92 points and “a joy to drink” re the 2012 Chardonnay

Isaac Baker reviews the 2012 Chardonnay at Terroirist.com:

92 points: Light gold color. Such liveliness on the nose: chalk and crusty sea salt, bright limes, orange zest, lychee, lots of flowers, lumber yard shavings and even some white pepper. Fleshy but clean, with moderate acid, the white peach and lychee fruit mixes with all sorts of pears. Honeybutter and nougat show themselves prominently, but lots of sea salt and chalk notes come out as well. I couldn’t figure out this spice element so I poured the wine for a friend who called it minty. Whatever you call the spice note, it’s a really unique and tasty little signature. 100% new French oak, but this is a clean and bright wine, lots going for it. A joy to drink.


95 points for the 2012 Chardonnay

Tasting the 2012 Chardonnay, Robert Whitley just wrote:

95 points: Smith-Madrone may be more renowned for its cabernet sauvignon and riesling, but its chardonnay takes a back seat to no one. Spring Mountain is no stranger to world-class chardonnay, either, with Stony Hill, the neighboring vineyard, long holding sway among California chardonnay producers. This vintage of Smith-Madrone shows a toasty note on the nose, with a lemon oil nuance that is present in most great California chardonnays. With a stony mineral quality as well, this is one of the finest chardonnays I’ve yet tasted from this top-notch Napa Valley winery.

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) https://armchairsommelier.wordpress.com/2015/03/07/snowed-in-with-smith-madrone/

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!

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!


92 points, “plush mouth-feel paired with juicy acidity” for the 2012 Chardonnay

Bacchus & Beery rate the 2012 Chardonnay:

92 points: A very balanced Chardonnay offering a plush mouth-feel paired with juicy acidity. Fermented and aged in French oak from dry-farmed estate fruit. Pleasing aromas of red apple, pear and a touch of baking spice. Creamy on the palate with flavors of red apple, pear and tropicals with hints of spice. Vanilla creme in the long finish.




Purely Domestic Wine Report reviews the current releases

Doug Wilder at Purely Domestic Wine Report reviews the current releases in Issue 3.5, January 2015:

It was in 1971 when not much existed in the way of Napa Valley wineries when Stu and Charles Smith planted their first vineyards on Spring Mountain and over the years and over the years developed a devoted following for wines that eschewed the push toward higher alcohols. They are beautiful expressions of terroir and generally well priced. The relatively rare Cook’s Flat is a different aspiration altogether and stands apart from the core wines.

2012 Chardonnay shows a nose of anise, almonds, dried lemon, vanilla pod, conifer and salt. The palate is rounded, dry fruit, apricot, nectarine and pineapple with pronounced acidity in the mid-palate. Nicely balanced, it only spends 8 months in new French oak. Drink 2015 – 2020.

2013 Riesling is a delicious throwback to a nearly forgotten variety. There are scant Napa wineries using it and those who bottle estate could be counted on one hand. A nose of sweet spice, white blossoms and sun-warmed white peach. The palate is lush, pure and bright yellow stone fruit, crisp in the mouth-watering core. Drink 2015 – 2018.

2011 Cabernet has a nose of fig and slightly dried plum, spiced with an undercurrent of tobacco, black currant and blueberry. The palate is seamlessly saturated loam, black fruits, chocolate powder, all in a silky mouth-coating texture. Drink 2015 – 2025.

2010 Cook’s Flat Reserve is a single eight-acre block on the estate replanted in 1972. After 19 months in oak, the wine is bottle aged for up to three years prior to release. The nose is subtle cedar, plum and nutmeg. The palate entry is dry cherry, notes of florals, and earth in a round and deeply textured way finishing with lively acidity. Drink 2016 – 2025.


Dunne on Wine: Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery

BY MIKE DUNNE, Sacramento Bee, January 6, 2015

Charlie Smith is stymied. After he and his brother, Stu, took delivery of dozens of new bottles at their Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery of Napa Valley, they realized they were the wrong model.

Now Charlie is trying to secure the bottles to a pallet so the shipment can be returned, but the cardboard on top is sliding and the rope he’s stretching about the stack is slipping.

Stu ambles by on his way from one corner of the barny winery to another. Without breaking his stride he glances at Charlie’s problem and casually suggests, “Let’s shrink wrap it.”

Charlie looks at him with no reaction whatever on his face, but he responds quickly and gratefully, “Good idea.”

That’s it? No balking? No defensiveness? No stubborn insistence that he do it his way? What’s up with these brothers, who have been growing grapes and making wine high on Spring Mountain along the west side of Napa Valley for more than 40 years?

We’ll get to that, but first, let’s join Stu for a tour of Smith-Madrone’s vineyards, which curve about Spring Mountain’s steep and rocky slopes on a series of terraces between 1,300 feet and 2,000 feet above the valley floor.

Their ranch sprawls for 200 acres, much of it given over to Douglas fir, poison oak and the madrone that explains why the winery is named Smith-Madrone and not Smith Brothers, which they probably couldn’t have gotten away with anyway (think cough drops).

They cleared about 35 acres for their vineyards, planted to cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, riesling, merlot and cabernet franc. All their production, which ranges between 2,500 cases and 5,000 cases per year, comes solely from their own grapes.

They are nearly at the end of a long-term project to replant the vineyard block by block, in part because of an infestation of the root louse phylloxera, in part to take advantage of smarter viticulture practices that have evolved since 1972, when Stu Smith put in the hillside’s first vines.

“Back then, the direction of the vine to sunlight didn’t matter,” he is saying as he explains why their rows now run more northeast/southwest than their initial east/west layout. They’ve introduced other changes, such as a restyled trellis. “We think we’re making better wine because of it,” he adds.

Pausing under the massive madrone that helps account for the winery’s name, he mused about the style of wine the brothers seek to capture. They want their wines to speak clearly of varietal or style, and the uniqueness of their site and the vagaries of the vintage. They want their wines balanced and complex.

“They should have lots of layers of interesting flavors,” Stu said. They don’t mind if the wines comes off leaner or lighter than typical for California wines. Their acidity must be snappy.

“We value the elegance, finesse and restraint of Europe, which with a little California sunshine gives a very distinctive wine.”

When we returned to the winery there was opportunity to ask how both brothers got to where they are.

Q: Stu, what did you see in 1971 to prompt you to grow grapes and make wine here? (Charlie joined him two years later.)

A: Stu: Several things. One, (this site) had been in vineyard (in the 1880s). There were grape stakes throughout the forest, and next to these grape stakes were Douglas fir trees two and 21/2 feet in diameter, where the forest had regrown. The trees we harvested in 1971 were about 55 years old. They had grown fast. The soil was a very productive soil. Second, we’re neighbors of Stony Hill Winery, and Stony Hill made really good chardonnay. The other thing is that I wanted to be in the mountains. The reason for that, and we still agree on this today, is that the best grapes come from the mountains, and the better the quality the grapes, the less you have to do as a winemaker.

Charlie: We don’t want to step on anybody’s toes down there on the valley floor, you understand. There are nice areas to grow grapes down there.

Stu: And they are very lovely people, too. We’re even friendly with some of them. Some of my best friends …

Charlie: … Are on the valley floor. But to go back to Stony Hill and the structure of its chardonnay. Stony Hill quite rightly has a reputation for producing chardonnays that are extremely long-lived. That’s structure at work.

Stu: In this day of technology, where people are using spinning cones, reverse osmosis and mega purple and all this other stuff to make wine, we don’t, because we think we have good grapes, and when you have good grapes you don’t have to do that.

Q: If you were starting over today, what would you do differently?

A: Charlie: We’d build the winery differently.

Stu: Bigger.

Charlie: And more underground.

Stu: Yes, the entire main floor would have a cellar underneath it.

Charlie: We’d absolutely love to have barrels set one-high in caves. When we were building the winery I remember thinking that caves with barrels one-high was an incredible waste of space. But it’s not actually like that. It’s a very efficient use of labor. You don’t have someone crawling all over the barrels when you top up. Topping is a huge chore. We do it once every two weeks. There’s no escaping topping, it has to be done on a regular basis. If you have a row of barrels one-high one guy can top all those barrels in a single day.

Stu: After the earthquake (this past August) my son Sam (the winery’s assistant winemaker) came up with a real good rationale why the barrels should go in a cave. When they are one-high they can’t fall over.

Charlie: Crawling around barrels looks sexy in magazine, but for a practical matter one-high is way better.

Q: Do you see yourself as any kind of link between the Napa Valley of yesterday and the Napa Valley of tomorrow?

A: Stu: Absolutely.

Charlie: I’m afraid so.

Stu: This may not be a good business strategy, but I kind of think of us as the last of the production winery-type people who came in. We like producing. This may be a bit of an exaggeration, but we just love growing grapes and making wine.

Q: Why do you have riesling in your lineup?

A: Stu: In 1971 Johannisberg riesling and pinot chardonnay, as they were known then, and cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir, all were selling for the exclusive price of $400 a ton in Napa Valley. The white-wine boom hadn’t hit, and the red-wine boom and the French Paradox were a decade or more away. I’d spent that summer down in the valley at BV (Beaulieu Vineyard) working closely with Andre (Tchelistcheff), who was saying he didn’t know where he was going to sell all this cabernet sauvignon they were growing. You’ve got to understand that at that time BV cabernet sold for $2.75 (a bottle). It was an entirely different world back then. But the riesling, that’s Charlie’s fault. He was really digging the 1971 (German) rieslings. A lot of them were wonderful. That was our model.

Charlie: But there were some pretty respectable (California) rieslings around. Riesling was common.

Stu: But they were all sweet. Our friend Jerry Luper absolutely is responsible for the decline of riesling in America. At Freemark Abbey he got a load of riesling that had been harvested way too sweet, with botrytis all though the grapes. He made an eidelwein with them, a dessert wine, which won the sweepstakes award at the Los Angeles County Fair when that was the major judging in the country. So how did our industry respond? Everybody was sycophants. They copied what he did and they did it badly. I wish I had a nickel for every time when I ask at a public tasting if someone would like some riesling and they say, “No, I don’t like riesling, it’s too sweet.”

Charlie: I’m perfectly happy to blame it on Blue Nun. But the truth of the matter is, the real source of the problem, the reason why riesling (sales) dried up, is that chardonnay got to be so popular. I had the conviction that we could do better (with riesling), I really thought that.

Stu: Then our first riesling, the 1977, won a competition in Paris.

Q: What’s the division of labor here?

A: Charlie: He takes care of the vineyards and I take care of the wine, but when it comes time to put the wine in the bottle we fight about it until we agree on what’s right. We taste and we taste and we taste until we get something we both agree is what we want to produce. I tell visitors all the time that we’re like the two houses of Congress, nothing gets done until we agree.

Stu: Another thing is that I don’t wear contacts and he does. He can’t be out in the dust. I can sit on the tractor all day.


Critics and consumers agree: Smith-Madrone is widely recognized not only for its explicit and transparent wines but for its value.

The Smith brothers show uncommon restraint in their marketing. Their highly regarded cabernet sauvignon sells for $48, their equally admired chardonnay for $32, their riesling for $27. The exception is a wine they introduced from the 2007 vintage and which they make only in exceptional years, a reserve cabernet sauvignon that sells for $200.

When we sat down to taste current and pending releases, here’s what came through in the wines:

The Smith-Madrone 2012 Napa Valley Chardonnay was bright and floral, with a sinewy build, sunny fruit, revitalizing acidity and a faint brushstroke of oak, even if it was barrel-fermented. The 2013 version of the wine was even lankier, though the brothers had stirred its lees more industriously than usual, which heightened the wine’s toasty aroma and bolstered its complexity without putting any more meat on its bones.

The Smith-Madrone 2010 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon possesses more complex and compelling aromas than usually found in the varietal. It is difficult to imagine a cabernet sauvignon more expressive. What’s more, that flamboyant bouquet carries over into the bright flavor, which runs to red fruits punctuated with an herbal note. The 2011 version, from a troubled growing year, is more meaty and earthy, its fruit running more to blackberries than cherries, its herbal thread a touch more pronounced, its tannins a bit more stern.

With the 2007 vintage, Smith-Madrone introduced a premium wine, the Cook’s Flat Reserve, a $200 blend based largely on cabernet sauvignon. The 2009 Cook’s Flat Reserve is as wonderfully aromatic as their regular 2010 cabernet, but with deeper and broader fruit, more supple tannins, and a core of beguiling chocolate. The 2010 version of the wine, which they released before the 2009 because it was already well-developed, is just as approachable, with a more herbal overtone and a more enduring finish.

The Smith-Madrone 2012 Napa Valley Riesling, the driest riesling the brothers have made – .45 residual sugar – is exceptionally fruity, mostly lemon, with an ample yet nimble build and a rich texture. The 2013 has nearly twice as much residual sugar but still tastes dry. It may not yet be as expressive in aroma and flavor as the 2012, but it has a more alluring complexity.

The tasting room at Smith-Madrone is open by appointment only 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Call (707) 963-2283 or complete a form at www.smithmadrone.com. Use directions on the website; don’t rely on GPS.

Chris Kassel reviews the current releases: “..from a winery not only on top of Spring Mountain but also on top of their game”

Chris Kassel, at IntoxReport, just tasted through our current releases:


Nothing like new friends and new wines to introduce the New Year along with the anticipation of making new enemies over our old opinions on wine, eh?  The selections representing three unique vintages, offering a cross-section of both fruit and fruition in the tiny appellation of Napa’s Spring Mountain District. Nestled into the eastern slopes of the Mayacamas Mountains with elevations as high as 2,600 feet, the region is home to around 30 wineries offering the quintessence of mountain-grown wines. That is, cooler temperatures and longer hang times resulting in cleaner, acid-driven wines packed with ripe but nimble flavors; they may be cleaner in profile than valley wines and, in good vintages, showcase the ‘red’ contours of red wine grapes, cherry and raspberry, while in white varietals, melon and stone fruits predominate.

Smith-Madrone is named for the brothers Smith (Stu and Charles) and the Madrone trees that cohabitate with them on the 34 acres they grow on hillsides that may reach 30% grades. Eastern slopes are reserved for Riesling, southern and western exposures for Cabernet Sauvignon and northern slopes for Chardonnay. The vines are dry-farmed, meaning that the roots struggle to find water and thus, penetrate deeper and more varied soils strata, often resulting in nuanced wine with greater complexity.  Vines aged 25 years or more can also produce multi-layered wine with sensory dimensions beyond the reach of their younger counterparts.  And it shows in the Smith-Madrone portfolio, drawn from vines up to forty years old.

2011 was somewhat wet and dreary, with long rains in April and May, delaying bloom on some vines and disrupting fruit set on others.  This set the stage for a smaller-than-average harvest.  Diligent vineyard managers opened up the leaf canopies to allow maximum sunlight to reach the clusters, and a long warm summer salvaged the vintage, leading to some intense wines of great depth.

2012 was an ideal year for Spring Mountain, with ample rainfall during the winter and a dry early season. The growing season, while cool, offered no real exaggerations until a heat spike just before harvest, but that settled down and allowed a longer, more leisurely final ripening.  The heat inversion that plays a vital role above the valley fogs allowed for a slow accumulation of grape sugars and extended the time the grapes were able to develop the riper flavor nuances.

Try the following as an introduction to the nuances of vintage and the alpine amplitude of Smith-Madrone’s wines.  They are wines that define the region, from a winery that is not only on top of Spring Mountain, but also, on top of their game.

2011 Cabernet Sauvignon: Brisk perfectly-ripe red and black berries in the nose, neither jammy nor stewed.  The fruit is the perfume is shored by dry-leaf tobacco notes and a bit of wood smoke.  Eager but adolescent, the wine has its dominant acids up front and its mouth-coating tannins holding up the rear, but the fruit—though lively and restless—is too solidly framed by both.  These are traits that fade with age, and will doubtlessly lead to an integration of the whole, at which point, I predict a silken, voluptuous wine that expresses harmony in this indispensable trio of cab components.

2012 Chardonnay: The wine opens with a blast of lemon custard, vanilla and honey, leading to concentrated blend of peach and and citrus acid framed by malo cream.  This is an exquisite Napa chardonnay with a textbook California unctuousness balanced by cool-climate crispness—a wine that take cues from Burgundy, but signs it with an expression of pure, New World clarity.

2013 Riesling: A commendable representation of Riesling in California, albeit with restrained aromatics. There’s a touch of sulfur in the foreground, but it quickly dissipates into light aromas of peach syrup and almond. In the mouth, these sappy stone fruit flavors flesh out and become an expansive fruit bowl of sweet melon, apricot with clear mineral tones and juicy grapefruit in the end.  Acidity is fresh and correctly balanced, and the wine offers an advanced course in Rheingau-styled Rieslings in a climate where only impassioned winemakers succeed with the varietal.



90 points for the 2012 Chardonnay: “not a Chardonnay to be taken lightly” and more

Mary Ewing-Mulligan reviews the 2012 Chardonnay in the December 30 WineReviewOnline:

90 points: I love the wines from this wine estate perched high in the western mountains of Napa Valley, where old vines grow in volcanic and rocky soils mainly without irrigation.  This 2012 Chardonnay is my favorite style from that grape: a dry wine with a strong backbone of acidity and yet rich, creamy texture and vivid fruit flavors.  It was barrel-fermented in all-new French oak, but the toasty character of oak does not silence the flavors of the grapes — ripe lemon, tropical fruits, ripe apple and a floral character.  I also notice a savory stoniness in the wine’s flavor, and notes of white pepper spice.  Despite its reasonable price, this is not a Chardonnay to be taken lightly.


95 points from Robert Whitley and “one of the finest Chardonnays…”

Robert Whitley reviews the 2012 Chardonnay at WineReviewOnline on December 30:

95 points: Smith-Madrone may be more renowned for its Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling, but its Chardonnay takes a back seat to no one. Spring Mountain is no stranger to world class Chardonnay, either, with Stony Hill, the neighboring vineyard, long holding sway among California Chardonnay producers. This vintage of Smith-Madrone shows a toasty note on the nose, with a lemon oil nuance that is present in most great California Chardonnays. With a stony mineral quality as well, this is one of the finest Chardonnays I’ve yet tasted from this top-notch Napa Valley winery.