Before we start this post, we would like to note that this is officially our 100th posting on our blog. Thank you all so very much for reading, sharing, liking and commenting on our Blog, our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts. The love we have had from all of you has made this really fun for us both. We couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate our first milestone than by talking about the wonderful Smith-Madrone Winery and Vineyards.
When we were invited to Smith-Madrone, neither of us knew what to expect. We were impressed by the entire experience from start to finish. You can read about it in our post here.
This place isn’t one of the commercial mega-wineries you get in Napa Valley. Instead it is a truly personal and family run business that has been around since the 1971. The brothers who founded it still work the land themselves and they put their heart and soul into what they produce. It was an immense pleasure to spend time with the brothers Stuart and Charles Smith, talking with them over glasses of wine. We really enjoyed ourselves.
They don’t have a fancy tasting room with shiny decor and slick young hosts. Instead, they personally bring visitors into their rustic barrel room and let them taste the wine. I enjoyed the simplicity of it. It felt honest rather than a Hollywood version of what a winery should be.
One of the things that struck me is that they strive not to have a style when making their wines. Instead, they work with the crop they harvest that year and make the wine the best they can produce from it. They also aren’t worried about what style of wine is in fashion, or what the critics like. They make wine that they like and hope everyone else will like it too. How refreshing is that?
We started our tasting with the 2013 Chardonnay ($32). It was a very balanced wine. It tasted creamy and rich with a decent amount of acidity. Oak, butter, and fruit were all in complete balance. But I have to say, that for me there was nothing “special” about it. If I were drinking it, I would drink the entire glass with zero complaints, but it wasn’t something I thought WOW.
The Brit comments: I agree and disagree with California Girl on her statement about this wine. I was impressed when I tasted it, but once we tasted the next year’s Chardonnay it paled in comparison. It was interesting to note that despite all of their Chardonnay being in 100% casks, the fruit is not overwhelmed by the wood and all three Chardonnay’s we tasted exhibited great balance between fruit, acidity, and vanilla from the oak.
We moved on to the 2014 Chardonnay ($32). Interestingly with this wine they made it same way as with the 2013, but they made one change. They stirred the wine in a process called Batonnage. (They stir it with a special paddle like device while its in the barrel to keep the wine in contact with the lees while maturing rather than the lees sinking to the bottom of the barrel. It creates a much richer flavor.) This wine had my taste buds singing. The flavor was amazing! Creamy rich notes of vanilla, full of fruits, wonderful in the mouth with medium acidity. I absolutely loved this wine. We had to purchase bottles of this beauty. Fantastic.
The Brit comments: The Chardonnay was superb, but it helps that Smith-Madrone were not serving their wines chilled. I am amazed at how many wineries cool their white wine to a point where the cold suppresses the aromas and flavours. Here the wine was served at barrel room temperature.
We were lucky enough to be treated to a special tasting of the 2015 Chardonnay which has yet to be bottled or released ($32). It wasn’t quite ready, but boy, oh boy we could tell it is going to be an amazing wine. It has a slightly acidic kumquat finish, with honeysuckle and melon on the nose. We would have bought bottles of this if it were possible. We will be revisiting just to do that when it comes out. I can’t wait to experience the finished product. Charles seemed pleased with it as well.
We moved on to the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon ($50). It has a nose of oak and summer berries. There are very soft tannins which are pleasant on the palate with a flavor of forest floor, cloves, and those summer berries. Delicious. I thought it was priced very reasonably for the quality and the character of the wine. The mix is 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc and 8% Merlot.
The Brit comments: As with all of their wines, the grapes are all estate grown. They change the balance each year and despite its youth this wine is already drinking well.
The 2009 Cooks Flat Reserve is one of those special bottles of wine you don’t drink every day. Priced at $200, per bottle this beauty is really what you would hope for in a mature Cab. Rich berries on the nose and palate, baking spices, weighty and rich in the mouth. We both loved this wine. It will continue to age beautifully for at least 10 years if not more. I would love the opportunity to taste it then. I think that this is one of my favorite quality Cab’s I have experienced. It is a wine to be savored and experienced rather than simply consumed.
Our favorite pick out of the lineup though is the 2014 Riesling ($30). This is a WOW! Pear, grapefruit, and melon on the tongue; a perfect sip, not too dry, not too sweet. Honestly, I should have purchased more bottles. The quality of this wine for the price is outstanding. The Brit however warned me that we are lacking space in our white wine fridge and not to buy too much until we go through some of what we have in stock now. It just gives me a good excuse to make another visit to Smith-Madrone to get more. I loved it that much.
The Brit comments: I admit that I used to avoid Riesling, associating it with poor quality overly sweet German wines that used to be consumed in the UK. I now realize that it is a very versatile grape that can be used to make dry white wines with complex flavour profiles. Smith-Madrone’s Riesling is a superb example of the grape at its best.
Aside from the wonderful wines and the very interesting wine makers, Smith-Madrone is well worth the visit for its beauty and the views. I felt like I didn’t have enough time to focus on my photos while I was there, and I would have liked to be there in better light so my pictures could have really reflected its beauty. Maybe they will invite us back. I sure hope so.