Cabernet Sauvignon Reviews

VinePair, Courtney Schiessl, February 2018

Great Balance

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

A fresh green edge characterizes this balanced mountain Napa Cab. Perfect for Dinner With The Parents, Steak Dinner. Cabernet Sauvignon’s green character certainly comes through on this mountain Napa wine, likely amped up by the small proportion of Cabernet Franc blended in. Ripe, dusty black cherry fruit transitions into brambly berries on the grassy palate, the fine, grippy tannins providing great balance.

StrongCoffeeToRedWine, Rick Dean, April 11, 2018

Rocking my world

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

The Smith-Madrone 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon is the perfect balance of Old World and New World styles. It is soft and finessed. It is earth and fruit. And oh, it makes me smile from ear to ear while I look for a place to hide the bottle, so I do not have to share. Drats foiled again, Gary knows my hiding place. The color is dark and purple with subtle purple-ruby edges. The aromas at the top* bring out cedar and a hint of wet terra cotta. At the bottom*, I find stewed prunes and raisins, and other black fruits mixed with a woodsy earthiness.  My drinking partner finds similar yet different aromas calling out dusty, dry cherries and dense mossy forest. We are both intrigued by the smells/aromas that seem to complement each other rather than fight for top billing. From the first sip to the last there is roundness and balance. To me, black fruit permeates with a light kiss of acid right from the start. The tannins are soft and approachable.  As the wine finishes you get a second burst of acidity that cleanses your palate in anticipation of your next sip. Which I did… over and over and over again. This wine is rocking my world. For my partner, he is struck by the harmony between the dark fruits and the earth. Geez, we are both loving this wine. My sister pops in the house while we are sipping, so I hand her my glass.  All she can say is, “WOW!, damn that is good.” One final comment: I was prepared to like this wine but did not expect to want to search it out locally.  I was so incredibly wrong. This is a fantastic wine.

Nittany Epicurean, Michael Chelus, April 6, 2018


2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

Earlier this week, my ongoing series of discovery of some of the great wines of California brought us wines from some of my favorite wineries in the state.Today, the series will stay in Napa for another delicious cabernet from a winery for which I've developed quite an affinity. This wine is mostly cabernet sauvignon (85%) blended with small amounts of cabernet franc (8%) and merlot (7%). The fruit - all estate grown - hails from Napa's Spring Mountain District. Following fermentation, the wine was aged for 18 months in French oak barrels (70% new). It comes in at 13.9% ABV. The wine showed a dark ruby color. Blackberry, raspberry, vanilla and oak on a nose that showed initial restraint. Cherry cola, raspberry, blackberry, vanilla, plum, licorice, oak and hints of eucalyptus followed on a palate much more developed than the nose. The wine exhibited good structure and length, along with soft tannins. This wine would pair classically with a dry-aged prime rib.


Wine Enthusiast, Virginie Boone, May 2018

Restrained take on mountain-grown fruit

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

91 points CELLAR SELECTION: This is a concentrated wine made with 8% Cabernet Franc and 7% Merlot within the blend, a restrained take on mountain-grown fruit and tannin. Cassis, red currant and cedar persist within a framework of tart acidity and balanced oak, the structure suggestive of further aging. Enjoy best 2024 through 2034.

International Wine Review, Michael Potashnik and Don Winkler, March 20, 2018

Nicely integrated and complex

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

Nicely integrated and complex with a melange of red and black fruit with noteworthy boysenberry, plum,  savory herbs and notes of underbrush and chocolate.  It is nicely concentrated, round on the palate with firm tannins and a long finish.

Vineration, Brian Seeling, March 16, 2018

Exceptionally integrated oak

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

It's a steal, with aromas of pipe tobacco, unripe black plum, blackberry, and exceptionally integrated oak. When you sip it, a rush of juiciness washes over your palate and the silky texture falls effortlessly down the hatch. The medium strength tannins cling to the insides of your cheeks to extend the long dark cocoa finish.

The Intox Report, Chris Kassel, March 7, 2018

Clarity and precision

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

Altitude plays a role in producing wines of potency and nuance, but without a proper foundation, it’s all for naught.  The reddish Aiken soil that predominates throughout Smith-Madrone vineyards is derived from nearby Sonoma Volcanics, and tends to be gravelly, leading to even more radical drainage than elevation alone would account for.  In the Spring Mountain AVA soil depths vary, but tend to be deeper than in nearby mountain terrains, and as a result, so do their red wines. Notable is the Cabernet Sauvignon, which is almost inky black in color (high elevation reds seem to tan in the direct UV rays like people) and has a bracing dose of acid that preserves the elusive quality of freshness in extraordinarily rich wines.  The wine displays the pedigree of middle-aged vines; these are in their early forties. It’s juicy with dark, saturated berry flavors—fruit crushed for jam, but not yet stewed.  It’s accented by coffee, spicy plum and crushed peppercorn and shows clarity and precision. I always welcome an opportunity to circle back to see what the brothers-on-high are up to at Smith-Madrone.  Smith is the most common name in the United States, so it’s gratifying to note that these two are making some of the most unusual wines.

Winethropology, Steve McIntosh, March 7, 2018

Instant infatuation

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

Oh, lord, the luxurious aromatics coming off this alone are enough to incite instant infatuation. Deep, beckoning black fruit invites more sniffing for those with the patience to not just dive in. The attack, however, sits juxtaposed with its blue-green fruit/vegetable profile and a restraint that is in contrast to the nose. Prominent acidity, combined with its old school cabernet fruit elements suggest longevity. Even after seven hours decanted, drinking this feels like infanticide. Would love to revisit this one in a decade. And then again in another.


Decanter Magazine, April 2018, Alex Hunt

94 points

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

94 points: Green notes are a key part of Cabernet’s aroma, yet often suppressed in California. How refreshing, then, to find them lifting the juicy fruit of this wine to another level of complexity. Drink 2020-2030.

Decanter Magazine, April 2018

Highly Recommended

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

Highly Recommended: A grassy, leafy expression of Cabernet on the nose with smoky hints. Very attractive, with beautiful poise on the savoury palate, while the firm structure suits the fresher register of the aromas.

One of six wines which came out on top, from field of 174 wines.

BiggerThanYourHead, Frederic Koeppel, March 3, 2018

Elegant and excellent

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

Excellent. Dark ruby-magenta hue; smoke, loam, old leather; red currants and raspberries, touch of dark plum; real heft and traction on the palate, powerful forward energy propelled by bright acidity; huge depth of graphite minerality with layers of underbrush and spare woodsy floral and herbal elements; monumental tannins softened by their paradoxically elegant texture; the intensity and concentration continue through the boldly mineral-laced finish. Wonderful purity and integrity. Try 2019 or ’20 through 2028 to ’30.

Grape-experiences, Cindy Rynning, February 28, 2018

 A splendid wine

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

Whenever I open a box that contains wines from Smith-Madrone, I’m always thrilled. Why? I’m assured that each wine is crafted with care, is always consistent with regards to quality, and is guaranteed to please even the most discerning palate. Anyone who loves wine will treasure each sip of a delectable choice from one of my favorite wineries.

The 2014 vintage year produced an extraordinary amount of quality grapes. Although the 2013-2014 winter broke records for being the driest in California, grapes cultivated were smaller and boasted high concentration of flavors. This Cabernet is a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, and 7% Merlot that spent 18 months in French oak before bottling. Wafting from the glass were intense aromas of rich red cherries, tobacco, smoke, juicy plums, blackberries, and subtle notes of earth. Bright acidity and satin-like tannins enveloped textured, complex notes of spice and dark fruit on the palate. Elegant and supple, this is a splendid wine that can be aged for twenty-five years…if you’re willing.

StayRad blog, Jeff Solomon, February 22, 2018


2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

StayRad offers a video tasting of the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Armchair Sommelier, Kirsten Georgi, February 22, 2018

Dense and elegant knock-out

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, and 7% Merlot.  Aged for 18 months in 70% new French oak and 30% one-year old French oak.  If you recall, 2014 was the year of the Napa earthquake.  It was also a drought year for Napa, and according to Smith-Madrone, rainfall totals on Spring Mountain were about half what they usually are.  What does that mean for the grapes?  Well, it means the grapes were stressed out.  And stressed out vines can make great wines.  It also means that grapes were smaller, which produced a more concentrated juice.

A gorgeous, deep ruby color.  Cedar, blackberry, black currant, garden mint, and a big pile of crushed mountain rocks.  The power in this wine comes from its structure.  Despite its youth, this is beautifully balanced with beautifully integrated tannins.  A dense and elegant knock-out.  No doubt this will develop beautifully in the bottle.

Corkscrew Report, Johannes Marlena, February 20, 2018

Loads of character and a quiet rugged passion behind the wine

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

Are we out of line for calling Smith-Madrone a “hidden” winery of Napa Valley, considering it was established in 1971? No, not until the world recognizes there may not be a better $50 Napa Cab for the money than Smith-Madrone’s. 

Mountain Cabernet Sauvignons from Napa Valley can easily run you into the three-figures. “Handcrafted” is a shopworn term in the wine world, but in the case of mountain vineyards, good luck getting big mechanical harvesters not to tip over up there. What it takes to grow great grapes and make great wine around here is true grit. At $50 per bottle, the Smith-Madrone Cabernet is true grit at true value. 

When you find mountain Napa Cab that doesn’t run into the three-figure dollar amount and is this good, you celebrate. Yes, you celebrate by opening a bottle, but more importantly, you celebrate that this kind of gift exists for mankind. Oh, that great mountain nose of rich, fleshy plum, wild dark berries, violets and lavender. These notes carry through onto the palate—again, rich, sumptuous and fleshy—with additional notes of coffee, dark chocolate and black pepper emerging. Smooth, oily texture and super-fine tannins along with that familiar mountain Cab savoriness. Loads of character here, and a quiet, rugged passion behind the wine is palpable.

Nittany Epicurean, Michael Chelus, February 20, 2018

Dark berry fruit palate

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

The wine showed a dark ruby color. Blackberry, raspberry, currant, mossy earth and oak all arrived on the nose. Blackberry, raspberry, black cherry, licorice, oak and eucalyptus followed on a palate dominated by dark berry fruit. The wine exhibited good structure and length, along with soft tannins. This wine would do well paired with a marinated and grilled flank steak.

WineReviewOnline, Rich Cook, February 13, 2018

Benchmarkk of the Spring Mountain District

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

Yet another in a long line of classic Napa Valley elegance bottlings from Smith-Madrone.  Certainly a benchmark of Spring Mountain District, and so delicious now that you'll likely miss the greatness that comes with long-term aging.  Blackberry, cassis and dried herbs are specific and well integrated already, and will gain in complexity with a long rest in your cellar.  I'm sure this is a virtual repeat of my reviews of previous vintages, but truth is truth -- what's a guy to do?

Food & Spirits Magazine, Mark Gudgel, spring 2018

Perfected the craft

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

Another of my well-documented winery obsessions is Smith-Madrone. The combination of great memories and terrific wine makes every glass of Smith-Madrone one that I savor. When people visit Napa, I always steer them towards Smith-Madrone, and when people are looking for a great bottle of wine locally, I often point to this one. Founded in 1971 before it was hip to own a winery in Napa, the Smith brothers have been making wine for longer than most people have been drinking it, and it’s no exaggeration to say that they’ve perfected the craft. The 2014 vintage had an uphill battle to fight, between drought and earthquake, and yet the 42-year-old high elevation vines at Smith-Madrone still bore some truly extraordinary fruit. This wine is, in my opinion, as close to Pauillac as Napa gets, coming in at a low 13.9% ABV and blending 85% Cabernet with 8% Cab Franc and 7% Merlot. Velvety and smooth with concentrated dark fruits and subtle, integrated earthy notes, I find it difficult to imagine a more satisfying Cabernet.

Bin Notes, L.M. Archer, February 6, 2018

Age-worthy and savor-worthy

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

Robe:  Opaque garnet-ruby robe.

Nose:  Dark fruits, tomato leaf, tobacco, black tea, capsicum back-note.

Palate: Medium body, firm tannins, balanced bouche, lengthy finish. Age-worthy for the patient; savor-worthy now for those who eschew delayed gratification.

Smith-Madrone wines represent the graceful soul of Old Napa combined with the unbreakable spirit of Napa Reborn – supple, approachable, with a powerful core of mountain je ne c’est quoi, Isaac Baker, February 3, 2018

Complex, fruity, silky, age-worthy

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

Deep ruby color. Gorgeous aromatics of black currants, tart plums, eucalyptus, charcoal, smashed rocks, violets, coffee. Bold tannic grip on the palate, and while the acidity keeps it so fresh, this is a very young and compact wine. But plenty of cherry and blackberry and currant fruit, so fresh but rich. Laced with cocoa powder, cedar, anise, mineral and gravel. Complex, fruity, silky, age-worthy. This is another excellent effort that is impressive now but will show its best in 4-8 years, I reckon.