Stu’s report on harvest in the Spring Mountain District this week in the St. Helena Star:
Single-digit humidity and hot weather motivated the mountain to begin harvesting red grapes in earnest. Most are harvesting either cabernet sauvignon and/or merlot, yet Spring Mountain Winery is harvesting some petit verdot and cabernet franc. Keenan is working on merlot and holding out for cabernet sauvignon, as is Sherwin. Cain, Schweiger and Smith-Madrone are looking to finish harvest next week. No question this growing season and harvest is one of the strangest in memory, even more so now because of the Valley Fire.
Smith-Madrone was the only Napa Valley winery Olly Smith visited for a segment of his British TV show, Jeni and Olly’s West Coast Wine Adventures, this summer.
If you’re in the UK, the program airs on September 20 at 19:30 GMT. More info at this link. Stay tuned while we find out how Americans can watch it!
Standing the test of time
By Elin McCoy
September 2015, Decanter Magazine
Successive re-runs of the legendary Judgement of Paris tasting have shown that California Cabernets can age. But is it site, vintage or winemaking that counts the most? Elin McCoy finds some unexpected answers.
“….Winemaking techniques also count. While some winemakers favor long macerations, others don’t. Stu Smith, winemaker at Smith-Madrone, on Spring Mountain in the Napa Valley, points out that adding in the tiny stems between the grapes adds tannin. But time of picking, he and many others agree, matters most for ageability. “The problem today is that the overripe style is still with us.” Fond of pithy phrasing, Smith likes to call them ‘Ninety-minute wines.’ With the 2009, 2010 and 2011 vintages, it looked like some wineries known for that style were scaling back towards more balanced wines. “These cool vintages allowed people to rethink their attitudes about how ripe grapes should be,” Smith says.
10 wines that will stand the test of time
2009 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon
In this cool year, the wine is lively and complex, with intense aromas, juicy texture and grippy tannins.
Stu’s first report on the harvest in the Spring Mountain District for The St. Helena Star:
With 30-35 inches of rainfall, the Spring Mountain district vines are holding up very well in the heat. Bud push of Chardonnay was even earlier than in 2014 due to a very warm winter and initially indicated a very early harvest. Then for six weeks our spring weather turned cold and over cast and pushed bloom back to normal timing on the red varieties, yet caused considerable shatter. Only Spring Mountain Winery is harvesting on the mountain with small lots of Sauvignon blanc, Semillon and Pinot noir. Crops levels vary considerably from block to block, with Cabernet Sauvignon estimates indicating an unusually short crop.
On June 25, saunter up to Stu at The Savory Grape in East Greenwich, Rhode Island.
Come taste with Stu today from 5:00 until 7:00 pm at Bellevue Wine & Spirits in Newport, Rhode Island. Call or email ahead, please, to let them know you’re coming!
Can you teleport into Rhode Island to meet up with Stu this week? He’s keen to meet old friends and make new ones—it’s certainly a chance to taste the wines and chat if you can’t get to Napa Valley anytime soon!
He’ll be doing a dinner at Gracie’s in Providence on June 23, a collaboration with The Savory Grape.
Some treasures from the winery will be on offer: http://washingtonstreeteats.com/2015/06/17/dont-miss-this-exclusive-wine-tasting-dinner/
On June 24, Stu will taste with customers at Bellevue Wine & Spirits in Newport from 5:00 until 7:00 pm.: http://bellevuewinespirits.com/the-wine-blog/
On June 25, you can saunter up to Stu at The Savory Grape in East Greenwich, from 5:00 until 7:00 p.m.: http://www.thesavorygrape.com/news/weekly-store-schedule-savory-grape.
9 Things You Didn’t Know About Napa (But Shouldn’t Miss) by Lena Katz, January 30, 2015
Whenever another wealthy wine aficionado visits Napa and compiles an “insider tips” list with pointers like “Attend Auction Napa Valley and you’ll brush shoulders with Thomas Keller!” everyone who grew up in the North Bay (a sub-region of the San Francisco Bay Area) heaves a big sigh. I know, because I’m one of them. I grew up on a hill in Carneros — which is actually its own sub-appellation, in neither Napa’s nor Sonoma’s fiefdom — back when it was all Quonset huts and Oreo cows and endless tall golden grass, as far as the eye could see. Officially I was on the Sonoma side, but — insider tip here — Carneros didn’t want anything to do with the regional politicking, and neither do a lot of either county’s denizens.
Napa County is unfairly pigeonholed as a destination for the 1 percent today, and I blame the people who insist on highlighting only the expensive, snooty side of it. In fact, the county is multifaceted, quirky, and not exclusively populated by billionaires. When I was a teenager, we mostly knew it for the mental hospital. “If you see a person walking down Highway 12,” said our parents, “don’t pick them up. They’re probably a mental patient.”
That’s kind of hard to believe now, but it does remind me of a side of Napa that nobody talks about anymore: the down-to-earth side, where things aren’t always perfect. The world saw glimpses of this after the August 2014 earthquake: It wasn’t only millionaires crying over lost collectibles but small business owners struggling to comprehend that a huge part of their livelihood had been crushed to rubble. (Only four downtown Napa businesses were still closed due to earthquake damage as of October 2014. So thanks for your concern, but really, it’s business as usual.)
- You can hang out in the mountains…
You know how so-called hill people in places like Kentucky and the Blue Ridge Mountains are all wild and rugged? Well, in Napa it’s not quite that extreme, but the hill appellations are still known for being a whole different world from the valley. Non-conformist mountain men like the Smith brothers of the winery Smith-Madrone and Sheldon Richards of Paloma Vineyard eschew the valley’s social scene for independent farm life. But you can’t just pop into these wineries when the mood strikes: Tastings are almost always by appointment. In fact, some of the more prized boutique labels check newcomers’ credentials before bringing them up to the facility, which is often the owner’s home.
Do you live near New Brunswick, New Jersey?
If you do….come have a fabulous dinner with Stu this Friday, June 19, at Stage Left.
As the owner explains….”…I have been trying to get Stu Smith to come here to host a wine dinner for about ten years. He’s a phenomenally nice guy and his wines are just screamingly delicious, age-worthy, mountain wines…”
More here: http://www.stageleft.com/sl/wine/events/