Cook’s Flat for Valentine’s Day

Michelle Williams in her Forbes column recommends the 2012 Cook’s Flat Reserve for a Valentine’s Day gift:

February 5, 2019

Valentine’s Day Gift Guide: The 10 Best Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons For Lovers

By Michelle Williams, February 5, 2019

Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching–time to start thinking about wine. If red wine inspires romance, then a decadent Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is sex in a bottle.

Imagine a deep purple robe giving way to aromas of sultry dark fruit, opulent spice, and rich earth, all wrapped in a brooding crushed velvet mouth-feel. You are sure to find the perfect wine to ignite an evening of romance in the list below.

2012 Smith-Madrone Cook’s Flat Reserve Napa Valley $225: Seductive—dark fruit, highly herbaceous, baking spice, graphite, dark chocolate, and cedar; tension between power and restraint, balanced and layered with beautiful structure; words lack in describing this beautiful wine. Limited production, purchase direct from winery.

Prioritising dry farming in a new book

We are included in a review of wineries around the world who dry farm:

Turn it off: Why the wine industry should prioritize dry farming

By Linda Johnson-Bell, January 25, 2019,

Wine or water? This is the choice that many of the world’s winemakers are currently facing as our most well-loved wine regions across the globe shrivel with heat and drought.

With the effects of climate change regularly making front pages, the wine industry is responding by moving beyond the scope of ‘organic’ and working towards a broader definition of sustainability. However, many sustainable wine programmes tend to overlook the use of freshwater irrigation, instead focusing on issues such as renewable energy, biodiversity and social equity.

Wouldn’t consumers be interested to know the impact wine production has on the world’s water supply?

Recent research found that over a third of consumers actively seek out brands and companies based on their social, environmental and ethical impact. The figure is even higher for millennials, with 75% of people in that age group willing to spend more on sustainable products. Continue reading “Prioritising dry farming in a new book”

Long live Riesling!

Honored to be included in this look at Napa Valley rieslings:

Napa Valley Riesling: Then And Now

by Michelle Williams, January 30, 2019,

Four of Napa Valley’s outstanding dry Rieslings.MICHELLE WILLIAMS

Prior to Prohibition, Riesling was the most planted white grape variety in Napa Valley, taking a dip until the 1970s, where its prominence rose again. In 1972, Riesling was the first wine released by Chateau Montelena. “This was well before Cabernet and Chardonnay were anointed King and Queen of Napa Valley,” shares Matt Crafton, Winemaker at Chateau Montelena, “I’m sure it was an exciting time.”

Some may argue the excitement has faded for Napa Valley Riesling, but that depends on who you ask. According to Hailey Trefethen, Vintner at Trefethen Family Vineyards, there were 4,401 tons of the grape crushed in Napa Valley in 1979. By 2017, that number dwindled to 266.20 tons, according to the USDA 2017 Grape Crush Report, but it is a labor of love for those who still produce it. Continue reading “Long live Riesling!”

Stu on The Honest Pour

Stu sat down with John Lenart to record a segment of John’s podcast, The Honest Pour:

Stuart Smith founded Smith-Madrone in 1971 on Spring Mountain. Since then  he and his brother have been making some fantastic wines from their self built winery.  If you want to see winemaking that isn’t veiled by the branded, retail friendly experience you get at many places along highway 29, head up Spring Mountain and pay a visit to Smith-Madrone. Stu may likely be your host in the barn-like winery/tasting room. You’ll find him a gigantic character never short on opinions. More importantly you’ll taste some spectacular and insightfully made wines.

Ep. 56 Stuart Smith, Founder, Smith-Madrone

“Elegant, refined” 2014 Cabernet

Our thanks to ACorkInTheRoad:

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A Spring Mountain Cab for under $60 🦄 yes, unicorns do exist. And this might even be my favorite terroir-driven style and expression of mountain fruit from Napa Valley. . . . Brothers Stuart and Charles Smith of @smith_madrone have been producing classic Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Riesling (!!) at their Spring Mountain property since 1971. They are OG Napa and consistently produce top-quality wines year after year. Madrone refers to an evergreen-type tree that grows on their property, and their tasting room is by appointment only…because you legit stand in their workshop and drink wine with the winemaker when you visit ☺️ . . We brought this bottle home to ATL after tasting with Charles in November, and now I’m spoiled by the quality-to-price ratio because it doesn’t get better than this. An elegant, refined Cabernet Sauvignon with a soft mouthfeel and notes of licorice, holiday spice, and savory dark fruits. Paired it with my husband’s homemade chicken wings and mushroom risotto 👌🏻 . . #NapaValley #SpringMountain #ClassicNapa #winenotes #winepairing #winetravel #winestories #cabernetsauvignon #peopleofwine #meetthewinemaker #smithmadrone

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Chardonnay included in 50 Great Wines of 2018

The 2014 Chardonnay was included in Fredric Koeppel’s 50 Great Wines of 2018:

50 Great Wines of 2018, Fredric Koeppel, January 9, 2019

The “50 Great Wines of 2018” represent regions of France, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Argentina and various AVAs in California, Oregon, Washington and New York, and, of course, a wide range of grape varieties and styles of wine. Prices range from a fabulously low $15 to a pretty high $140, with plenty bottles falling into the sweet spot between about $20 and $30; a great wine does not have to be expensive. These are wines that I not only admired but loved during my reviewing last year. The roster could have been expanded by 10 or 12 wines, but I like to stick to 50 — as I have for many years — because that number forces me to be analytical as well as emotional and totally subjective. For the first time in preparing this annual list, I include snippets of the original reviews to lend My Readers some clues as to why I doted on particular wines. No technical information is included. With one exception, these wines were samples for review.

Smith-Madrone Vineyards and Winery Chardonnay 2014, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley, California. 850 cases. Exceptional.
“… amazing purity and intensity … crystalline tone and chiseled presence.”

Here was the review from June 2018:

12 California Chardonnays I Liked

You may be thinking apropos the title of this post, “F.K., why didn’t you just say ’12 California Chardonnays’? Why add ‘I liked’”? Because, Dear Reader, I don’t like many chardonnays made in California, so when I come across a dozen that I can write about together, I want to emphasize that fact. The reason, as you probably know from having been a devoted reader of this blog — bless your little pointy heads! — is that so many chardonnays from The Golden State are saturated with swamps of oak that I open even one with trepidation, and when I’m looking for an appropriate white wine to drink with dinner, I will open just about anything other than chardonnay. It’s a real crap-shoot, this whole chardonnay business. The wines reported on in this post age in French oak barrels for varying amounts of time and using various percentages of new barrels, but the important point is that all 12 achieve a state of balance among all elements, sometimes pushing the boundaries, it’s true, but sometimes that bold, risky factor adds a frisson of appreciation. Other selections here are more elegant and restrained. Today we range from Santa Barbara County in the south to Mendocino County in the north. Vintages represented are 2014, ’15 and ’16, with the ’14s really coming into a state of grace. These wines were samples for review, for which I thank the wineries and marketing people involved. 
How can a chardonnay that was 100 percent barrel-fermented and aged nine months in 100 percent new French oak barrels display such amazing purity and intensity, such crystalline tone and chiseled presence? Certainly, a factor must be the 42-year-old, dry-farmed vines that struggle to find nutrients in the hillside vineyard, sending roots ever downward in search of water. In any case, the Smith-Madrone Vineyards and Winery Chardonnay 2014, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley, a favorite in our house whatever the vintage, offers a medium gold hue and arresting aromas of peach, pear and quince that unfurl notes of lemon balm and apple blossom, gunflint and limestone. Supernal in its lithe, supple texture and exquisitely poised between zephyr-like softness and riveting acidity, this chardonnay delivers spare and elegant citrus and stone-fruit flavors that culminate in a finish of glittering limestone minerality. 14.3 percent alcohol. Now through 2021 to ’24. The Smith brothers concocted 850 cases. Exceptional.


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….


2015 Riesling is pitch perfect

On December 22 Peg Melnik at The Santa Rosa Press Democrat recommends “wines that will impress:”

Playing host over the holiday? If so, be forewarned. In Wine Country, guests have high expectations; they feel entitled to have their palates pampered.

With top winemakers in this region rivaling the best on the planet, it won’t be hard to impress.

They are world-class experimenters who push the envelope. They don’t settle. These people don’t punch a timecard. On the contrary, they work crazy hours and it’s most evident during harvest when they are sleep-deprived for days on end.

The wines listed have been palate-tested and they’re prime examples of the best crafted in the region. They will no doubt prompt your guests to ask for another pour. When you fill their glasses, you can smile with peace of mind; these wines make you look good.
—Smith-Madrone, 2015 Spring Mountain District Napa Valley Riesling, 12.9 percent. This complex riesling has layered notes of papaya, petrol and honeysuckle. It’s nice and dry, with bright acidity. Pitch perfect balance. Impressive.