2010 Cabernet a ‘stately confident pleasure’ and ‘breathtaking’

Dorothy Gaiter, at GrapeCollective, chose the 2010 Cabernet as one of her ‘most exciting’ wines of 2017:

There were wines I had last year that were truly exciting. Encountering these is one of the joys of this lifelong journey we’re on with wine. I urge you to search for your own exciting wines this year, to constantly raise your standards and stay out of your comfort zone as often as you can.

My most breathtaking wines from 2017 were…. Cabernet Sauvignon, one from Smith-Madrone Winery, atop Spring Mountain in Napa….

I’ve interviewed or met most of the people who made these wines. If I had to choose one thing that they have in common, it’s an unwavering respect, reverence even, for the place where their grapes grow. What’s in the vineyard is in the glass. And, of course, they all have fascinating stories.

The Grape Collective held its first holiday party last year and the boss, Christopher Barnes, opened some really good wines, including the 2010 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon. Earlier last year, I wrote about Smith-Madrone’s 2013 Cabernet, which wine-searcher.com puts at $50. 

Stuart Smith, 68, founded the 4,000-case winery in 1971 after earning a degree in economics from Berkeley and taking some enology classes at UC Davis. With the help of family and friends, the 22-year-old purchased 200 acres of forest that had been part of a 550-acre homestead that more than 100 years earlier had included vineyards. Talk about Kismet! About 40 of those 200 acres are vineyards now. Today, Stuart is general partner, enologist; his brother Charles is winemaker; and Stuart’s son Sam is assistant winemaker. The Madrone part of the name comes from Madrone trees on the property, evergreens with red bark.

 The 2010 was lovely. I love well-aged wines and this one had great fruit and rich earth with tannins in perfect balance. A stately, confident pleasure. I could have sipped it all night, but John had an early morning meeting!

There are stunning wines out there, waiting to be discovered. You’ll know them when you taste them. Life is too short for you to drink bad wines or always fall back on your old go-tos. Find wines this year that excite you. Cheers!

https://grapecollective.com/articles/dorothy-j-gaiter-my-journey-through-the-most-exciting-wines-of-2017

Decanter stops by

Adam Lechmere from Decanter Magazine came to visit the Spring Mountain District; his report is in the February 2016 issue. An excerpt:

 

SPRING MOUNTAIN DISTRICT is one of the five great mountain appellations of the Napa Valley. It covers a lot of ground – its lower reaches abut the quiet residential streets of St Helena town, before the road climbs in vertiginous switchbacks up to 800m into the Mayacamas Range and the borders of Sonoma. Wine has been made here since the mid-19th century – the Beringers, already established in St Helena, planted a vineyard in 1880. In its heyday, before phylloxera and Prohibition, there were some 250 wineries working on Spring Mountain. Today there are only 30, and you’re unlikely to find a more diverse crew of winemakers and grape farmers in Napa or indeed any American appellation.

There are rangy individualists like the Smith brothers of Smith-Madrone, whose ranch is a piece of Napa history, unchanged since they arrived in the 1970s. Their interesting range includes a Riesling that is renowned and delicious, though not as original as their Cabernets. On a quiet evening you can hear their shotguns booming from miles away – the estate is dotted with buckshot-peppered targets.

Stuart and Charles Smith work a remote 81 hectare ranch, first planted in the 1880s, crafting Bordeaux blends, Cabernet, Chardonnay and Riesling on rocky slopes. The Smiths have changed little since they planted in the 1970s, their Cabs especially showing a fine classic structure.

Six producers to watch

Smith-Madrone

Stuart and Charles Smith work a remote 81ha ranch, first planted in the 1880s, crafting Bordeaux blends, Cabernet, Chardonnay and Riesling on rocky slopes. The Smiths have changed little since they planted in the 1970s, their Cabs especially showing a fine classic structure.

Lechmere’s picks: 10 top Spring Mountain District wines

Smith-Madrone, Riesling 2013

92 points: Orange blossom nose with hints of gasoline then white flowers on the palate and developing peach and pear fruit. Bone-dry minerality will soften. Curiously charming. Drink 2016-2025

Smith-Madrone, Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

94 points: Vibrant blue fruit on the nose then a fresh and savoury palate with ripe, perfumed damson, finely structured tannins and refreshing acidity. Drink 2018-2028.

“For the rare combination of character, elegance and spirit” — Mike Dunne suggests the 2010 Cabernet as a holiday gift

In The Sacramento Bee Mike Dunne includes the 2010 Cabernet as a gift for dinner parties:

Along with strands of colorful lights and sets of Nativity figures, sales of wine peak during the year-end holidays. But you may be asking what to buy, whether as a centerpiece for a Yuletide soiree or as a gift for your favorite wine geek.

When the dinner party is more serious and formal: the table is set with heirloom china, the candles are lit and the aroma of roast duck, prime rib or leg of lamb is competing with the smells of cedar and cinnamon. All that remains to be done is the greeting of guests and the opening of wine.

Cabernet sauvignon: For the rare combination of character, elegance and spirit in a wine, look no further than the Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery 2010 Napa Valley Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon, a seamless take on the varietal distinguished by lively red-fruit flavors, an intriguing thread of herbalness, firm but unintimidating tannins and refreshingly crisp acidity. The cool 2010 vintage was challenging, but brothers Stu and Charles Smith have been tending vines high on Spring Mountain for more than four decades and have learned how to roll with whatever weather is dealt them.

http://www.sacbee.com/food-drink/wine/dunne-on-wine/article4522893.html

 

 

2010 Cabernet chosen as one of the Year’s Best Cabs by Wine & Spirits Magazine

In the December 2014 issue of Wine & Spirits Magazine, the 2010 is included in “Year’s Best Cabernet Sauvignon” section:

92 points, Best Buy: A traditional style of Napa Valley Cabernet, this harks back to an age before hangtime was a buzzword, when green herb flavors and firm tannins were in fashion. It’s restrained, linear, astringent in both oak and fruit tannins, earthy at its core. There’s a delicacy to the lasting red currant fruit. Taut and demanding as a young wine, this is built for patient cellaring.

93 points and Best Buy for the 2010 Cabernet in the October Wine & Spirits Magazine

92 points, Best Buy

A traditional style of Napa Valley Cabernet, this harks back to an age before hangtime was a buzzword, when green herb flavors and firm tannins were in fashion. It’s restrained, linear, astringent in both oak and fruit tannins, earthy at its core. There’s a delicacy to the lasting red currant fruit. Taut and demanding as a young wine, this is built for patient cellaring.

Smith-Madrone 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon in The New York Times

In the September 3 New York Times wine column

 Standout Wine Lists in New York City: 10 of New York City’s Most Surprising Wine Lists

Eric Asimov writes:

Great wine lists don’t need to be epic length. They don’t require classic, expensive bottles. And they don’t appear only in conventional places; some of the best, in fact, show up where you least expect them. Here are 10 of the city’s most surprising wine lists, in alphabetical order. Some are simply unusual. Others are unexpected or unsung. All are wonderful and satisfying……

 

at Maysville in the Flatiron District: “…among reds, Smith-Madrone is always a welcome sight…”

 

There’s more at http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/03/dining/10-of-new-york-citys-most-surprising-wine-lists.html?emc=edit_tnt_20140828&nlid=35821874&tntemail0=y

 

 

Jeff Alexander suggests searching for samples from the Smiths’ summit

We thank Jeff Alexander for his visit and thoughts:

Smith-Madrone Wines

August 26, 2014 by Jeff Alexander

Before becoming parents, my wife and I boarded a jet for San Francisco, brimming with anticipation of mammoth Muir Woods, Thomas Keller scrumptious-ness and gallons of rich Napa juice. For the most part, the journey delivered – all breezy-valley red, white and blue sky. Life continued, and we’ve since returned with our son but the landscape, of course, is forever altered by the presence of a youngster. And, most notably, I haven’t been back to the mountain.

I wrote about the Smith brothers soon after returning from Spring Mountain, from the twisted and nearly perilous road leading to the winery’s perch. The air is cooler there, the noises less motorized – less commercial – than those found below. There were only three visitors that day – a couple from Jersey and me – and we were the sole, nearly-stationary figures at the Smith-Madrone facility where harvest was full tilt.

Certain details of that short stay will never leave me: The bright-eyed honesty (and humor) of Charlie and Stu Smith, the crispness of the cold Riesling they poured us from the barrel and the pang of disappointment I felt as I left.

The tug of separation hasn’t fully subsided but recently I was fortunate enough to sample the winery’s current releases. The Smiths keep it simple, consistently crafting Cab, Chard and Riesling, and doing it well, drawing from markedly subtler fruit than the variety found at lower, sun-bleached altitudes. Though premium-priced and available solely as special orders in Pennsylvania (minimum quantity of one bottle, however), I recommend searching for samples from the Smiths’ summit.

Smith-Madrone Riesling 2012
Can Riesling receive proper treatment in Napa? S-M’s mountain setting provides the perennial affirmation. Nectarine-scented and inviting – a layered, pretty wine with floral notes, peach, white pepper, apple and stone. Very good balance and dry edge; excellent concentration, intensity. Finishes strong. 12.5% alcohol by volume.

Smith-Madrone Chardonnay 2012
Pale yellow, sea air fragrance. Nutty and spicy, it’s a blessed break from Napa Chards with big wood. A rich mix adorned by pear, pineapple, caramel toastiness and a touch of nutmeg, it has firm acidity, mineral backing and a medium finish. A fine achievement. 14.2% ABV.

Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
A lighter touch Cab full of bell pepper at this point of its young life. With medium body, it also brings out flavors of pomegranate, cranberry, charcoal and tobacco. A two-hour decant moves the wine’s brambly elements toward darker fruit and the outstanding potential bottled within. A very good effort that will likely evolve into great. Blended with 9% Merlot and 6% Cabernet Franc. 14.1% ABV.

 

http://pavineco.com/smith-madrone-riesling-chardonnay-cabernet/

 

“Honest, balanced wines from California” in the eyes of an Oregon retailer

We’re honored to share this recent newsletter from Storyteller Wine Company in Portland:

Mountain Men and their Wines
After a recent newsletter about the “new California” I received a one sentence reply from a long time customer in California. It read “that’s all well and good, but don’t forget the old timers.” He is absolutely right. There are folks in California who have been doing their own thing and defying trends for a very long time when it comes to wine making. My favorites of the highly skilled curmudgeon crowd are two brothers who quietly ply their craft up on Spring Mountain, seemingly oblivious to wine critics and what their neighbors are doing.

The brothers in question are Stu and Charlie Smith and I first stumbled across them back in 2005. I was waiting for a dentist appointment when I picked up a dog eared copy of House & Garden Magazine to pass the time. I was quite surprised to find a wine column in House & Garden, and even more surprised to discover it was written by noted fiction author Jay McInerney.

The article was about two brothers who, in their overalls and gigantic beards, looked more like a ZZ Top cover band than serious winemakers. Their winery up on the Mayacamas Ridge was strictly “no frills,” with tractor and truck parts strewn all over the place. Heck, their idea of a tasting room was a 2×4 piece of wood stretched between two old barrels in front of an even older barn.

That article sent me looking for their Riesling, which Jay McInerney described as “like an Austrian Riesling from the Wachau.” Along the way I discovered their other wines were also pretty nice. Stu Smith is the vineyard manager and Charlie Smith makes the wines. They set up shop up on Spring Mountain in 1971 and by 1977 they had their first commercial vintage. Those first own rooted vines were dry farmed from the “get go” and today Stu only uses water in the first two years of a vine’s life, after which it’s all up to nature.

Folks, when it comes to honest, balanced wines from California, these guys might as well be listed among the Founding Fathers. I’ve been drinking these wines for the last 10 years and I’m happy to report that after a long hiatus, they are finally back in the Portland market. They make three wines (Riesling, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon) and all are worth trying.

2012 Smith-Madrone Spring Mountain District Riesling
This is the wine that started it all for me. I thought “how could an Old World style Riesling be made in California?” It turns out you need to go high up in the mountains. It also helps if the two guys making it are Riesling fanatics of the first order. Stu and Charlie are so committed to Riesling in 1983 they petitioned the federal government to remove the words “Johannisberg” and “White” from their wine labels. Stu thought they were silly words and Charlie deployed sterner language to describe them. Their Riesling is perhaps the very best on the entire West Coast and it can age gracefully for 15-20 years.

Sadly, phylloxera has reduced the size of their Riesling block so there’s not much to go around. Fortunately, the vines that remain are now 40 years old. The other good news is the 2012 vintage was almost picture perfect and the Smiths ended up with a bumper crop of beautifully ripened Riesling grapes. The color of this wine is picture perfect as well, with a light gold color and tiny emerald flecks floating about if you hold your glass to the light.

As you pour this wine you will pick up the first scents of orchard fruit from a foot away. White peaches and quince dominate that first aromatic wave, followed by beeswax, tart Granny Smith apples and a burst of tonic water complete with a slice of lime. The acidity is in perfect balance with all that stone fruit and at 12.5% alcohol and a mere 0.41% residual sugar the wine comes across as dry and refreshing. Overall, this is a superb Riesling with only one major shortcoming: its limited supply.

2010 Smith-Madrone Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon
Old school Cali cab lovers rejoice, the Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon is here to light up your life. 2010 was a cool growing season in the Napa Valley, especially 1,800 feet up on Spring Mountain where the Smiths grow these 38-year old vines. The 2010 version of this wine is 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot and 6% Cabernet Franc. Charlie aged the juice in a combination of French and American oak and bottled it unfiltered and unfined after 21 months. It clocks in at a shade over 14% alcohol and boy is this a nice cab!

The ruby-red color is darker than Dorothy’s shoes but not quite as dark as Gene Simmons’ helmet hair. The nose is classic cab with crushed blackberries and cedar, along with tiny notes of damp cellar floor earth, blueberries and star anise. As California wine writer Dan Berger once wrote about Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignons, they are “a throwback to an earlier era when Cabernets smelled like the variety!”

The palate is focused and sinewy, with surprisingly brisk acidity and a firm tannic backbone. Once again, “balance” is the key word here as the tannins and acidity do a nice job keeping all that black fruit flavor in line. My guess is this wine has a nice long life ahead of it.

2012 Smith-Madrone Spring Mountain District Chardonnay
2012 was a pretty nice vintage for Chardonnay up at Smith-Madrone. After a cooler growing season in 2010 and 2011 Stu Smith says “2012 came as a welcome relief. Spring and summer passed with nearly ideal growing conditions and sure enough, when September came around the Chardonnay ripened right on time. Harvest began on September 4th under balmy blue skies and continued that way right through the end of the month. It was a harvest made memorable by the fact that everything went just right.”

These Chardonnay vines are now 40 years old and Charlie Smith uses 100% new French oak barrels for his barrel fermentation, but he cuts the juice’s stay in the barrel to eight months. The result is a beautiful example of California Chardonnay that’s rich in texture without crossing over into the opulent zone.

The wine’s color is a nice golden harvest moonbeam and the aromas that drift up out of the glass are potentially addicting. We’re talking no excuses, no apologies Chardonnay scents of Granny Smith green apples, Bosc pears, clarified butter and a totally appropriate touch of toasty oak inspired hazelnuts and spice.

The palate is smooth and creamy, with a lush mouthfeel and flavors like Meyer lemon, honeycomb, toasted hazelnuts and a trace of Honeydew melon. If I was at the beach and tending to a big boiling pot of water filled with Dungeness crabs, this is the wine I’d like to have at my side.

I adore the Smith brothers’ wines and I truly hope you will give them a try.

Cheers,
Michael Alberty
Head Storyteller
Storyteller Wine Company, Portland, Oregon
PS Some of you may be asking yourself, “OK I get the Smith part of the winery’s name, but who is Madrone?” In an interview conducted for his “Gray Report” blog, W. Blake Gray asked that very question. Here is Charlie Smith’s response: “I think the reason we added the Madrone — it’s a local tree — is that we were totally crazy for hyphenated French names like Lafite-Rothschild and Romanee-Conti. We’re going to call it Chateau Smith? A friend suggested Smith-Madrone and it’s worked out OK. There’s been one problem: I’ve had to give this explanation for the last 35 years.”) and all are worth trying.

2012 Smith-Madrone Spring Mountain District Riesling
This is the wine that started it all for me. I thought “how could an Old World style Riesling be made in California?” It turns out you need to go high up in the mountains. It also helps if the two guys making it are Riesling fanatics of the first order. Stu and Charlie are so committed to Riesling in 1983 they petitioned the federal government to remove the words “Johannisberg” and “White” from their wine labels. Stu thought they were silly words and Charlie deployed sterner language to describe them. Their Riesling is perhaps the very best on the entire West Coast and it can age gracefully for 15-20 years.

Sadly, phylloxera has reduced the size of their Riesling block so there’s not much to go around. Fortunately, the vines that remain are now 40 years old. The other good news is the 2012 vintage was almost picture perfect and the Smiths ended up with a bumper crop of beautifully ripened Riesling grapes. The color of this wine is picture perfect as well, with a light gold color and tiny emerald flecks floating about if you hold your glass to the light.

As you pour this wine you will pick up the first scents of orchard fruit from a foot away. White peaches and quince dominate that first aromatic wave, followed by beeswax, tart Granny Smith apples and a burst of tonic water complete with a slice of lime. The acidity is in perfect balance with all that stone fruit and at 12.5% alcohol and a mere 0.41% residual sugar the wine comes across as dry and refreshing. Overall, this is a superb Riesling with only one major shortcoming: its limited supply.

2010 Smith-Madrone Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon
Old school Cali cab lovers rejoice, the Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon is here to light up your life. 2010 was a cool growing season in the Napa Valley, especially 1,800 feet up on Spring Mountain where the Smiths grow these 38-year old vines. The 2010 version of this wine is 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot and 6% Cabernet Franc. Charlie aged the juice in a combination of French and American oak and bottled it unfiltered and unfined after 21 months. It clocks in at a shade over 14% alcohol and boy is this a nice cab!

The ruby-red color is darker than Dorothy’s shoes but not quite as dark as Gene Simmons’ helmet hair. The nose is classic cab with crushed blackberries and cedar, along with tiny notes of damp cellar floor earth, blueberries and star anise. As California wine writer Dan Berger once wrote about Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignons, they are “a throwback to an earlier era when Cabernets smelled like the variety!”

The palate is focused and sinewy, with surprisingly brisk acidity and a firm tannic backbone. Once again, “balance” is the key word here as the tannins and acidity do a nice job keeping all that black fruit flavor in line. My guess is this wine has a nice long life ahead of it.

2012 Smith-Madrone Spring Mountain District Chardonnay
2012 was a pretty nice vintage for Chardonnay up at Smith-Madrone. After a cooler growing season in 2010 and 2011 Stu Smith says “2012 came as a welcome relief. Spring and summer passed with nearly ideal growing conditions and sure enough, when September came around the Chardonnay ripened right on time. Harvest began on September 4th under balmy blue skies and continued that way right through the end of the month. It was a harvest made memorable by the fact that everything went just right.”

These Chardonnay vines are now 40 years old and Charlie Smith uses 100% new French oak barrels for his barrel fermentation, but he cuts the juice’s stay in the barrel to eight months. The result is a beautiful example of California Chardonnay that’s rich in texture without crossing over into the opulent zone.

The wine’s color is a nice golden harvest moonbeam and the aromas that drift up out of the glass are potentially addicting. We’re talking no excuses, no apologies Chardonnay scents of Granny Smith green apples, Bosc pears, clarified butter and a totally appropriate touch of toasty oak inspired hazelnuts and spice.

The palate is smooth and creamy, with a lush mouthfeel and flavors like Meyer lemon, honeycomb, toasted hazelnuts and a trace of Honeydew melon. If I was at the beach and tending to a big boiling pot of water filled with Dungeness crabs, this is the wine I’d like to have at my side.

I adore the Smith brothers’ wines and I truly hope you will give them a try.

Cheers,
Michael Alberty
Head Storyteller
Storyteller Wine Company, Portland, Oregon
PS Some of you may be asking yourself, “OK I get the Smith part of the winery’s name, but who is Madrone?” In an interview conducted for his “Gray Report” blog, W. Blake Gray asked that very question. Here is Charlie Smith’s response: “I think the reason we added the Madrone — it’s a local tree — is that we were totally crazy for hyphenated French names like Lafite-Rothschild and Romanee-Conti. We’re going to call it Chateau Smith? A friend suggested Smith-Madrone and it’s worked out OK. There’s been one problem: I’ve had to give this explanation for the last 35 years.”

2010 Cabernet is ‘splurgeworthy’

Ray Isle at Food & Wine suggests a ‘splurgeworthy’ bottle of 2010 Cabernet for your recent grad: “…Charles and Stu Smith’s vineyards high up in the Spring Mountain District AVA create a polished Cabernet with impressive focus and structure. Drink it now, or keep it until child #2 graduates. Or #3. Or even #4. Seriously….”

His other suggestions are here: http://www.foodandwine.com/blogs/2014/6/18/5-splurge-worthy-wines-for-parents-of-recent-graduates

Ray Isle recommends the 2010 Cab for your favorite grad

June 3, 2014, Eatocracy (CNN) by Ray Isle

Here are some splurge-worthy suggestions from some of the world’s great wine regions. They’re a little pricey, but on the bright side, you could buy more than 5,000 bottles of any one of them for what you just paid to raise your newly minted graduate.

2010 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon:
Charles and Stu Smith’s vineyards high up in the Spring Mountain District AVA create a polished Cabernet with impressive focus and structure. Drink it now, or keep it until child #2 graduates. Or #3. Or even #4. Seriously.