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    Smith-Madrone Wines: “To Thine Own Self be True”

    logo_homepgStuart Smith founded Smith-Madrone Winery in 1971, high up on Spring Mountain in the Napa Valley.? All of Stuart’s wines are made from estate grapes, farmed and picked in the winery’s high altitude vineyards.? Back in 1971 most of the activity in Napa was on the Valley floor, and Smith-Madrone became somewhat of a pioneer in high altitude winemaking.? Now it is very much in vogue, and the mountains ringing Napa and Sonoma are covered in vineyards.? We think that is great, because we are very fond of mountain wines, which tend to bring focus and freshness.

    SMith Madrone WinterHere at Smith-Madrone the vineyards are dry farmed, and range in elevation from 1,300 to 2,000 feet. Slopes can be quite steep as well, up to 34 degrees. ? This is very much the labor of the Smith family, as the wine is made by Stuart, his brother Charles and his son, Sam.? No one else has any say into what goes on here, or what eventually gets into the bottle.? This is a commitment to place, to style, and to values, a commitment which continues year after year.? In fact, the vineyards and wine receive the same treatment every year, leaving the vintage to vintage differences to only what mother nature provides.

    You will find five different wines available if you visit the winery.? There are Chardonnay, Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon varietals, as well as the Cook’s Flat Reserve Bordeaux style red blend, and a Rosé.? We have the Chardonnay, Riesling and Cabernet in for review, and we’ll be contrasting these wines with the same ones from an earlier vintage, as we reviewed these three wines in 2016, after they had been completely frozen in the bottle.? This was courtesy of an over the weekend delivery hold on the truck, and some of the coldestThe Smith Family Winemkers temperatures we could remember in the northeast.? Having torn right through the capsules, the corks were about 1/2 out and there was clearly some leakage from the Cabernet.? We let them thaw, and then opened them the rest of the way to do a quick freezing experiment on wine quality.? You can read about the by clicking here. ? We would swear the whites were absolutely unaffected, and both were excellent.? The Cab was quite good, although there was a slight touch of bitterness at the end we attributed to the flash freeze,? This is a chance to compare these wines three years later, and we can guarantee none of the bottles were frozen this time!

    Let’s see what’s in those unfrozen bottles:

    2015 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon – the Cabernet Sauvignon vines are on very steep slopes at the top of Spring Mountain.? As mentioned earlier, every year the varietals are made from the same vineyards, cultivated in the same way and harvested at similar levels of IMG-0300maturity.? The blend does change from year to year though,? based on the individual varietal character.? This wine is 84% Cabernet Sauvignon and 16% Cabernet Franc, and was aged for 18 months in French oak barrels.? In 2015 the harvest produced a small crop, and picking of the Cabernet Sauvignon finished on September 19.? Our impressions:

    The wine was dark purple out of the bottle.? There was a big nose of macerated berries, with leather and some tar.? Also making an appearance were some light oak, candied orange and anise.? This is complex.? The palate brought less intense fruit at first, right out of the bottle, with brisk tannins and a lean profile.? With some time in the glass this really opened up, showing more body, rich fruit, cherry, caramel and herbal notes.? We went back to it the second day and it was smoother, more integrated, and just a beautiful wine with pure berry fruit.? It is much better than the 2012 we reviewed earlier, which we do think was somewhat worse for wear after the freezing episode.? $52

    2016 Smith-Madrone Chardonnay – grown and cultivated in manner similar to the other wines, the Chardonnay highlights each IMG-0301individual growing season’s unique story.? This wine is 100% Chardonnay,? 100% barrel fermented, and 80% aged in new French oak. You might expect the classic over the top, butter laden oak fest.? Not so.? Our thoughts:

    A wine of light, golden yellow color, and quite brilliant.? This has medium oak on the nose, along with ripe apple, peach syrup and lemon.? Throw in some wet stones.? The palate has white peaches, and lemon again at the end.? This is very complex, very smooth, has a rich and creamy palate and still remains fresh.? It also is very long.? In Cheri’s opinion, this was an excellent wine, and she almost never likes Chardonnay. ? It is very consistent with our notes from the 2013 reviewed earlier, with a little more body.? $40

    2016 Smith-Madrone Riesling – the steep slopes at the top of Spring Mountain honor the international tradition of Riesling, such as you might see along the banks of the Mosel River in Germany, or in the Alsatian hills.? Alcohol here is at 12.8%, and the wine is fermented dry.? You can also get this in magnums, which is exciting!? Here’s what we found:

    A light, golden yellow color and very brilliant.? You get stone fruits, the traditional petrol marker and floral on the nose.? Even IMG-0299though it is dry, it almost seems like there is some sweetness at first, then the refreshing acidity takes over.? The palate is about delicate, white fruit, with pear and some honeydew melon.? It finishes with some minerality.? This is long, crisp, clean and beautifully done.? Comparing to the earlier wine, in this case a 2014 Riesling, this wine has a bit more body and also a bit more acid.? $34

    Here we have three wonderfully made wines, all true to their terroir, and to the winemaking vision of the Smith family.? The Smith’s were pioneers in high altitude winemaking back in the early 1970’s, and they are still going strong.? If you do visit, it is by appointment, and we intend to go the next time we get to Napa.

    These are all highly recommended.

    You can learn much more about the people and wines of Smith-Madrone on their website: https://www.smithmadrone.com.

    A votre santé!

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