Chardonnay

A dry Chablis-like nose of gravel, grains, lemon and licorice. The palate is clean, lean and crisp with stone fruit pit and a very dry mid-palate and toasted lemon on the finish. Drink 2014 – 2020.

2012 Riesling

Bright fresh aromas of Granny Smith apples, conifer, lemon zest, mineral and blossom. The palate is bright and bracing acidity, citrus, petrol and graphite. Solid wine, tasted at room temperature. Drink 2014 – 2016.

“One of the best under $50 Cabs” according to Bacchus and Beery

94 points: Blended of Cabernet Sauvignon 84%, Merlot 8% & Cabernet franc 8%, this is one of the best under $50 Napa Cabernets I’ve found. With only 13.9% alcohol, it proves that lower alcohol Cabernets can be rich and complex. From 37 year old dry-farmed vines planted at 1800 feet elevation on Spring Mountain. When first poured, this wine offers a leaner style with juicy acidity. However, after 30 minutes in the decanter or glass the full bounty of fruit and expression steps forward. Aromas of dark cherry with notes of leather and earthiness. Enough acidity to be a good food pairing Cabernet… But I preferred to enjoy it solo. Once fully open, rich flavors of dark cherry, blueberry, blackberry, black pepper spice, supple tannins and notes of toasty oak abound. Dark chocolate highlights the long finish.




2009 Cabernet has ‘beautiful bright acidity’ according to Vinography

Vinography reviews the 2009 Cabernet:

Medium to dark ruby in the glass, this wine smells of cherry, tobacco, and wet earth. In the mouth, powdery tannins wrap around wet earth, black cherry, and a nice green herbal note. Beautiful bright acidity keeps this wine lean, as does the deep wet earth minerality that underlies the whole package.



2009 Cabernet Sauvignon in the top 3 in CA Grapevine round-up

California Grapevine, Vol. 40, January 2014

Highly recommended: medium ruby; attractive, spicy, dark cherry and blackberry fruit aroma with hints of green olive, tobacco leaf, and cola; medium-full to full body; rich, fleshy, blackberry fruit flavors with notes of sandalwood and vanilla; medium-full to full tannin; lingering aftertaste. Well balanced and appealing to taste now. Third place in flight of nine Cabernet Sauvignons.

Stu and Charlie as “winesmiths” and more

“It’s in the Name,” Robert Neralich says, as he reviews the new releases on his blog:

Here is how Stuart Smith, vineyard manager and general partner, explains how the Napa Valley winery he and his winemaker brother Charles operate got its name: “We had so much physically and emotionally invested in the development of the vineyard and the winery that we selfishly wanted our name on it. Smith is not exactly a grand Mediterranean wine name, and certainly we couldn’t call it just ‘Smith Winery.’” The predominant tree on the property is the madrone, an evergreen native to the coastal region of the west coast of North American – hence the Smith-Madrone Winery. I will have something more to say about this name at the end of my review, but first I will describe three Smith-Madrone wines that I tasted recently.

Smith-Madrone 2012 Napa Valley Spring Mountain District Riesling ($27) is easily one of the most interesting white wines that I have tasted this year. Its enticing peach, apple, citrus, and melon aromas lead to luscious tart apple, lime, melon, apricot, and peach flavors that close in an impressively vibrant finish. The exuberant fruit of this wine is perfectly balanced by ample acidity, making it completely delicious for casual sipping, though it would also nicely complement most seafood and poultry dishes. In fact, if you are planning to reprise a turkey-based Thanksgiving feast on Christmas or New Year’s Day and wish to pour something sure to delight your dinner guests, I wholeheartedly recommend this remarkable Riesling.

Consequent to having been aged in 100% new French oak barrels, Smith-Madrone 2010 Napa Valley Spring Mountain District Chardonnay ($30) has notes of vanilla and toast among its lively apple aromas, and these vanilla and toast notes complicate the wine’s generous pear, apple, tropical fruit, and spice flavors. Equal parts power and finesse, this richly-textured Chardonnay would be an ideal companion for meals featuring salmon, sea bass, or poultry.

Smith-Madrone 2009 Napa Valley Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon ($45) is an intense but nonetheless elegant wine with plum, dark berry, and cherry aromas that lead to beautifully orchestrated currant, blackberry, dark plum, and black cherry flavors accompanied by hints of mocha, herbs, and toasty oak. The tannins of this wine are supple, and its finish is polished and lingering. This complex but accessible Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon would be the perfect match for beefsteak or game.

Perhaps Smith is not “a grand Mediterranean wine name,” but a smith, after all, is a craftsman, as in the case of a goldsmith, for example. Perhaps the word is not in the dictionary, but I think that the three Smith-Madrone wines that I have reviewed in this posting provide ample evidence for the existence of “winesmiths,” and I am confident that anyone tasting them will agree.

A final note: The wines I have reviewed in this posting would make excellent Christmas presents.


All our new releases at Benjamin Carter’s Thanksgiving

Monday, December 16, 2013: Smith-Madrone Wines

I had the blessed fortune to attend two Thanksgiving dinners this year, though nothing will quite match 1995 when circumstances collided to provide me four Thanksgiving meals within 48 hours. (I was also at the height of my bread baking phase, and made two dozen loaves of various classic European styles.)  The second harvest festival this year was held at the home of my parents along with Julia, The Roommate, my brother, and his wife and daughter. For the occasion, I brought along a trio of wines from Smith-Madrone Vineyards. There’s a long tradition of serving American wines at the Thanksgiving table, and I was particularly excited to serve the small batch bottles of a classic Napa producer.

2012 Riesling: Napa Riesling in tall green bottles was an early favorite of the Carter family back in the 90s. This one had gentle notes of green apple and was lightly sweet with earthy undertones and firm acidity. Really a spectacular balance of elements that could stand up to selections from Germany, and one that went particularly well with the side dishes like green bean casserole and my mother’s rich sweet potato casserole.

2011 Chardonnay: 100% fermentation in French oak gave this California Chardonnay a nose of buttered popcorn with a touch of vanilla. Beneath that are scents of warm roasted peaches. Mild acidity and a round mouth feel lead to a long finish. I found that it was a great match for Dad’s pecan-smoked turkey.

2009 Cabernet Sauvignon: Dad also slow smoked a full, grass-fed, Hereford tenderloin that was rubbed down with a spice mix and cooked to a perfect medium rare. I was excited to pour this wine with the delicate beef flavors, and it did not disappoint. Rich cassis aromas with nice elements of bell pepper and tobacco. Berries show up on the aftertaste. The wine shows medium tannins and a long, lingering finish, and should continue to improve for a few more years. Highly recommended, and make sure that you have friends and family around to enjoy it.


2009 Chardonnay also ‘idyllic’

More thanks to FoodandWineChickie for reviewing the 2009 Chardonnay: Medium straw color in the glass, the California Chardonnay offers bright aromas of Asian pear with oaky notes. On the palate, cantaloupe and ripe apple flavors dominate. Toasted bread finish. As far as idyllic California Chardonnay goes…a super example.


James Conaway takes a photo and muses about the ’10 Chardonnay and ’09 Cabernet

This crepuscular photo is actually of a bright, lightly oaked 2010 chardonnay from Smith-Madrone, the current release from a now old-line winery up on Spring Mountain in Napa Valley. The name’s charmingly half man, half tree, appropriate since Stu Smith, the founder, is a heavily-bearded, broad-shouldered hold-over from the Sixties, more Doug fir than madrone, though, and as outspoken and unpredictable as ever. I’ve known Stu for many of those years, and written about him, and although we rarely agree politically I respect his integrity and rare refusal to get caught up in the flashier aspects of the high-end wine business. His refusal to sell out – both to trendiness in wine-making, and to big money – redounds to the benefit of all who value self-reliant rural culture, continuity in landscape, and classic wine-making. Smith-Madrone just keeps on trucking: excellent, well-made, relatively inexpensive wines with commendably low alcohol by modern standards. This chardonnay, and the excellent, classically-made 2009 cabernet sauvignon, are both just over 14 percent, and relative bargains in the ever-active Napa Valley sweepstakes.