Wine & Spirits Magazine June 2013
"94 points & Best Buy"
Stuart Smith dry farms over 10 acres of Chardonnay, which he began planting in 1972 on north facing slopes. His brother, Charles, ferments this wine in new French oak barrels, and while the oak is there in the flavors, it doesnÕt get in the way. Completely mineral-driven and rooty when first poured, this takes hours of air for the fruit to come forward, a wallop of pear and apple, as if biting into fresh fruit. The structure remains tight, holding the fruit succulence to a quiet shimmer, set to age with grace.
Wine Enthusiast April 2013 by Steve Heimoff
"90 points: Cellar Selection"
This Chardonnay has plenty of ripe pineapple, pear and tropical fruit flavors. Having aged in 100% new French oak barrels, it offers rich notes of vanilla and buttered toast. Like all of Smith-Madrone's wines, this has great acidity and minerality and even some tannins. Give this some time and see how it is after 2017.
Bacchus & Beery blog, August 2012
"…A superb example of Napa Valley Chardonnay…"
A superb example of Napa Valley Chardonnay with a nose reminiscent of mom's apple pie, complete with buttered crust and spice. The creamy mouth-feel is balanced with just enough zippy acidity. Flavors of apple, pear, spice, minerality and buttered toast are wonderfully integrated with French oak into a delicious Chardonnay treat.
Pamela Heiligenthal, Enobytes, August 27, 2012
"…a great white…"
This rugged hillside was one of the first vineyard areas to be planted by the early settlers in the 1800s. Although the majority of wine produced is red, this Chardonnay proves it can make great whites as well. It is 100% barrel fermented, 100% new oak producing flavors of green apple and pear. It's medium bodied, with good acidity, and minerality.
Purely Domestic Wine Report, June 2012, by Doug Wilder
"…a very pretty wine…"
A clean, fresh vibrant nose with melon and lemon curd. The palate is firm and a bit toasty with soft hints of grain and flower blossoms on the finish. It is a very pretty wine from the Smith brothers who have quietly tended their Spring Mountain estate since 1971.
Wine Enthusiast Magazine / August 2012
Concentrated, intense orange, apricot and mineral flavors characterize this Chardonnay, as does a brisk cut of acidity. It handles the 100% new French oak, with notes of buttered toast and sweet wood sap almost dominating. But then the ripe fruit comes swirling back, providing dynamic tension. Drink this flashy, young Chardonnay in the next few years with lobsters, scallops and mushroom risotto.
Matt Mauldin / WineILike blog / July 2012
"Good balanced and rich depth"
The Chardonnay is structured well with green stone fruit and acid along with brisk spice. Melon, tropical with light floral, lees and toast accents. Crisp and lively on the palate with good balance and rich depth along a flourishing finish.
Gabesview blog / Gabe Sasso / June 12th, 2012
"Nothing short of an absolute joy to drink!"
Apple pie aromas dominate the nose of this Chardonnay and they are underscored by pleasing hints of lemon curd. The palate is marked by the intensity of its Chardonnay character in the form of pure and unadulterated fruit. Apple flavors dominate things here with spice and minerals galore to add to the complexity. Nutmeg, clove and continued mineral characteristics are all in evidence on the finish which has excellent length. Firm, zippy acidity adds to the wonderful structure and balance of this Chardonnay. This is nothing short of an absolute joy to drink. It's also a wine that will age gracefully and be quite enjoyable and drinkable over the next 8 or so years at minimum.
California Grapevine / June 2012
"Very highly recommended"
Medium-light golden yellow; attractive, clean, spicy, green apple and pear aroma with floral notes; medium-full body; crisp, well-balanced, citrus and green apple flavors with undertones of minerality; lingering aftertaste. Very highly recommended. 90 points.
Hawk Wakawaka blog / May 15 2012
"California style Chardonnay, well done, balanced presentation!"
This is a California style Chardonnay that can relax with its own innate characteristics, thereby setting you at ease to enjoy them too. The nose shows as lightly candied, nutty, and chalky, with good fruit of yellow apple skin and mixed citrus zest, and hints of toast. The palate follows with the addition of light white pepper accents. The overall structure is very pleasing--there is rich texture, with great acidity, and a good medium-long finish. I would love to let this Chardonnay age to drink again in a few years, but it drinks beautifully now as well. The overall style is richer than I tend to reach for on a Chardonnay, but, that said, I was pulled in by this wine and enjoyed it. It's a California style Chardonnay with well done, balanced presentation and its own story to tell. Read full post.
Terroirist Blog / David White / March 17th, 2012
"... a lot of stuffing..."
On the nose, the wine is super interesting -- eucalyptus, ripe, wild apples, some sour lemon, and a hint of sweet herbs. The oak -- which comes across as smoky cedar -- is in the background, and not at all overwhelming. It'd be fun to see how this wine ages, as it has a lot of stuffing.
WineCast / February 2012 / Tim Elliott's blog on Pinterest
"... classic Napa Chard with great balance and nuance..."
Straw in color with aromas of pear, green apple and caramel. Rich pineapple, pear and citrus flavors finishing with smoke and caramel. Classic Napa Chardonnay with great balance and nuance. Highly Recommended.
St. Helena Star / Napa Valley Register / September 22, 2011
"Wine of the Week: Smith Madrone 2008 Chardonnay Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District"
"...The 2008 Smith Madrone Chardonnay ($30) has deliciously ripe fruit structured by a light toastiness. It's hard to tell where the fruit ends, the minerality picks up and the rich toastiness finishes, it is so well made."
-- Catherine Seda, the Star's tasting panel writer
Waterford Wine Company / Milwaukee WI / August 23rd, 2011
"Classic mountain grown, rich and powerful, balanced and elegant!"
Unlike many Napa Chardonnays, Smith-Madrone's is 100% dry-farmed estate-grown fruit from a tiny 13 acre plot of 37 year old own-rooted vines. And like Chablis, the location matters. The high altitude develops a Meyer lemon citrusy note to the wine. The dry-farming, something very few others in Napa have the skill to accomplish, develops power into the wine driven by fruit textures. During their 37 years of life these vines have reached deep into the soil and you can taste this on the finish--a lingering note of tropical fruits balanced with minerality and brine that leave the palate clean, ready for the next glass. Using oak barrels, Smith-Madrone's Chardonnay develops a creamy, layered mid-palate. Like in Cabernet, oak barrels allow for the subtle transfer of oxygen into the wine. The flavors of oak do not dominate this Chardonnay, yet give it a backbone and strength of character which supports the fruit. This Chardonnay is classic mountain-grown California wine: rich and powerful, while also balanced, fresh and elegant. It's easy to hate Chardonnay, except when you taste Smith-Madrone's.
Enobytes.com / Pamela Heiligenthal / August 2011
...An extreme pleasure..great balance, acidity and viscosity.
This wine was an extreme pleasure..the finish was long, plush and very texturally pleasing. Culinary applications are very broad and a stand-alone sipper...Marc Hinton You can taste the vintage in this wine..a wine with intense flavors..interesting and fun, this barrel-fermented Chardonnay is citrusy and tropical with hints of apple and almond..leaning towards a Burgundian style with great balance, acidity and viscosity. ..tuna tartare...crab cakes...
August 24, 2011
Wine and Spirits Magazine June 2011
This bares its mountain toughness in the middle, where it's a bit foursquare, driven by foresty apple scents and minerality. Then it lasts on a delicate peach perfume -- as if it's very masculine until it's feminine. The wine's earthiness lends restraint to the fruit character, keeping it savory even as the flavors last and bringing that pretty peach fruit to the back of the finish. An ageworthy chardonnay.
Wine Enthusiast Magazine / May 2011
Smith-Madrone 2008 Chardonnay (Spring Mountain); $30. Shows the bone-dry, crisply acidic minerality of the winery’s Chardonnays, a brisk, elegant wine whose complexities make it fascinating. The lemon and lime flavors are enriched with a touch of oak and lees. Try aging for six years to experience an aged California Chardonnay. —S.H.
OrangeCoast.com/ The Grapevine / Anne Valdespino on Fine Wine
"Outstanding..sip after sip you just can’t get enough!"
An outstanding chard I tasted recently came from Smith-Madrone. Their Spring Mountain District 2008 Chard left me craving more. The fruit is big but regal, the wine is oaked but not overly so. There's some citrus but it's balanced by orchard fruits. Sip after sip, you just can't get enough.
Fred Koeppel, Bigger Than Your Head Blog, April 3, 2011
“...Mountain-side Powerhouse ...Excellent”
I was amazed that this chardonnay, which exhibits so much of the grapeʼs purity and intensity, went through full barrel-fermentation and aged 11 months in oak, amazed because you sense the oak, in the wineʼs proportion and firmness, much more than you actually smell or taste it... The wine is taut, almost demanding, with tremendous acidity and limestone-like minerality, yet its suppleness and yielding nature are frankly irresistible; itʼs a mountain-side powerhouse of vital and vibrant dimension married to the utmost delicacy of detail. Not to be overlooked by devotees of expressive and individually crafted chardonnay. Production was 790 cases. 14.4 percent alcohol. Excellent.
California Grape-Vine Newsletter / Feb/March 2011 Issue
2008 Smith-Madrone, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley ($30) – Medium-light golden yellow; attractive, floral, green apple aroma with lemony notes and a hint of coconut; medium-full body; crisp, slightly toasty, spicy, apple and citrus flavors; lingering aftertaste. Highly recommended. 14.4% alcohol; 790 cases; 100% Chardonnay; 100% BF; % ML not available; released December 2010. (Group Score: 15.8, 0/2/0; My Score: 16.5 [88/100], eighth place)
Colorado Wine News - (April-June 2008, Vol. 18, No. 2)
2006 Chardonnay was barrel-fermented, spent eleven months in oak, and has a restrained nose of pear, apple, pineapple, mineral, and a hint of well-integrated oak. All repeat as flavors laced with nice acidity and finish broad and very long with the addition of sweet orange. Unusual, attractive and built to age, it is well-balanced, structured and integrated. It will pair well with food. Very Tasty to Good.
2006 Chardonnay 92 points
Dry, crisp and minerally, this Chardonnay has intensely pure flavors of ripe white peach, pear, green apple and pineapple that have a stony scour of cold steel. It's the opposite of the modern style of oaky fruit bomb Chards, with an elegant integrity that's food-friendly and ageworthy. Fine now, and should do interesting things for a decade. Editors' Choice
ON WINE -- ROBERT WHITLEY
Napa excellence doesn't have to be a bank-breaker
January 18, 2007
...The chardonnay is tightly wound and delicate but delivers exceptional fruit intensity and shows only a light touch of the oak.
©Copley News Service
Peter Hellman, "Missing in Action," Urban Vintage, New York Sun, October 4, 2006
The choice of wines available in New York shops is vast, even overwhelming. Yet, amid such a global bounty, one of California's most distinguished wineries is glaringly absent on retail shelves. It's called Smith Madrone, now in the midst of its 35th vintage high on the upper slopes of Spring Mountain high over the Napa Valley. That this label can't find a place in any New York shop is not, I believe, due to lack of quality or value. It's because of the difficulty of selling the kind of wines that Smith Madrone makes.
The winery, owned by brothers Stuart and Charles Smith, bottles just three wines: cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, and riesling. In an era when most California wines are riper and more alcoholic than ever before, the Smith brothers make traditional wines, maybe even throwback wines. They're dry-farmed for intensity and harvested ripe, but not overly so. The result is wines which have alcohol between 12% and 13%, once a common level but now the exception in an era of wines that routinely reach 15% alcohol or higher. "Some of these huge wines can be seductive and fruit forward, or they can hit you so that your eyes bulge out, but then you say, ‘Now what?' They've nothing behind them. These wines will not age." Meanwhile, these voluptuary wines do fetch high scores from wine critics, notably Robert M. Parker Jr. in his Wine Advocate newsletter.
Smith Madrone wines, especially the cabernet sauvignon, are typically unyielding upon release. But the wines invariably blossom as the years go by. I don't believe there is any other dry California riesling that is the equal of Smith Madrone's in its improvement after 10 years and beyond. But such wines are a tough sell. "For many years, we've tried to make wines with elegance, restraint, and grace," Mr. Smith said, "and we got our brains beat out in the marketplace."
Sadly, that's currently the case in New York, although the wines are available in half a dozen other states, notably Illinois and California (check wine-searcher.com) and direct from the winery (smithmadrone.com). The deeply flavored 2003 Napa Valley Chardonnay ($27) and 2001 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($38) are currently available, as is the 2000 Napa Valley Riesling ($50). This last wine, simultaneously floral and earthy, is what great Alsacian-style riesling is all about.