“Elegant, refined” 2014 Cabernet

Our thanks to ACorkInTheRoad:

2014 Cabernet, “an elegantly integrated mouthful”

Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons For The Holiday Season

December 6, 2018

If you are looking to serve a special wine this holiday season or want to give a thoughtful gift to a wine lover in your life, look to Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon to make an impression.  Whether you want  a wine to serve for an elegant holiday dinner, a bottle to take to a special holiday party, or something for your boss who happens to be a wine aficionado, this list is all you need.  This is not just any list, here you will find small, off the grid wines that are produced in small quantities by some of the best winemakers in Napa Valley.  These wines are perfect holiday wines, elegant structured and very food friendly.

Best Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon for intimate holiday dinners (Under $60)

Smith-Madrone Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 

Smith-Madrone wines are made entirely from dry-farmed estate vineyards surrounding the winery on top of Spring Mountain in the Napa Valley. Stuart Smith chose specific slopes with different exposures for specific varietals when planting the vineyards, specifically southern and western exposures across flat stretches for the Cabernet Sauvignon. Stu was named one of the wine industry’s most inspirational people in January 2018.

This wine opens with a concentrated nose of dark fruits, leading with notes of boysenberry and plum. The palate is remarkably seamless, an elegantly integrated mouthful with a velvety, silky texture which leaves you realizing how winemaking can ‘distill’ a grape into a powerful perfume, the essence of Cabernet Sauvignon.




A gem that shows off the terroir

In the summer issue of The American Wine Society Journal, Ellen Landis reviews the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon:

Here is an intensely built Cabernet Sauvignon blended with 8% Cabernet Franc and 7% Merlot. This gem shows off the terroir of this long growing season region in spades. Deep fruit on the nose segues to plum, black raspberry, black currant, licorice, herbs, spiced oak and earth coating the palate. Tightly wound with a firm backbone of tannins. Decant if you pop the cork now, or wait patiently, there are rewards to gain by cellaring.

2014 Cab’s ‘beautifully lithe flavors’

Vinography takes a look at the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon:

2014 Smith Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District, Napa, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of beautifully floral cherry and plum aromas. In the mouth, beautifully lithe flavors of cherry, plum, and dried flowers are juicy with acidity and wrapped in a cloak of muscular, fine grained tannins. Fantastic acidity makes the fruit fresh and mouthwatering. The acidity and tannic structure suggest this wine will be quite long lived. 13.9% alcohol.



2014 Cab “rocking my world”

StrongCoffeeToRedWine looks at the 2014 Cabernet:



APRIL 12, 2018

I have always heard that if you love what you do, it will never seem like work. No surprise… and a loud duh, I love drinking wine. More than that, I love trying new wines. One of the benefits of blogging about wine is that it forces me out of my comfort zone. I can not become complacent and drink the same style and variety of wine, bottle after bottle. It is essential that I branch out.

That said, it has been ages since I purposefully drank a California Cab. My experience with these Cabs. have been challenging at best, finding them to be a bit heavy-handed and too tannic for my taste. Then I was asked to try the Smith-Madrone 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon. Well, Misters Smith, you have made me a huge fan. And clearly, I have been buying all wrong.

The Smith-Madrone 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon is the perfect balance of Old World and New World styles. It is soft and finessed. It is earth and fruit. And oh, it makes me smile from ear to ear while I look for a place to hide the bottle, so I do not have to share. Drats foiled again, Gary knows my hiding place.

The color is dark and purple with subtle purple-ruby edges. The aromas at the top* bring out cedar and a hint of wet terra cotta. At the bottom*, I find stewed prunes and raisins, and other black fruits mixed with a woodsy earthiness.  My drinking partner finds similar yet different aromas calling out dusty, dry cherries and dense mossy forest. We are both intrigued by the smells/aromas that seem to complement each other rather than fight for top billing.

From the first sip to the last there is roundness and balance. To me, black fruit permeates with a light kiss of acid right from the start. The tannins are soft and approachable.  As the wine finishes you get a second burst of acidity that cleanses your palate in anticipation of your next sip. Which I did… over and over and over again. This wine is rocking my world.

For my partner, he is struck by the harmony between the dark fruits and the earth.

Geez, we are both loving this wine. My sister pops in the house while we are sipping, so I hand her my glass.  All she can say is, “WOW!, damn that is good.”

One final comment: I was prepared to like this wine but did not expect to want to search it out locally.  I was so incredibly wrong. This is a fantastic wine.

2014 Cabernet at Nittany Epicurean

Nittany Epicurean takes a look:

Earlier this week, my ongoing series of discovery of some of the great wines of California brought us wines from some of my favorite wineries in the state. Today, the series will stay in Napa for another delicious cabernet from a winery for which I’ve developed quite an affinity:

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon grown, produced & bottled by Smith-Madrone (St. Helena, California).

This wine is mostly cabernet sauvignon (85%) blended with small amounts of cabernet franc (8%) and merlot (7%). The fruit – all estate grown – hails from Napa’s Spring Mountain District. Following fermentation, the wine was aged for 18 months in French oak barrels (70% new). It comes in at 13.9% ABV.

The wine showed a dark ruby color. Blackberry, raspberry, vanilla and oak on a nose that showed initial restraint. Cherry cola, raspberry, blackberry, vanilla, plum, licorice, oak and hints of eucalyptus followed on a palate much more developed than the nose. The wine exhibited good structure and length, along with soft tannins. This wine would pair classically with a dry-aged prime rib.

2014 Cabernet a ‘restrained take on mountain-grown fruit’

The 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon is reviewed in the May Wine Enthusiast:


91 POINTS   Cellar Selection

This is a concentrated wine made with 8% Cabernet Franc and 7% Merlot within the blend, a restrained take on mountain-grown fruit and tannin. Cassis, red currant and cedar persist within a framework of tart acidity and balanced oak, the structure suggestive of further aging. Enjoy best 2024 through 2034.

International Wine Review reviews

2014 Cabernet and 2015 Chardonnay were reviewed at International Wine Review:

Smith-Madrone is a small family-owned and operated  artisanal winery in St. Helena.  It was founded in 1971 by Stuart Smith on a 200-acre ranch, partly planted as a vineyard over a century ago.  The Smith-Madrone estate vineyards sit on Spring Mountain at elevations between 1,300 and 2,000 feet on steep rocky slopes ranging up to 34% incline.  Their soils are mostly volcanic-based  clay loam, and their vineyards are dry farmed.  The winery produces about 4,000 cases a year of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Riesling, and a Prestige Cuvée, Cooks’s Flat Reserve.   The winery management team, pictured below, consists of  Stuart A. Smith, Managing Partner, Charles F. Smith III, winemaker, and Sam Smith, Assistant Winemaker.

We were delighted to have the opportunity to taste these magnificent wines.  They are well-made and beautifully focused wines with rich flavors and somewhat wild mountain characteristics.  They are for drinking now but will provide pleasure for years to come.

Smith-Madrone 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley ($52)  The 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon is nicely integrated and complex with a melange of red and black fruit with noteworthy boysenberry, plum,  savory herbs and notes of underbrush and chocolate.  It is nicely concentrated, round on the palate with firm tannins and a long finish.

Smith-Madrone 2015 Chardonnay Spring Mountain District Napa Vallley ($34)  Medium straw in color, this Chardonnay displays ripe apple and melon on the nose. It reveals prominent wood notes on the palate with orchard fruit flavors and has nice lingering intensity of flavor on the finish with good acidity showing throughout.


Vineration stopped by

Our thanks to Vineration for visiting:





“High elevation hoodoo” and more

 From IntoxReport, March 7:

The Madrone Ranger Rides Again

You have your Lone Rangers and you have your Rhone Rangers, and you probably have Heidelberg Tuns filled with preposterous puns, but as always, rising above them all in the rarefied atmosphere of Spring Mountain, you have Smith-Madrone.

Founded in 1971 by Stuart Smith, the dash in the wineries name does not indicate a partner named Madrone; rather, the conspirators here are Stuart’s enological brohammer Charles F. Smith III and the frugally-named assistant winemaker Sam Smith.  The Madrone in the moniker is a tall and stately species of evergreen tree that lords over the estate’s mountaintop terroir, symbolic of the swagger and the sizzle of its grape juice.

I first fell in love with Smith-Madrone’s Riesling a decade ago, because amid a (then) sea of Left Coast cold-varietal mediocrity, it was a crisp, clean and shimmering stand-alone. Stuart Pigott, the Raja of Riesling, once called the Smith Brothers ‘two of the unsung heroes of American Riesling’—although considering the number of arias I’ve sung about them, I must be perennially off-key.

The wine, then and now, is an example of how this German varietal performs do if the V-shaped river vineyards of the grapes native Germany are flipped over to make California mountainsides. The solar-panel slopes concentrate sunlight and drain water and nutrients, forcing vines to struggle against the natural shocks that grape flesh is heir to, and this creates smaller, richer fruit than valley vines yield, and—because cool air flows downward, night air creates drafts that protect against against diseases, molds and pests. The result, both in Rheingau and at Smith-Madrone, is a dynamic mélange of fat fruit flavors—mango, ripe pear and pineapple laced with lean acids and incisive minerality.

2015 Smith-Madrone Chardonnay, Spring Mountain

What’s sauce for the Gau is sauce for the gander, so it stands to reason that the high-elevation hoodoo that produces such righteous Riesling might have something to say about Chardonnay as well. In fact, the sample of Smith-Madrone’s 2015 bears it out. Grown at sun-washed, 1,800-foot elevations and on slopes up to 34% grade, the Smith brothers have been harvesting Chardonnay from their estate for 47 years, and call 2015 ‘the most unusual harvest they’ve ever seen.’

“To start with, there was no rain, and there have been enormous swings of temperature and of course, there have been fires. This was after a mild winter caused early bud break, followed by protracted bloom and cool weather in spring, which contributed to smaller grape clusters and variable crop size.  We started harvesting the Chardonnay on August 27 and completed picking on September 16.  Despite the challenges, the color, flavor profiles and chemistry continue to impress us all.”

#metoo. The wine offers beautiful tones of ripe citrus behind a crisp concentration of peach, candied lemon, and roasted cashew stone and excellent, resonating texture. Get it quick; only 512 cases made.

2015 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain

Says Charles F. Smith:  “In spite of the drought and the Napa earthquake, the 2014 harvest produced an abundant crop and excellent expectations for the vintage. The 2013/2014 winter was one of the driest on record in California and rainfall totals on Spring Mountain were approximately half of normal. A long-term benefit of the drought is that berry sizes are typically smaller and have more concentrated flavors, which may explain the terrific quality of the 2014 harvest.”

Altitude plays a role in producing wines of potency and nuance, but without a proper foundation, it’s all for naught.  The reddish Aiken soil that predominates throughout Smith-Madrone vineyards is derived from nearby Sonoma Volcanics, and tends to be gravelly, leading to even more radical drainage than elevation alone would account for.  In the Spring Mountain AVA soil depths vary, but tend to be deeper than in nearby mountain terrains, and as a result, so do their red wines. Notable is the Cabernet Sauvignon, which is almost inky black in color (high elevation reds seem to tan in the direct UV rays like people) and has a bracing dose of acid that preserves the elusive quality of freshness in extraordinarily rich wines.  The wine displays the pedigree of middle-aged vines; these are in their early forties. It’s juicy with dark, saturated berry flavors—fruit crushed for jam, but not yet stewed.  It’s accented by coffee, spicy plum and crushed peppercorn and shows clarity and precision.

I always welcome an opportunity to circle back to see what the brothers-on-high are up to at Smith-Madrone.  Smith is the most common name in the United States, so it’s gratifying to note that these two are making some of the most unusual wines.