Before tasting the latest Riesling from Smith-Madrone I was reminded of a time years ago when I attended a Riesling class and food pairing. The wines were from one winery in the Mosel region of Germany (grown on steep hillsides similar to Smith-Madrone) and I remember that only the last couple of wines we sampled could be described as sweet. It was eye-opening for me at the time as I had assumed all Rieslings to be sweet, prior to taking my first wine certification classes, and was pleasantly surprised to learn that I was wrong.
I was equally – and very pleasantly – surprised when I had my first Riesling wine from Smith-Madrone. The 2017 Smith-Madrone Riesling review of mine is here and here is the fact sheet for the 2018 that I’m tasting with you today. Below are my tasting notes and below that is information from the winery.
2018 Smith–Madrone Riesling Tasting Notes
13.3% alcohol, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley
The wine is the color of pale gold, and sparkly, making it very appealing. On the nose, which I detected from about three inches away, I was reminded of sweet Meyer lemons, ripe grapefruit, wet pebbles in a stream, a touch of pineapple, talcum powder and Golden Delicious apples. I was anxious to taste the wine and immediately noted its rich mouth-coating viscosity, a lot of that Golden Delicious apple I found on the nose, as well as more pineapple, less lemon, with a mild to medium acidity that held on for a nice long finish. It wasn’t bone dry or sweet; instead it had a nice sweet spot that I thought would pair well with a cheese board, pasta in a cream sauce, fried chicken or all by itself!
From The Winery
The wine is all estate Spring Mountain District fruit, 100% Riesling, grown at an elevation of 1,300-1,900 feet, with slopes angling up to 34%. The vineyard is partially dry-farmed and most of the Riesling was planted on its own rootstock…the same hands cleared, planted, tend and make the wine…for the last fifty years.
Only 1,611 cases made. SRP is $36.00.
Winemaker Charlie Smith describes the wine: The 2018 Riesling opens with abundant floral notes buttressed by underpinnings of lime, lemon and exotic oranges. This delicate, fetching aroma leads one to expect a wine on the lighter, more delicate side and, when tasted, this expectation is confirmed. On the palate the wine is stylish and elegant, demonstrating a brilliant acidity that is at once fine and lively, tasty and fun and not the least off putting. The acid feels just right; it’s very much like biting into a delicious, crunchy Riesling flavored apple. For a wine of this delicate construction, it still manages to retain a solid core of vibrant fruit. It’s svelte and elegant, it’s drinking beautifully now and shows great promise for the future.
Smith-Madrone was founded partly on the premise of making great Riesling (i.e., not to dis the Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay!), given its mountain site and steep slopes. Stu Smith describes the effort to market Riesling as Sisyphean…and to that point beginning with the 1983 Riesling vintage Smith-Madrone went where no other American winery would go for the next 17 years – changing the label from Johannisberg Riesling to “just” Riesling, and essentially outlasting the BATF and prevailing with that name.
Smith-Madrone’s Riesling is one of perhaps less than ten Rieslings grown/made in the Napa Valley.
Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), a “certification in the first globally-recognized course” as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), Level 1 Sake Award from WSET, was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video (over 16k views), authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Proof Awards, LA Wine Competition, Long Beach Grand Cru and the Global Wine Awards. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits.