The last harvest report this year for the Spring Mountain District

Stu’s last harvest report for the Spring Mountain District:

While most of the mountain has completed harvest, a few have not. The recent weather has been fabulous and with no rain in sight there’s not a lot of urgency by some. York Creek, Pride and Kieu Hoang still have a substantial percentage to go before finishing in several weeks, while 7 & 8 and Sherwin are harvesting this week and may finish this week or next.

Stu’s Spring Mountain District harvest report for this week’s St. Helena Star

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.

This week’s Spring Mountain District harvest report

Stu’s report on harvest in the Spring Mountain District this week:

Harvest report: Low yields, high quality

August 25, 2015 by Jesse Duarte, St. Helena Star

Spring Mountain District — Stuart Smith, Smith-Madrone Winery — “Harvest is slowly picking up speed. Being lower on the mountain, Spring Mountain Winery has finished their sauvignon blanc, semillon and pinot noir and are deep into their chardonnay with slightly lower crops. School House has also finished their chardonnay and pinot noir. Stony Hill has finished both their chardonnay and gewurztraminer and is waiting on their riesling. Smith-Madrone has started on both chardonnay and riesling, and Keenan will start this Friday with chardonnay. The reds are still weeks away. Early reports are that juice chemistry and quality are excellent. For those of us with vines that bloomed during May it may be some of the worst shatter any of us have ever seen.”

And we’re off! Stu’s first report on harvest in the District for The St. Helena Star

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.

Mountain wines….why they’re different!

Our constant goal is to present Smith-Madrone as an estate-vineyard mountain winery.

A friend in the trade urged us to re-run reviews of our wines from a report in by Christy Canterbury. It first ran in April, 2013; please note that these are not the current vintages. Enjoy!
Napa Mountain Wines Report by Christy Canterbury MW

Many of Napa Valley’s best-known bottlings come from fruit grown on the Valley floor, and it certainly those ripe and succulent wines that epitomize the Napa wine style. However, above the fog and the inversion layer hovering over the Valley, mountain vineyards produce markedly different wines. They favor minerality over fruit flamboyance, and their structure is taut and focused rather than rounded and relaxed. These differences in wine styles are so evident that I’m surprised – as are many of the winemakers – that more attention hasn’t been devoted to them…..

Recommended White Wines
92 pts
Smith-Madrone 2009 Chardonnay Spring Mountain
This is a classic, Napa-style Chardonnay with real balance. Fermented entirely in new French oak barrels, where the wine remains sur lie for nine months, flavors of cream and diacetyl naturally accompany the grapes’ tropical fruit flavors. Fresh acidity gives the wine a sense of lightness despite its generous abv, showing that typical lift found in mountain wines.

92 pts
Smith-Madrone 2011 Riesling Spring Mountain
Without question, this is the best Riesling from Napa I have tasted to date. Aromatically compelling with delicate and multi-dimensional aromas of petrol, white peach and apricots-n-cream ice cream, this wine is highly structured by its piercing acidity. A sophisticated Riesling to seek out with great urgency!

Recommended Value Wines
Value mountain wines are a bit of an oxymoron. Mountain vineyards produce small yields. They usually require hand labor. And, unless the land has been in the family for decades, it is expensive to purchase and develop. I usually classify wines as “values” when they are under $20 retail. For mountain wines, my spread is still only $20, but the price tags start at $20.
90 pts
Smith-Madrone 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Spring Mountain
Oak figures quite prominently in this wine with aromas of vanilla extract and coconut jumping from the glass. The fruit comes through more clearly on the palate with blackberry and black currant leading the way. The palate is thick with generous viscosity but tannins firmly clench the perimeter. One percent Cabernet Franc and two percent Merlot join in this blend.

Enofylz recommends us with “No Reservations” and the wines “Outstanding”

ENOFYLZ Wine Blog, April 16, 2015
No Reservations Wine Tasting – Smith Madrone Vineyard and Winery

My wife and I do more than our fair share of wine tasting. We’ve hit all the major wine regions in California (and a few minor ones too;-), along with some tasting in Oregon and Spain, and Champagne.

From time to time, we have a wine tasting experience that stands above the rest, and is everything we’re looking for – great wine and commendable service in a relaxed unpretentious environment. It’s those experiences that are the focus of this No Reservations series.

Why No Reservations? Because I can honestly say I have no reservations about recommending the winery to anyone who is looking for a great wine tasting experience!

The latest in this series features Smith Madrone Vineyard and Winery in the Spring Mountain District of the Napa Valley.

My complete review of Smith-Madrone, including history, a recap of the tasting experience – including reviews of wines tasted may be found at the American Winery Guide’s website.

2011 Smith Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon: Dark Ruby color with exuberant cassis, tobacco, cedar, plum, spiced black cherry, and a bit of eucalyptus aromas. On the palate it’s medium-bodied and well-structured with ample cassis, black cherry, tobacco, and a bit of mineral flavors. Medium-Long finish. Outstanding; 92-95 pts

2012 Smith Madrone Chardonnay: Pale lemon yellow color with promising green apple, pear. lemon cream, and limestone aromas. On the palate it’s medium-bodied, fresh and harmonious with a creamy texture, and apple, pear, lemon zest, vanilla, a kiss of tropical fruit, and subtle spice flavors. Lingering finish. Outstanding; 92-95 pts

2013 Smith Madrone Riesling: Very pale green color with wet stone. lime, stone fruit, quince and a hint of lychee aromas. On the palate medium-bodied, elegant, and harmonious with mouth-watering acidity and a great texture with very appealing white peach, lime, melon, a bit of lemon and apricot flavors and a complementary minerality. Lingering finish. Very Good to Outstanding; 89-91 pts
I highly recommend these wines and a visit to Smith-Madrone.

Wines important enough to drink, says WineCultureProject

Our thanks to WineCultureProject for these thoughtful comments:

September 24, 2012

….Another traditional estate located on Spring Mountain is Smith-Madrone. Founded in 1971 by Stuart Smith, Smith-Madrone has been crafting Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling atop Spring Mountain in the same fashion for decades. Though they have been at it for over 40 years, Smith-Madrone has an annual production of roughly 4,000 cases. Like their neighbors on Spring Mountain, the Smith brothers farm the vineyards at high elevation on slopes that can be dizzyingly steep. Though their output is miniscule by California standards, the quality of their wines speaks volumes.

……the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2009 Chardonnay ……
If you know what I look for in wine then you know that I am a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to the wines I drink at the dinner table. The greatest wines, in my humble opinion, are those that preserve and express their sense of place. And for too many wines coming out of California (and just about every other major wine region in the world), there are too many examples of wines that taste as if they could have produced anywhere: devoid of character, depth and individual personality. Thankfully, the Chardonnay and Cabernet from Smith-Madrone are not only spot-on examples of what can produced with mountain fruit, but the wines are also exemplify everything that is right about winemaking in California.

Though they are clearly different wines, both bottles share a common thread: ripe, but restrained fruit with bright acidity and a depth of flavors that slowly unfold the longer the bottle remains open. The ’09 Chardonnay, barrel fermented and aged in French oak for 9 months, expressed clean, ripe fruit but was reserved in doing so. The affects of the cool vintage was apparent as the acidity was bright and gave the wine a welcomed snappiness that is often lost on too many full-malolactic, buttery Chardonnays comings out of California. As for the Cabernet, the 2006 is both elegant and powerful. A wine with focused and pure mountain fruit, the dry-farmed Cabernet has a structure that is firm but giving as the tannins and fruit open up after a little while in the glass. Like the Chardonnay, the Cabernet has very bright acidity that keeps the wine fresh. Though delicious in its youth, I can see the Cabernet lasting quite awhile in the cellar which will reward those with patience as the secondary characteristics of cocoa, black pepper and spice are buried in the wine now, but will come to the fore over time.

I do not give out scores, grades, stars or smiley faces, but I do like to write about wines that I feel are important enough for my readers and friends to drink. The wines from Smith-Madrone qualify as they are important not only because they represent value in their categories (Chardonnay $35, Cabernet $45), but they embody what has been lost by a number of California winemakers and their mailing list fans – wines that represent a California winemaking tradition that is rooted in the vineyard, not one that is the product of manipulation in the winery. Though it seems that an increasing number of winemakers have begun to rediscover the potential of the various terroirs in California, wineries such as Smith-Madrone have realized this potential for decades. And as a lover of California wines, I can only hope they continue to build upon this tradition for years to come.

93 points and Editor’s Choice for the 2013 Riesling in The Wine Enthusiast

In the May issue of The Wine Enthusiast, the 2013 Riesling was reviewed:

93 points, Editor’s Choice
From 41-year-old vines on just over five estate acres, this is resiny and briny on the nose. A honey-laced creaminess at the core is tensely accentuated by vibrant acidity. Balanced and elegant, with a sunny bite of ripeness, it revels in nuances of fresh and dried apricot while lighter notes of lemon, lime and grapefruit play backup.

San Francisco Magazine includes us in a Best Napa Wineries article

The Best Napa Valley Wineries You’ve Never Heard of, Part 2
By Ian White, April 6, 2015, San Francisco Magazine

Off the beaten path at Howell Mountain, Diamond Mountain, and Spring Mountain.
The wineries of Howell Mountain, Diamond Mountain, and Spring Mountain have received a lot of attention lately from lovers of cabernet sauvignon and seekers of small production wines. But in these mountains, many of the best spots are on winding, dead-end roads, making them impossible to find if you don’t know where to look. We’ve found three off-the-radar wineries in each of these popular AVAs that represent the best Napa’s mountains have to offer.

Smith-Madrone also sits on a hillside with breathtaking views, but unlike Vineyard 7&8, it will give you a taste of the way Napa was in the old days. Casual and country, the bearded Smith brothers are about as friendly and easy going as they come. And while your experience here will be homey, feel free to get serious as these gents have been winemakers and enologists since the 70s, and know exactly what they’re doing when it comes to mountain vineyards.

Did you know Smith-Madrone dry-farms?

Smith-Madrone is included in a list of dry-farmed vineyards:

Community Alliance With Family Farmers: Dry-Farmed Vineyards

Dry-farmed vineyards do not receive any irrigation. Water held in the soils from winter precipitation provides the necessary water for vine growth. Many dry-farm growers do minimally irrigate new vines for the first 1 to 3 years of production to help establish the rootstock and the vine. To learn more about dry farming practices, visit the California Agricultural Water Stewardship Initiatives’ Dry Farming Practice Page.
Included in this list are a few vineyards that may receive supplemental winter irrigation. In some dryer areas of CA, there are years when winter rains are insufficient to fill the soils with the necessary water to support dry-farmed vines. CAFF has spoken with growers who, depending on the year, will irrigate vines in the winter dormant period to help fill the soils. Although these vineyards are not technically dry-farmed every year, CAFF has included them because there is no irrigation during the growing season, and growers are using valuable dry-farming techniques. If a vineyard may receive winter irrigation, it is clearly stated in the description of the vineyard.

Dry-farmed vineyards can be found throughout California. Below is a list of vineyards by area.

Smith-Madrone Vineyard, Napa Valley
This dry-farmed vineyard was established in 1972 as 20-acres of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Riesling. Vines were planted on their own roots and on steep slopes some with over a 30% grade. Over the years, the vineyard has developed and is now 34-acres comprised of 6.25-acres of Riesling, 10.25-acres of Chardonnay, and 13-acres of Chardonnay. Read more about wines from Smith-Madrone and watch of Stu Smith explaining their dry-farming practices.