Riesling for the Memorial Day BBQ

Grape-experiences suggests the 2016 Riesling with your Memorial Day BBQ:

I expect only the best from this iconic winery in St. Helena and this dry Riesling delivers just that. Lively aromas of white peach flesh, white flowers, lemon zest, freshly-cut pineapple and lime were clean and sharp. On the palate, dry and creamy with vibrant acidity, flavors of white pepper, juicy kiwi, lime and herbs paved the path to a luscious and lasting finish. And sipped with an assortment of grilled vegetables for a late afternoon delight? Life just gets better and better.

Why did this wine and food pairing work? When grilled, the flavors of vegetables were enhanced and offered smoky characteristics. This bright and lively wine with plenty of acidity was a brilliant counterpoint to those notes.

2016 Chardonnay is “freaking outstanding”

Our thanks to AmchairSommelier for her review of the 2016 Chardonnay:

Damn. This Chardonnay is freaking outstanding. Sunshine on a cloudy day outstanding. I haven’t bought a bottle of California Chardonnay in I don’t even know how long. Thanks for bringing me back into the fold, Smith Madrone. Tense and exciting, with layers of yellow apple and pear flavors, hazelnut and butterscotch follow shortly behind. A structural symphony, perfectly balanced between acidity and fruit/oak flavors. Forget toilet paper, I’m hoarding this wine. 95 glorious points. Bravo, Stu and Charles!

2009 Cabernet Sauvignon – A Library Release

May 14, 2020


Happy Spring!

49 years ago, on May 14, 1971, I closed escrow on 200 acres of mountainous land located at the top of Spring Mountain in Napa Valley. My intent was to plant a vineyard, build a winery and produce great wine. That simple statement of intent is now my life’s work and turned out to be anything but simple. I know first hand that clichés like “ignorance is bliss” stay in usage because they’re true.
Over the next 12 months and culminating with our 50th anniversary celebration a year from now, I’ll be sharing with you my thoughts on witnessing Napa Valley transform itself from a small provincial wine growing community to the pre-eminent world class wine region and the destination it is today. I’ll describe the changes in grape growing, winemaking and wine writing. Through vignettes that Charlie and I have lived these past 50 years I hope to show you the back of the house where all the really interesting stuff happens that make 50 years go by so quickly.
Our 50th anniversary is a really big deal for us. We are going to make it special.

Until the festivities start, we have chosen another wine to re-release: the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon.

2009 Cabernet Sauvignon

Charlie spent some time tasting. Here are his thoughts:

Spicy fruit, leather and cigar in the aroma along with an interesting hint of fading violets. On the palate the wine is sleek and silky and it retains a distinct element of its stylish, youthful flair. For a wine of such elegance it is impressively solid through the center. At eleven years old the wine still exhibits the most outstanding element of its youth. It’s just a ton of fun to drink.

[ $100. | Order 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon ]

Stu offers his thoughts about the ’09 Cab and about the history of Smith-Madrone:

And while you’re deciding on how many bottles of this wine to purchase, don’t forget considering our other current releases:

2016 Chardonnay

On April 30 in The San Francisco Chronicle, Esther Mobley wrote: A great example of a bold, juicy, full-bodied wine that achieves balance. The nose gives the impression of salted clarified butter and peaches, leading into a palate of lemon curd, mango and toasted nuts. Gratifying, but refreshing enough that you can’t help but take another sip.

[$40. | Order 2016 Chardonnay ]

2016 Riesling

(available both in 750 ML and 1.5L sizes)

Elin McCoy wrote in Decanter: This vintage shows a stand-out wet rock minerality, succulent limey, citrusy notes, juicy acidity, and round texture. It’s also the first vintage available in hand-waxed magnums, which makes sense because the wines are surprisingly long lived.

[$34. | Order 2016 Riesling ]
[$75. | Order 2016 Riesling Magnum ]

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon

In the May issue of The Tasting Panel Meridith May wrote: An exquisite bouquet of lavender, dried violets and jasmine arises in tandem with sweet black and red fruit. This is a silky and statuesque wine with a fruit-forward bent, but echoes of graphite and chocolate add complexity of character; its freshness and concentration of fruit is perceptible.

[ $52 | Order 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon ]

We are continuing our $1 shipping offer for wines going anywhere in the country.


Stu “Zooms” in to a take-out feast + wine offered by The Capitol Hill Club in Washington DC

Over the years Stu has been honored to conduct winemaker dinners at Washington D.C.’s venerable Capitol Hill Club. Continuing that tradition, in this online time, the Club is offering a delightful take-out dinner designed to pair with Smith-Madrone’s Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon on May 15. Part of the dinner/wine package is Stu Smith “Zooming” in to talk about the wines and the winery and answer questions. This is only for club members, for whom attending is exclusive. The event is fully booked.

Chef Marcus Worley is preparing a first course of Poached Lobster Tail and Pan-Seared Scallop with avocado cream sauce, frisee, chives, enoki mushrooms and oven-dried tomatoes to complement the Riesling. For the Cabernet, Harris Ranch Tenderloin of Beef with stuffed potatoes and asparagus in a red wine sauce. Dessert will be a poached pear with raspberry coulis.

To learn more about the Club: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capitol_Hill_Club.

2019 Rosé is here!

May 1, 2020
It’s May … and time to release our 2019 Rosé.
Last year was the release of our first Rosé.
Half Cabernet Franc, half Merlot, from grapes we grow, we bottled only 100 cases.
And we’re in time for May Day, the celebration of spring which goes back to ancient Greece. There’s a modern twist: “mayday” became an international distress call in 1923 when Frederick Mockford, a radio officer at Croydon Airport in London, realized it would work across many languages, with its origin in the French word m’aider (“help me”). Maybe especially meaningful when our existence seems so fragile…..
Charlie shares his take on the wine:

Like its predecessor, the wine is a blend of 50% Merlot and 50% Cabernet Franc and similarly is a complete delight in every way. It’s impossible not to be immediately struck by the unusually vibrant color that seems to hover somewhere in the region of watermelon crossed with fuchsia, sprinkled with salmon. Aromatically, the wine gives off a distinct scent of roses at room temperature, but when chilled comes closer to crushed strawberries. On the palate these same aromas translate into a lively, deep fruity mid-palate. The wine is perfect for summertime. It’s a lot of fun to drink.  

Here is Stu’s take via video:

And while you’re deciding on how many bottles of this wine to purchase, don’t forget considering some current releases:
2015 Cabernet Sauvignon
2016 Chardonnay
2016 Riesling (available both in 750 ML and 1.5L sizes)
2013 Cook’s Flat Reserve

We are continuing to offer $1 shipping on all orders.

Please note: because of the coronavirus’ disruption of the supply chain, we’re not able to buy recyclable packaging right now. We apologize for any inconvenience for the Styrofoam packaging we’re having to use.
We are so appreciative of your support in these turbulent times.
Happy May Day!

“A bold juicy full-bodied wine that achieves balance” – which wine?

The San Francisco Chronicle muses about butter and Chardonnays and recommends our 2016 Chardonnay:

A great example of a bold, juicy, full-bodied wine that achieves balance. The nose gives the impression of salted clarified butter and peaches, leading into a palate of lemon curd, mango and toasted nuts. Gratifying, but refreshing enough that you can’t help but take another sip.


Read the entire article: https://www.sfchronicle.com/wine/article/In-defense-of-buttery-Chardonnay-15234808.php



True to our terroir

RedWinePlease reports on tasting our wines:

Smith-Madrone Wines: “To Thine Own Self be True”

Stuart Smith founded Smith-Madrone Winery in 1971, high up on Spring Mountain in the Napa Valley. All of Stuart’s wines are made from estate grapes, farmed and picked in the winery’s high altitude vineyards.  Back in 1971 most of the activity in Napa was on the Valley floor, and Smith-Madrone became somewhat of a pioneer in high altitude winemaking. Now it is very much in vogue, and the mountains ringing Napa and Sonoma are covered in vineyards. We think that is great, because we are very fond of mountain wines, which tend to bring focus and freshness.

Here at Smith-Madrone the vineyards are dry farmed, and range in elevation from 1,300 to 2,000 feet. Slopes can be quite steep as well, up to 34 degrees. This is very much the labor of the Smith family, as the wine is made by Stuart, his brother Charles and his son, Sam. No one else has any say into what goes on here, or what eventually gets into the bottle. This is a commitment to place, to style, and to values, a commitment which continues year after year. In fact, the vineyards and wine receive the same treatment every year, leaving the vintage to vintage differences only what mother nature provides.

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon – the Cabernet Sauvignon vines are on very steep slopes at the top of Spring Mountain. As mentioned earlier, every year the varietals are made from the same vineyards, cultivated in the same way and harvested at similar levels of maturity. The blend does change from year to year though, based on the individual varietal character. This wine is 84% Cabernet Sauvignon and 16% Cabernet Franc, and was aged for 18 months in French oak barrels. In 2015 the harvest produced a small crop, and picking of the Cabernet Sauvignon finished on September 19. Our impressions: The wine was dark purple out of the bottle. There was a big nose of macerated berries, with leather and some tar. Also making an appearance were some light oak, candied orange and anise. This is complex. The palate brought less intense fruit at first, right out of the bottle, with brisk tannins and a lean profile. With some time in the glass this really opened up, showing more body, rich fruit, cherry, caramel and herbal notes. We went back to it the second day and it was smoother, more integrated, and just a beautiful wine with pure berry fruit.

2016 Chardonnay – grown and cultivated in manner similar to the other wines, the Chardonnay highlights each individual growing season’s unique story. This wine is 100% Chardonnay, 100% barrel fermented, and 80% aged in new French oak. You might expect the classic over the top, butter laden oak fest. Not so. Our thoughts: A wine of light, golden yellow color, and quite brilliant. This has medium oak on the nose, along with ripe apple, peach syrup and lemon. Throw in some wet stones. The palate has white peaches, and lemon again at the end. This is very complex, very smooth, has a rich and creamy palate and still remains fresh. It also is very long. 

2016 Riesling – the steep slopes at the top of Spring Mountain honor the international tradition of Riesling, such as you might see along the banks of the Mosel River in Germany, or in the Alsatian hills. Alcohol here is at 12.8%, and the wine is fermented dry. You can also get this in magnums, which is exciting! Here’s what we found: A light, golden yellow color and very brilliant. You get stone fruits, the traditional petrol marker and floral on the nose.  Even though it is dry, it almost seems like there is some sweetness at first, then the refreshing acidity takes over.  The palate is about delicate, white fruit, with pear and some honeydew melon.  It finishes with some minerality.  This is long, crisp, clean and beautifully done.  Comparing to the earlier wine, in this case a 2014 Riesling, this wine has a bit more body and also a bit more acid.  

Here we have three wonderfully made wines, all true to their terroir, and to the winemaking vision of the Smith family. The Smiths were pioneers in high altitude winemaking back in the early 1970s, and they are still going strong. If you do visit, it is by appointment, and we intend to go the next time we get to Napa.

These are all highly recommended.


2009 Riesling Re-Release from Smith-Madrone

April 2020
We send you our sincerest wishes of concern that you’re coping with the pandemic as best as possible.

We are continuing our offer of $1 shipping. It’s our gesture to support your sheltering in place with as many familiar ‘creature comforts’ as possible.

Re-Release Riesling:
As you might remember, once a year we re-release some treasures from our library. We Label of 2009 Riesllingspend considerable time tasting through the library to find these wines, so that we can offer you wines with just the right amount of cellaring.
Without further ado: we are offering a re-release of our 2009 Riesling, at $75.00/bottle. This is a wine that exemplifies our core identity: mountain-grown, consistent ‘hands at the tiller,’ sensitive farming and the end goal of making wine that is delicious and meant to grace your dinner table as well as have a long life.
Charlie has written a ‘new’ tasting note, describing the wine as it is tasting right now:
Everything about this wine suggest youthful vigor. The vibrant green/gold hue is mirrored by lively, developing aromas of pears, apples and honeysuckle. This leads to a succulent, deeply flavorful mid-palate, ending finally with a lingering, lip-smacking, juicy-fruit acidity. At this point in time the wine is poised almost precisely between its charming fun-filled youth and the beautiful future that lies ahead. Drink now and enjoy— or keep it for another ten to fifteen years and trust in the future to reward you.
As Stu says in the attached video, “This is a great wine, period!”

As you know, our Riesling is a wine that has always attracted considerable attention. In 2014 British wine writer Stuart Pigott published The Riesling Story: Best White Wine On Earth. Our Riesling was the only Riesling from California in Mr. Pigott’s list of Top 20 Dry Rieslings in the book. Pigott wrote that our Riesling “has arguably been the most consistent wine from this grape in the entire state since the first vintage back in 1983.” He also said that Stuart and Charlie are “two of the unsung heroes of American Riesling.”

And while you’re deciding on how many bottles of this wine to purchase, don’t forget considering some current releases:

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon:
This wine was recently reviewed in Wine & Spirits Magazine:
Richly oaked, this wine takes several days to show itself. As the oak recedes, the character of the mountain soil comes up in the detail of the tannins while dark plum, currant and sage notes take the wine toward an austere mountain-grown structure.
2016 Chardonnay:
This wine was recently reviewed in Decanter:
The vintage had a near perfect growing season, ideal for Smith-Madrone’s Chardonnay style, a mid-point between California’s opulent stereotype and a new, fresher, more vibrant one. Barrel-fermented, and aged in 80% new French oak, it’s spicy and succulent, with aromas of hazelnut and lemon curd and a creamy texture that doesn’t weigh it down.

[$40. | Order 2016 Chardonnay ]

2016 Riesling:

Available both in 750 ML and 1.5L sizes

This wine was the “Wine of The Week” in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat recently, described as:
Floral, with flavors on the palate of stone fruits, mineral and a quench of lime. This riesling rides on crisp acidity and has perfect balance; everything is in check. This Alsatian-styled riesling is gorgeous.

2013 Cook’s Flat Reserve:

Writer Anatoly Levine reviewed this wine as:
This might be how you spell “phenomenal.” This wine was a pure pleasure. Pure, hedonistic, unadulterated pleasure. This is the wine at the level of magic – you take a sip, you whisper “wow,” you quietly reflect on what is happening, immersing into the moment. Then you take another sip and repeat. Yes, magic.

We thank you for your support in these tumultuous times.

Please again note that we’re offering $1 shipping on all orders.
Charles, Stu, and Sam
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Chardonnay is ‘phenomenal’

Mark Gudgel writes about our Chardonnay in THE CONSCIENTIOUS CONSUMER IN QUARANTINE: CHARDONNAY EDITION, April 19, 2020:


Ok, ok, to be honest, yes, I’m going to recommend every wine that Stu, Charlie, and Sam Smith are making up on Spring Mountain by the time I’m done with this series, but why shouldn’t I? I’m talking about small family operations and phenomenal wine, and this three-man operation that produces world-class wines and was founded back before Napa was “hip” sure fits that bill. This Chardonnay is exactly what I was thinking of when I talked about the varietal’s ability to juggle complex flavors and aromas, and I can’t recommend it strongly enough. You can — and should, purchase it at smithmadrone.com.


In this series, The Conscientious Consumer in Quarantine, I’m going to point to some of my favorite producers, wineries that are owned by individual human beings, human beings who use their wineries to employ other people and feed their families, human beings whom I would encourage you to support with your patronage. Wineries make money primarily in two ways, namely by selling wine and by having visitors. Both of those revenue streams are being deeply slashed during the Covid 19 pandemic, as restaurants are closing and, in many if not most instances, tasting rooms have been asked to close down for the time being to help stop the spread of the disease. These are wines I encourage you to purchase online to help support these small producers so that, when this is all over, they will still be there for all of us to visit.

Chardonnay is perhaps unique in its ability to juggle many different things — aromas, flavors, feelings, simultaneously. It can at once be light and girthy, rounded and acidic, subtle and strong. It can taste of crisp green apples and buttery oak in the same sip. Not only all of this, but it pairs diversely, pleases crowds that contain both discerning wine drinkers and casual guzzlers, and is a must at a good picnic. Below, are some of my favorite examples of the grape, coming from small producers who I encourage you to support by ordering from them during this pandemic.

I told a neighbor yesterday that, if wine country remained closed throughout the summer, it would probably look very different upon reopening. If the tourist season comes and goes and tasting rooms stay shuttered, I fear many of them will never reopen.  I know that wine is expensive, or can be, and that perhaps this gives the false impression that those who make and sell it are extremely wealthy. Some are. Others, the ones I love most, are farmers, agriculturalists who have a knack for the art of fermenting grape juice into something very special. They are not necessarily wealthy, and they are not guaranteed to survive this pandemic if we do not do what we can to support them in these times. For that reason, it is all the more important to order wine from our friends who make it. As always, thank you for reading. Be well, take care of yourselves and one another, and keep in touch.