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2015 Riesling has ‘pitch perfect balance’

November 14, 2018

In the November 14 Santa Rosa Press Democrat:

Smith-Madrone, 2015 Spring Mountain District Napa Valley Riesling: This complex riesling has layered notes of papaya, petrol and honeysuckle. It’s nice and dry, with bright acidity. Pitch perfect balance. Impressive.


Rieslings age beautifully

November 3, 2018

At The New York Times, Eric Asimov discussed how to age wines, including a reference to Rieslings: “….Rieslings, both dry and sweet, often age beautifully….”

When to Open a Bottle: Aging Wine Without the Anxiety

by Eric Asimov, October 22, 2018

The notion of putting bottles away raises fears. How do you know when they are ready to open? Did I wait long enough? Too long? Relax. Bottles that can improve with aging tend to move along a gentle arc, during which they will offer many delicious expressions, from youthful exuberance to middle-age complexity to eventual fragility. Aging wine is an act of hope and optimism, laced with fear and dread.

You dearly want to be rewarded by a bottle that matures from awkward, inarticulate youth to expressive beauty and, eventually, elegant complexity. The fear is of waiting not long enough or too long, of storing it wrong and, ultimately, of missing out on what could have been, or what once was.

Entwined with this anxiety is a misplaced conviction that bottles age toward a momentary peak, then drop away into oblivion. Opening a bottle at the wrong time, many believe, risks missing that special moment. Too often, I’ve seen people unable to enjoy an otherwise delicious bottle of wine because they have convinced themselves that they missed the peak.

Determining which bottles to age and when to open them is among the most puzzling aspects of wine. Misunderstandings can cause misery. The aging question just adds one more layer of doubt to a subject with a seemingly endless capacity to induce angst in otherwise confident people. Every day brings numerous possible pitfalls.

Here is the good news about aging wine: Regardless of what many people assume, there is no single right time to open any particular bottle. Whenever you decide to drink a wine is the right time. If you go about it the right way, it’s hard to make a mistake.

First, it’s important to understand that wine does not age toward an apogee of development, then drop off. Bottles that can improve with aging tend to move along a gentle arc, during which they will offer many delicious expressions, from youthful exuberance to middle-age complexity to eventual fragility.

The best time to open a bottle is subjective. The trick is getting to know your own preferences, which takes a bit of time and effort.

Which stage you prefer depends on the particular wine and, especially, your own taste.

One good method is to buy multiple bottles of an age-worthy wine. A case is great, but six is plenty. Then you wait, sometimes for a long time. Open a bottle in two years, a second in five. Note the path of the evolution and decide which stage you prefer.

The evolutionary path a bottle will take varies, depending on the type of wine, the style of the producer and the conditions of the vintage.

Perhaps more difficult than knowing when to open a bottle is initially judging its aging potential. Track records help to form general estimates.Aging estimates for wine genres are not hard to find on the internet or in wine textbooks…..

The structure, provided by tannins or acidity or both, and concentration, indicated by density of flavor, are the most obvious signs that a wine has what it takes to age. Yet just as important, if not more so, is balance, the sense that all the elements are there in proper proportion.

Knowing which wines to age is not always intuitive, but with a little experience (and a modest bit of research), you can identify good candidates.

Rieslings, both dry and sweet, often age beautifully…..It depends on the intent and methods of the producers…..

Going strong!

October 28, 2018

The Smith Brothers are still making wine on Spring Mountain

by Lyle Norton, October 28, 2018, SF Examiner

On the westside of the Napa Valley, high above St. Helena is where the vineyards of the remote Spring Mountain appellation are located. The Smith Brothers, Stuart and Charles, have been pioneers in the hillside appellation since the early seventies when they cleared the land and re-established vineyards that had been abandoned since the turn of the century.

Records show that that ownership of the Smith-Madrone property was first granted to George Cook in 1885. During the 1890s, the aphid phylloxera infected and destroyed the vineyards on Spring Mountain and, in 1905, they were abandoned and remained fallow for 65 years.

Stuart Smith discovered his passion for wine while completing undergraduate studies at UC Berkeley in the 1960s. He soon completed a Master’s Degree at UC Davis and began the search for a place to pursue his craft.

He has been called a leading voice for hillside vineyards, an accolade he downplays. He says that he was always looking for a higher altitude hillside location because he felt it produced the best grapes. When the opportunity arose for Stuart and Charles to purchase old George Cook’s 200 acre property with over grown vineyards, they jumped at it.

They were aware that there could be protests as they deforested parts of the mountain to form the best vineyard sites. While inspecting each vineyard location from his all-terrain vehicle, I found Stuart to be someone who cares deeply about the madrone forest and the soil, while using eco-friendly farming practices in his vineyards.

Charles Smith serves as the winemaker and storyteller at the winery. I caught up with him as he was leading a small group of out-of-state tourists through their story and palate of wines.

The Smith Brothers like to keep it simple and consistent. They produce approximately 3,000 cases per vintage of the same four wines, focused on creating the best in each from what Mother Nature gives them.

The tasting began with a dry-farmed estate release, the 2015 Smith-Madrone Chardonnay ($34) that concurrently expressed complexity and accessibility. Barrel-fermented for 10 months in 80 percent new French oak, the flavors were layered and balanced, not overly crisp or creamy.

Riesling production is no longer associated with the Napa Valley, but there is a history. Over the years, chardonnay has nearly dominated it out of existence. However, the 2015 Smith- Madrone Estate Riesling ($32) is among the finest California releases that I have tasted. While I agree in part with Charles’ assessment that their riesling is more full-bodied French style (Alsatian) than German, the expressive minerality on the finish is reminiscent of those from Germany’s Mosel region along the Rhine River.

The climate on Spring Mountain is warmer like Alsace, allowing the grapes to ripen earlier. With the 2015 vintage, the result is a dry, crisp wine with citric and floral qualities and an exceptional mineral-laced finish. They make less than 700 cases, but this wine is worth pursuing.

The drought in California was in full effect in 2014 when rainfall on Spring Mountain, at 1800-foot elevation, was less than half of normal. As a result, the cabernet sauvignon and other Bordeaux varietals, from volcanic soil, developed smaller clusters with more concentrated flavors.

The 2014 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon ($52), blended with small amounts of cabernet franc and merlot, has a rich mouthfeel with flavors that coalesced on the palate. With nearly 2,000 cases produced, it is aged for 18 months in mostly new French oak and will certainly evolve for several years.

A blend of the best blocks of cabernet sauvignon (58 percent), merlot (17 percent) and cabernet franc (25 percent), the “Cook’s Flat” Reserve is only produced when the highest standards can be achieved.

As opposed to some overbearing fruity wines, the 2012 Smith- Madrone “Cook’s Flat” Reserve ($225) is a refined release with deeply balanced flavors, made, according to Charles Smith, in an “Old World” style. He credits the cabernet franc for adding depth and complexity to the wine.

The Smith Brothers have been doing what they do on Spring Mountain for 47 years. As a result, they have grown good at it. Although the remote Spring Mountain vineyards are more difficult to access, an appointment to tour and taste at Smith-Madrone will prove to be a unique experience.


Spring Mountain District Comes to SF

October 27, 2018
Join us (and 14 other Spring Mountain District wineries) on Sunday, November 18 from 4:00 until 7:00 p.m. for a celebration of harvest and walk-around tasting.
We will be at the Presidio Golden Gate Club, 135 Fisher Loop in San Francisco.
Tickets are $100/ person and must be purchased in advance at Eventbrite or through
This is an unusual opportunity to taste a number of wines from our appellation, all in one place, without having to get in your car!
All of the wineries will be pouring current releases, library wines and a surprise or two.
Look forward to seeing you in San Francisco.
Stu, Charles, Sam
P.S. Keep up with the harvest on Spring Mountain.

About Spring Mountain District

View from Spring Mtn.

The Spring Mountain District appellation, established in 1993, lies above the town of St. Helena on the eastern slopes of the Mayacamas Mountains. Encompassed within its bounds are about 8,600 acres, of which about 1,000 are planted to vineyards.

Congrats to Roberson!

October 23, 2018

Congratulations to our UK importer for being recognized by Decanter in their Retailer of the Year Awards as the best USA specialist:

Decanter Retailer Awards winners 2018

By Bella Callaghan, October 2018

Find out which UK supermarkets, wine merchants and independent retailers won prizes at this year’s Decanter Retailer of the Year Awards…

Winning retailers were announced during a special ceremony held at the OXO2 Tower Wharf on Thursday 20 September.

Who were the judges?

  • Peter Richards MW, Awards Chairman – Wine Writer and TV Presenter
  • Peter Ranscombe – Wine columnist and drinks blogger for the Scottish Field
  • Matt Walls – Contributing editor, Decanter
  • Andy Howard MW – Decanter contributor and wine writer
  • Fiona Beckett – Food and wine writer,

USA Specialist of the Year: Roberson Wine

Roberson’s US wine selection is a cutting-edge range that continues to evolve and grow – from 40 wines in 2013 to 222 now, some 19% of the entire list. Roberson also supports the category on a broader basis, raising funds following the wild fires.

Rich with good offsetting acidity

October 11, 2018

From Ellen Landis’ EllenOnWine recently:

Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery 2015 Chardonnay; Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley, California: Aromas of fresh-picked tree fruits and spiced oak notes zone in on what’s ahead.  Poached pears, Granny Smith apples, brown spices and a kiss of butterscotch pudding join underlying oak on the palate.  Firmly structured and rich with good offsetting acidity through the last enlivening sip.

True expression of terroir = Riesling

October 11, 2018

Our thanks to Grape-Experiences for this review of the 2015 Riesling:

Thanks to consistency in quality, I’ll always keep wines from Smith-Madrone Vineyards on my go-to list. Offering a unique surprise in each sip, the Smith-Madrone Riesling 2015 presented aromas of stone fruit, juicy peaches, and tropical fruit. Full bodied and balanced, the glorious dry Riesling burst with intense, broad, and racy notes of orchard fruit, herbs, and mouthwatering acidity. Lean but not bone dry, the finish was persistent and absolutely delightful with elements of minerality and citrus. The Smith-Madrone Riesling 2015, fermented in stainless steel, was not blended with other varietals and did not experience malolactic fermentation or lees stirring. A true expression of terroir? You bet! A Riesling from Napa? This is one of the best surprises you’ll have! Only 685 cases were made.