Fall 2014 Release Letter
We have two fabulous new wines for you this fall, along with much news. The 2013 Riesling and the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon are about as good as wine can be.
However, before telling you about these wines we’d like to share with you our thoughts on wine style, the 2014 harvest and being selected as one of the Top 100 Wineries of the Year (by Wine & Spirits Magazine). As you may know there are several schools of thought on how to define good/excellent/great wine, especially when it comes to red wine. We believe that wine must have good acidity, be balanced, layered, complex and have what we call an ephemeral sense of art, that is, it should be unique to that winery. Lastly, wine should be hedonistic. While difficult to define, we also embrace a European mind-set that wine should be elegant, have finesse and that great wines should improve with age. We then add California sunshine to this blend, not with a heavy hand, but with restraint, so that the grapes are ripe, but not overly so.
Winery of the Year
Smith-Madrone is honored to have been selected as one of Wine & Spirits Magazine’s Top 100 Wineries of the Year. Additionally, in the December issue there will be a recap of what they call the “Sommelier Scavenger Hunt” where five teams of three Sommeliers went to five different regions in the US and were tasked with finding the best example of a signature varietal from that region. Michael Madrigale of Boulud Sud (New York City), Josiah Baldivino (Bay Grape, Oakland, CA) and Michelle Biscieglia (Blue Hill, NYC) were given the task of finding that exemplary Cabernet Sauvignon from the Napa appellation. After tasting 150 wines the three initially selected six finalists and then the entire group of 15 sommeliers pared it down to just two – Smith-Madrone 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2011 Corison Kronos. Pretty good stuff. Keep your eye out for the December issue of Wine & Spirits Magazine.
The 2014 vintage will always be remembered for beginning at the end of the year-long drought of 2013. Fortunately for us, the record breaking dry spell was broken mid-February with 30 inches of rain. Since we are mostly (but our not young vines) dry farmed, those 30 inches of rain completely replenished our vines’ root zone and eliminated any concern of drought for the vines. Despite this localized rain that we received, California is still in a terrible drought.
We are very upbeat about this year’s vintage. The color, flavors and chemistry all indicate excellent quality. However, predictions about the vintage quality remind us of the old joke about the fellow who jumped off the 50th floor hoping to land in the firemen’s net and when someone asked at the 10th floor how it was going, he said “so far so good.” Bloom, set, verasion and ripening proceeded under ideal conditions with warm but not hot temperatures. By all metrics we expect 2014 to be an excellent vintage. “So far, so good!”
The wine is a hedonist’s delight! The aroma reveals a core of minerality surrounded by stone fruit, lime and white peaches, with a hint of grapefruit and apricot lurking around the edges. On the palate there is a distinct flavor of honeydew melon, sprinkled lightly with a touch of honeysuckle and apricot. All of this complexity results in a distinctive Riesling character with a lip-smacking acidity, leaving the taster wanting more! It is completely refreshing and absolutely delicious. Like our other vintages and a testament to our mountain vineyard, the wine will age and improve for 15 to 20 plus years. As usual, it is a dry style with 0.75% residual sugar.
1,288 cases, $27/btl Order
This July Smith-Madrone was named as one of the world’s top 20 producers of dry Riesling by Stuart Pigott in his new book The Riesling Story: Best White Wine on Earth. Smith-Madrone was the only North American winery so honored. We are extremely proud of this honor. We’ve excerpted the Smith-Madrone sections on our website, so they’re easy to find and share.
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon
Our 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon is frankly fabulous. Yes, rain did cause problems for some vineyards in the Valley, but nature was very kind to those of us who toil away in the mountains. Fortunately at Smith-Madrone we had opened up our canopies two weeks earlier and most importantly we had winds which quickly dried out the grapes. The wine is captivating, with layers of cedar cigar box, blackberry and cocoa and has an overall seamlessness and power. It has a deep dark red color and is both powerful and elegant at the same time on the palate. Stu loves the 2011 and believes it is “total perfection” in every sense. 1,070 cases, $48/btl Order
2012 was a wonderful vintage and here is a super Chardonnay that is balanced, elegant and expresses the power of our dry-farmed mountain vineyards. This is a great wine, fun to drink and one which can compete against any Chardonnay at any price – new world or old. Yes, that’s bold talk from a couple of mountain boys, but it’s true.
779 cases, $32/btl Order
2010 Cook’s Flat Reserve
Our goal is to make the very best red wine from California and the new world. We select the best grapes from the best locations within our vineyard (mostly from the Cook’s Flat block). It is then aged in new medium-toast oak from the center forests of France. This vintage is 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Cabernet franc. The packaging is extremely elegant and full of references to our history: each bottle is individually numbered and wrapped in a proprietary tissue we commissioned (it re-creates the ‘patent’ for the property, signed by President Chester A. Arthur in 1884). The wine is available in 3- and 6-bottle branded wooden cases. There are ninety individual numbered 1.5 liter bottles available. The Cook’s Flat Reserve has its own website, cooksflatreserve.com, which can also be accessed via smithmadrone.com.
1,956 750 ml bottles @ $200/btl, 90 1.5 liter btl @ $450/btl Order
Lastly, our website is always being updated and has a wealth of information including fact sheets, tasting notes, and coverage in the media. This fall we added some video tasting notes: take a look if you have a sec: 2012 Riesling, 2012 Chardonnay, 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2010 Cook’s Flat Reserve, and a chat about dry farming and wine tasting.
Please visit when next in the Napa Valley.
Thanks and enjoy,