Decanter talks about Riesling

Clive Pursehouse at Decanter took a look at Rieslings around the world.

He tasted our 2018:

Classic Riesling aromatics of petrol, tropical fruit and petrichor. Stu Smith is one of the founding fathers of the variety in California’s Napa Valley, choosing east-facing slopes for his Riesling vines. The wine offers ample ripeness, with tropical fruits, zesty lime, fleshy ripe peach, and some phenolic notes on the palate.


International Riesling Day: American style

On International Riesling Day, Decanter’s US editor shares some of the best Rieslings from the United States. Riesling’s homeland is, of course, Germany, where it all started. Likely a descendant of wild grape vines growing in the Rheingau region, Riesling was first noted in 1435 and recorded as ‘Riesslingen’ in a record of a sale of grape vines made on 13 March of that year. As a result, the date has been designated as the variety’s unofficial birthday and decreed International Riesling Day.

Riesling’s fortunes rose and fell throughout the centuries. It had its moments; in the 18th century, based on a decree made in the Mosel Valley, all grape vines were removed and replaced with Riesling. In the 19th century, its prominence rose to equal that of Bordeaux and Burgundy.


California Riesling in the Napa Valley and beyond

…… Smith-Madrone is seen as one of the variety’s pioneers in Napa’s Cabernet country. ‘There are very few producers of Riesling today in the Napa AVA because so many producers didn’t, and don’t know, how to make it,’ says Stu Smith of Smith-Madrone. ‘They don’t understand that our steep volcanic soils and warmer climate produce a slightly different grape from northern Europe and that to get the best out of the varietal, it cannot be made as it is made there,’ he adds.

Hello vinNEBRASKA!

2023 will be the 33rd year that Stu has been the auctioneer for one of the Midwest’s most distinguished charity wine auctions: vinNEBRASKA.

The event takes place on March 31 and April 1. The Grand Wine Tasting, Dinner and Silent and Live Auctions on April 1 is based at the Omaha Marriott Downtown at the Capitol District.

To buy tickets:

Unfortunately live/online bidding is not available. If you’d like to contribute:

In 1989, the vinNEBRASKA Foundation was founded to make the Omaha community a better place through shared appreciation for fine wines and the great state of Nebraska. Today, what was once a small group with a common goal has blossomed into a grand celebration of premier wines, internationally recognized winemakers, generous philanthropy, and scholarship opportunities. To date, vinNEBRASKA has raised over $7 million for local charities. This year guests’ generosity will support the Stephen Center, a combination shelter, rehabilitation facility, and soup kitchen—one of the most impressive and effective organizations in the Midwest.

Smith-Madrone’s lot will be a set of four etched magnums of Cabernet Sauvignon from 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005 and a dinner at the winery, located at the top of the Spring Mountain District in Napa Valley.

Snow in all directions plus Vertical and Horizontal collections

Dear Friend:

California is becoming a state of extremes. The wildfires, the drought and now the snow and rain….

We believe it was 1973 when the top of Spring Mountain had well over two feet of snow and Spring Mountain Road wasn’t passable until the fourth day.  This year, starting on February 24, we received just under a foot of very wet and very heavy snow. Throughout all of Napa County very large limbs and trees came down blocking roads, taking down power lines, leaving motorists stranded and causing all sorts of damage. It was clearly the most damaging snow storm in the last fifty years . Stop by our Instagram to see lots of photos of the 11 inches of the white stuff that blanketed the ranch February 24 – 27 and more!

There was significant damage to our 140-year-old olive trees (heavy snow snapped a lot of branches). The snow then melted gracefully and gave the vines a great drink of water: all good!

Like good Boy Scouts we were prepared and there’s been no run-off nor erosion. It should be a bountiful wildflower crop this year!

We have four new sets of wines to announce for your purchasing pleasure.

2018 Riesling

It’s time to release the 2018 Riesling. The grapes were harvested September 6-8, 2018 and we made only 1,611 cases. Riesling is a grape we’re fiercely proud of growing and making. Here are the key attributes: steep slopes (up to 34%), at mountain-high elevation of up to 1,800 feet, 100% Riesling, mostly dry-farmed, one of very, very few in Napa Valley.  Riesling for us is a labor of love, not a profit center.

Charlie describes the wine in person and below.

The 2018 Riesling opens with abundant floral notes buttressed by underpinnings of lime, lemon and exotic oranges. This delicate, fetching aroma leads one to expect a wine on the lighter, more delicate side and, when tasted, this expectation is confirmed. On the palate the wine is stylish and elegant, demonstrating a brilliant acidity that is at once fine and lively, tasty and fun and not the least off putting. The acid feels just right; it’s very much like biting into a delicious, crunchy Riesling flavored apple. For a wine of this delicate construction, it still manages to retain a solid core of vibrant fruit. It’s svelte and elegant, it’s drinking beautifully now and shows great promise for the future.

Buy: $36.00 (750 ml)

Re-release 2013 Chardonnay

The grapes were harvested August 27 – September 5; we only made 806 cases. 100% Chardonnay, 100% barrel fermented, in 100% new French oak. We’re re-releasing it now as part of our tradition of offering occasional (outstanding) library wines.

Charlie explains:

Over the past few years 2013 has begun to emerge as an outstanding vintage for Smith-Madrone. The Cabernet Sauvignon, the Cook’s Flat Reserve and the Riesling are uniformly stellar and happily the Chardonnay fits right in.

After ten years in the bottle the wine has evolved into a wonderful example of a hillside chardonnay at the top of its game. 

Most chardonnay, of course, is drunk within the first year or two of bottling, and with good reason. This wine, however, is different. Rich green-gold in color, it opens with a textbook varietal perfume of nuttiness, ripe apricots, lemon curd and toast. On the palate it is medium weight with a middle that is strikingly lush, round and creamy. There is a distinct succulence pushing up from the center. At the finish the wine flows seamlessly into a zesty acidity that belies the wine’s age and lends it an elegant youthful flair. Over all, it is simply a marvelous glass of an older wine in top form and is a lovely argument for stashing away a bottle or two of your favorite current vintage of Smith-Madrone Chardonnay in order to find out what happens to it a few years down the road. 

Buy: $75.00 (750 ml)

Riesling Vertical 2018 – 2019 – 2021

Last year we offered a six-bottle Riesling vertical, which was very popular. We’re revisiting this idea with a slant to the future: a trio of Rieslings consisting of the 2018 along with two advance peeks—the 2019 and 2021 vintages. We didn’t make a 2020 wine, of course, because of the Glass Fire. We expect to release the 2019 wine in early 2024 and the 2021 in early 2025, so consider yourself a connoisseur of Riesling futures when you acquire this set (i.e. our pricing will probably move upwards!).

We think you’ll enjoy tasting the same varietal, from the same estate, grown and vinified by the same hands, with only the vintage as a differentiating variable.

We’ve combined the fact sheets to make it easy and we also offer a set of recipes we suggest will marry marvelously with the wines.

Vertical 2018, 2019, 2021 Riesling, one bottle each, with recipes

Buy: $108.00 (x3 750 ml)

Vertical 2018, 2019, 2021 Riesling, two bottles each, with recipes

Buy: $200.00 (x6 750 ml)

2019 Horizontal

Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Cook’s Flat, Riesling: one bottle each

Another new offering is a very unusual horizontal tasting set: four wines from the 2019 vintage. These provide a delicious look into the future since the two whites won’t be released for at least one if not two years from now. Rarely does a winery offer a ‘horizontal’ such as this: four different varietals (and blends), from the same vintage and from the same estate vineyards.

Buy: $375.00 (x4 750 ml)

Fact sheets can be downloaded here.


….please keep shopping!Enjoy our other current releases:
2019 Cabernet Sauvignon
2019 Cook’s Flat Reserve
2016 Cook’s Flat Reserve 1.5L
2016 Riesling 1.5L
and Savvy Sippers 
and Tasty Trio collections

Also enjoy a speedy recap of 2022 on our Youtube channel.Stu was a guest on a podcast recently and his alma mater, UC Berkeley, stopped by for a chat.


What is our “mantra?”

All our wines are made entirely from our mostly dry-farmed estate vineyards surrounding the winery on top of Spring Mountain in the Napa Valley. 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.

2018 Cabernet was one of 50 Great Wines of 2022

Frederick Koeppel rated the 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon as Exceptional and included it in his 50 Great Wines of 2022.

“…..Here it is, the annual list of 50 Great Wines from 2022….. it’s a highly subjective tally of what I perceive to be the greatest wines that I encountered during that year. By “great,” I mean exciting, provocative, transcendent, the ultimate translation of a grape or grapes into their best and most laudable purpose. These factors rely on my personal taste, experience, judgment and intuition…”