Two Guys From Napa visited….

Two Guys From Napa stopped by:

Winery Spotlight: Smith-Madrone Vineyards and Winery

February 9, 2019

Smith-Madrone Vineyards and Winery in Napa Valley is a hidden gem, offering outstanding wines and a nostalgic tasting experience in a beautiful natural setting. Founded by Stuart Smith, Smith-Madrone has been producing top quality wines since its first vintage in 1977. The winery sits on top of Spring Mountain in Northwest Napa Valley on steep slopes, with elevations between 1,300 and 2,000 feet, surrounded by a huge array of natural beauty and wildlife. Although Smith-Madrone Vineyards and Winery is on a 200-acre ranch, just a small portion of the estate is planted to grapes and the winery only produces about 4,000 cases per year.

Smith-Madrone Vineyards and Winery – The Story

Stuart Smith, with a partnership of family and friends, acquired the property which became Smith-Madrone Vineyards and Winery in 1971. Two years later, Stuart’s brother Charles Smith joined the winery and became its Winemaker. The name Smith-Madrone is a tribute to the Smith Brothers and the predominant tree on the ranch: The Madrone, an evergreen tree with red-brown trunk and branches that bear lily-of-the-valley-like flower clusters in the spring and orange-red berries in the fall. In 1972, Smith-Madrone planted its first vineyards with Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir (the Pinot Noir was eventually grafted to Chardonnay in 1989). However, the ranch was originally planted with vines in the 1800s by George Cook, the first owner of the property. Today, the vineyards consist of about 37 acres and Cabernet Franc and Merlot have been added to the plantings. Continue reading “Two Guys From Napa visited….”

Lonely Planet recommends a visit

Have you read Lonely Planet’s Wine Trails: Plan 52 Perfect Weekends in Wine Country?

On p. 296 you’ll find:


Fans of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon will often be heard debating the respective merits of “mountain” Cabernet vs. those from the Valley floor. Those curious enough to taste the difference for themselves should head up  Spring Mountain to the rustic but welcoming winery of Smith-Madrone, where brothers Stu and Charlie Smith have been making some of the  Valley’s most under-rated Cabernet (not to mention Riesling and Chardonnay) since 1971. These are wines that not only taste great when they are young, but also age superbly if you have the patience to stick them away for a few years.

A visit to Smith-Madrone not only gives you the chance to spend time talking and tasting with some of the friendliest and most genuine winemakers in the business, it also offers up some of the most spectacular vistas in the entire Napa Valley. The old barn is full of charm….


One of the most authentic….

The Best Appointment-Only Tasting Experiences in Napa and Sonoma Wine Country

Some of the best experiences in Napa and Sonoma counties require some extra planning, meaning you have to make an appointment. But they’re well worth the effort. A word to the wise—reach out for appointments at these wineries well in advance of your travels. Happy tasting.

by Jonathan Cristaldi, Food & Wine Magazine, November 28, 2017

Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery

For one of the most authentic and old-fashioned experiences in Napa, make the winding  trek up Spring Mountain Road to visit with winemaker Charles Smith or his brother, viticulturist Stuart Smith. Take in dramatic views of the valley below through a corridor of 100-year-old olive trees and sample three current releases—Chardonnay, Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon, all grown on the estate vineyards surrounding the winery on the top of Spring Mountain. You’ll be regaled with stories of Napa past and present because the brothers have been growing grapes for 46 years. Tip: ask about Smith-Madrone’s Cook’s Flat Reserve ($225, with each bottle initialed and numbered). Also, keep an eye out for Smith’s son, next-generation winemaker Sam Smith, who will debut his own label Curly St. James—a Cabernet-dominant blend—in the fall of this year. Having sampled it at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, I can attest that it’s a tremendous wine from one of Napa’s rising star winemakers.

Appointments available: Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
Phone: (707) 963-2283

Food & Wine Magazine recommends that you stop by

Ray Isle in the May issue of Food & Wine Magazine recommends that you stop by:

Napa Valley Dream Trip Tips, May 2016, Food & Wine Magazine, p. 108, by Ray Isle

Being a wine writer is a little like being a doctor. People ask you for advice at parties. …I get asked, “I’m going to Napa Valley in a few months—what wineries do you think I should visit?” I’m not surprised by the question. There are more than 400 wineries in Napa Valley; figuring out which ones to visit is definitely tough.

Here are my suggestions for mapping out a winery itinerary:

Think small. Throw in a few smaller, family-owned operations….I’m a big fan of Smith-Madrone Vineyards in the Spring Mountain District, where the impressively bearded brothers Stuart and Charles Smith make terrific old-school Napa Cabernets….

Find Sam Smith in Michigan!

Sam Smith is visiting customers and making new friends in Michigan February 29 – March 3. Here’s how to find him!

On February 29 join Sam for a winemaker dinner in Holland at Butch’s Dry Dock, starting at 6:00 p.m. More details at .

On March 1 join Sam for a wine tasting at Fine Wine Source in Livonia, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. More at .

On March 2 join Sam for a wine tasting at Morgan & York in Ann Arbor, from 5:00 to 6:30 p.m. More at .

On March 2 join Sam for a winemaker dinner at Knight’s Steakhouse in Ann Arbor, starting at 7:00 p.m. More at .

“Intimate…unique…passionate about the wines they produce…”

Bacchus & Beery is calling out wineries which offer ‘intimate’ visits: “The one thing they will all have in common is an intimate and unique experience with folks passionate about the wines they produce.”

Please check here

and here

NapaCabulous recommends stopping by

Our thanks to Chicago blogger NapaCabulous: she recommends stopping by to experience a friendly small production winery:


Wine tasting and fabulous dinners are the essential elements of any wine country vacation; however there are many other activities that can help to round out your experience. I’ve listed my top 10 answers for “What to do in NapaValley,” in no particular order. Though we try to shake things up each trip, several of these items always make their way onto the itinerary…. Make plans to visit a small production winery and hear its story from the owner. We have had great times at Smith-Madrone….

The Sacramento Bee blogs about a tasting with Charlie

October 18, 2012 Musings of a winemaker: A visit to Smith-Madrone

I had enough readers ask about my recent visit to Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery in the Napa Valley (and the engaging tour and tasting run by Charles F. Smith), that I thought I would include some of the notes I took from that very pleasant Saturday afternoon. If you’re interested in visiting, it’s always best to make a reservation via the website.

If you’re going there, the trip includes a 15-minute drive on a narrow, winding road up Spring Mountain. At the top, the views are terrific.

The first wine was Chardonnay. It’s worth noting that Smith uses little to no wine jargon in his chats and he made no attempt to tell us what tasting notes to watch for as we sipped. Here’s what Smith had to say as he led us out the door to look at the grapes growing closet to the building.

From so-so Pinot to very good Chardonnay:

I want to show you where the wine you’re tasting comes from. It comes from this block right here. This is Chardonnay that was planted by us as Pinot noir back in 1972. There wasn’t any good Pinot noir being made in the United States, and over the 10 years we made the stuff we didn’t do too much to change that. In other words, it was an experiment that didn’t turn out too well. We only made one good Pinot noir in about 10 years. So it ended up being grafted over to Chardonnay in the late ’80s. 

Overgrown vineyards and over-sized olive trees:

There was vineyard here before the turn of the century. These are olive tress that were planted in the 1880s. As far as I know, olive trees just don’t get bigger than that – they’re enormous by olive tree standards. I don’t think they’ve actually grown much in the last 40 years. Although these were planted in the 1880s, the old place was abandoned around 1910. By the time we bought the property, they had been un-pruned for 60 years – and we certainly haven’t pruned them. The grapevines were gone and the forest had essentially reclaimed everything. We started clearing everything off and by the end of the summer of 1972, we had planted 20 acres around the winery.

Pricy French oak barrels are worth it:

With Chardonnay, we’re pretty much dedicated to French barrels. There are American barrels, Hungarian barrels, and you can get barrels from Pennsylvania, Missouri and so forth. Unfortunately, I think if you’re really dead serious about Chardonnay, you’ve just got to go with French. Occasionally here and there you’ll see people make Chardonnay in American oak. It turns out pretty well, but I think you’re losing a little bit. We would happily use American oak barrels if they produced wine that was as good because they are only $350 a piece and French barrels are about $1,000 each. The Napa Valley is about nothing if it’s not about quality, so we just have to spend the difference. It’s kind of hard to explain. The American barrel gives it a kind of punchy, racy, aggressive quality. French barrels are made in a different way. One of the things they do, after they cut the oak trees and split them along the grain, is to leave the raw material and they simply stack these in giant piles in huge drying yards where they sit out for three to four years. It’s expensive. It takes a long time. But the French believe this has a lot to do with why their wood is better. They do it the slow, old method and it’s expensive, but I think they’re worth it. Barrels are surprisingly difficult to make. Each one has its own fingerprint. It’s a serious skill to make a barrel and the French do beautiful work.”

Blending wines for the Cabernet Sauvignon:

The blend is 6 percent Cabernet Franc and 9 percent Merlot and the blend varies from year to year. The rest is sold as bulk wine. You may be surprised to know that there is an enormous market of wine that moves from winery to winery. There are people out there making a very handsome living connecting buyers and sellers. Our policy has been to not make Cabernet Franc and Merlot separately and bottling it, but we’re actually thinking about changing that.

Riesling and alcohol content:

After noting the wide range of high and low alcohol content in various Rieslings, Smith said, “These alcohol differences make an enormous difference in the way the wine presents itself to you. If you get too high, you get powerhouse stuff and if you get too low it gets softer. For us, we think 12.5 percent is just the ticket. All of these sugar levels, if they’re good quality grapes from a good producer, will age for very long periods of time – shockingly long periods of time. We opened up a 30-year-old German Riesling and it was spectacular. It’s very difficult to describe what happens to them – except something really interesting happens. They can be spectacularly tasty. No one, of course, keeps Riesling this long. Good quality Rieslings, when they’re young, are supposed to be tasty.”