A Taste of Smith Madrone

Smith Madrone Vineyards and Winery, a family run, estate-bottled winery located in St. Helena, California was founded in 1971 by brothers Stuart and Charles Smith who are the Managing Partner/Vineyard Manager, and Winemaker respectively.  The name of the winery is a tribute to the Smith brothers and the predominant tree on the ranch. The Madrone is an evergreen with a red-brown trunk and branches.

(L) Stu, and (R) Charlie Smith. Image courtesy of  Smith Madrone
(L) Stu, and (R) Charlie Smith. Image courtesy of Smith Madrone

When the Smith brothers purchased the  200 acre ranch in 1971, it included a vineyard that had been planted over a century before.  But the forest had reclaimed much of the land. The brothers had to call in loggers to clear patches of land that would become vineyards.  There remain numerous historical sights on the ranch, as well as the huge array of natural beauty and wildlife.

Image courtesy of Meg Smith/Smith Madrone
Image courtesy of Meg Smith/Smith Madrone

All their wines are produced exclusively from their 34 acres of hillside vineyards planted by the Smith brothers.  The vineyard is planted to 6.25 acres of Riesling, 10.25 acres of Chardonnay and 13 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, with the Merlot, and Cabernet Franc available for blending.

The vineyard sits high atop Spring Mountain, west of St. Helena in the northern Napa Valley. The vineyards sit at elevations between 1,300 and 2,000 feet, on steep slopes which range up to 35%.

Image courtesy of Meg Simth/Smith Madrone
Image courtesy of Meg Smith/Smith Madrone

My wife and I had a chance to visit the winery last month.  It’s a working winery, so there’s not much there in terms of a tasting room.  But what you will find are great wines, honestly produced by the Smiths, whose philosophy is to get the most out of each vintage and get it in the glass.  And I don’t know about you, but I’m all about the wine, so I’d go wine tasting in a chicken coop if there were great wines to be had (No, wait…I’ve done that! 😉

Smith Madrone offer four wines, Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a special Cook’s Flat Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. I had a chance to taste the 2012 Riesling, 2011 Chardonnay, and 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon.

The wines are available for purchase at the winery or on their website.  They produce about 4,000 cases/yr. The winery is open for tasting by appointment Monday-Saturday, 10 – 4:30.

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My tasting notes follow:

  • 2011 Smith Madrone Chardonnay – Pale yellow color with enticing apple, stone fruit, lemon, chalk and a hint of spice aromas. The wine shows an enticing viscosity in the glass that portends the ample mouth-feel of the wine. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, harmonious, and zesty with peach, apricot, honey, brown spice and mineral flavors. Long mouth-watering finish. Barrel-fermented and aged 8 months in 100% new French oak. 14.2% alcohol. 463 cases produced. SRP – $35 (92 pts.)
  • 2009 Smith Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon – Dark ruby color with promising black cherry, cassis, blackberry, cedarwood, and a hint of cacao aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, and vibrant harmonious with penetrating black cherry, cassis, mixed black and blueberry flavors, and sweet, well-integrated tannins. Long finish. Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon 84%, Merlot 8% & Cabernet franc 8%. 13.9% alcohol. Aged 22 months in new American white oak barrels. This is a wine that’s drinking well now, but will continue to favorably evolve over the next 10-15 years.  And it’s the best values you’ll find in Cab at $45! (91 pts.)
  • 2012 Smith Madrone Riesling – Very pale slightly green tinged straw color with appealing stone fruit, apple lime, wet stone, and a hint of lychee aromas. On the palate it approaches medium-bodied and is dry, clean, focused, and well-structured with tart apple, peach, lime, and mineral flavors. Long persistent finish. 12.5% alcohol. 798 cases produced. Made from 40-year-old vines. SRP – $27.  My favorite American Riesling.  It’s drinking well now, but Riesling can be aged for decades, and you can keep yourself from drinking it, you’ll be rewarded! (91 pts.)

All the wines were simply outstanding.  Highly recommended.  And I heartily recommend a visit too.  The property is amazing (with breathtaking views on clear days), the Smiths are gracious, and knowledgeable hosts.  A good time will be had!

Wines provided as a samples for review.  Many thanks to Smith Madrone Vineyards and Winery and Julie Ann Kodmur

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Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

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