Pioneers on the mountain

Sommelier Karl Kazaks profiled the winery in the July issue of Wine & Craft Beverage News:


Smith-Madrone pursues pioneering spring mountain style into fifth decade

by Karl H. Kazaks

Spring Mountain District, an AVA on the northwest side of Napa Valley, is named after its natural springs.

One of those springs is located near the bottom of the parcel of land purchased by Charlie and Stuart Smith in 1971, where they established Smith-Madrone Vineyards and Winery.

“It began as a hobby and got completely out of control,” said Charlie. The brothers had discovered wine while in college at Berkeley in the 1960s and decided to make their own.

“For the first ten years, Stuart and I did all the work,” Charlie said. “We pounded the stakes in, we put up the wire, we did the whole nine yards. There is literally nothing in the vineyard that we do not have extensive personal experience with. One summer we spent picking up rocks. We were clearing a two-and-a-half-acre field. We’d rip it, pick up the rocks, cross-rip it, pick up rocks. That pretty much cured me of wanting to pick up rocks.”

The Smiths started planting vines in 1972 and made their first wine in 1977 — a Riesling.

In 1979, their Riesling was entered in a wine competition sponsored by the French restaurant guide Gault Millau. Matched against Rieslings from around the world, Smith-Madrone’s was selected as the Best Riesling. Second place was awarded to a wine made by Schloss Vollrads, a winery from Germany’s Rheingau region which has been making wine for 800 years.

“Back then, our Rieslings were sweeter,” Charlie said, with a residual sugar level of around 1.5 percent. Today Smith-Madrone’s Rieslings have a residual sugar level closer to 0.75 percent.

“Their Rieslings are well-balanced,” said Mike Chelini, the winemaker at Stony Hill, a winery lower down on Spring Mountain.

Like all of the wines made at Smith-Madrone, the Rieslings show an abundance of individuality while displaying a consistent house style of vintage-appropriate structure, never lacking the backbone to permit some length of aging.

A comparison of the 2013 and 2014 Rieslings shows how the wine differs across vintages. The 2013, which has a fragrant nose of tropical and stone fruit, also has a strong aspect of wet stone. The vintage is fatter than the 2014, which has keen acidity and a pleasant lime peel quality.

“The key thing with our Rieslings,” Charlie said, “is the pH is really low in the 3.0 – 3.15 range.”

Though Rieslings aren’t much associated with Napa Valley, in the early 1970s, Charlie said the variety “was common as dirt. It was one of the recommended varieties — Riesling and Chardonnay for whites, Cabernet and Zinfandel for reds.”

If you put Smith-Madrone’s Riesling in a lineup of Alsatian Rieslings, you’d be hard pressed to pick it out. Its alcohol percentage — between 12.5 percent and 13 percent — might be the biggest giveaway when compared to some grand cru Alsatian Riesling, which often come in between 13 percent and 14 percent.

At Smith-Madrone, which experiences cooler days and warmer nights than the valley floor, Riesling is planted on eastern slopes. Chardonnay is planted on northern slopes. Cabernet sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot on southern and western slopes.

Some of the slopes are steep, up to a 34 percent grade. The soils are mostly red Aiken Stony Clay loam on top of the Franciscan Assemblage, found in California’s coastal ranges and consisting of a collection of various rock types.

There is a flat parcel, known as Cook’s Flat, named after the first person to plant grapes on this part of Spring Mountain. In the late 19th century, George Cook planted olive trees and grapevines.

The olive trees remain today at 130 to 135 years old but the vines he planted were dead by the early 20th century.

“We found old wooden grape stakes in what had become forest,” Charlie said.

Cook’s Flat is home to Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.

The vineyard is surrounded by a mixed forest of Douglas fir, redwoods and madrone — the tree with the peeling, reddish-orange bark. The forest provides dappled sunlight in the vineyard, which the Smiths like.

Cook’s Flat is also the name of Smith-Madrone’s reserve red, which the winery first introduced in 2007. The second release was the 2010 vintage and the third was the 2009 vintage. 2012 will be the fourth release of Cook’s Flat Reserve.

Much of the production of Cook’s Flat Reserve is sold from the winery, Charlie said. “We pour it for people who come and they like it and buy it. We think that’s nice. It makes us happy.”

The 2010 Cook’s Flat Reserve is a blend of 75 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 25 percent Cabernet Franc. Its fruit profile is mainly dark fruit, including plum. The Cabernet Franc adds width to the center palate, a nice complement to the wine’s richness. The 2009 Cook’s Flat Reserve has a special snap and vibrancy and life, no less substantial but not quite as brooding as the 2010.

Smith-Madrone didn’t release any red wines in 2008. The smoke from fires that year particularly affected their high-altitude vineyard. They sold their production that year to a bulk buyer.

Another challenging vintage was 2011, which was wet. But thanks to its mountaintop location, the vineyards at Smith-Madrone dried out more quickly than did some valley floor vineyards.

“The hillsides are different from the valley floor,” Charlie said. “Not just a different microclimate, but a different climate.”

Chelini concurs. “It’s fairly cool on Spring Mountain, frankly,” he said.

Smith-Madrone’s 2011 cabernet sauvignon does have a bit of a pyrazine green pepper quality, but it also has good fruit flavors and good tannic presence, as well as the structure to allow it to mature for at least a couple of decades.

The 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon has a riper, more accessible structure, very fruity and lively. Charlie calls it a “light heavyweight — not a real heavyweight but not a middleweight either. It makes me cheerful when I taste it.” The current release of the winery’s Cabernet Sauvignon is the 2013 vintage.

All of Smith-Madrone’s wines are made to mature in bottle. The sweet spot for Chardonnays, Charlie believes, is the six to eight-year window. A typical Cabernet will show its full potential in the 15-20-year range, with good vintages capable of lasting 50 years.

For example, Charlie has a strong affinity for Smith-Madrone’s 1979 Cabernet. “We knew that was a great wine from the very beginning. We just loved it from the start. Some wines, when you finish fermenting, you just go, ‘Wow, this is really good stuff.’”

Chelini finds Smith-Madrone’s Cabernets “very, very civilized, approachable even when young but capable of aging well too.”

One of the reasons Smith-Madrone is able to make wines of such distinct character and ageability is its sorting of grapes and wines into many different lots.

First, grapes from any one particular vineyard can be harvested in multiple passes. For example, the relatively compact five-and-a-half acres of Cabernet Sauvignon in Cook’s Flat is usually harvested in three stages.

To determine when to pick, the Smiths “take a close look at the grapevines. It’s very helpful to know your own vineyard. What we do is custom picking at its most picayune.”

In the winery, different fermentation techniques are used. Some of the reds are fermented in tanks, others in small open containers.

“We keep very close track of what comes out of the vineyard and how it fermented,” Charlie said. “We have a lot of different barrels — some are new, some a year old — and put portions of everything into those barrels. We have a lot of different barrels.”

“When you make a blend, go through and grade the barrels, then put the best foot forward.” Cook’s Flat Reserve is a blend of the best barrels from the vintages in which the Smith’s choose to make a version of that wine.

For weed control, the Smiths cultivate every other row to keep some amount of ground cover at all time. With the exception of new vines, all the vineyards are dry farmed.

In the winery’s early years, the Smith even propagated their own vines in a mini-nursery. Today, they buy vines from a commercial nursery.

The layout of the winery was specifically made to be efficient.

“It’s not something you want to do day in and day out but in a pinch one guy can handle the operation,” Charlie said. In the “old days” he sometimes had to do just that, making the wine while Stuart was out selling and marketing it.

Today, the brothers have the help of Stuart’s son, Sam, who has worked at the winery for several years after some apprenticing elsewhere, including at Dr. Loosen winery in Germany.

For all of the wines, no bottling occurs until everyone agrees.

“We make a joint decision,” Charlie said. “Everybody’s got to be happy. We push and we push until everyone agrees.”

Chelini remembers first meeting the Smith brothers, when he took them a piece of equipment to borrow.

He’s impressed with what the Smiths have built over time, giving them the highest kind of praise for a Spring Mountain vintner.

“They’re mountain boys, no doubt about it.”

Gargantuan Wine looks at rootstocks and the 2011 Cab

Discussing rootstocks, dry farming and more, including the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon: “…it’s a wine that wears its 14.3% ABV nobly, and beckons you to keep drinking until there’s none left….”

And “…if you’re typically a drinker of Old World wines who won’t touch Napa Valley with a ten foot pole — or someone who pines for old California Cabernet — the dry farmed wines of Spring Mountain will dazzle you….”

Stop by Gargantuan Wine for more:


2011 and 2012 Cabs chosen as Year’s Best U.S. Cabs by Wine & Spirits Magazine

The 2011 and 2012 Cabernet Sauvignons are both chosen in Wine & Spirits Magazine’s “Year’s Best U.S. Cabernet” section in the December 2015 issue:

Wine & Spirits, December 2015

Year’s Best U.S. Cabernet, p. 85

2011 Cabernet Sauvignon

93 points

Stu and Charles Smith planted 20 acres of vines in 1972. Given the remoteness of their site, on steep slopes rising to 2,000 feet, they decided to plant without rootstock. Nearly two acres of the original cabernet vines still survive, now part of a 34-acre, dry-farmed vineyard producing riesling, chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon. This wine, ripened above the fog line, feels untroubled by the cool, late 2011 harvest. In fact, it feels saturated with brisk Pacific air, with deep flavors of black currants and the spicy scent of the redwood forest that surrounds these vines. The texture is gentle, without an overt sense of tannic extract, the wine’s intensity built on cool-ripened fruit.


Wine & Spirits, December 2015

Year’s Best U.S. Cabernet, p. 895

2012 Cabernet Sauvignon

91 points

Minty and tense, this is a narrow vintage of cabernet from the heights of Spring Mountain. There’s black-fruited flesh to it, along with pine forest scents that make it both rich and skinny (can a wine ever be too skinny and too rich?). A potent, youthful cabernet, this is built for the cellar.

James The Wine Guy stopped by….

James Melendez came by for a visit: here’s his complete story

And below an excerpt:

….I want to highlight my visit to Smith-Madrone in Spring Mountain District; getting off of Highway 29 or Silverado Trail can be both exciting and adventuring to producers off the beaten path.  The windy road to Smith-Madrone was an exquisite ride gorgeous evergreen scenery.  Getting to the top of the hill was to navigate where Smith-Madrone was—mobile phone service was not there to help–thanks Siri–hence all numbering conventions can be thrown out the door–they are not as intuitive as you might think.

I finally found the path and glided down in the beautiful, ethereal mid-autumn season in Napa.  Autumn and winter my absolutely favourite seasons–even though there is a bit of warmth in the air the breeze sends a different signal…..

I got a driven tour of the site–varies greatly from 1,300 to 2,000 feet above sea level–the steep grade is a great incentive for drainage and strong and forthright root development.  The site has a specific orientation for the three bottled varieties–eastern facing is the Riesling–it’s cooler.  Southern and western facing is for the Cabernet and a northerly orientation for Chardonnay.  Beautiful red soil of clay loam, sandstone and limestones amongst others.

After the site tour Stu and I sit down and tasted the latest vintages of Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling and Chardonnay.  I felt immediately comfortable talking with Stu about everything from the then always-top-of-mind drought, current vinicultural trends–namely the concrete egg, his early years of winemaking and no vineyard stone was left un-turned in our conversation–it was a conversation not an interview.  Stu has an authentic view–and his view of both vini and viticulture are not old fashioned but centered–Stu is well educated and has a long time perspective of being a wine producer, a long time resident of Napa Valley.  There is something comforting in knowing that a family like Charlie and Stu are committed to their namesake label and site; where in Napa Valley constants, commitments and being a vanguard are becoming rarer. ….For a great down-to-earth and genuine experience of tasting fine Spring Mountain wines, find these wines and also find time to visit…..

2011 Cabernet one of Koeppel’s 50 Great Wines of 2015

The 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon was chosen as one of Fredric Koeppel’s 50 Great Wines of 2015.

It’s an honor to be included….“….We tend to know when a wine is great from the first sniff and taste, because it possesses that ineffable yet very real quality called charisma. ….A great wine satisfies every point of interest and essence that we desire from a wine, exuding a feeling of utter completion and comprehension. Each wine accomplishes this purpose in a different way, of course, and to varying degrees, necessitating different responses. Some of these wines I admire, gravely and humbly; others, I adore rather shamelessly…. and more:

2011 Cabernet is deemed “Exceptional” in The Washington Post

*** (Exceptional)

Smith-Madrone is high up on Spring Mountain, just west of Saint Helena, with steep, picturesque vineyards overlooking the valley. The 2011 vintage was uneven throughout Napa Valley, but Smith-Madrone produced a top-notch, elegant cabernet that features Bordeaux-like characteristics of blackberry fruit with that graphite/pencil character wine lovers will recognize, plus lip-smacking, refreshing acidity. And if you can restrain from gulping the bottle, it’s even better the second night. Alcohol by volume: 14.3 percent.

94 points and Highly Recommended for the 2011 Cabernet at PalatePress

94 points, Highly Recommended: The color is dark, almost opaque at the center. On the nose, black currant and unsweetened chocolate take the lead. The real action is on the palate. Huge black fruits, deep, but not jammy, erupt, followed by unsweetened chocolate, espresso, mint, cedar, and a meaty umami. It’s chewy and fat, a big mouth-full but not a brute. Tannins are dusty, grippy, and acids offer a good counter-balance. Together, they suggest great reward for cellar patience. Hints of violet and herbs underneath all the fruit promise evolution into a high-toned floral delight after a decade or more. Drink it today, with a big ribeye or as a snack. Or cellar it until 2023 or later and drink with lamb chops or a fine filet.  Highly Recommended. 94 points. DBH.

We blow the socks off of TheArmchairSommelier

The ArmchairSommelier took a look at our current releases: please read the entire report (bottles in the snow, Chicken Marbella and more)

But here are a few highlights:

Brothers Stu and Charlie Smith founded Smith-Madrone Winery (in the Spring Mountain District of Napa Valley) in 1971 — that’s some serious longevity.  If your winery has been open for 44 years, you’re doing something right.

Riesling 2013: 92 points: 100% Riesling.  Easily one of the best US Rieslings I’ve tasted of late.  So many American Rieslings succumb to the off-dry siren song (and end up being cloying), but not this one.  This one is gloriously dry with teeth-twinging acidity and precise balance. Pale golden hue.  Nose is chalk and minerals with a passing whiff of grapefruit.  Flavors of peach and green apple.  Acid lovers of the wine world — this one’s for you!  Retail price = $27 (and worth every penny).

Chardonnay 2012: 92 points:  100% Chardonnay.  Fermented in new French oak for 8 months.  Pale amber color.  The nose is somewhat restrained — some faint buttered toast and pears.  Lean and elegant, with superb acidity and a graceful oak presence.  Definitely more to an old world style than new.  Creamy mouthfeel with flavors of lemon curd and allspice, I feel like I’m drinking a lemon meringue pie. Finishes with a wedge of minerals that goes on for a minute (which is as long as I could wait before having another sip).  Retail price = $32 (bargain alert!).

Cabernet Sauvignon 2011:  92 points: 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, and 7% Merlot.  Aged for 19 months in French oak.  Lovely garnet color.  Nose is all funk (I’m Team Funk, so this makes me giddy) — white pepper, leather, tar, cedar.  Shows great restraint and finesse.  Fruit definitely takes a back seat to funk (I’m struggling to come up with a dominant fruit note).  I’m thinking currants in a cigar box.  Great balance with layers of complexity.  A massive finish.  Retail price = $48 (a massive bargain — I’ve had Napa Cabernets that weren’t this good at twice the price).

I’ve been told (more than once) that I’m a little stingy with my wine ratings.  I certainly don’t mean to be stingy, just honest.  If I rate a wine 90+ points, it’s because it was memorable — it blew my socks off, and I didn’t want the bottle to end.

Smith-Madrone . . . consider my socks blown off!

All three of these wines are a textbook study in the expressions of cool climate, mountain terroir.  They’re lean, restrained, and focused.  I’ll admit to pushing Napa Valley wines (especially Napa Chardonnay) to the back of my wine bus as too much for too much (a little over-done and more than a little over-priced).  But after tasting these wines, I think I’ve found my Napa sweet spot — the mountains!

Our Cabernet is recommended for The New York Times’ Wine School focusing on Napa Cab

We’re honored to be recommended as a Napa Cabernet to be included in The Times’ Wine School. Read on:

Your Next Lesson: Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Wine School, by Eric Asimov, The New York Times, February 26, 2016

Wine School by Eric Asimov

In the first full year of Wine School, we’ve focused entirely on the fundamental types of wine that have served as a foundation for producers around the world. Now, for the first time, we’ll examine a reinterpretation of one of those elemental styles as we take up Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon. Napa cabernet, of course, was inspired by great Bordeaux, specifically the wines of the Medoc. The pioneers of the style, like John Daniel of Inglenook, Beaulieu Vineyards and the Mondavi family, wanted to make red wines that could stand with the greatest reds in the world. For them, that meant Bordeaux.

Yet good Napa cabernet has never been a slavish copy of Bordeaux. For one thing, the nomenclature is essentially different. Bordeaux is defined by the place in which the grapes are grown; Napa by the dominant grape in the wine. In the Médoc, the wines are almost invariably a blend. Cabernet was historically the leading grape, supplemented primarily with merlot, cabernet franc and petit verdot. But only rarely would cabernet sauvignon make up 75 percent of the blend, as is required nowadays in California if you want to call a wine cabernet sauvignon.

While most cabernets are in fact cabernet-dominated blends in the Napa Valley, it’s not unusual to find wines that are 100 percent cabernet, which you would never see in Bordeaux. In the last 20 years, many Napa Valley cabernets have also deviated from the classically austere Médoc model, pursuing a style defined by power, impact and exuberant fruit flavors. It’s a divisive style with many admirers. I’m not one of them, so I’ve chosen bottles that I hope will represent the more classic Napa style.

The three bottles I recommend are:

Frog’s Leap Napa Valley Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Grown $50

Philip Togni Napa Valley “Tanbark Hill” Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 $55

Ramey Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 $55

Eric Asimov, The New York Times wine critic, is talking about Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon this month. If you would like to join the conversation, try one of the bottles listed here and as you try them, ask yourself these questions.

Aroma: Sweet fruit? Savory? Something else?

Accessibility: Cabernet sauvignon historically required a great deal of aging. These are young. Are they enjoyable now?

Food: The more powerful cabernets can overwhelm food. What about these?

Yes, these wines are expensive. Yes, you no doubt can find cheaper alternatives, though many of them are one-offs, remainders or wines that simply won’t demonstrate the characteristics of a representative Napa cabernet. The sad fact is, good Napa cabernet for less than $50 is hard to come by.

If you are able to make the investment but can’t find any of these bottles, I highly recommend wines from Smith-Madrone, Heitz Cellar, Chateau Montelena, Volker Eisele, Dyer Vineyard, Sinsky, Corison, Napanook, Mayacamas and, if you don’t mind spending even more, Spottswoode and Dominus.

If Napa cabernet seems to have become the official wine of American steakhouses, it’s not without reason. These wines demand rich, fatty meats, simply prepared. Lamb is especially good, as are various beef roasts.

We’re paired with The Eagles! Thank you, Rockin Red!


By Michelle Williams, Rockin Red blog, January 19, 2015

Better late than never; isn’t that what they say. In late fall I received a sample shipments of three wines from Smith-Madrone. I actually did not realize it was that long ago until I recovered the information sent with the wines. Wow, time flies! Through my own lack of diligence these wines ended up behind other samples I have received in the past few months. I began in mid-December and continue to work through a large gathering of wonderful wine media samples I have been trusted to taste and review. I wish I could say I was “aging” these wines from Smith-Madrone but truthfully, I just simply had not made it through the sample pile, till now! You know “Good things come to those who wait!” Good indeed! Thank you Smith-Madrone for sharing your outstanding wines with me!

Now it is January and for me that means getting my healthy eating back on track. I am not one for “dry” January, but I do scale back a bit, try to eat pretty clean, exercise harder, drink lots of water; you know the routine, you may even be doing it too. Therefore, January provides an excellent opportunity to demonstrate high quality wine pairs very well with simply, healthy meals just as well as it does more elaborate dinners.

Smith-Madrone 2013 Riesling: This wine poured a soft golden yellow in the glass and opened with beautiful aromas of stone fruit, tropical fruit, crisp minerality and a touch of fresh cut grass. On the palate this beautifully balanced dry Riesling delivered round flavors of apricot, peach, Asian pear, Korean melon, with a touch of honey, all layered on top of a firm minerality foundation. It was crisp, smooth and just the right amount of dryness to make my mouth water upon swallowing. It had a lingering finish and full mouth-feel. I am a HUGE Riesling lover and this was a good Riesling! This 100% Riesling was made from 41 year old vines in Napa Valley in the Spring Mountain District by brothers Charles and Stuart Smith. It contained 12.6% alcohol; 1288 cases produced. SRP $27; order direct from Smith-Madrone.  I recommend this wine!

Riesling is the most versatile food wine in the world and pairs well with just about all foods. I paired this Riesling with a delicious light dinner from Giada de Laurentiis’ Giada’s Feel Good Food cook book: Chicken and honey mustard pinwheels. It is a crisp, clean meal of homemade honey mustard, shredded rotisserie chicken breasts and arugula wrapped in lavash bread. This light and easy sandwich paired beautifully with the Riesling; the peppery arugula mixed with the sweet and savory homemade honey mustard was well balanced by the round crisp flavors and body of the Riesling.

*Smith-Madrone is the ONLY dry Riesling from North America featured in Stuart Pigott’s book Best White Wine on Earth, The Riesling Story! That is quite an honor! Click here to read an excerpt.

Smith-Madrone 2012 Chardonnay: This wine poured a straw yellow into the glass and opened with rich aromas of toasted oak, cedar, minerals, and orchard fruit. On the palate this Chardonnay delivered powerful flavors of oak, slightly burnt-buttered toast, with Granny Smith apples, pears and crushed stone. It was certainly not a big fruit, buttery Chardonnay; rather, it was very earthy and driven with minerals and oak. It was round on the palate with a ripe acidity and elegant dryness on the finish. From my experience it tasted more like the Willamette Valley Chardonnays I have enjoyed rather than many of the over-done Napa Valley Chardonnays.  This 100% Chardonnay was produced from 39 year old vines in Napa Valley in the Spring Mountain District by brothers Charles and Stuart Smith. It was 100% barrel fermented in 100% new French oak for 8 months, contained 14.2% alcohol; 779 cases produced. SRP $32; order direct from Smith-Madrone. I recommend this wine to all of you who, like me, prefer a well-crafted, less fruity, not buttery, Chardonnay.

I paired this Chardonnay with a homemade healthy salad consisting of: mixed salad greens topped with quinoa, carrots, cucumber, tomatoes, pomegranate seeds, chopped almonds and rotisserie chicken with a homemade EVOO/Balsamic vinegar dressing. The toasted, nutty flavor of the quinoa really pulled the salad/wine pairing together. It was a nice weeknight meal.

Smith-Madrone 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon: This wine poured a lovely red garnet into the glass and opened with seductive aromas of dark fruit, smoke, and mocha. On the palate those aromas delivery in dazzling flavors of blackberry, black plums and black cherries with a hint of cola, leather cigar box, and smoke with rich dark chocolate, espresso and a hint of vanilla left lingering on the palate. It is a ripe, round wine that delivers ripe acidity and well-crafted tannins that linger on the palate giving this wine a long finish. This wine is drinking beautifully right now; however, I can only image the wonderful gift time will bestow on this wine! This wine was crafted of 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10 % Cabernet Franc and 7% Merlot from 39 year old vines in Napa Valley in the Spring Mountain District by brothers Charles and Stuart Smith. This wine was aged for 19 months in French oak barrels; contained 14.3% alcohol; 1,070 cases produced. SRP $48; order direct from Smith-Madrone. I recommend this wine; in fact, I recommend you purchase several bottles and hide them in your cellar for 10ish years, after you drink one now of course!

I paired this wine with a weeknight Greek dish: lamb meatballs with mint and feta on top of fresh pita bread and covered with tzaki sauce, served with cucumber, tomato and purple onion salad mixed with EVOO and Red wine vinegar. It was a quick, easy and delicious weeknight meal. The wine paired beautifully with lamb while allowing the delicate flavors of the veggie salad to shine; not being overpowered by this big Cabernet.  It was a great meal and a great pairing!

Smith-Madrone wines are literally the definition of ‘estate’ – they are all grown literally a stone’s throw from the winery, primarily dry-farmed, planted on steep slopes which range up to 34%, in red Aiken soil which is derived from weathered volcanic materials and sedimentary rock. Smith-Madrone is perched almost at the top of the Spring Mountain District appellation, 1400 to 1900 feet at the highest point.

From the Smith-Madrone web site: At Smith-Madrone our goal is to make artisanal wines which are distinctive and are an expression of both the vintage and us, as vintners, but above all else, are wines which bring pleasure to the senses. Every year our wine is made from the same vineyards, pruned by the same people in the same way, cultivated in exactly the same manner and harvested at similar levels of maturity, yet Mother Nature stamps each vintage with a unique set of flavors, senses and character. Vintage dating is a celebration of that uniqueness and diversity.

I strongly encourage you to visit the Smith-Madrone web site to learn more about Charles and Stuart, see their beautiful winery, and view their entire portfolio of wines.

My Song Selection: The song I have chosen to pair with these three Smith-Madrone wines is Take it Easy by The Eagles. When I read the philosophy of Smith-Madrone, the environment where they grow their vines, and the bios on Stuart and Charles it seems to me these two men are dedicated to loving life and making great wine. They don’t seem stressed or uptight; just relaxed and blessed…and it shows in the high quality of the wines they are perennially producing.

Get your own bottles of Smith-Madrone Riesling, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon and let me know what song you would pair with them. Cheers!