Smith Madrone Vineyards, 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.
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.
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%.
Smith Madrone offer four wines, Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a special Cook’s Flat Reserve 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.
I recently had the opportunity to taste a trio of their latest releases, which included the 2011 Riesling, 2010 Chardonnay, and 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon.
My tasting notes follow:
- 2011 Smith Madrone Riesling Estate Bottled - USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District
Pale golden yellow color with peach apricot, mineral and a hint of lychee aromas. On the palate, it’s between light and medium-bodied, and dry with fresh peach, mineral, and a hint of citrus rind flavors. Medium-long finish; 12.6% alcohol. Retail – $27; 521 cases produced (90 pts.)
- 2010 Smith Madrone Chardonnay Estate Bottled - USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District
Pale golden yellow color with citrus, peach, spiced oak and a kiss of butterscotch aromas. On the palate it’s medium-bodied, and balanced with vibrant acidity, and peach, lemon, guava, mineral and vanilla flavors. Medium-long finish. 100% Chardonnay, barrel-fermented in 100% new French oak. Retail – $30; 703 cases produced. (90 pts.)
- 2007 Smith Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Bottled - USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District
Opaque violet color with lovely cassis, dried herb, roast coffee and eucalyptus aromas. On the palate it’s light-bodied, focused and balanced with youthful tannins and cassis, blackberry, and roast coffee flavors. Medium-long finish. 14.2% alcohol. 97% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc. Aged 22 months in new American oak. Unfiltered and unfined. Retail – $45; 1,434 cases produced (91 pts.)
I really enjoyed these wines. The Riesling is the best American Riesling I’ve had. The Chardonnay was delightfully different, and i was surprised it was aged in new oak because the oak manifests itself so judiciously. The Cab is an elegant delightful now, but will improve with some additional aging.
Before trying these wines, I wasn’t familiar with Smith Madrone. I’ve tended to stay on the beaten path when visiting Napa. My bad! I’m looking forward to getting off of the beaten path, and if you are too, I highly recommend a visit to Smith Madrone.
Wine provided as a sample for review. Many thanks to Smith Madrone Vineyards and Winery and Julie Ann Kodmur