When it comes to old-school, time-tested Napa producers, I have so much respect for Smith-Madrone. And on top of being an historic piece of the Napa wine puzzle, this winery continues, vintage after vintage, releasing exciting, even thrilling wines.
Founded in the early 70s, (the first vintage was ’77) Smith-Madrone’s winery is located on Spring Mountain, west of St. Helena. The operation is run by brothers Stuart Smith, managing partner and vineyard manager, Charles Smith III, winemaker, and Sam Smith, assistant winemaker. Their estate vines cling to steep slopes between 1,300 and 2,000 feet in elevation on soils of red, stony clay. A pioneer of dry farming in Napa, Smith-Madrone produces about 4,000 cases a year of dynamic and lively wines, which consistently show a sense of refreshment, purity and minerality, in addition to that deep, mountain Napa fruit. And, perhaps most exciting of all, the prices are so reasonable when compared with many other Napa wines of this quality and provenance.
These three wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.
2014 Smith-Madrone Riesling - California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District
Light gold color. Complex aromas of white peach, lime and banana, along with white tea, floral perfume, notes of saline and crushed rocks. Plum fruit (nectarine, peach, lime) but it’s pure and zesty with a dry profile and focused acidity. Lovely mix of chalk, mountain stream, minerals, nettle, cut flower stems. Super clean and refreshing but lots of staying power for the cellar. One of the most consistently inspiring Rieslings from California, Smith-Madrone has been putting out high quality Spring Mountain Riesling since the early ’80s. I’d love to see how this beautiful wine ages for a decade. (91 points IJB)
2014 Smith-Madrone Chardonnay - California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District
Light gold color. Bursts with aromas of lime, orange, peach, dusted with chalk, and there’s definitely a good amount of wood in here, some nougat and honeycomb. Medium/light-bodied (12.8% alcohol) with lovely creaminess and precise acidity. Tart lime and nectarine mixes with yellow apples and rich peaches, and the fruit blends wonderfully with notes of chalk dust, mineral, white tea, and the toasted wood and almond cake notes are woven in very nicely. Long, lingering, delicious finish. This is always a very good Chardonnay, ditto for the 2014 vintage. Fermented and aged 9 months in all new French oak. (92 points IJB)
2013 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon - California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District
Deep purple color. Gorgeous aromatics of black cherries, dark plums, saucy but fresh, with complex elements of tobacco, graphite, charcoal dust and vanilla. Full-bodied but smooth, structured tannins but fresh acidity, and the texture is wonderful. Black cherries, black currants, juicy plums, the fruit mixes with loamy earth, wet leaves, gravel, charcoal. A significant amount of coffee, wood and vanilla, but there are enough other elements that these flavors don’t overwhelm. Long life ahead but not inaccessible now. All estate fruit from 1,800-foot elevation slope, includes 12% Cab Franc and 6% Merlot, aged 18 months in 75% new French oak. I feel like you can spend twice this price and not get nearly as much Napa Cab awesomeness. (93 points IJB)