Lori Budd podcasts with Stu

Lori Budd of Dracaena Wines podcasted with Stu:

Ep. 92 Stu Smith of Smith-Madrone Winery


It took a while, in fact several months, but we finally got our schedules to mesh and it was well worth the wait. I had the honor of sitting down with Stu Smith of Smith-Madrone Winery in Napa. In May 1971, with a partnership of family and friends, Stuart Smith bought the ‘terroir’ which today is Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery. At the age of 22 armed with a B.A. in Economics from UC Berkeley on his way to a Master’s in Viticulture at UC Davis he sought land to plant a vineyard in the Napa Valley, and found the highest part of Spring Mountain. He hasn’t looked back since. Stu is one of the most respected individuals in the wine industry and as you listen you will see why. His breadth of knowledge and passion are incredible!

The dialogue was fantastic and lasted two hours. I thought it would be best to break the interview up into two episodes. In this episode we talk about history, changes in the wine industry, soil, and toys that boys like to play with (chainsaws)!


Napa Valley Wine Academy’s podcast with Stu

Napa Valley Wine Academy talks to Stu as part of its podcast series:

In Episode 10 of our ongoing podcast series, The Stories Behind Wine, we speak to Stu Smith of Smith-Madrone Winery. Stu is a winemaker, a man of science and a passionate skeptic on many topics in the wine business. We cover a wide range of issues from biodynamics,…


April 14, 2018! Divide and conquer!

Divide and conquer on April 14, 2018!

Join Sam Smith at Cucina Enoteca in Irvine, California


Stu Smith at VinNebraska in Omaha, Nebraska!


Winemaker Lunch at CUCINA enoteca Irvine

Join CUCINA enoteca Irvine for a special Winemaker Lunch with Sam Smith and Josh Phelps out on the patio on Saturday, April 14th. This will be a three-course family style lunch with two wines per course.

About Sam Smith
Before joining Smith-Madrone Sam traveled, alternating working harvests at wineries and working as a sommelier at distinguished restaurants around the world. He has worked in Germany, New Zealand, Australia, Washington, the Caribbean, and a few wineries around Napa Valley as well. Born and raised in the Napa Valley, Sam grew up playing football, tennis and golf. He is an avid outdoorsman and obtained his degree from UC Santa Barbara.


wild watercress + beet cured salmon | radish + pickled onion + avocado + limoncello vinaigrette

smith madrone | riesling | napa valley
smith madrone | chardonnay | napa valley

mezzi rigatoni | lamb bolognese + mint pesto + ricotta salata

grounded wine co. | ‘collusion’ merlot blend | columbia valley, wa 
grounded wine co. | ‘steady state’ red blend | napa valley

rotisserie duck + chicken | market vegetables + ancient grain

ad vivum | ‘sleeping lady vineyard’ cabernet sauvignon | napa valley
curly st. james | red blend | napa valley

Please note that menu is subject to change based on chef’s whim and seasonal availability. If you have any food allergies, please make us aware at time of reservation.





Wine Tasting & Grand Auction open to the public at the Hotel RL at 3321 South 72nd Street. Starting at 5:00 pm, attendees will sample wines and hors d’oeuvres, and bid during the silent auction on a vast selection of gift-items and wine collectibles. Guests will be able to purchase a bottles of wine in our Mystery Wine Pull. The program will commence in the main ballroom at 7:00 pm to include a live auction with spectacular vacation get-aways, items from our participating vintners and other one-of-a-kind offerings. Metro Magazine’s readers have voted vinNEBRASKA’s wine event “Best of Omaha for Food & Wine Event.” It’s the best wine event in the region!

Evening Events

5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Wine Tasting & Hors D’oeuvres

Enjoy meeting winemakers, winery owners and representatives from the wine industry while sampling their fantastic wines! 

5:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Silent Auction

Scroll through a vast array of unique action items. 

7:00 p.m. to Conclusion  Live Auction

Get ready for the Grandest of Auctions! There are many wonderful items ranging from valuable vintage wines to hand-crafted items and vacations that are sure to please! 




Vineration stopped by

Our thanks to Vineration for visiting:





“Loads of character,” as Corkscrew Report takes a look


by Johannes Marlena,  February 20, 2018

Are we out of line for calling Smith-Madrone a “hidden” winery of Napa Valley, considering it was established in 1971? No, not until the world recognizes there may not be a better $50 Napa Cab for the money than Smith-Madrone’s. Not to mention they also produce one of America’s most essential white wines.

What the heck kind of wine person goes out to California’s vaunted Napa Valley and says, “Yeah, I’ll make a Riesling?” Currently, there’s only 87 acres of vineyard dedicated to growing Riesling in Napa (there’s about 4,000 total acres of Riesling in California as compared to 98,000 of Chardonnay). Well, it happened—at the height of the hippie era, not that this necessarily has anything to do with anything. In 1970, Stuart Smith, 22 years old and armed with a B.A. in Economics from UC Berkeley, looked up to the mountains in the Spring Mountain District and bought the latitude 38.532437 and longitude 122.548480 vineyard property that is still the family’s today.

“Stu” Smith, in 1972, chose which varietals he would plant based on the exposures of the mountainous slopes of the vineyards (the peak height of the property reaches 1900 feet): east would be Riesling; north would be Chardonnay; and south and west would be Cabernet Sauvignon. And happily these grapes would grow among the 120-year-old olive trees, California black bears, and other wildlife that exists on the site. “These vines are our friends,” says Stu.

The vineyards of Smith-Madrone are dry-farmed, and Stu is a pioneer of this farming practice as applied to mountain sites.

Mountain Cabernet Sauvignons from Napa Valley can easily run you into the three-figures. “Handcrafted” is a shopworn term in the wine world, but in the case of mountain vineyards, good luck getting big mechanical harvesters not to tip over up there. What it takes to grow great grapes and make great wine around here is true grit. At $50 per bottle, the Smith-Madrone Cabernet is true grit at true value.

For those interested in tasting how a mountain Chardonnay is different in its expression than an archetypal Napa Chardonnay, the Smith-Madrone mountain Chardonnay is a must-have and, again, a relative steal.

And what about that Riesling? The Smith-Madrone remains one of the most inspirational products in American wine. There’s a retro-trendy belief nowadays that California’s terroir is one in which Riesling thrives. Riesling was actually one of the most popular white grape plantings of the Napa of the 1800s—pre-Phylloxera armageddon—and we are on the cusp of a new movement to define what “California Riesling” means today. But, to have a vision of the future of Riesling’s importance to the identity of Napa Valley in 1972 like Stuart Smith did—well, that makes him a kind of Nikola Tesla of the wine world. The Smith-Madrone Riesling is a contemporary American classic and stands as one of our most essential white wines—that everyone can experience at less than 30 bucks.

The three wines reviewed below—Riesling, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon—represent the core of Smith-Madrone’s lineup. And these wine represent what’s best about exploring the ‘hidden” corners of Napa Valley. No train or buses to get here… just go your own way.


Rapturously rich, with ripe tropical fruit (lychee, mango), peach nectar and orange blossom notes and a touch of flintiness and minerality. Grapes are grown on steep hillsides, like they do in Germany and Alsace—home to the world’s greatest Rieslings. Man, this is the sophisticated, structured and vivid stuff of dreams. Dry and focused, but also warm, ripe and finishing on the vibrant acidity of citrus—great mouthfeel from beginning to end. This is Riesling going for character and longevity versus quick-pleasing and obvious, like too many American Rieslings of yesterday. Iconoclastic, singular and fiercely independent expression of American Riesling from a place you don’t expect Riesling to be made.


Mountain Chardonnay that’s vivacious, rich and footloose and free. Its color is a brilliant goldenrod, its character broad, buttery smooth, full-bodied and overflowing with flavor, with notes of jackfruit, ripe pineapple, wax, lemon verbena and toffee. Just a ton of personality. Impressively big and bold while structurally solid and high class. The wine’s finish is lengthy with broad tannins—stone fruit notes linger well into the next sip. A Napa Chardonnay that far, far exceeds in quality to its price point.


When you find mountain Napa Cab that doesn’t run into the three-figure dollar amount and is this good, you celebrate. Yes, you celebrate by opening a bottle, but more importantly, you celebrate that this kind of gift exists for mankind. Oh, that great mountain nose of rich, fleshy plum, wild dark berries, violets and lavender. These notes carry through onto the palate—again, rich, sumptuous and fleshy—with additional notes of coffee, dark chocolate and black pepper emerging. Smooth, oily texture and super-fine tannins along with that familiar mountain Cab savoriness. Loads of character here, and a quiet, rugged passion behind the wine is palpable.


Stu chosen as one of ‘most inspiring people’

January 12, 2018   

Wine’s Most Inspiring People 2018: Pioneer and Champion of Hillside Grapegrowing

By Allison Levine

Wine’s Most Inspiring People 2018

Stuart Smith

Since purchasing his vineyard at the top of Spring Mountain in 1970 and founding Smith-Madrone in 1971, Stuart Smith has become the leading voice of the hillside grower. While Smith believed that the best grapes come from the mountains, a hypothesis had been written that vineyards on hillsides are detrimental to the land. In response, Smith began arguing in favor of hillside vineyards and land-use issues. Being the leading voice was “thrust upon me,” Smith shared. “It was not my intent. When I first got a permit to log the property from Department of Forestry, I was warned that there would be protesters once I brought out a chainsaw.”

Stuart Smith was born and raised in Santa Monica, California and moved to Berkeley in the 1960s for his undergraduate studies. It was at Berkeley that he realized that he liked wine more than beer, atypical for a college student. He became friends with people from the Napa Valley and over several years became enamored with wine and the Napa area. The seeds of his passion had been planted.

Smith pursued his master’s degree at UC Davis and in 1970 purchased 200 acres with his brother. Napa was a small provincial wine-growing town when Stuart Smith first arrived, and he was among the first, along with Mondavi, Freemark Abbey, Chappellet, Spring Mountain Winery, Sterling Vineyards and Chateau Montelena, to plant in Napa. However, Smith selected property that was a forest on the remotest and highest part of Spring Mountain. “I wanted to be in the mountains. I believed then, as I do now, that there are two fundamental foundations to wine. One, you cannot make great wine from anything but great grapes. And, two, all things being equal, the best grapes come from the mountains.”

There had been vineyards on Spring Mountain, yet they had all been abandoned in 1900 due to phylloxera. The property Smith purchased was a dense forest with good soil and 90-foot Douglas Firs. He got a logging permit in 1971 to reclaim the vineyard and logged one million board feet of timber, sold the logs to a saw mill, picked up rocks and burned slash piles all to re-clear the vineyard.

Publicist and wine blogger Tom Wark described Smith as “very passionate about all the things he does – making wine, growing grapes, defending the right to grow grapes. The first thing you learn about him when you meet him, he does not mince words and he calls it as he sees it.” Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa) expressed with great love and admiration that “Stu is a very powerful presence, to say the least. When he is in a room and talking, there is no mistake about where he is on an issue.”

Smith-Madrone hillside vineyard, photo credits: Kelly Puleio

Senator Dodd first met Smith almost 20 years ago when he was running for the Napa Valley Board of Supervisors. The issues of mountain vineyards were rapidly becoming controversial and Smith was very involved in the Hillside Task Force. “I came from the business community and knew very little about wine and viticulture.” Smith offered a different angle, sharing what the growers were going through. “Stu and his brother were not only educated but were both on Spring Mountain every day. They became involved in critical areas to promote accuracy and truth and not let hysteria take over.”

For 47 years, Stuart Smith has championed the rights of farming in the Napa Valley, especially mountain vineyards. “I have always been willing to take tough stances that others shy away from,” Smith explained. Just as he was getting started, he wrote his first letter to justify hillside farming in 1971, which was printed on the cover of the St. Helena Star. Groups, such as the Sierra Club and others, look at the people farming on the mountains as the enemy. But, Smith argues that taking land and converting it from one agricultural product (timber) to another (grapes) is not destructive. And, vineyards on hillsides have many benefits, including fire prevention. Many others who have planted vineyards in the hills over the years have benefited from what Smith started 48 years ago and Smith will be recognized long after he leaves the industry for the advocacy he has done for the right to farm.

photo credits: Kelly Puleio

“Looking back at 18 years in the Napa Valley and at the environment, Stu was right on so many things,” Dodd shared. “What he accomplished was more selfless as it affected the entire industry. History has taught me that when Stu talks, I listen. His opinions, philosophies, values and techniques have stood up over time to the highest scrutiny. Whether I agreed with him or not, he has huge integrity and is willing to speak his mind, even if not politically correct.”

From developing trellising systems to cover crops to dry farming, Smith has also focused his passion on viticulture and farming advances in the mountains. And when not fighting on land-use issues on behalf of the hillside growers or working in the vineyard, Smith has been involved in the local community. “Being in the wine business means being involved in community,” Smith explained. He served on Napa County’s Watershed Task Force for several years as well as the Napa County General Plan Steering Committee, both appointed by the Board of Supervisors. He taught enology at Santa Rosa Junior College and Napa Valley College. Smith has also been involved with the Boy Scouts of America for 24 years, serving as Scoutmaster for St. Helen’s Troop One and continues as the Troop’s Chair today. “The Boy Scouts are an important part of my life. I have had a lifelong love for the Boy Scouts having been one and then getting back into it with my two sons.”

Stuart Smith, photo by Thomas Sanders

According to friend Tucker Caitlin, “Stu is iconic. I hate the word but he is. It comes from being part of the pioneer generation of Napa Valley. He really values the things that matter in life. He knows what matters in life and knows life is short. He is a very considerate and deliberate person, very thoughtful with a great reverence for history which informs his thoughts and what he does. Stu is someone you tend to listen to and if you listen, you always learn.”

Stuart Smith says that his “whole adult career has been doing things the hard way.” It may not have always been easy, but he was driven to make the best wine humanly possible. “It has been a lot of work, a labor of love.” It has been 47 years and Stuart Smith continues to be driven by his passion.

Ranking #6 in The Daily Meal’s 101 Best for 2017

101 Best Wineries in America 2017

by Colman Andrews, August 2, 2017

Our panel ranks the top producers from California and 13 other states, Washington to Virginia, Maryland to Texas. When Leif Erikson dubbed the North American coast “Vinland” or “Winland” back around 1000 A.D., he may or may not have meant to call our continent a land of vines (linguists say the term might also have meant “land of meadows”) — but a land of vines is what we’ve become. The sheer quantity and variety of good and great wine being made in America has grown exponentially in recent decades. It is now produced in all 50 states — and there are bottles worth savoring from almost every source.

Narrowing our national enological wealth down to a mere 101 wineries, then, is a daunting task each year. To help us meet the challenge, we reach out annually to experts in the field, from all over the country — sommeliers, wine writers and bloggers (including our own contributors, of course), chefs and restaurateurs, and of course the wine-savvy editors at The Daily Meal — asking them to nominate their favorite wineries (as many as ten per person) and to tell us what they like about them.

This year we invited about 60 of these professional (or passionate amateur) wine-lovers to weigh in….Collating the nominations, we ended up with a list of more than 250 wineries, old and new, large and small, many of them nominated numerous times. We factored in our own tasting notes of recent vintages, consulted the leading wine publications and newsletters, and considered recent awards from prestigious competitions, and narrowed the choices down to 101.

In the nomination process, we asked our panel to consider not just the obvious places but the entire country. The majority of our choices, 61 of the wineries listed, did turn out to be Californian; as noted, plenty of other places are doing a good job with wine, but the Golden State is still by far the largest producing state and still boasts the largest number of great wineries. The Pacific Northwest (Idaho included) is well-represented too — but you’ll also find wineries from New York (both the Finger Lakes and Long Island) and Virginia, and from Maryland, Texas, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut.

What you might notice missing are some of the most famous California “trophy wines” — the ones that would cost you $500 to $1000 or more per bottle, if you could even locate one for sale. These are absent because, for whatever reasons (and we could guess at a few of them), our panelists simply didn’t vote for them. That said, some wineries on our list do command top dollar, and some are difficult to find in ordinary retail channels and go primarily to longtime mailing list customers. On the other hand, there are plenty of easily accessible wines represented, too, many of them offering excellent wine at fair prices.

  1. Smith-Madrone Vineyards and Winery, St. Helena, Calif.

A couple of amiable, bearded-and-mustachioed brothers, Stuart and Charles Smith (no relation to prolific Washington State winemaker Charles Smith, No. 94) — vineyard manager and winemaker, respectively — make their winery home near the summit of Spring Mountain, long known as the home of some of  Napa Valley’s best producers. Here, they farm about 34 acres of cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and riesling, with small quantities of merlot and cabernet franc for blending. Production remains small — about 5,000 cases a year — and Smith-Madrone wines seldom show up on trophy lists, but connoisseurs who really know wine tend to love them. The chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon regularly win gold medals around the country, and the winery’s exquisite riesling was named “Best Riesling in the World” in 1979 at the International Wine Championships sponsored by France’s Gault & Millau magazine. They’re under the radar, but on top of their game — which is why The Daily Meal named Smith-Madrone its 2014 Winery of the Year. Wine writer Gabe Sasso raves that “each Smith-Madrone offering is consistently delicious, vineyard-focused, and age-worthy, and also incredible value. Smith-Madrone’s cabernet sauvignon, which sells for just under $50, is as good — one vintage after another — as any in the Napa Valley, regardless of price.”



Grape-Experiences takes a long look…..


Fascinating Smith-Madrone:

The People, The Place, The Wines

Nestled on Spring Mountain Road, a mere 30-minute drive from St. Helena, is Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery, a 200- acre ranch partly planted as a vineyard over one hundred years ago. Where California black bears and other wildlife once flourished, gigantic 120-year-old Picholine olive trees now thrive on land that overlooks Napa Valley and Napa Valley State Park. World class vineyards do, too.

As an homage to the realized dreams of Stuart Smith, Managing Partner and Enologist and Charles Smith III, Winemaker, as well as the distinguished Madrone tree that grows throughout the estate, the name Smith-Madrone was given to this winery, one that is producing some of the finest examples of Riesling, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignon I’ve tasted.

The Eclectic Smith Family

But first. Who are the intriguing people behind these notable wines?

Having just received his B.A. in Economics from UC-Berkeley, a young Stuart Smith entered the wine industry as he took classes towards his Master’s in Viticulture and Enology at UC-Davis. Through a family friend, he discovered a forest on the most remote and highest point of Spring Mountain, an area that had not only been part of a vineyard but was a segment of the wagon trail route between Napa and Santa Rosa. In May 1971, Stuart Smith and a partnership of family and friends purchased that land now known as Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery. His leadership and expertise in the wine industry is legendary.

The Winemaker and “general factotum” for Smith-Madrone Vineyards and Winery is Charles F. Smith. In 1971, he obtained his teaching certificate after attending UC-Berkeley and San Francisco State University. But the wine life beckoned and Charles Smith joined his brother, Stuart, at Smith-Madrone in 1973.

Don’t assume that the wine industry consumes the time of these gentlemen; after reading about their everything-but-wine activities, I certainly won’t. Just as rich, broad, and interesting as their wines are the lives of these brothers.

Stuart Smith serves as auctioneer for the Omaha Nebraska charity auction each year and has chaired the 1986 and 2006 Napa Valley Wine Auctions. He served on the Napa River Watershed Task Force for many years and was appointed by the Board of Supervisors to sit on Napa County General Plan Steering Committee in 2006. He’s an avid canoeist, Boy Scout supporter, and family man with five children and two grandchildren, all of whom I hope do or eventually will appreciate good wine.

In his “wild oats years” (his words, not mine!), Charles Smith held jobs as a probation officer, a furniture mover, and taxi cab driver. He’s a top-notch croquet player who has represented the United States in international competitions. Apparently, his dubious claim to fame is that he was a co-participant in the longest single game (over 7 hours!) in the history of the World Croquet Federation, a game that was played against the Japanese champion in the 1992 World Championships.

Sam Smith, Assistant Winemaker, holds a degree from UC-Santa Barbara. Prior to his stint at Smith-Madrone, Sam traveled extensively, worked harvests at a variety of wineries, and held positions as a sommelier at international restaurants. A Napa Valley native, his athletic background on the football field, tennis court, and golf course allows him be a crucial player on the winemaking team at Smith-Madrone.

The Unique Vineyards

34 acres of estate vineyards, some dating to 1972, are at elevations between 1300 and 2000 feet on the steep slopes of Spring Mountain. For the most part, the rocky soils are deep-red Aiken Stoney Clay loam that are volcanic-based, well-drained, and deep. I found it interesting (and the soil geek in me was thrilled) that the geology of the area is the Franciscan Assemblage that includes “altered mafic volcanic rocks, deep-sea radiolarian cherts, sandstones, limestones, serpentines, shales, and high pressure metamorphic rocks, all of them faulted and mixed in a seemingly chaotic manner as a result of tectonic plate activity”.

To establish a vineyard, the team employs drip irrigation. Yet, Stuart Smith pioneered dry farming in the area and now, older vines “send their roots deep to search for water and nutrients, only producing the precise amount of fruit exactly appropriate for their vigor, small berries with a large skin-to-juice ratio” is used. Stuart Smith explains…

The Exceptional Wines of Smith-Madrone

All wines are produced from grapes cultivated in the estate vineyards surrounding the winery atop Spring Mountain. Stuart Smith chose specific slopes with differing exposures for each varietal: Riesling grapes are planted on east facing vineyards, Chardonnay can be found on cool, north-facing slopes, and Cabernet Sauvignon thrives on flat parcels with southern and western exposures.

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. Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery

If the goal of those at Smith-Madrone is to craft wines that bring pleasure to the senses, these incredible wines deliver and that mission is achieved.

Smith-Madrone Riesling 2014  – Absolutely delicious, this bright and lively 100% Riesling prompted several “Wows!” and more than a few “Riesling from Napa?” remarks when I poured tastes for friends. All of us were delighted and rightly so. Fresh aromas of lemon, yellow flowers, orange peel, stone fruit, and minerality burst from the glass. Clean and gracious, notes of juicy citrus and minerality, zesty acidity and a round mouthfeel were dominant with each sip. The finish on this crisp, dry Riesling? Long and luscious.

Smith-Madrone Chardonnay 2014  – I was blown away by the taste sensations of this glorious Chardonnay that spent nine months in 100% new French oak. Elegant aromas of lemon, juicy citrus, apples and pears enticed and I was anxious for that first sip. On the palate, I discovered notes of tropical fruit such as melon and citrus, brilliant acidity, oak, and a creamy, buttery texture. All led to an exceptionally long finish and I savored every moment.

Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 – Bold, yet light and refreshing, I remarked after a few velvet-like sips that this luscious Cabernet, aged in French oak for 18 months, is one that I could drink anytime, anywhere, with or without food. Consisting of 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc, and 6% Merlot, I was mesmerized.  Intense aromas of deep rich black cherries, freshly picked blueberries, vanilla, and a dash of black pepper led to flavors of dark fruit compote, baking spice, wet earth, and savory herbs. Of course, soft tannins and lively acidity provided the foundation to a wine that should be in everyone’s glass.

A tour and tasting at Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery, with one of the Smith brothers as your guide, should be on your must-see list when you’re planning a visit to Napa Valley.  (You can make an appointment here.) Be sure to savor a bit of Napa Valley history, the stories that Stuart or Charles will share, and each sip of some outstanding wines.