Stu is a panelist (Mountain Vs. Valley Floor) at Somm Journal’s bootcamp in October

The Somm Journal

October/November 2022

Photo: The Mountain Versus Valley Floor seminar panel: moderator Chris Sawyer, Stuart Smith, Smith-Madrone; Michael Scholz, St. Supery; Alex Guarachi, Guarachi Family Wines and Michael Baldacci, Baldacci Family Vineyards.

It’s not a competition

“Let’s be clear,” said Chris Sawyer, our moderator for the Mountain Versus Valley Floor seminar. “We don’t mean ‘mountain versus Valley floor’ in a competitive way—it’s all good wine.” The NorCal native made an excellent point: regardless of where a Napa wine is made, it has the potential to become one of the best in the world. Which isn’t to say that our winemakers didn’t have preferences regarding where their fruit is grown. Take Smith-Madrone founder Stuart Smith.

“It’s a long, circuitous story of how I got there, but in 1971 I was able to purchase 200 acres at the top of Spring Mountain. The reason I went there was because I felt how I feel now: Napa makes the best wine…You can only make great wine from great grapes. And the best grapes come from the mountain…I was also nuts,” said Smith, noting how difficult making wine on a mountain is, especially at that time; getting equipment and other materials up or down the mountain was a feat on its own.”

However, sips of the Smith-Madrone 2017 Riesling and 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon made us all grateful for Smith’s pioneering determination. “What makes Spring Mountain different?” he asked. “It’s the structure. Some years, the wine is red fruit-dominated; other years it’s black-fruit, but there’s always the structure.”

p. 88-89

Releasing our 2019 Reds!

Smith-Madrone in October 2022 taken by a drone. Photo credit © Wesley Steffens

October 2022


It’s been a hot & heavy harvest. We finished on September 28; there may have only been one or two other vintages where we were finished this early and didn’t harvest a single grape in October. The yield was lower than normal but great quality.

Lots of news to share with you.

We were honored on September 23 when our Congressman, Mike Thompson, came to the winery to present us with a framed copy of the Congressional Resolution he’d read into the Congressional Record on June 16, 2022. Here’s a brief video of his remarks and here is the Resolution. Mike congratulated us on our 50th anniversary, saying “What incredible stewards of the land Stu and Charlie have been and are. It’s a real tribute to be able to say this is what we’ve done, this is how we’re taking care of it and it’s going to be around for a long time…Thanks for 50 years of good work.” We are so grateful for this honor.

In time for hearty fall food and long peaceful evenings with friends and families, we are releasing two 2019 wines: the 2019 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2019 Cook’s Flat Reserve.

2019 Cabernet Sauvignon

The wine is a blend of 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot and 12% Cabernet Franc. It spent 18 months in 55% new French oak and we made only 1,523 cases.

The aroma of the 2019 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon immediately hits you with a luxurious combination of blue/black fruit. Cassis, black cherry, marionberry and black plums dominate. Dig in a little deeper and you will find subtle hints of black pepper, graphite, black olives and a range of spices. An experienced taster should also be able to identify the signature quality that 12% Cabernet Franc lends to this wine’s seductive nose.

Medium weight on the palate, this is an exceptionally lively and elegant wine, loaded with delicious dark fruit. While not as tightly structured as the 2018, the 2019 Cab is more forthcoming and forward. It is bright, creamy and plush at mid-palate, then slowly tapers off to a long, lingering finish that is both succulent and zingy. It is a completely lovely wine that qualifies as serious fun in a glass.
Buy: $65.00 (750 ml)

2019 Cook’s Flat Reserve

The wine is a blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc and spend 18 months in 100% new French oak. We made only 1,872 bottles. As you may know, this is our prestige cuvee, named in tribute to George Cook, the first owner of the property and the person who originally planted the vines here in the 1880s. Each bottle is individually numbered and the bottles are wrapped in a full-color reproduction in tissue of our patent for the property, signed by President Chester A. Arthur.

Very dark in color with a deep, dark aroma to match. The aromatics are dominated by a firm core of black cherry, blackcurrant and black pepper. The 10% Cabernet Franc is making a very positive contribution to a sublime complexity. Why do we need perfume when wine smells like this? On the palate the wine is full, rich and creamy. The mid-palate is lush and crammed with dark fruit. There is some evidence of tannin and acid but beautifully controlled and nicely integrated into an impressive organic whole. This is a splendid wine, filled with riches that can only add luster to the wonderful achievements of Smith-Madrone’s Cook Flat Reserve line-up.

Buy: $225.00 (750 ml)

2019 Horizontal

Another new offering is a very unusual horizontal tasting set: four wines from the 2019 vintage. The 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2019 Cook’s Flat Reserve are new releases; the two other wines are Chardonnay and Riesling from the 2019 vintage. These provide a delicious look into the future; the two whites won’t be released for at least one if not two years from now. This is a set of wines that you would rarely find at a winery: four different varietals (and blends), from the same vintage and from the same estate vineyards surrounding our winery, perched at 1,800 feet above the Napa Valley floor, farmed by the same hands over the last five decades, across slopes which range in steepness up to 34%.
Buy: $375.00 (x4 750 ml)

And a reminder…

Summer Sippers

Although summer is almost in the rear view mirror, you can also take advantage of our Summer Sippers set of wines: one bottle each of 2021 Rosé, 2017 Riesling, 2018 Chardonnay
Buy: $99.00  (x3 750 ml)

Terrific Threesome

Yet another option is our Terrific Threesome, a bottle each of our 2018 Chardonnay, 2017 Riesling and 2019Cabernet Sauvignon.
Buy: $136.00 (x3 750 ml)

Consider this…

What about putting a magnum or two in the middle of your holiday table?
These are elegant and complex wines from a wonderful vintage. Two choices:

2016 Cook’s Flat Reserve 1.5 L

Buy: $500.00

2016 Riesling

Buy: $125.00

And now for something completely different. If you follow our Instagram, you will have seen some of the adventures of Tucker, our 14-month-old Springer Spaniel. We decided to tell his story via video. Enjoy.

And in case you’re wondering about how the current wildfire “season” is going….we have implemented extensive fire mitigation around the property, both in terms of equipment (fire hydrants, water tanks) and brush and tree clearing and dead-tree removal. We faced an enormous surcharge on our insurance if we didn’t remove the hedge at the back of the winery and the ivy climbing over the building.

By spring we will have a lovely stone wall in place of the hedge.

We wish you a wonderful fall.

Charles and Stuart Smith

Cabernet Sauvignon grapes nearing harvest.

The 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon is released!

And a few writers have shared their opinions:, Isaac Baker, October 21, 2022

95 points: Vibrant purple color. The fruit on the nose shows these tart but deep vibes (black cherries, blueberries, currants), mixed with these scents of iron, graphite, sage, tobacco and pepper. Give it air, and there’s a ton to coax out. On the palate, this is full but fresh with nice grip and crisp acidity. The black currant and cherry fruit is juicy and tangy, and the mouthfeel is smooth and effortless. The fruit is woven in well with flavors of tobacco, roasted red pepper, sage and clove. Nuanced, gorgeous complexity, this is a stellar 2019 Cab that deserves time in the cellar and some great company. Includes 12% Cabernet Franc and 5% Merlot, aged 18 months in 55% new French oak.

Napa Valley Register, Dan Berger, October 11

Wine of the Week: To best illustrate how Napa Valley can produce Cabs of longevity and achieve it with wines that work brilliantly soon with food, the brothers Smith have crafted yet another classic from 1,800 feet above the valley floor. This wine has traces of dried herbs, Latakia tobacco, thyme, olive, and tea. Stu Smith said, “It’s my kind of Napa Valley Cab with layers of black and red fruit and good acid – a kind of old California style… We’re more of a European style winery, we want wines that age well.” The numbers: pH is 3.56, acid is .68, alcohol is 14.3%. It’s made to be at a peak in 20 years or more.

John Jackson, AttorneySomm on Instagram, October 11, 2022

Near the top of Spring Mountain you will find Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery. Smith-Madrone has 38 acres of vineyards on its 170-acre ranch. 13 of these acres are devoted to Cabernet Sauvignon. The vineyards are planted on steep slopes at elevations ranging from 1,300-2,000 feet. Smith-Madrone was an early proponent of dry farming. Dry farming causes the grapevines to struggle and search of water and nutrients. The result is lower yields with small grapes that have high skin-to-juice ratios and produce concentrated fruit. This fruit, in turn, leads to wine with greater intensity and concentration than wine made from grapes that are the product of high yields.
While I typically enjoy Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon with some additional bottle age, I recently decided to get an early read on the 2019 Smith-Madrone Estate Cabernet Sauvignon! This wine consists of 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc and 5% Merlot. It was aged for 18 months in 55% new French oak. Flavors and aromas included blackcurrant, blackberry, black cherry, plums, pencil lead, violets, vanilla bean, sage and spice mix. This wine is always very enjoyable!

Owen Bargreen, October 6, 2022

93 points: I love the historic houses of the Napa Valley. One unique house absolutely known for their Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling wines, Smith-Madrone sources from their dry-farmed estate vineyards surrounding the winery on top of Spring Mountain. I adored the new 2019 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon (OB, 93) which shows serious poise and lovely herbal accents. Concentrated and showing great aging potential, this beauty will cellar well for decades. Beautiful and elegant, the 2019 Smith-Madrone cabernet Sauvignon shows off red bell pepper with anise, black currants and pencil lead notes on the nose. The palate is fleshy and ripe with great acidity. With more air tobacco leaf and worn leather notes emerge, as this is beautiful to consume now and over the next fifteen years.

Vinography, Alder Yarrow, September 24, 2022

….let’s begin with the perennially tasty Smith-Madrone Cabernet, made high on the slopes of Spring Mountain by two brothers who have doggedly stuck to their vision for what Napa Cabernet should be for many years—namely restrained and ageworthy. Their 2019 is a beautiful expression of their style and of the steep hillsides they farm.

Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of crushed dried flowers, tobacco leaf, and black cherries. In the mouth, wonderfully intense black cherry and forest floor notes have a hint of pencil lead and more of the moist pipe tobacco scent that is so alluring. Excellent acidity and very well-integrated oak round out the package. The tannins are quite restrained, and fine-grained, like a soft suede against the top and sides of the mouth. Elegant.

Decanter, Jonathan Cristaldi, June 2022

93 points: Brothers Stu and Charles Smith craft some of the most structured, classic expressions of the Spring Mountain AVA, and the 2019 is no exception. Subtle dark berry fruit, wild mountains herbs and a pretty capsicum nose. Full-bodied, the palate has ample acidity and freshness, revealing green tobacco, blackcurrant, earth and crushed stone minerality. Drinking Window: 2024 – 2050.

Congressman Mike Thompson comes to the winery



Watch the presentation video on our Instagram page

St. Helena, Napa Valley, September 23, 2022 — Congressman Mike Thompson presented a Congressional Resolution to Stuart Smith and Charles Smith of Smith-Madrone Winery on September 23 at the winery on Spring Mountain Road in St. Helena. The Resolution was read on the floor of the House of Representatives in Washington D.C. on June 16, 2022. Mike Thompson represents California’s 5th Congressional District which includes all of Napa and parts of Contra Costa, Lake, Solano and Sonoma Counties.

In presenting the framed document to the Smith brothers, Congressman Thompson said: “….First let me say I’ve lived five miles from here just about my entire life. I was born right over this ridge….I can’t remember the last time I went to Santa Rosa or to Sonoma County any other way than Spring Mountain Road but I’ve never been on this property so it is a treat for me to be here…I’ve known Stu for a long long time….I just can’t get over how beautiful this property is…What incredible stewards of the land Stu and Charlie have been and are. It’s a real tribute to be able to say this is what we’ve done, this is how we’re taking care of it and it’s going to be around for a long time…Thanks for 50 years of good work. I look forward to being back up here over the course of the next 50 years.”

The Resolution text reads:

We are in the Congressional Record

Madam Speaker, I rise today to honor Stuart Smith and Charles Smith, founders of the Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery in celebration of the winery’s 50th anniversary.

The Smith-Madrone Winery was founded on May 14, 1971. Its vineyards are located on top of Spring Mountain in Napa Valley at 1,200 to 1,300 feet in elevation. The winery only produces wine from these 50-year-old local vineyards that are enriched by the county’s deep red Aiken loam soil.

Smith-Madrone Winery played an integral role in the international popularization of Napa Valley wines. The winery first prompted international recognition when its 1977 Riesling was named the world’s Best Riesling by wine experts in the first international Wine Olympics in Paris in 1979. Additionally, Smith-Madrone received The Daily Meal’s Winery of the Year award in 2014. In 2020, the winery was chosen by the University of California, Berkeley to conduct a virtual wine tasting to attendees of the University’s homecoming events.

Stuart and Charles have positively impacted the wine community through their involvement in the Napa Valley wine community. Stuart was appointed to the 2008 General Plan Steering Committee and the 1998 Napa River Watershed Task Force by the Napa County Board of Supervisors. Starting in 2006, Charles has published weekly harvest report for the St. Helena Star, until Stuart took over writing the report column in 2012. Stuart also served as chairman of the 1986 and co-chairman of the 2005 Napa Valley Wine Auction.

Madam Speaker, it is evident that Stuart Smith and Charles Smith, through the Smith-Madrone Winery and their community involvement, have made important contributions to the Napa Valley wine community. Therefore, it is fitting and proper that we honor them here today.

2016 & 2017 Riesling discussed at

Napa isn’t just about Cabernet and Chardonnay …

by Richard Hemming, September 23, 2022

Riesling completists, take note! Napa is probably one of the last places you might look for your fix of this most obsessive-compulsive of grapes, but Smith-Madrone prove that it can be done, and done well.

Mountain viticulture is surely one of the vital elements, and the fog-wreathed hillsides shown above give an indication of the cooling influence that will benefit Riesling. Smith-Madrone’s vineyards lie between 1,300 and 2,000 feet (400–610 m) with some slopes as steep as 34% according to their website. Furthermore, their Riesling vines date from their first plantings in 1972. They are own-rooted and the vineyards unirrigated.

Such qualities indicate the sort of purist approach that bodes well, since old vines are generally revered for greater concentration of fruit and ungrafted vines are considered more authentic by some (perhaps unfairly, although they are certainly rare), while unirrigated vineyards appeal to our desire for minimal manipulation, especially when water is increasingly scarce.

Regardless, the 2016 vintage of Smith-Madrone Riesling confirmed all the expectations of excellence. It has flavour characteristics that echo the great German archetypes, yet is distinctly New World, perhaps most obviously via soft acidity that would be unusual in most Teutonic versions. Their helpful tech sheet reveals titratable acidity on the lower side of the Riesling range, at 8.1 grams per litre, although the pH of 3.04 is typical.

Furthermore, residual sugar is 6.8 grams per litre, giving that impression of slight sweetness which is Riesling’s great gift to the world. Six years of bottle age has brought out flavours of basil leaf, lime cordial, lemon meringue and a definite petrographic aroma that might be described as slate or oil or mineral, depending on your preference.

Bottle of Smith-Madrone Riesling 2016

While it will doubtless continue to mature, I felt it was showing at its best for drinking right now, with intact primary fruit and maturing complexity in equal measure – it is a wine to relish in all its varietal glory.

However, many markets have moved on to the 2017 vintage, which is the current release. Our US executive editor Elaine, who knows the producer in far more detail than I do, advises that their Riesling is ‘guided by style in the sense that they have to centrally pay attention to sugar levels since they want it to be on the drier side of things and so specifically aim for that style, whereas the Chardonnay and Cabernet are guided more by vintage conditions. That said, I believe their wines in general are guided by structural focus and vintage honesty.’

She adds, ‘Smith-Madrone in general has worked hard to keep their wines at good value for the region and still produce one of the best-value Cabernet Sauvignons from Napa Valley as well. The consistency across their wines is excellent (with appropriate vintage variation), and they each age quite impressively as well. The two brothers who founded it got up in the mountains of the Spring Mountain District in the early 1970s, and in many ways represent the last generation that could be middle class and start a new property in Napa Valley but they also happened to get in at a time when Cabernet from mountain property was still a relatively less explored concept so land was available and restrictions were not yet in place.’

Stu is quoted in Bloomberg harvest round-up

Elin McCoy at Bloomberg does an international harvest recap on September 18.

She quotes Stu:

An all-over-the-place picture in California…On Spring Mountain, Stu Smith of Smith-Madrone says his chardonnay will be good, but down 25% to 30%.

The editor illustrated with a photo from Smith-Madrone’s Instagram of Ulysses Martinez-Duran standing next to a gondola of Cabernet Sauvignon:

The rest of the article:

Free Run Juice reviews the current releases

Doug Wilder reviews the current releases on Free Run Juice (his online newsletter affiliated with Purely Domestic Wine Report):

This week looks at the current releases from the Smith brothers at Smith-Madrone. Founded in 1971, this dry-farmed estate on Napa Valley’s Spring Mountain produces exceptionally well-made wines at value points commonly seen no later than a quarter-century ago.

2018 Chardonnay: The nose is pristine toast, crème brûlée, Meyer lemon, penetrating pineapple and saline with a whiff of mint. The palate entry shows taut acidity leading to a graham cracker, citrus and marshmallow core finishing with pain grillée and apricot. Drink 2022-2034.

2018 Cabernet Sauvignon: The nose is forward juniper and bay laurel with sticky shrub berries and chocolate. The palate entry is lean herbal-tinged red fruit with a textured core of raspberry, hard cherry and watermelon finishing with silky brown spice. Drink 2022-2045.

2017 Riesling: The nose is peach and mango with alluring perfume of orange pulp. The palate entry is focused apricot and sticky lemon with a core of spice and resinous herb. This producer always excels with this variety. Drink 2022-2033.

A rosé that stands out…in Forbes

Cathy Huyghe wrote about Rosé in Forbes and tasted the 2021 Smith-Madrone:

“….“Hearty” is not typically a word used to describe rosé wine, but it’s the first one that came to mind for me when I saw the color of the 2021 Smith-Madrone Rosé. It’s only the third time in their long history that Smith-Madrone has released a rosé wine, and it’s made from that producer’s own Merlot and Cabernet Franc from their estate vineyards at the top of the Spring Mountain District in Napa Valley.

If a producer preserves the authenticity of their style and the “hearty” nature of their terroir, and that producer’s vineyards are on Napa’s Spring Mountain, then this is how their rosé wine must look. It’s described as an “extravagant, piercing color” that is such a “vibrant pink it’s practically radioactive.” I’d agree with that description except for the “pink,” which is so unlike the pale salmon pink color most often associated with rosé that it’s almost misleading.

It is a rosé, but one that stands out. It is crisp and refreshing, but with a core of minerality. You do want to drink it during the summer, but you also know that it will flow right into sweater season just fine.

Which means that this rosé is a perfect way to close the “recap” of rosé wine for the summer of 2022, largely because it represents an emerging variety of rosé options, including several of which will push the rosé summertime drinking season well beyond Labor Day weekend…”

Stu is on a panel after movie about regenerative farming

Read on for details about a special event-movie screening and panel discussion about the film To Which We Belong, being screened in St. Helena on September 4.


To Which We Belong screens on September 4 with director Q&A

St. Helena, Napa Valley, August 2022 — The Cameo Cinema offers a special screening of To Which We Belong, a film by Pamela Tanner Boll about regenerative agriculture. The film will be screened at 1:00 pm on Sunday, September 4. Special ticket price is $10; the event is funded by a grant from the Richard Reed Foundation.

The film will be followed by a panel featuring filmmaker/producer Pamela Tanner Boll, Ben Mackie from Napa Green, Stuart Smith from Smith-Madrone Winery and Laddie Hall from Long Meadow Ranch. Cathy Buck will moderate and direct questions to the panelists.

More about the film:

Attendees will enjoy wines donated by Titus Vineyards and Smith-Madrone Winery, wineries which farm sustainably in the Napa Valley.

“Some farmers have begun to see that their traditional farming practices are actually killing the soil and its useful microorganisms,” explains Pamela Tanner Boll, the director of To Which We Belong.” “They’re seeing that when the soil is healthy, their plants can withstand the pests. As I learned more about all of this, I wanted to know more. I wanted to see whether these ideas and practices—referred to as regenerative agriculture—could spread further. And thus came the film,” she added. More at

The Cameo Cinema is located at 1340 Main Street in St. Helena. It’s recommended that tickets be purchased in advance at .

About Stuart Smith

Stuart Smith founded Smith-Madrone Winery on top of Spring Mountain in the Napa Valley in 1971. Today he is respected for his expertise and leadership as a mountain vineyardist.

The vineyards are primarily dry-farmed on steep mountainsides surrounding the winery at elevations between 1,300 and 2,000 feet and the slopes extend in steepness up to 35%. In 2018 Stu was named one of Wine’s Most Inspiring People as a pioneer and champion of hillside grape growing, by Wine Industry Advisor. After graduating from UC Berkeley, while pursuing his master’s at UC Davis, Stuart was the first teaching assistant for wine industry pioneers Maynard Amerine and Vernon Singleton. He taught enology at Santa Rosa Junior College and Napa Valley College.

About Ben Mackie

Ben Mackie is the Vineyard Program Manager for Napa Green. For the past 15 years, Ben has been designing and implementing regenerative farming systems in a variety of ecosystems. A New Englander by birth, Ben fell in love with agriculture in the verdant fields of northern California in high school. Ever since, Ben has been managing farms, improving soils, and educating the next crop of environmental stewards with a holistic view of farming with natural systems. No stranger to Napa, he previously lived on Mt. Veeder, where he fell in love with the oak and madrone woodlands and made friends with the local ravens.

About Laddie Hall

In 1989 Laddie Hall and her husband Ted founded Long Meadow Ranch winery and farm, which encompasses three vineyard estates and the Farmstead restaurant in St. Helena. On more than 2,000 acres, they raise everything from grapes to olives to heirloom fruits and vegetables to chickens and grass-fed, long-haired Scottish Highland cattle organically.

The Cameo Cinema is a single-screen movie theater committed to fostering an appreciation for cinema’s cultural heritage and producing exemplary theatrical experiences.  Founded on May 15, 1913, the theater changed hands several times over the next few decades and its name changed with every sale.  Cathy Buck assumed the lease in 2008 and subsequently installed digital sound and laser projection equipment equal to the best cinema houses in the nation. She has infused this classic ‘movie palace’ with Napa Valley’s legendary style and hospitality, fostering a vibrant sense of community through the film-going experience. More:

The Cameo Cinema Foundation is an organization dedicated to the preservation and advancement of one of the oldest continuously running single screen theaters in America, which opened its doors in 1913. The purpose of this organization is to support the Cameo Cinema as a community asset, operating as a nonprofit single screen, state of the art community film center which enhances the artistic, educational, cultural and social life of Saint Helena and the Napa Valley. More:

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