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Cab finds a perfect pairing!

June 25, 2018

2014 Cabernet gets a look by Stacy Briscoe:

June 25, 2018

I’ve been dying to taste Smith-Madrone wines since I don’t know how long. I’ve only heard fantastic things about the estate and their wines. And after interviewing Stu Smith, founder, manager, and enologist for Smith-Madrone Winery, for a recent article, I was even more eager and curious what this downright passionate proprietor is creating with these lovingly tended-for vineyards. So what better way to start than with the varietal Napa is known for?

About the Wine: The Smith-Madrone 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon is made from 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, and 7% Merlot grapes harvested from the Smith-Madrone dry-farmed estate mountain vineyard located in the Spring Mountain District of Napa Valley. The wine aged in 100% French oak barrels (70% new; 30% one-year old) for 18 months.

Flavor Profile: Pop the cork on the Smith-Madrone 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon and breathe in immediate aromas of dried fruits, forest floor, and a bit of mocha. This Cabernet Sauvignon presents a dark purple-black on the pour, settling into the glass more purple-rouge, nearly impenetrable at its core, and with a tint of orange-brown at the outermost perimeter.

Initial aromas are of leather, dried black cherry, unsweetened cacao, and bourbon barrel. Swirl and the wine releases scents of dried rose petals, a hint of chocolate, and a solid acidic line.

The palate is full, presenting a solid acidity, and tannins that maintain a friendly presence. There’s just a slight amplification of the acid as the tasting progresses, which in turn showcases the fruit. Likewise, the tannins slightly increase towards the finish, paying homage to those floral notes. Dominant flavors are of oak barrel woodiness, black cherry, tart plum, decadent but dark chocolate, earth, a bit of bacon, and a hint of Brazil nut complete with its skins.

Food Pairing: I paired the Smith-Madrone 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon with a veal roulade: thinly sliced veal rolled with goats cheese, spinach, and cranberries, and encased in prosciutto. This was served alongside carrot three ways: puréed, pickled, and roasted.

First of all, yum. Second of all, perfect pairing. As the evening progressed, the wine opened up beautifully, making way for a rounder texture. The salty prosciutto also gave the wine a more supple mouthfeel and played up the fruit and acidity. Meanwhile the carrot purée, with its earthy sweetness, played up some of the dessert-like qualities of the Cabernet, namely that hint of chocolate and a friendly spice. My one note is that the pickle, when simply tasting that component on its own alongside the wine, actually flattened out the flavors and textures of the wine. Luckily, this was more of a garnish than a main component.



Riesling + sea urchin = enlightening

June 22, 2018

The June issue of Sunset Magazine looks at tricky wine pairings and Riesling is one of the choices:

5 Tricky Food & Wine Pairings We’ve Mastered

Go beyond the classics with dynamic food-and-wine pairings from our backyard

By Marin Preske

As a sommelier who works at NoMad in Los Angeles, I spend a lot of time matching up wine with items from a fine-dining menu. Certain wines are known to elevate particular ingredients, of course—think of Muscadet and oysters, Sauternes and foie gras, and Cabernet paired with a juicy steak. It’s also thrilling what a little effervescence can do to a dish. (Try Champagne with french fries; it’s bliss.) But I’ll be honest: I don’t come from the school of thought that there are rules for eating and drinking. And considering that the West yields some of the country’s most sought-after delicacies, from seafood to cheese, why not pair this culinary bounty with wines from resident vintners producing intriguing sips from esoteric grapes?

As with any great couple, you can easily discern why two elements work well together. A fruit-forward wine can enhance the savory or earthy components in a dish that might otherwise be subdued by others (think Pinot Noir and mushrooms); meanwhile, a glass of something with lifted acidity can cleanse the mouth after a rich bite and make you want to keep going back for more (imagine a crisp rosé with a buttery grilled cheese). Not every meal demands a perfect marriage. But it’s gratifying to discover a brilliant combination that enhances the experience of enjoying something delectable. Here are five of the region’s epicurean standouts with eclectic wine recommendations that go well beyond
 the usual suspects.

Sea Urchin

Once rarely seen outside of sushi restaurants and more often exported straight to Japan, sea urchin (aka uni) has become one of the most popular mollusks on menus no matter if they are French, Italian, or California-focused. With a flavor that’s a distinctive mix of briny, sweet, and buttery, the sea creatures are harvested off the coast near Santa Barbara. One of the most enlightening matches I’ve had was sea urchin pasta with a glass of off-dry Riesling. The uni had melted into the spaghetti strands, coating them in a creamy saline sauce, and the wine lent just a hint of sweetness. I’ve been trying to re-create the contrast of flavors ever since and would attempt again with a bottle of Smith-Madrone Riesling 2014 (Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley; $30).

New world Chardonnay done right

June 22, 2018

WineForNormalPeople tastes the 2015 Chardonnay:

This is new world Chardonnay done right. Fantastic acidity, excellent tropical and apple fruit, and a moderate use of oak. Smith-Madrone Winery is a class act every year.

Impressive, lush & lean is the 2015 Riesling

June 21, 2018


In the June 2018 issue of Tasting Panel Magazine, the 2015 Riesling was reviewed:


Stuart Smith planted the original Riesling vines in 1971 on the steep, dry-farmed slopes that surround the winery on Spring Mountain. With a low 12.6% ABV, this impressive white has the typicity of the variety with an Old World side. Cutting-edge, racy tight-wire acidity leaves its mark. After starting with a perfume of petrol and honeyed apricot, it takes on a palate that owns up to a paradigm both lush and lean. The stone fruit is surrounded by a minerality that’s fierce but will probably prove incredibly age-worthy., p. 59


A profile of Stu

June 17, 2018

Stu is profiled at The Wine Project:
Stuart Smith – Winemaker, Mountain Man And Napa Legend

By Amber Burke, June 15, 2018

We first met Stu a few years back when we started writing about wine. I think out of all of the wine makers we have met, he is still amongst our favorites. He’s not one of the young, slick, winemakers that you see forging forward in Napa’s winemaking scene, although he certainly started off that way. He’s not a celebrity that has turned winemaker, or someone with loads of extra money that has decided wine is sexy. No, he’s now amongst the legends that actually forged the land, and helped shape Napa into what it is today. (Although he’d probably laugh and call that a bunch of guff.)

Stu bought his vineyard in May 1971 with a partnership of family and friends. He was only 22 years old and was, at that point, working on his Master’s degree in Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis. He named his winery Smith-Madrone after their last name and the madrone trees that were found on their property.

The property he chose to build his vineyard on was steep, rocky, and full of trees and although it had been a vineyard in the late 1890’s, he had to clear all of the land before he could start the long hard process of planting his own grapes.

What really impressed us about meeting him was his passion and affinity for the land he cultivates. As we walked through the vineyard, we were mesmerized by his tales of how he learned the best ways to set up his vines on a mountain side, some of the missteps  they had along the way, and some of their triumphs. We loved his zest for knowledge, and innovation, along with his old school work ethic and no nonsense manner. He was one of the pioneers of dry farming practices in the Napa Valley. There is no denying – he’s the real deal.

Much later on, we learned a lot more about this inspirational winemaker above and beyond the excellent wines he makes. He has been involved with the communities of St. Helena and Napa Valley by volunteering and being involved with the Boy Scouts of America along with many other groups. He’s been chair of the Napa Valley Wine Auctions twice and a member of the Napa County General Plan Steering Committee, responsible for updating Napa’s General Plan. So when I said he’s been one of the people shaping Napa today, I wasn’t kidding.

Since our first meeting and tasting of Stu’s wines, we have been big Smith-Madrone fans and devotees. The Smith-Madrone Riesling is by far one of our favorite wines to drink all summer long and although now we drink wine for business reasons, it is their Riesling that we reach for when we want to drink for the pure pleasure. We are also big fans of the perfectly balanced Chardonnay they produce.

What Smith Madrone is truly known for is their excellent quality Cabernet Sauvignon. Honestly, in our opinion, it is one of the best Cabs in Napa and the price gives you true value in every sip.

The Cooks Flat Reserve is the flagship Cabernet Sauvignon wine that they produce. Yes, the price is on the higher end range, but it is a wine for celebrations and memories that will last you a lifetime.

You can visit Smith-Madrone by appointment and a tasting fee of $25 per person. A real bargain to be able to taste such high quality wines that have been in the making for nearly 50 years.


2015 is ‘an epic Riesling’

June 17, 2018

Paul Hodgins chose 10 wines for summer at ILikeThisGrape on June 16, 2018:

An epic riesling from one of Napa’s best producers of this grape; Smith-Madrone has been growing riesling in the Spring Mountain District since 1971. Unlike the 2014 vintage, which was lush, deep and round, the 2015 is the very definition of racy. It is bright, clean and delicious with a solid core of minerality surrounded by grace notes of citrus fruit and honeysuckle.


Napa has non-Cabernet choices

June 15, 2018

Six wines from Napa Valley that are not Cabernet Sauvignon, Allison Levine, June 14, 2018, Napa Valley Register

Perhaps diversity is not the first thing that comes to mind when talking about Napa Valley. Especially for people who live outside of Napa, if asked what wine comes from Napa, they will always say “Cabernet Sauvignon.” But, no matter how good the Cabernet is, Napa offers so much more.

According to the Napa Valley Vintners, there are 45,000 acres under cultivation in Napa Valley. There are more than 34 different wine grape varieties grown in Napa County, and 23 percent of the vineyards are planted to white wine grapes and 77 percent to red wine grapes. Forty-seven percent of the grapes planted are Cabernet Sauvignon, with Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel making up another 41 percent of the total grape production. That leaves 12 percent of the grapes planted to other grapes and here are six of the grapes to look out for…..


When Stu Smith first planted vines in 1970, Riesling was one of the grapes he planted. At the time, Riesling sold for the same amount of money as Cabernet Sauvignon. His 1979 Riesling was entered in the wine competition sponsored by the French restaurant guide Gault Millau and won Best Riesling over German wines. Unfortunately, a red wine boom in the 1980s resulted in much of the Riesling being pulled up. Today there are 87 acres planted to Riesling in Napa and Smith Madrone has 9 acres and produces 685 cases. The 2015 Riesling has fresh aromas of lemon, apricot, green apple and wet stones. It is crisp and bright and elegant and the acidity dances on the tongue.