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2015 Riesling has “pitch perfect balance”

September 19, 2018

The 2015 Riesling is a Tasty Alternatives in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat on September 19:

4 stars

This complex riesling has layered notes of papaya, petrol and honeysuckle. It’s nice and dry, with bright acidity. Pitch perfect balance. Impressive.


Riesling demonstrates ‘nervosity’

September 12, 2018

Linda Murphy writes about enjoying the last days of summer with unique wines like riesling:

September 11, 2018

Smith-Madrone, 2015 Spring Mountain District Riesling, 12.9%, $33: There is an incredible ripe fruitiness to this wine — white peach, apricot, citrus and orange marmalade — for such a lean alcohol level. Bracing acidity balanced the fruit bowl.

Summer officially ends Sept. 22, yet the warm — and sometimes downright hot — daytime temperatures continue through October. So do picnics, barbecues, dinners on the deck and jaunts to the coast.

For every summer-like day-into-evening, there is crisp white wine to quench the thirst, get the saliva jets firing and cool the palate. Chardonnay and sauvignon blanc are easy choices, but why not try something unusual, a bit more racy and altogether local… a bracing riesling from Napa Valley, where it’s said to be too warm to successfully grow the grape?

A trait these wines share is what winemakers call “nervosity,” “tension” or “energy.” By that, they mean there is enough natural acidity to offset the sunny sweetness of the ripe grapes. Think of a tightrope walker shifting the pole up and down — acidity on one end, fruit sweetness on the other — to maintain balance and stay on the wire.

Stu and Charlie Smith of Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery, planted riesling in 1972 on their Spring Mountain property, and they were called crazy. Riesling in Calistoga? Too hot, they were told.

“There were the four most important varietals in the world, which are cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, chardonnay and what we then called Johannisberg riesling,” Stu Smith said. “We tried with all our might to make pinot noir work, but it just wasn’t to be.

“Riesling was altogether different. We understood from the get-go that wine was about balance, elegance, character and the site. We knew that Germany made the best German rieslings, and that Alsace made the best Alsatian rieslings, and if we were to make the best Smith-Madrone rieslings, the wine had to be the expression of our site, climate and passion for the grape.”

We tried with all our might to make pinot noir work, but it just wasn’t to be. Riesling was altogether different. We understood from the get-go that wine was about balance, elegance, character and the site.    — Stu Smith of  Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery

The Smiths also produce chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon, yet riesling is their main source of pride.

“Why do we keep making it in the face of more profitable cabernet sauvignon?” Stu Smith asked.

“I personally love the wine, and how can we give it up when we do it so well? If money was the driving force, I would have never gone to the mountains to grow grapes, let alone go into the wine business. I’d buy McDonald’s franchises.”




Are you coming to the open house?

September 11, 2018

Please remember to buy your ticket and join us for our Open House on Saturday, October 6, 2018 from 12:00 noon to 4:00 p.m.

We’ll be pouring library wines and current releases, offering great music and food and of course our family hospitality, all on our magical mountaintop.

Space is limited so please purchase your tickets here.

Here’s a peek at last year’s fun-filled afternoon.



The measuring stick of California Riesling

September 11, 2018


TheWineGuys look at the 2015 Riesling:

94 points: Every year, there comes a wine from Spring Mountain that is consistently an insane steal of a value and to us, one of if not the finest domestic Riesling around. Notes of white peach, crushed rock, yellow apple, honey, citrus peel, jasmine, lime and subtle spice. Refreshing and crisp palate, super clean, the acidity and minerality really sing. Well balanced, not overly sweet, just purity and freshness that rings throughout. Absolutely beautiful and the measuring stick of California Riesling. Enjoy now over the next 20+ years.

A vertical of Rieslings

September 4, 2018

A long-time Smith-Madrone customer, Art Lehman, proposed to his wife at the winery over a glass of Riesling. He lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for many years and recently retired to Oregon.

He assembled a vertical of Rieslings and shared them with a group of 13 friends. Here are his comments and photographs.

The wines were: 1997, 1999, 2000, 2003 and 2004.

All of the wines had held up well, i.e. none had become old. 1997 was a bit more concentrated and less acidity, golden color, had nice fruit and floral. My favorite personally was 2000 followed by 1997.

The group favorite was 2000 followed by 1997. After that it was split about the same.

None of my friends are wine experts. They’re just average folk who enjoy wine. Their comments were all over the place—fitting to the concept that we are all different and enjoy different wines. We had lots of appetizers to go with the food and spicy shrimp seemed to be a favorite.



Age-worthy and well-priced Cab

August 31, 2018

Meg Houston Maker reviews the 2014 Cabernet at Terroir Review:

Age-worthy and well priced Napa Cab

This is an estate wine, grown on the Smith-Madrone property on Spring Mountain. In 2014, the cuvée was 85 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 8 percent Cabernet Franc, and 7 percent Merlot. The vintage was extremely dry — and this estate is dry farmed — so the berries were small, and their higher skin-to-juice ratios delivered a concentrated must. The wine spent 18 months in French oak, 70 percent new. It has a youthful aspect with glints of purple and fuchsia, suggesting ripeness and density and the stuffing for age. The fragrance is on-point for higher elevation Napa Cab, viz., cedar, juniper berries, and cassis. Right now the oak notes are prominent, although I expect them to integrate over time. The acidity is moderate and buttresses the finely ribbed tannins, and a coffee note adds both flavor and the suggestion of structure. The finish is like spiced plums. I love that the wine clocks in below 14 percent alcohol. Cellar for five years if you can; its price makes it attractive to those seeking an age-worthy Napa Cab.

2015 Riesling…vibrates with racy nervosity..

August 13, 2018

The 2015 Riesling was chosen as Wine of the Day by Fred Koeppel on August 13:

The Smith-Madrone Vineyards Riesling 2015 is made from dry-farmed vines high atop Spring Mountain, west of the city of St. Helena in the central Napa Valley. Seeing no oak, the wine practically vibrates with racy nervosity and a scintillating limestone and flint element. A light straw-gold hue, the Smith-Madrone Riesling 2015, Spring Mountain District, offers delicate aromas of peach, lychee and pear wreathed with notes of jasmine and honeysuckle and the true varietal character of slightly oily petrol, a quality sometimes referred to as rubber eraser; a few moments in the glass bring in hints of apple and lime peel. This one feels chiseled in its lovely, chiming tone and presence on the palate, delivering crystalline clarity of peach and spiced pear flavors driving through to a bracing, slightly saline finish pointed by a touch of grapefruit bitterness. 12.6 percent alcohol. Production was 685 cases. Enticing now, this superior riesling will drink best from 2020 through 2030. Excellent.