When was the last time you tried a new wine from Napa…but wait…let me re-phrase that: When was the last time you had a wine from Napa that you never had before, that has been around since the 1970s, and that you found to be damn good? Well I was what they say “today years old” when I had chance to review three new-to-me wines from Smith-Madrone. Below are my tasting notes, information about the winery and some links for more details.
Smith-Madrone 2017 Riesling, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District
This wine has the exact shaped bottle a Riesling from Germany has, long with a slender neck, meant to mimic a perfume bottle. Aromas of white flower, lemon-lime, white peach and cool, wet pebbles. The taste was not sweet, so if you are expecting an overly sweet Riesling, this isn’t it, or in other words, this is not your Mother’s Riesling. It’s all grown up and it leaves the sugar behind. Bone dry, lemonade, limeade, and fresh fruit including pineapple and melon. We had this with a Caesar Salad topped with warm grilled chicken. Perfect.
Smith-Madrone 2017 Chardonnay, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District
Sweet cream, vanilla bean, crème brûlée, unsweetened butter – just a lot of vanilla/dairy notes on the nose that I found really interesting. From there I also got toasted oak, caramel candy, fresh sliced apple and pears in light syrup. Wasn’t sure what to expect from the taste but in I went…and found a full and round mouthfeel, mild acidity – not as much creaminess as I expected from the nose but wholly pleasant – some earth, the pears and apple again as well as a hint of buttery corn on the cob. And hour later my husband and I were just finishing the bottle, and even with less chill on the wine, it was still being discussed. Wowza, I want this one again. I had this with a Falafel burger with lettuce, pickles and tomatoes. Again, it was perfect.
Smith-Madrone 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District
Blackberry, blueberry, ash, cigar, incense, stewed mushrooms, char, earth and dark chocolate – all aromas I found on the nose. The flavors reminded me of the darkest of fruit, bursting with spices and layered with rich tannins and pepper. The finish was extremely long. I might like to lay this one down a few years and see how it develops. Was fine right now with Short Rib Ravioli.
Brothers Stuart and Charles Smith are the vineyard managers and winemakers of Smith-Madrone Winery. Also in the family attic is the Fetherolf family, German farmers from the Palatinate region, who came to America on the Good Ship Thistle in 1730. The name for the winery came as a tribute to the Smith brothers who pursued their dream and to the Madrone trees which distinguish the property.
In May 1971, with a partnership of family and friends, Stuart Smith bought the ‘terroir’ which today is Smith-Madrone Vineyards & winery. He was 22 years old and had just received his B.A. in Economics from UC Berkeley and was taking classes towards his Master’s in Viticulture at UC Davis. In trying to find land to plant vineyard in the Napa Valley, through a family friend he explored a forest on the remotest and highest part of Spring Mountain and discovered that the land had been a vineyard in the 1880s and in fact had been part of the wagon trail route between Napa and Santa Rosa. Today he is respected for his expertise and leadership as a mountain vineyardist.
Stuart was born and raised in Santa Monica. While pursuing his master’s at UC Davis, Stuart was the first teaching assistant for wine industry pioneers Maynard Amerine and Vernon Singleton in 1970-1971. He taught enology at Santa Rosa Junior College and Napa Valley College; he has chaired the 1986 and 2006 Napa Valley Wine Auctions. He is an active member of the G.O.N.A.D.S. (the Gastronomical Order for Nonsensical and Dissipatory Society), a group of Napa Valley vintners who started getting together for monthly lunches in the 1980s. He served on Napa County’s Watershed Task Force for several years, appointed by the Board of Supervisors; in 2006 he was appointed again by the Board of Supervisors to sit on Napa County General Plan Steering Committee, responsible for updating Napa’s General Plan, a three year project. Stu also serves as auctioneer for an Omaha (NB) charity auction every year.
Stuart served as Scout Master for St. Helena’s (Boy Scout) Troop One for many years and continues as the Troop’s Chair today. He is an avid canoeist, having canoed through the Quetico Wilderness in Canada many times and often canoes the Klamath and Trinity Rivers in California. He has five children and three grandchildren; the family includes a photographer, management information specialist, winemaker, wine marketer and a college student.
Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), a “certification in 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 Long Beach Grand Cru and the Global Wine Awards. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits.