Long live Riesling!

Honored to be included in this look at Napa Valley rieslings:

Napa Valley Riesling: Then And Now

by Michelle Williams, January 30, 2019, Forbes.com

Four of Napa Valley’s outstanding dry Rieslings.MICHELLE WILLIAMS

Prior to Prohibition, Riesling was the most planted white grape variety in Napa Valley, taking a dip until the 1970s, where its prominence rose again. In 1972, Riesling was the first wine released by Chateau Montelena. “This was well before Cabernet and Chardonnay were anointed King and Queen of Napa Valley,” shares Matt Crafton, Winemaker at Chateau Montelena, “I’m sure it was an exciting time.”

Some may argue the excitement has faded for Napa Valley Riesling, but that depends on who you ask. According to Hailey Trefethen, Vintner at Trefethen Family Vineyards, there were 4,401 tons of the grape crushed in Napa Valley in 1979. By 2017, that number dwindled to 266.20 tons, according to the USDA 2017 Grape Crush Report, but it is a labor of love for those who still produce it. Continue reading “Long live Riesling!”

2015 Riesling is pitch perfect

On December 22 Peg Melnik at The Santa Rosa Press Democrat recommends “wines that will impress:”

Playing host over the holiday? If so, be forewarned. In Wine Country, guests have high expectations; they feel entitled to have their palates pampered.

With top winemakers in this region rivaling the best on the planet, it won’t be hard to impress.

They are world-class experimenters who push the envelope. They don’t settle. These people don’t punch a timecard. On the contrary, they work crazy hours and it’s most evident during harvest when they are sleep-deprived for days on end.

The wines listed have been palate-tested and they’re prime examples of the best crafted in the region. They will no doubt prompt your guests to ask for another pour. When you fill their glasses, you can smile with peace of mind; these wines make you look good.
—Smith-Madrone, 2015 Spring Mountain District Napa Valley Riesling, 12.9 percent. This complex riesling has layered notes of papaya, petrol and honeysuckle. It’s nice and dry, with bright acidity. Pitch perfect balance. Impressive.


Riesling is The Wine of the Week

The St. Helena Star chooses the 2015 Riesling as The Wine of the Week:

Peel away the layers of a wine, and you’ll often find that the people behind the label are one of the most intriguing parts of the story. What brought the vintners or growers to this point? What luck or derailments have they experienced along the way?

Stu and Charlie Smith have volumes to tell; they’ve been on Spring Mountain since the early 1970s. Armed with Berkeley degrees, they combine smarts with a no-nonsense approach, and make wines, like this Riesling, that don’t just show deliciously attractive fruit, but a depth of aromas that reveal themselves slowly and seductively in the glass. Put this Riesling next to many others, and you’ll see the difference. Even Germany, the quintessential home of the Riesling grape, recently purchased a pallet of Smith Madrone Riesling!

For parts of their story, visit smithmadrone.com. To experience their “salt-of-the-earth” character and incredible line-up of wines, you’ll need to make an appointment and head up the hill.



Riesling demonstrates ‘nervosity’

Linda Murphy writes about enjoying the last days of summer with unique wines like riesling:

September 11, 2018

Smith-Madrone, 2015 Spring Mountain District Riesling, 12.9%, $33: There is an incredible ripe fruitiness to this wine — white peach, apricot, citrus and orange marmalade — for such a lean alcohol level. Bracing acidity balanced the fruit bowl.

Summer officially ends Sept. 22, yet the warm — and sometimes downright hot — daytime temperatures continue through October. So do picnics, barbecues, dinners on the deck and jaunts to the coast.

For every summer-like day-into-evening, there is crisp white wine to quench the thirst, get the saliva jets firing and cool the palate. Chardonnay and sauvignon blanc are easy choices, but why not try something unusual, a bit more racy and altogether local… a bracing riesling from Napa Valley, where it’s said to be too warm to successfully grow the grape?

A trait these wines share is what winemakers call “nervosity,” “tension” or “energy.” By that, they mean there is enough natural acidity to offset the sunny sweetness of the ripe grapes. Think of a tightrope walker shifting the pole up and down — acidity on one end, fruit sweetness on the other — to maintain balance and stay on the wire.

Stu and Charlie Smith of Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery, planted riesling in 1972 on their Spring Mountain property, and they were called crazy. Riesling in Calistoga? Too hot, they were told.

“There were the four most important varietals in the world, which are cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, chardonnay and what we then called Johannisberg riesling,” Stu Smith said. “We tried with all our might to make pinot noir work, but it just wasn’t to be.

“Riesling was altogether different. We understood from the get-go that wine was about balance, elegance, character and the site. We knew that Germany made the best German rieslings, and that Alsace made the best Alsatian rieslings, and if we were to make the best Smith-Madrone rieslings, the wine had to be the expression of our site, climate and passion for the grape.”

We tried with all our might to make pinot noir work, but it just wasn’t to be. Riesling was altogether different. We understood from the get-go that wine was about balance, elegance, character and the site.    — Stu Smith of  Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery

The Smiths also produce chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon, yet riesling is their main source of pride.

“Why do we keep making it in the face of more profitable cabernet sauvignon?” Stu Smith asked.

“I personally love the wine, and how can we give it up when we do it so well? If money was the driving force, I would have never gone to the mountains to grow grapes, let alone go into the wine business. I’d buy McDonald’s franchises.”





The measuring stick of California Riesling


TheWineGuys look at the 2015 Riesling:

94 points: Every year, there comes a wine from Spring Mountain that is consistently an insane steal of a value and to us, one of if not the finest domestic Riesling around. Notes of white peach, crushed rock, yellow apple, honey, citrus peel, jasmine, lime and subtle spice. Refreshing and crisp palate, super clean, the acidity and minerality really sing. Well balanced, not overly sweet, just purity and freshness that rings throughout. Absolutely beautiful and the measuring stick of California Riesling. Enjoy now over the next 20+ years.

A vertical of Rieslings

A long-time Smith-Madrone customer, Art Lehman, proposed to his wife at the winery over a glass of Riesling. He lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for many years and recently retired to Oregon.

He assembled a vertical of Rieslings and shared them with a group of 13 friends. Here are his comments and photographs.

The wines were: 1997, 1999, 2000, 2003 and 2004.

All of the wines had held up well, i.e. none had become old. 1997 was a bit more concentrated and less acidity, golden color, had nice fruit and floral. My favorite personally was 2000 followed by 1997.

The group favorite was 2000 followed by 1997. After that it was split about the same.

None of my friends are wine experts. They’re just average folk who enjoy wine. Their comments were all over the place—fitting to the concept that we are all different and enjoy different wines. We had lots of appetizers to go with the food and spicy shrimp seemed to be a favorite.



2015 Riesling…vibrates with racy nervosity..

The 2015 Riesling was chosen as Wine of the Day by Fred Koeppel on August 13:

The Smith-Madrone Vineyards Riesling 2015 is made from dry-farmed vines high atop Spring Mountain, west of the city of St. Helena in the central Napa Valley. Seeing no oak, the wine practically vibrates with racy nervosity and a scintillating limestone and flint element. A light straw-gold hue, the Smith-Madrone Riesling 2015, Spring Mountain District, offers delicate aromas of peach, lychee and pear wreathed with notes of jasmine and honeysuckle and the true varietal character of slightly oily petrol, a quality sometimes referred to as rubber eraser; a few moments in the glass bring in hints of apple and lime peel. This one feels chiseled in its lovely, chiming tone and presence on the palate, delivering crystalline clarity of peach and spiced pear flavors driving through to a bracing, slightly saline finish pointed by a touch of grapefruit bitterness. 12.6 percent alcohol. Production was 685 cases. Enticing now, this superior riesling will drink best from 2020 through 2030. Excellent.



Vinography on 2015 Riesling: “best ever…”

Vinography looks at the 2015 Riesling:


Vinography Unboxed: Week of 7/29/18

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week was an all-California week, and involved a number of interesting wines.

Let’s start with the reliably excellent Riesling from Smith-Madrone, who have thumbed their noses at the world for decades and made Riesling from the slopes of Spring Mountain, where everyone else would be growing Cabernet. The wine is usually excellent, but I do think this is the best it’s ever tasted on release.

2015 Smith-Madrone Riesling, Spring Mountain District, Napa, California
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of Asian pear and wet chalkboard and a touch of paraffin. In the mouth, Asian pear, lemon zest, and tangerine juice flavors are zippy with excellent acidity. Clean crisp, with a nice wet chalkboard minerality. This wine is always excellent, but the 2015 strikes me as exceptionally well balanced and exciting. 12.6% alcohol.


Re-releasing the 2006 Riesling

We’re getting ready to re-release the 2006 Riesling….take note….

The wine received gold medals from The Orange County Fair and Critics’ Challenge.

Eric Asimov in The New York Times, in a profile of the winery on August 8, 2007, wrote:

We tasted five rieslings, from 2006 back to 1993, and it was fascinating to see how the wines evolved.  The ’06 was fresh and young, dry and tasting of citrus and flowers, with the unchanneled energy of a puppy.


The Wine Enthusiast‘s review (appearing in the September 2007 issue):

92 points: Doesn’t say “dry” on the label, like so many others do, but it really is basically dry, which allows the palate to savor the pure fruit of the grape and the beautifully crisp acids.  This really is one of the most balanced Rieslings in California, with a slate and petrol edge to the green apple, pineapple, nectarine and wildflower flavors.  If you like aging your whites, it should effortlessly glide through the next 10 years in a cool cellar.


In the August 2007 issue of The Wine News:

93 points, Editors’ Choice: Enticing mineral-tinged aromas of white peach, shy petrol and dried apricot.  Full bodied with brisk acidity, the wine is fairly bursting with luscious apricot and peach fruit edged with crushed stone minerality and a subtle undertone of tropical fruit, showing fine depth of flavor and excellent acid balance, finishing with a hint of white grapefruit.