Chardonnay Reviews

BiggerThanYourHead, Fredric Koeppel, January 9, 2019

One of 50 Great Wines of 2018

2014 Chardonnay

Chosen as one of the 50 Great Wines of 2018: crystalline tone and chiseled presence.

SoifKnows, Stephen McConnell, December 7, 2018

Top 25 Wines of the Year

2014 Chardonnay

Top 25 Wines of the Year

Enofylz, Martin Redmond, December 6, 2018

92 points

2014 Chardonnay

92 points: This wine is 100% Chardonnay crafted from 42-year-old dry-farmed vines on Spring Mountain.  It was 100% barrel fermented and raised for 9 months in 100% new French oak. 

Color – Pale straw yellow
Aromas – Apple, pear, lemon curd, almond, and toasty oak with a hint of chalk
Body – Medium-bodied and impeccably balanced with very fresh with vibrant acidity
Taste – Baked apple, fresh pear, lemon meringue, and key lime accented with very appealing baking spice flavors
Finish – Long

Year in and year out, this distinguished wine is one of my favorite California Chardonnays!

Pair with:  Steamed Dungeness Crab with drawn butter

EllenonWine, Ellen Landis, January 30, 2018

Rich with good offsetting acidity through the last enlivening sip

2015 Chardonnay

Aromas of fresh-picked tree fruits and spiced oak notes zone in on what’s ahead.  Poached pears, Granny Smith apples, brown spices and a kiss of butterscotch pudding join underlying oak on the palate.  Firmly structured and rich with good offsetting acidity through the last enlivening sip.

Greg Ballington and India Okoh, MillennialDrinkers, March 5, 2018

Long tangy finish

2015 Chardonnay

90 points: Medium golden yellow. Oak on the nose with some candied lemon and some butter. Medium plus acidity (7/10) and medium bodied. Citrus zest on the attack of the palate followed by a touch of lemon curd and apples. Long tangy finish.

The Wine Guys, Philip Kuo, July 5, 2018

Good juice...fabulous value

2015 Chardonnay

93 points: You already know by the label it's good juice, and props to Smith Madrone for planting Chardonnay on a mountain when you could make 10x more money planting Cabernet. Notes of lemon peel, yellow apple, toasted nuts, apricot, unsalted butter, toasted oak, peach and spice. Real good integration of oak, just the right amount of toast that complements fine stone fruit and bright acidity. A kick of spice on the finish rounds it out to be quite a well balanced Chardonnay that won't bog you down with mega oak and butter bombing. It's from the mountains so enjoy it over the next 8-10 years. Fabulous value.

WineForNormalPeople, Elizabeth Schneider, June 20, 2018

New world Chardonnay done right

2015 Chardonnay

This is new world Chardonnay done right. Fantastic acidity, excellent tropical and apple fruit, and a moderate use of oak. Smith-Madrone Winery is a class act every year.

BiggerThanYourHead, Fred Koeppel, June 4, 2018

Exquisitely poised between zephyr-like softness and riveting acidity

2014 Chardonnay

How can a chardonnay that was 100 percent barrel-fermented and aged nine months in 100 percent new French oak barrels display such amazing purity and intensity, such crystalline tone and chiseled presence? Certainly, a factor must be the 42-year-old, dry-farmed vines that struggle to find nutrients in the hillside vineyard, sending roots ever downward in search of water. In any case, the Smith-Madrone Vineyards and Winery Chardonnay 2014, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley, a favorite in our house whatever the vintage, offers a medium gold hue and arresting aromas of peach, pear and quince that unfurl notes of lemon balm and apple blossom, gunflint and limestone. Supernal in its lithe, supple texture and exquisitely poised between zephyr-like softness and riveting acidity, this chardonnay delivers spare and elegant citrus and stone-fruit flavors that culminate in a finish of glittering limestone minerality. 14.3 percent alcohol. Now through 2021 to ’24. The Smith brothers concocted 850 cases. Exceptional. About $34.

Slow Wine Guide, January 2018

Creamy texture and refreshing acidity

2015 Chardonnay

The 2015 Chardonnay is 100% barrel-fermented and aged in new oak, boasting deep apple and pear fruit, a creamy texture and refreshing acidity.

Vinography, Alder Yarrow, April 14, 2018

Sun-drenched richness + high acidity freshness

2015 Chardonnay

Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon curd and buttered popcorn. In the mouth, wonderfully juicy flavors of lemon curd, candied grapefruit and a touch of butterscotch are positively electric with acidity. Phenomenally mouthwatering and delicious. There's oak at work here, but it plays mostly into the silky texture of the wine, leaving the rich fruit and the explosive acidity to shine. This wine is a great example of a middle path for California Chardonnay, one which displays sun-drenched richness but at the same time keeps with the tradition of high acidity freshness that we all expect in our Burgundian Chardonnays.

Wine Enthusiast, Virginie Boone, May 2018


2015 Chardonnay

93 points: From the exceptional site atop Spring Mountain, this white is lovely and complex, a mix of sharp tangerine, orange and lime flavor that packs within its layers of fruit an undeniable thirst-quenching acidity. The oak is supportive and subtle, playing a supporting role with deft ability.

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

Lingering intensity of flavor

2015 Chardonnay

Medium straw in color, displays ripe apple and melon on the nose. It reveals prominent wood notes on the palate with orchard fruit flavors and has nice lingering intensity of flavor on the finish with good acidity showing throughout.

Vineration, Brian Seeling, March 16, 2018


2015 Chardonnay

If you're too hip for Chardonnay, the vinous target of all mom jokes, you should rethink your position. The Smith Brothers craft an awesome Chardonnay. The new release, vintage 2015, is perfectly balanced with lush lemon, apple, and pear fruits, smooth body, and a precise amount of new oak. A whopping amount of acidity ensures this wine never even tip-toes near dullness, and the finish is as elegant as they come. This Chardonnay isn't your mom's Tuesday night crutch.

The Intox Report, Chris Kassel, March 7, 2018

Get it quick

2015 Chardonnay

It stands to reason that the high-elevation hoodoo that produces such righteous Riesling might have something to say about Chardonnay as well. In fact, the sample of Smith-Madrone’s 2015 bears it out. Grown at sun-washed, 1,800-foot elevations and on slopes up to 34% grade, the Smith brothers have been harvesting Chardonnay from their estate for 47 years, and call 2015 ‘the most unusual harvest they’ve ever seen.’“To start with, there was no rain, and there have been enormous swings of temperature and of course, there have been fires. This was after a mild winter caused early bud break, followed by protracted bloom and cool weather in spring, which contributed to smaller grape clusters and variable crop size.  Despite the challenges, the color, flavor profiles and chemistry continue to impress us all.” #metoo. The wine offers beautiful tones of ripe citrus behind a crisp concentration of peach, candied lemon, and roasted cashew stone and excellent, resonating texture. Get it quick; only 512 cases made.

Winethropology, Steve McIntosh, March 7, 2018

All the hallmarks of quality winemaking

2015 Chardonnay

Majestic. High quality chardonnay in the classic California style. Intense tropical flavors with glycerine, heavy cream, and solid oak framing. Unapologetically statuesque, bold, and lingering, yet cleanly pressed and bearing all the hallmarks of quality winemaking; nary a stitch out of place. Can be (and best) enjoyed at cellar temperature to appreciate its full profundity.


Grape-experiences, Cindy Rynning, February 28, 2018


2015 Chardonnay

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.

Chardonnay aficionados will crave this latest release. The 2015 harvest began on August 27, a bit early, and was completed on September 16. Because of a mild winter that caused early bud break and a spring season that was cool, smaller grape clusters and variable crop size resulted. Only 512 cases were produced of this beautiful 100% Chardonnay. On the nose, I explored notes of pink grapefruit, bright citrus, pineapple, and tropical fruit. My palate burst with mouthwatering acidity, juicy citrus, a touch of honey and a creamy, yet crisp mouthfeel. The finish, lingering and complex, was remarkable. Aged for 10 months in 80% new French oak, this Chardonnay stuns.

The Armchair Sommelier, Kirsten Georgi, February 22, 2018


2015 Chardonnay

100% Chardonnay.  Aged for 10 months in 80% new French oak.  The second I stuck my nose into this glass, I grinned from ear to ear.  Because I knew it was going to be an acid bomb.  A glorious, mouth-puckering acid bomb.  Laced with flavors of yellow apple, lemon meringue, minerals, and chamomile.  Elegant and edgy at the same time — kind of like Audrey Hepburn.  At 14.9% ABV, I feel like this should be “bigger”, but it’s so well constructed.  Gawd, this is good.  And, it’s only $34.  Seriously.  How is this possible for only $34??

Corkscrew Report, Johannes Marlena, February 20, 2018

A must-have

2015 Chardonnay

For those interested in tasting how a mountain Chardonnay is different in its expression than an archetypal Napa Chardonnay, the Smith-Madrone mountain Chardonnay is a must-have and a relative steal. This is a mountain Chardonnay that’s vivacious, rich and footloose and free. Its color is a brilliant goldenrod, its character broad, buttery smooth, full-bodied and overflowing with flavor, with notes of jackfruit, ripe pineapple, wax, lemon verbena and toffee. Just a ton of personality. Impressively big and bold while structurally solid and high class. The wine’s finish is lengthy with broad tannins—stone fruit notes linger well into the next sip. A Napa Chardonnay that far, far exceeds in quality to its price point.

Washington Post, Dave McIntyre, February 16, 2018


2015 Chardonnay

….take comfort in a luscious California chardonnay…

3 stars: Some chardonnays whack you in the face with an oak two-by-four. Smith-Madrone wraps you lovingly in a warm blanket.

Terroir Review, Meg Houston Maker, February 13, 2018

Concentrated and vital

2015 Chardonnay

Smith-Madrone barrel ferments their Spring Mountain Chardonnay in French oak, 80 percent new, and ages it for ten months. The results are both creamy (from the barrel) and zingy (from its high total acidity; 8 g/L, for the geeks). The aromatics mingle lime peel and grass with cultured cream and butter, plus toasted white spices like white pepper and nutmeg. The texture is juicy and refreshing, while its sluice of citrus and tart yellow stone fruits also carries waves of spice and caramel. It sounds ponderous, but the overall effect is deft. Given the wine’s substance I think it could age a few years, making it, at $34, a good investment. Pair it now with rich shellfish, roasted poultry, creamy young cheeses, or a charcuterie board.

St. Helena Star, February 12, 2018, Catherine Bugue

Beautifully melds the best of both worlds

2015 Chardonnay

This is the perfect Chardonnay to quell any disagreement over whether to pour an oak-influenced or a non-oaked Chardonnay wine. Smith Madrone beautifully melds the best of both worlds with their 2015 from Spring Mountain. Rich pear, and yellow and red apple fruits are supported, but not surpassed, by refined toasty, spicy (cinnamon, faint clove and fresh ginger) complexity.

WineReviewOnline, Rich Cook, February 6, 2018

A gorgeous wine

2015 Chardonnay

A gorgeous wine that reflects the great care and gentle approach in both vineyard and winery.  There's a deep complexity here, with lemon crème, soft apple, softer oak spice, and notes of granite and delicate herbs that are beautifully balanced, all dancing together through a blossoming finish that intensifies the flavors.  The best of the past few vintages is right here, and that's saying something!

Santa Rosa Press Democrat, February 7, Peg Melnik


2015 Chardonnay

Knock-Out Chardonnays: A gorgeous chardonnay with lively notes of ripe apple, melon and mineral. It’s buoyed by bright acid and has a lingering finish. Supple texture. Striking.

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

Lush florals

2015 Chardonnay

Robe:  Pale gold robe.

Nose:  Apricot, nectarine, fleurs blanches.

Palate: Light body, lush florals and stone fruit bouche, unctuous finish.

Smith-Madrone wine 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

Superbly balanced

2015 Chardonnay

Rich golden color. Smells of yellow apples and pears, drizzled with lime, nougat, honeycomb, chalk dust, chamomile, mint — Wow! On the palate, this has such refreshing acidity but the texture is creamy and there’s this tingly mineral depth that is fascinating, superbly balanced. Lemon curd, apricot, yellow apple, rich but nuanced fruit along with honeysuckle, salted almond, chalk dust, saline, candle wax. Lively and precise but packed with flavor and finishes with stony minerals. Always a classic Napa Chard for me, but this vintage is exceptional. Barrel-fermented and aged 10 months in French oak, 80% new, and yes it's 14.9% alcohol but the balance is phenomenal.

International Wine Report, Owen Bargreen, January 2018

Wonderful sense of place

2015 Chardonnay

This wine opens with a bright bouquet of peach pit, Pazzaz apple and honeydew melon. There is lovely balance as the wine offers a wonderful sense of place. Pink Lady apple, banana and creme brûlée flavors impress as they linger on the finish.

SoifKnows, Stephen McConnell, January 11, 2018

A spicy nectar so alive, so focused on mountain typicity

2014 Chardonnay

Golden yellow throwing big petrol coal-fire and rich melon fruit into your face. Dusky petrichor, smoky brittle, dense and filthily fruited with all the sultry nectar chalky nuance and bitter applesauce a wine can muster. Buttery and dense in the nose, with the acid bite apparent before the first taste.

One of my favorite Napa Valley chards, and the REASON IS: it goes with red meat better than a lot of red wines. I have trotted this out on several occasions to represent the main course and–amid much rolling of eyes–it cuts through savory steak and rich reductions better than some of the mainstay reds on the table.

In the mouth, bitter applesauce and persimmon personify the flinty bite of superbly crafted unctuous fermented white–rich but not fat, concentrated but not cloying–and the sultry points of the persimmon and melon complement both the rich fruit nuances of said, but also the vibrant edginess of each.  The sharp acid visible in the bouquet translates firmly mid-palate, where the slow burn of alcohol and tannin prepare you for a decades-long finish reverently awash in sweet fruit and shockingly packed with bitter structure.

If you want your Chardonnay syrupy and collapsing on itself with butter and oak, this is the WRONG bottle to buy. But if you want to THINK about your Chardonnay: a spicy nectar so alive, so focused on mountain typicity and brilliantly churning decadent fruit balanced with terroir, minerality and citrus you might only see in Chablis, THIS is your beast. If you’ve eye-rolled too many times and somewhat given up on California Chardonnay, this is your bottle.

The Drunken Cyclist, Jeff Kralik, December 14, 2017


2014 Chardonnay

For some stupid reason, I have never visited Smith-Madrone. Perhaps it is because it is a relatively new winery (that comment is dripping it sarcasm, it was founded in 1971). Maybe it is because I essentially gave up on Napa Valley several years ago as monstrosity after McWinery was constructed along Route 29. Recently, I have found a few reasons to reconsider the Valley that made the world notice American wine, and Smith-Madrone is right there at the top of the list. This is decidedly a California Chardonnay with plenty of fruit, and plenty of oak (100% new French), but this wine can handle it. Why? Well, it is grown on a mountain where there is a significant diurnal shift, thus maintaining considerable acidity, putting all that oak in its place. Great lemon curd, buttered popcorn, and wet rock. This might not be the ideal wine for the ABC crowd, it is certainly delicious. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.

California Grapevine, January 2018

Highly recommended

2015 Chardonnay

Medium-light golden yellow; toasty, green apple and tropical fruit aroma; medium-full body; apple, apricot, and pineapple flavors with firm acidity, some creaminess and richness in the mouthfeel, and a note of stony minerality; lingering aftertaste. Highly recommended.

WineSplashing, Rick Fillmore, October 2, 2017

94 points

2014 Chardonnay

An elegant, exotic Chardonnay that was all estate grown in the Spring Mountain District using 42 year old vines. This Chardonnay is 100% varietal and was fermented 9 months in new French oak barrels. Wonderful aromas of bright pear, apple, almonds, and toffee. Medium to full bodied across the palate with a creamy mouthfeel. Enticing flavors of tropical fruits, citrus, hints of coconut, vanilla, and a long, toasty oak finish. Pair with Chicken Alfredo, grilled chicken or seafood, pastas with cream sauces and medium to strong cheeses. 94 Points.

Nittany Epicurean, Michael Chelus, October 6, 2017

Great structure and length

2014 Chardonnay

A newcomer to my ongoing series of discovery of some of the great wines of California is the Napa winery, Smith-Madrone. This wine is 100% chardonnay from Napa's Spring Mountain District. The wine was barrel fermented and aged in French oak barrels. The wine was oak aged for 9 months prior to bottling. It comes in at 14.2% ABV. The wine showed a golden color. Apple, lemon, honey, buttery oak and slate were each discernible on the nose. Apple, lemon candy, honey, oak and hay followed on the palate where the apple and citrus flourished on the oaky stage. The wine exhibited good acidity and balance, along with great structure and length. This wine would do well as an aperitif and would pair classically with a roast turkey breast.

WineForNormalPeople, Elizabeth Schneider, July 19, 2017

2014 Chardonnay

A golden straw color, the wine has a strong aroma of vanilla, caramel, butterscotch, and all other things oak.  Underneath the oak climbs out lovely stony minerality, pear, peach, and tropical notes. The acidity is strong, giving the wine a nice balance to the oak and fruit. An excellent wine for those who love oaky Chardonnays but not flabby, one-note, boring ones! This wine is an example of solid oaked Napa Chard.

 Made from their estate grown fruit high atop Spring Mountain, the brothers Smith, who own and operate the winery, are focused and land-oriented. Vines have thrived on the hillsides of their 200 acre property for over 100 years, and not much has changed. Smith Madrone dry farms their estate (they don’t use irrigation/watering), they study terroir – especially slope and soil type – to match the grape to the site, and the result is distinctive wines that have a sense of place.

Vinography, Alder Yarrow, August 6, 2017

Great acidity

2014 Chardonnay

Light yellow-gold in color, this wine smells of buttered popcorn and cold cream. In the mouth, brilliantly juicy flavors of lemon and pink grapefruit are shot through with the saline notes of melted butter and kelp. Lovely pink grapefruit pith lingers with a salty snap in the finish. Great acidity. 14.3% alcohol.

The Wine Guys, August 5, 2017, Philip Kuo

93 points, really delicious and unique mountain Chardonnay

2014 Chardonnay

When you think of Spring Mountain, usually you're not thinking of Chardonnay, but there's nothing wrong with it, especially when it's tasty! Notes of lemon, lime peel, yellow apple, toasted almonds, white florals, crushed rocks, and tropical stone fruit. Incredible mineral-dustiness on the nose, that streamlines through the entire palate. Good weight on the mouthfeel but not overbearing in oak, even though it is very much present and creamy. Good focus and crispness with that huge backbone of minerality and acidity. Really delicious and unique mountain Chardonnay, enjoyable now over the next 5-7 years. Won't break your bank either, don't serve too cold.

Grape-Experiences, Cyndy Rynning, August 3, 2017

Glorious Chardonnay

2014 Chardonnay

I was blown away by the taste sensations of this glorious Chardonnay that spent nine months in 100% new French oak. Elegant aromas of lemon, juicy citrus, apples and pears enticed and I was anxious for that first sip. On the palate, I discovered notes of tropical fruit such as melon and citrus, brilliant acidity, oak, and a creamy, buttery texture. All led to an exceptionally long finish and I savored every moment.

Rockinred Blog, Michelle Williams, July 25, 2017

Rich and round yet balanced 

2014 Chardonnay

Medium- straw; medium+ aromas of orchard fruit, tropical fruit, yellow stone fruit, white floral notes, touch of nutmeg and valencia almonds; loads of juicy citrus and orchard fruit erupt on the palate, fresh and clean, judiciously oaked for maximum pleasure, rich and round yet balanced with medium acidity; medium+ body with long toasty finish.

International Wine Review, June 21, Don Winkler

92 points

2014 Chardonnay

The 2014 Chardonnay is a delicious wine, perfectly balanced, lean and beautifully sculpted with a rich mouth feel. It seamlessly combines ripe orchard fruit and toasted oak in a lovely format that is very food friendly.

WineReviewOnline, Rich Cook, July 4, 2017

95 points

2014 Chardonnay

You may have seen earlier reviews in which I was blathering on and on about the legacy of quality at Smith-Madrone, and there won't be any cessation of the proceedings when it comes to this wine.  In fact, I'd say they've upped the ante with this vintage.  Winemaker Charles Smith increased the lees stirring significantly, and it shows.  He notes that the mountain grown fruit is up to handling more new oak (100% new in 2014) and the stirring seems to bring out more fruit and spice character while retaining a bright elegance, delivering aromas and flavors of apple, lemon crème and spiced pear with a light touch of nut character.  The racy acidity really blows out the finish and keeps your mouth watering for more.  Thirsty yet?  Get some to age as well -- this is going to go long.

Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Peg Melnik, May 17, 2017

Gorgeous and striking

2014 Chardonnay

This is a gorgeous chardonnay, lush yet crisp, a commingling of delicious flavors. Aromas and flavors of pear, apple and mineral. Bright acidity. Supple mouth-feel. Striking.

Dan Berger's Vintage Experiences, May 1, 2017

Wine of the Week

2014 Chardonnay

Chardonnays that are rich and buttery (and soft) became a hallmark style of wine in California in the 1980s and led a charmed life among a coterie of wine lovers who thought Chardonnay was a wine for sipping before dinner. The 1970s style that I was weaned on called for higher acid (less use of malolactic fermentation, or zero ML), and an almost angular, citrus-y aromatic. Very few wineries continue to make this style of wine. Here is one of the finest remaining versions of that style, perfectly presented as a Chablis-ish food wine with superb balance and still a trace of succulence based on mouth-watering crispness. Stu and Charlie Smith have been making this kind of wine for decades with few reviewers going gaga over it. Except me. If you have never tried a wine in this style, now is your best bet.

Good Vitis blog, Aaron Menenberg, April 26, 2017

93 points, top shelf chardonnay at a fantastic value

2014 Chardonnay

The nose dazzles with banana, oak, lemon-lime Sprite, and vanilla bean with nice streaks of flint and smoky white pepper. Super engaging profile. The palate is full with a glycerin sensation but avoids becoming cloying by offering a fine balance of bright acidity, slight grainy tannin and honeyed fruit. The flavors feature Meyer lemon, pineapple, tart Starfruit, nectarine, cider, saline, tarragon, slate and just a bit of chili flake kick. This is top shelf chardonnay at a fantastic value.

Wine Enthusiast, Virginie Boone, June 2017

92 points

2014 Chardonnay

From the producer's dry-farmed mountain vineyard, this wine is crafted from vines planted some 40 years ago. Peach, fig and pear wrap around this medium-weight wine's integrated oak and gravelly texture. The acidity is bright, uplifting and lush enough to find complete balance.

ArmchairSommelier, Kirsten Georgi, April 22, 2017

91 points

2014 Chardonnay

Smith-Madrone's wines are made from well-tended, well-loved, dry-farmed vines. The wines are a lean, elegant, and focused expression of cool climate, mountain terroir. They reflect a consistency and keen sense of place . . . and good stewardship.

This wine underwent bâttonage (lees stirring), which, in addition to being really fun to say, gives a wine irresistible flavors of biscuit and dough. Beautiful nose of green apple, lemon and buttered brioche. Dry and highly textured, with flavors of yellow apple, pear, butterscotch, vanilla and biscuits. The oak is present to support, but not overpower, the fruit. The finish lingers with a passing almond.

BiggerThanYourHead, Frederic Koeppel, April 14, 2017

Excellent, one of my favorite chardonnays to taste in any and every year

2014 Chardonnay

Though this wine saw 100 percent barrel-fermentation and aging in 100 percent new French oak barrels — that’s a lot of wood in my book — the wine feels as if it had been chiseled from the bedrock of the 42-year-old, dry-farmed vineyard whence it originated, while the oak influence feels almost subliminal in lending the wine shape, size and subtle spice. It’s a beautifully proportional chardonnay in every aspect — made from a 42-year-old dry-farmed vineyard — displaying a pale straw-gold hue and enticing aromas of cloves, ripe pineapple and grapefruit with a touch of mango and guava and back-notes of quince and crystallized ginger; these elements segue seamlessly to the palate, where the wine feels etched by bright acidity that cuts a swath and a deeply-hewn, scintillating limestone quality. One of my favorite chardonnays to taste in any and every year.  Excellent.

California Grapevine, April 2017

Highly recommended

2014 Chardonnay

Medium-light golden yellow; assertive, citrus, pear, and apple aroma; medium to medium-full body; crisp, nicely balanced, lemony, pear and apple flavors with bright acidity, a note of minerality, and some plushness in the mouthfeel; lingering aftertaste. 

Winethropology, Steve McIntosh, March 30, 2017

Well-made without being overblown

2014 Chardonnay

High above the valley floor west of St Helena sits the Spring Mountain District, one of Napa Valley's sixteen AVAs.  With steep hillside vineyards reaching altitudes upwards of 1500 feet, this is prime cab country.  And at the very end of Spring Mountain Road is Smith-Madrone. Founded in 1971, Smith-Madrone winery was a pioneer in the practice of dry farming, still a very rare pursuit in California.  That they are able to crank out quality wines - not just cabernet, either - from this location and in this manner is impressive indeed.  Having been up there a couple of times before, a jaunt off the well-trodden route 29 is highly recommended.  Quiet and serene, Spring Mountain feels like the rest of Napa probably did in the seventies. The wines are all made with precision and clarity.  Honesty of place shines through in them all.  Lovely wines.

The few examples I've tasted of Napa Valley Chardonnay grown outside of Carneros have just substantiated why growers like Carneros for chard. Smith-Madrone's proves the notable exception. Its pale straw color and clean nose suggest a lean fleet-footedness.  But one sip disabuses the idea that this is anything less than full tilt archetypal California Chardonnay. Big and full of mouth-filling texture, this flavor monster manages to walk a fine line. Well-made without being overblown, it is awfully hard to put down despite its heft.

GrapeCollective, Chris Barnes, March 23, 2017

A hedonist's delight

2013 Chardonnay

The aroma is pure Chardonnay with subtle undertones of French oak and hints of ripe pear. Tasting confirms that this is a hedonist's delight - big, round, smooth and viscous and with tasty acidity. The palate is very resolved and has a classical Chardonnay aroma that is coupled to big California sunshine flavors.

FermentedFruit, Ryan O'Hara, March 22, 2017

93 points

2014 Chardonnay

From one of my favorite family-owned and operated boutique producers perched high atop Spring Mountain, the wines of Smith-Madrone always have soul and sense of place, at refreshingly accessible price points. Produced from 100% estate-grown Chardonnay from hillside vineyards ranging in elevation from 1,400 to 1,900 feet, it is barrel-fermented for nine months in new French oak. It pours a light straw yellow in the glass. Fragrant aromas of green pear and wet stone mingle alongside white flowers, buttercream and tangerine oil. In the mouth, the juicy core of crisp, bright fruit flavors are carried alongside an undercurrent of stony minerality. Medium-bodied, it benefits from lively acidity and finishes long and clean, with lingering hints of buttercream, tangerine oil and spices. A gorgeous, impeccably-balanced example of Spring Mountain Chardonnay that effortlessly punches above its weight.

Terroirist, Isaac Baker, March 18, 2017

92 points

2014 Chardonnay

Light gold color. Bursts with aromas of lime, orange, peach, dusted with chalk, and there’s definitely a good amount of wood in here, some nougat and honeycomb. Medium/light-bodied (12.8% alcohol) with lovely creaminess and precise acidity. Tart lime and nectarine mixes with yellow apples and rich peaches, and the fruit blends wonderfully with notes of chalk dust, mineral, white tea, and the toasted wood and almond cake notes are woven in very nicely. Long, lingering, delicious finish. This is always a very good Chardonnay, ditto for the 2014 vintage. Fermented and aged 9 months in all new French oak. (92 points IJB)

International Wine Report, June 2016

92 points

2013 Chardonnay

92 points: The 2013 Spring Mountain Chardonnay from Smith-Madrone offers pretty aromas of ripe pear, citrus zest, mineral and hints of vanilla blossom all coming through as this unwinds in the glass. On the palate this is absolutely gorgeous, as it demonstrates remarkable overall balance, focus and clarity through the lively finish. This Chardonnay is absolutely delightful and showing beautifully right now.

BiggerThanYourHead, Fred Koeppel, January 9, 2017


2013 Chardonnay

A selection of 50 products that struck me as embodying everything we want in a wine: freshness, balance, appeal; depth, personality and character; an adherence to the nature of the grapes and, where possible, the virtues of the vineyard and climate. These are wines that leave aside the ego of the winemaker and producer for an expression of — not to sound too idealistic — an ideal of what a wine should be. I won't belabor the process by which I arrived at this list of 50 wines, except to say that every wine I rated "Exceptional" during 2016 is automatically included. Did I leave out wines that I truly admired? Indeed, I did, because this list focuses on wines that I truly loved. Enjoy!

The Somm Journal, Fred Swan, December 2016-January 2017

Authentic, charming and full of character

2014 Chardonnay

Medium-bodied and veryfresh but soft, owing to 100% ML and frequent lees stirring. Look for aromas and flavors of green and yellow apples, lemon blossom, mineral and baking spice.

WineForNormalPeople, Elizabeth Schneider, September 26, 2016

Smith-Madrone makes outstanding wine

2013 Chardonnay

Smith-Madrone makes outstanding wine. Obviously I love it for the quality but I also love that it’s not what you’d expect from a Napa Valley wine...

Pale with thick legs and butterscotch, oak, tropical fruit, lemon, and guava aromas. The fruit and oak (butterscotch) came through on the palate but not in an over-the-top way. With excellent acidity, this wine is a food wine – restrained, bright, medium-bodied and best with something creamy (fancy mac-n-cheese comes to mind).

Drink or sink? Drink. Fabulous and the way oak should be used with the Chardonnay grape.

Food & Spirits Magazine, Mark Gudgel, summer 2016

Some of the best wines I've had in recent memory

2014 Chardonnay

Far more reminiscent stylistically of Chablis than of the Napa Valley from whence it hails, this is what subtlety tastes like. Lovers of cougar juice need not inquire.

NapaFoodandVine, August 16, 2016


2014 Chardonnay

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. Fantastic.

Susan Spinello, LiveLeft, July 12, 2016

So refined and delicious as if some magic occurred

2014 Chardonnay

100% barrel fermented and aged in 100% new French oak for 9 months and yet it is so refined and delicious that it’s as if some magic has occurred, but don’t tell Stu about pixie dust…this is all raw talent. Spice and apples with tropical papaya, lush mango, pear and almonds with a big mouthfeel and long lingering finish.  It’s big and buttery with just the right amount of oak.

Cindy Rynning, Grape-Experiences, April 13, 2016

Gorgeous, absolutely lovely

2013 Chardonnay

From Smith-Madrone Winery in St. Helena is this gorgeous estate grown Chardonnay, the entirety of which was barrel fermented and aged in French oak for 8 months. Aromas of tangerine, pink grapefruit, lemon peel, and almonds were absolutely lovely. Bursting with just-right acidity, notes of butter, oak, and citrus led to a lip-smacking finish that lingered.

The Wine Enthusiast, May 2016

92 points, Editor's Choice

2013 Chardonnay

This wine hails from a dry-farmed estate vineyard planted with 40-year-old-plus vines. An iconic place owned by the Smith brothers, this adds to their well-earned fame and reputation for elegant, interesting wines with a sense of place. Lemon and lime provide crisp, clean freshness, buoyed by apple, almond and pear, a light acidity always nearby.

Richard Jennings, RJOnWine, March 3, 2016

90 points

2012 Chardonnay

90 points: Light lemon yellow color; lemon gelee, vanilla, ripe pineapple, lemon cream, lemon honey nose; rich, creamy textured, lemon gelee, lemon honey, chamomile palate with good acidity; medium-plus finish.

The Armchair Sommelier, Kirsten Georgyi, February 15, 2016

92 points: Smith-Madrone makes precise wines with a keen integrity of place.

2013 Chardonnay

Pale lemon-green color with a just a hint of legs.  The nose is wickedly clean — like a walk in the mountains after a rain. Medium body, with flavors of green apple, pear and melon.  An impressive finish, with vanilla and hazelnut notes as the finale. Strong, yet graceful . . . think Olympic gymnast.

Vinography, Alder Yarrow, February 1, 2016

Breaks the stereotypical mold

2013 Chardonnay

The Smith-Madrone Chardonnay breaks the stereotypical mold, and offers juicy bright citrus fruit without overt oak…Pale, bright greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon curd, and a hint of melted butter. In the mouth, lemon zest, lemon curd, and pink grapefruit flavors mix with a hint of cold cream and fennel. There's a fennel seed note in the finish. Excellent acidity and length.

Rockin Red blog, Michelle Williams, February 3, 2016

Beautifully balanced, a must have Chardonnay

2013 Chardonnay

This Chardonnay was barrel fermented in 100% new French oak from trees in the in central France where the trees grow slowly with tight grain specially selected by Smith-Madrone to match up with their mountain fruit, aged for nine months in those barrels before bottling; hearing that is enough for me to think I am diving into an over-oaked butter Chardonnay. This is not at all the case! This wine poured a glistening golden yellow into the glass; racy aromas of citrus, orchard fruit, melon, baking spices of cinnamon and nutmeg, and a touch of baked pie crust dazzle the nose; the palate is lively with a backbone of minerality, rich acidity leaves a long, zesty finish; beautifully balanced, well-structured and absolutely perfect paired with spinach quiche; 807 cases produced, SRP $32 A Must Have Chardonnay!

Sentinel, Florida, Fred Tasker, January 21, 2016


2013 Chardonnay

Toasty oak, crisp acids, full body, concentrated flavors of ripe apples, long finish.

Fred Koeppel, BiggerThanYourHead, January 16, 2016

A beauty...exceptional

2013 Chardonnay

How do the Smith brothers do it? Normally, I would find a chardonnay that was 100 percent barrel-fermented and aged in 100 percent new French oak barrels (for eight months) undrinkable because of the influence of wood, but Charles and Stuart Smith, who produce only limited bottlings of chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and riesling, manage, once again, to deliver a chardonnay notable for its bright, clean brilliance; its chiseled restraint that still allows for the grape’s natural richness; its lithe, supple juiciness. Perhaps this result has to do with the age of the mountain-side vineyard, where the vines were 41 years old for this vintage, or with the fact that the vineyard is dry-farmed, seeing no irrigation during periods of little rain, so the roots have to struggle to find nutrients and moisture, a sort of vinous variation on the “no pain-no gain” principle. In any case, the Smith-Madrone Chardonnay 2013, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley, is a beauty. The color is pale straw-gold with a faint green tinge; classic aromas of ripe pineapple and grapefruit carry a thread of mango and cloves, with high notes of jasmine, talc and limestone. The intimation of limestone, and its aide-de-camp, flint, in the nose expands righteously on the palate, and combined with chiming acidity produces a chardonnay of crystalline clarity that feels lit from within. Despite the oak regimen, any wood activity lies in subtly shaping and sculpting the wine, a significance as gentle but urgent as a xummer zephyr. Flavors are more stone-fruit — peach, yellow plum — than citrus, and all elements devolve to a long, limpid and luminous finish. 14.1 percent alcohol. An essential chardonnay, exquisite in its parts, elegant in balance, dynamic in total. Production was 806 cases. Drink now through 2018 to 2020. Exceptional.

WineReviewOnLine, Linda Murphy, January 4, 2016

91 points

2013 Chardonnay

It leads with a vanillin, Meyer lemon and tropical fruit nose, and the flavors are similar, with additional pear and apple notes on the palate. A crème brulee note carries through from start to finish, and there is a mouthwatering, sweet-tart character on the finish.  Forty-year-old vines -- a long life for Chardonnay -- produced this bracing wine.

Hawk Wakawaka Wine Reviews, January 3, 2016

One of the treasures of Napa Valley

2013 Chardonnay

Simultaneously racy and succulent, friendly and focused, the Smith-Madrone 2013 Chardonnay offers fresh aromatics with notes of lemon curd and crisp melon set on a toasted oat cracker. Delicious and pretty with a long finish.

Santa Rosa Press Democrat, December 9, 2015

4 stars

2013 Chardonnay

A lovely chardonnay with bright fruit and crisp acidity. Notes of apple, melon and mineral. This elegant style makes it a great companion for holiday feasts.

California Grapevine, December 2015

Very highly recommended

2013 Chardonnay

Medium-light golden yellow; attractive, forward, lemony, pear and baked apple aroma; medium to medium-full body; crisp, lemony, well balanced, green apple flavors with a slight creaminess in the mouthfeel; lingering aftertaste. 

Napa Valley Then & Now by Kelli A. White

Very focused palate

2012 Chardonnay

An especially oak-driven style of Chardonnay. The palate is very focused, almost tight, with a vibrant acidity and a chalky mineral quality in the finish.

The Drunken Cyclist

Very Good to Outstanding. 

2013 Chardonnay

A great nose of pear and lemon meringue pie with a hint of oak. On the palate, great citrus flavors and some mineral notes. The wine is long and flavorful. Those citrus flavors win out in the end, resulting in an impressive wine.

WineChic blog, Katie Curley-Katzman, June 7, 2015

Truly spectacular

2012 Chardonnay

Floral bouquet, lychee, lilac and lime. On the palate, bright, crispy with minerality, citrus peel notes. Every sip taught me something new, pushed me to reach further. This is truly spectacular.

Robert Neralich blog, June 1, 2015

Opulent texture

2012 Chardonnay

Smith-Madrone 2012 Chardonnay has enticing aromas of spice, apple, and pear that lead to luscious lemon, papaya, green apple, and melon flavors accompanied by notes of mineral, honeysuckle, and toast. Its texture is opulent, and its finish is lingering and rich. This wine would make a good companion for most seafood and poultry dishes. by Melissa Vogt, May 28, 2015

Full, enticing, wonderful fruit flavors

2013 Chardonnay

This is exceptional, especially for those who enjoy the influence of oak balanced by terroir-driven characteristics. Spice-filled aromatics of cinnamon, ginger, green apple, honeydew melon and salted lemon leap from the glass. The palate is creamy and full with a lusciously round texture; background notes of caramel, burnt sugar and salted lemon mingle with foreground notes of papaya, green apple, lemon zest, minerality, clove and cinnamon. This Chardonnay is full and enticing, while still maintaining freshness and wonderful fruit flavors. Overall, the new releases from Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery are exquisite and enjoyable, and also pleasantly perfect for stocking up on and putting away in your cellar for a later date. Brothers Stuart and Charles Smith prove once again that terroir-driven wines from mountainous Napa Valley regions allow for winemakers to produce stunning, noteworthy wines of incredible quality.

The Fermented Fruit blog by Ryan O'Hara, May 29, 2015

2013 Chardonnay

91 points: Medium straw yellow in color. There’s an abundance of sweet, ripe aromas bursting from the glass including apples, pears, cantaloupe, and white flowers complemented by hints of lemon curd and wet stone. In the mouth the Smith Madrone Chardonnay is medium to full-bodied with a creamy yet spicy, zesty mouthfeel and a subtle undercurrent of mineral. While the fruit is ripe and rich, it maintains excellent balance and good persistence on the subtly toasty finish. A very good Napa Chardonnay exuding both power and grace. Considering that this sees 8 months in 100% new French oak, it is surprising how well integrated the oak influence is. This boutique Spring Mountain winery is producing stylish wines of substance that emphasize balance and restraint over sheer power.

The Capital Gazette, April 29, 2015, by Tom Marquardt

Most distinctive and delicious

2012 Chardonnay

Out of the many chardonnays we have recently tasted, this one from Napa Valley stands out to us as among the most distinctive — and the most delicious. It boasts layers of tropical fruit, citrus and pears with a hint of mineral and good acidity. Rich in fruit and texture.,0,3804412.story

Enofylz Wine Blog, Martin Redmond, April 16, 2015

Outstanding, 92-95 points

2012 Chardonnay

Pale lemon yellow color with promising green apple, pear. lemon cream, and limestone aromas. On the palate it’s medium-bodied, fresh and harmonious with a creamy texture, and apple, pear, lemon zest, vanilla, a kiss of tropical fruit, and subtle spice flavors. Lingering finish. Outstanding; 92-95 points., by Isaac Baker, March 28, 2015

92 points, a joy to drink

2012 Chardonnay

92 points: Light gold color. Such liveliness on the nose: chalk and crusty sea salt, bright limes, orange zest, lychee, lots of flowers, lumber yard shavings and even some white pepper. Fleshy but clean, with moderate acid, the white peach and lychee fruit mixes with all sorts of pears. Honeybutter and nougat show themselves prominently, but lots of sea salt and chalk notes come out as well. I couldn’t figure out this spice element so I poured the wine for a friend who called it minty. Whatever you call the spice note, it’s a really unique and tasty little signature. 100% new French oak, but this is a clean and bright wine, lots going for it. A joy to drink.

City County Observer, Robert Whitley, March 22, 2015

95 points, one of the finest Chardonnays I've yet tasted from this top-notch Napa Valley winery

2012 Chardonnay

Smith-Madrone may be more renowned for its cabernet sauvignon and riesling, but its chardonnay takes a back seat to no one. Spring Mountain is no stranger to world-class chardonnay, either, with Stony Hill, the neighboring vineyard, long holding sway among California chardonnay producers. This vintage of Smith-Madrone shows a toasty note on the nose, with a lemon oil nuance that is present in most great California chardonnays. With a stony mineral quality as well, this is one of the finest chardonnays I’ve yet tasted from this top-notch Napa Valley winery.

TheArmchairSommelier, March 7, 2015

92 points, lean and elegant with superb acidity and a graceful oak presence

2012 Chardonnay

92 points:  100% Chardonnay.  Fermented in new French oak for 8 months.  Pale amber color.  The nose is somewhat restrained — some faint buttered toast and pears.  Lean and elegant, with superb acidity and a graceful oak presence.  Definitely more to an old world style than new.  Creamy mouthfeel with flavors of lemon curd and allspice, I feel like I’m drinking a lemon meringue pie. Finishes with a wedge of minerals that goes on for a minute (which is as long as I could wait before having another sip).  Retail price = $32 (bargain alert!).

Michelle Williams, Rockin Red blog, January 19, 2015

Well-crafted, powerful flavors

2012 Chardonnay

This wine poured a straw yellow into the glass and opened with rich aromas of toasted oak, cedar, minerals, and orchard fruit. On the palate this Chardonnay delivered powerful flavors of oak, slightly burnt-buttered toast, with Granny Smith apples, pears and crushed stone. It was certainly not a big fruit, buttery Chardonnay; rather, it was very earthy and driven with minerals and oak. It was round on the palate with a ripe acidity and elegant dryness on the finish. From my experience it tasted more like the Willamette Valley Chardonnays I have enjoyed rather than many of the over-done Napa Valley Chardonnays. I recommend this wine to all of you who, like me, prefer a well-crafted, less fruity, not buttery, Chardonnay.

Bacchus and Beery blog, February 5, 2015

92 points: plush mouth-feel paired with juicy acidity

2012 Chardonnay

92 points: A very balanced Chardonnay offering a plush mouth-feel paired with juicy acidity. Fermented and aged in French oak from dry-farmed estate fruit. Pleasing aromas of red apple, pear and a touch of baking spice. Creamy on the palate with flavors of red apple, pear and tropicals with hints of spice. Vanilla creme in the long finish.

Chris Kassel, Intox Report, January 2, 2014

An exquisite Napa Chardonnay with a textbook California unctuousness balanced by cool-climate crispness

2012 Chardonnay

The wine opens with a blast of lemon custard, vanilla and honey, leading to concentrated blend of peach and and citrus acid framed by malo cream.  This is an exquisite Napa chardonnay with a textbook California unctuousness balanced by cool-climate crispness—a wine that take cues from Burgundy, but signs it with an expression of pure, New World clarity….. Try the following as an introduction to the nuances of vintage and the alpine amplitude of Smith-Madrone’s wines.  They are wines that define the region, from a winery that is not only on top of Spring Mountain, but also, on top of their game.

Mary Ewing-Mulligan, WineReviewOnline, December 30, 2014

90 points

2012 Chardonnay

I love the wines from this wine estate perched high in the western mountains of Napa Valley, where old vines grow in volcanic and rocky soils mainly without irrigation.  This 2012 Chardonnay is my favorite style from that grape: a dry wine with a strong backbone of acidity and yet rich, creamy texture and vivid fruit flavors.  It was barrel-fermented in all-new French oak, but the toasty character of oak does not silence the flavors of the grapes -- ripe lemon, tropical fruits, ripe apple and a floral character.  I also notice a savory stoniness in the wine’s flavor, and notes of white pepper spice.  Despite its reasonable price, this is not a Chardonnay to be taken lightly.

Robert Whitley, WineReviewOnLine, December 30, 2014

95 points

2012 Chardonnay

Smith-Madrone may be more renowned for its Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling, but its Chardonnay takes a back seat to no one. Spring Mountain is no stranger to world class Chardonnay, either, with Stony Hill, the neighboring vineyard, long holding sway among California Chardonnay producers. This vintage of Smith-Madrone shows a toasty note on the nose, with a lemon oil nuance that is present in most great California Chardonnays. With a stony mineral quality as well, this is one of the finest Chardonnays I've yet tasted from this top-notch Napa Valley winery.

Jameson Fink, blog, December 14, 2014

Oak is Chardonnay's friend

2012 Chardonnay

Pretty dang toasty, but with a very lime-y liveliness in both smell and finish that really balanced it out. A fascinating example of Napa Chardonnay that kept me guessing (in a good way) with each sip. I imagine this being a nice wine to revisit in a year or two. OAK IS CHARDONNAY’S FRIEND.

Vinography, Alder Yarrow, December 7, 2014

An exceptional wine in the 2012 vintage

2012 Chardonnay

In particular the Smith Madrone Chardonnay stood out as an exceptional wine in the 2012 vintage….Pale gold in color, this wine smells of wet chalkboard, oatmeal, and lemon curd. In the mouth, electrically bright flavors of lemon juice and pink grapefruit have a faint herbal quality to them as if strained through chamomile. Very pretty with excellent acidity. Will likely age beautifully.

Le Sommelier Fou blog, David Pelletier, November 2014

Good acidity with a creamy mouthfeel

2011 Chardonnay

Pale yellow color with green highlights, beautiful tears on the glass. Aromas of oak, lanolin, tarragon, fresh pineapple, lemon and green apple. Good acidity, with a creamy mouthfeel. Light oak, with flavors of lemon, green apple and wool. Long. Drink now or within eight to nine years.

Wine & Spirits Magazine, October 2014

93 points, Best Buy, Year's Best Chardonnay

2011 Chardonnay

A big Napa Valley chardonnay, this has enough power in its fruit to hold the toasty, leesy oak influence in check. There’s a broad feel of alcohol, with mineral freshness to keep it clean, focused on a range of fruit flavors, from yellow apple and nectarine to chamomile, marzipan and orange marmalade. Air brings out a refreshing character in the wine, as juicy as a Bartlett pear or a white peach. Decant this for meaty fish, like a seared albacore steak.

RedefinedWine, October 17, 2014

Great representation of what a Cali chard can be

2011 Chardonnay

Great representation of what a Cali chard can be...Charlie and Stu know how to do it.

Vivino, October 2014

A winner...This wine will educate your palate about what California Chardonnay can be.

2012 Chardonnay

This one is a winner. So much Chardonnay from California can boast only the simple oak-n-butter profile, but this little beauty has considerably more to say. The traditional flavors were certainly present, but they were in harmony with a floral nose and diverse combination of fruit flavors such as honeydew, mild peach, and more. In my opinion, this wine will educate your palate about what California Chardonnay can be.

The Prince of Pinot, Rusty Gaffney, February 2014

93 points, beautifully balanced

2011 Chardonnay

93 points: Moderate golden yellow color and clear in the glass. This wine is about the soil and uniquely reflects the terroir. The nose is replete with aromas of iron, paraffin, peach and citrus. Crisp and bright on the palate, with layered flavors of lemon, green apple, spice, and iron. Beautifully balanced with a remarkably long finish for a Chardonnay. This wine can be cellared for several years, but drinks beautifully now.

American Winery Guide by Martin Redmond, August 2014

Harmonious and zesty

2011 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.

James Melendez, The Wine Guy, August 11, 2014

9.3 out of 10

2011 Chardonnay

Beautiful flavor characteristics...a testament to smaller producers....

Enofylz blog, Martin Redmond, March 26, 2014

92 points

2011 Chardonnay

  • 92 points: 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., June 2014, by Michael Godel

Yes the toast is high but so is the quality

2011 Chardonnay

Holy reductive toast Napa man. Aromas of buttered toast, glade, duck fat and pencil graphite, which I must say is one stellar note. Flavours of ripe Mutsu (specifically) apple and a resinous chew of late autumn sweet forest needles. Yes the toast is high but so is the quality. Don’t blame the barrel, he’s just the messenger. A great Chardonnay for shellfish and molluscs of the briny kind. Linger on in your golden yellow eyes., June 2014, by Steve Thurlow

A beautiful, very fine California Chardonnay

2011 Chardonnay

This is a beautiful very fine Californian chardonnay with a lot of class. It has a complex nose of melon and pineapple fruit with well integrated oak plus nutty and caramel tones with some herbal hints. The palate is very smooth with the fruit well balanced by firm acidity and minerality. It is very understated with a chalky texture and herbal tone with excellent length. Try with sautéed seafood or roast poultry. Best 2014 to 2015., June 2014, by David Lawrason

Excellent focus and length

2011 Chardonnay

From a mature vine site high on Spring Mountain, this maturing chardonnay presents complex aromas of dried earth/forest floor, pecan nuttiness and a touch of caramel. Not an exuberantly fruity style. It's medium full bodied, firm and dry - a wine with solid structure and some poise within a bigger style. I like how it hangs together and the excellent focus and length. Should drink well for another three to five years., June 2014 by John Szabo, MS

Substantially savoury and saliva-inducing qualities 

2011 Chardonnay

A wine of substantially savoury and saliva-inducing qualities - this has some genuine cut and class. This has more than sufficient acids and flavour stuffing to see it integrate over the next 1-3 years. I like the palpable chalky texture and the resinous herbs - much more than just fruit and oak, and a pleasure to drink. Decant if serving now.

Toronto Star, Gordon Stimmel, June 7, 2o014

A stunner

2011 Chardonnay

A stunner. Lifted lemon, coconut, beeswax, melon, peach and baked bread aromas are amazing. Then the super silky flavours deliver citronella, vanilla, cling peach, golden apple and lime zest. Did I mention the undertones of limestone, such as a rain-lashed crushed gravel driveway?

Vinography, May 1, 2014

Excellent acidity and brightness

2011 Chardonnay

Pale gold in color, this wine smells of cold cream, lemon curd, and melted butter. In the mouth, bright lemon zest and lemon curd flavors mix with wet stones and grapefruit pith. Excellent acidity and brightness, with a nice airy finish. Only the faintest hint of toasted oak wafts above the juicy fruit. Score: between 9 and 9.5.

Wine & Spirits Magazine, June 2014

93 points and Best Buy

2011 Chardonnay

A big Napa Valley chardonnay, this has enough power in its fruit to hold the toasty, leesy oak influence in check. There’s a broad feel of alcohol, with mineral freshness to keep it clean, focused on a range of fruit flavors, from yellow apple and nectarine to chamomile, marzipan and orange marmalade. Air brings out a refreshing character in the wine, as juicy as a Bartlett pear or a white peach. Decant this for meaty fish, like a seared albacore steak.

The Daily Meal, March 12, 2014, by Gabe Sasso

Impeccably proportionate

2011 Chardonnay

The Smith-Madrone 2011 Chardonnay was produced from mountain fruit. All of the chardonnay came from Smith-Madrone’s property. The chardonnay vines had 39 years of age on them at the time of harvest. The wine was fermented and aged in entirely new French oak over a period of eight months. They bottled 463 cases of the 2011 chardonnay and it has a suggested retail price of $30. Stone fruit, apple, and citrus zest aromas leap convincingly from the nose of this 2011 chardonnay. The sumptuous, focused, and driven palate is laced with apple, peach, and mineral characteristics galore. White melon, limestone, and spices such as clove and nutmeg emerge on the crisp, lengthy finish. This is a chardonnay rich in pure fruit flavors. What I love about this particular chardonnay is that it’s impeccably proportionate and laced with deeply layered, intense fruit flavors. Napa Valley turns out oodles of chardonnay, and the producers of those wines make all sorts of stylistic choices; this is easily one of best four or five chardonnays in Napa Valley every year. One vintage after another the Smith-Madrone chardonnay is simply one of a handful of best examples in Napa. It’s a complex, fruit driven wine that is enhanced rather than overwhelmed by the oak treatment it receives.

Isaac James Baker's blog, January 2014

92 points: ...A brave wine that challenges -- and rewards -- my palate.

2010 Chardonnay

Isaac James Baker chose Smith-Madrone as one of the wineries which 'wowed' him in 2013:

2013 was a great year, wasn't it? Over the course of the year I tasted a lot of amazing wines and toured many a beautiful California vineyard. As a writer for the daily wine blog Terroirist, I blind-tasted my way through a lot of samples in 2013, most of which hailed from CA. I found myself gravitating toward several producers who put out consistently awesome wines, regardless of vintage or grape variety.

Founded in 1971, Smith-Madrone's winery is located on Spring Mountain, west of St. Helena. The operation is run by brothers Stuart Smith, managing partner and vineyard manager, and Charles Smith III, winemaker. They dry farm their estate vineyards, which line steep slopes between 1,300 and 2,000 feet in elevation. Their mountain wines are dynamic, lively and they show a refreshing sense of purity and minerality.

92 points: The fruit smells honeyed and rich, yet these shaved lime peel, sea shell and peanut brittle notes demand attention as well. It all combines in a beautiful aromatic display. This Chardonnay introduces itself by barging through the door, with pineapple, melon, honey, and mixed nuts from the oak. (It spends 8 months in 100% new French oak). But it's still bright from the acid, which is crucial to have in wines with this kind of intensity. Orange peel, seashell, caramel and hazelnut linger long onto the finish. A brave wine that challenges — and rewards — my palate.

Isaac James Baker's blog, January 2014


2011 Chardonnay

5 California Wineries That Wowed Me in 2013

2013 was a great year, wasn’t it? Over the course of the year I tasted a lot of amazing wines and toured many a beautiful California vineyard. As a writer for the daily wine blog Terroirist, I blind-tasted my way through a lot of samples in 2013, most of which hailed from CA. I found myself gravitating toward several producers who put out consistently awesome wines, regardless of vintage or grape variety.

Founded in 1971, Smith-Madrone’s winery is located on Spring Mountain, west of St. Helena. The operation is run by brothers Stuart Smith, managing partner and vineyard manager, and Charles Smith III, winemaker. They dry farm their estate vineyards, which line steep slopes between 1,300 and 2,000 feet in elevation. Their mountain wines are dynamic, lively and they show a refreshing sense of purity and minerality.

91 points: Gold-yellow color with viscous legs. Aromas of whipped honey, pear, apricot and nougat, mixed in with a hint of limestone or chalk. On the palate, the yellow apple and pear fruit is coated in nougat, peanut shell and a distinct macadamia nut flavor. There’s a nice kick to the acid, though, offering some balance. I like this lemon zest and chalk note as well. Bold, but not heavily creamy. Interesting because it’s toasty, but still tangy, and offering some mineral and rock accents. Long finish with notes of honeycomb and toffee. Barrel-fermented and aged 8 months in 100% new French oak.

Purely Domestic Wine Report, Doug Wilder, December 2013

Palate is clean, lean and crisp

2011 Chardonnay

A dry Chablis-like nose of gravel, grains, lemon and licorice. The palate is clean, lean and crisp with stone fruit pit and a very dry mid-palate and toasted lemon on the finish. Drink 2014 – 2020.

Bacchus and Beery wine blog, January 14, 2014

Another outstanding effort

2011 Chardonnay

91 points: Another outstanding effort, especially for those Chardonnay drinkers who prefer balanced oak and acidity. A subtle nose of mom’s apple pie. The red apple notes extend to the palate and round mouth-feel complemented with flavors of ripe pineapple and oaky vanilla. Again, red apple on the finish with hints of baking spice and cinnamon.

BiggerThanYourHead blog, Frederic Koeppel, January 7, 2014

Exceptional. One of Top 50 Great Wines of 2013.

2011 Chardonnay

“50 Great Wines of [The Year]” is a post I look forward to, even though its production is fraught with anxiety. “Fraught with anxiety!” you exclaim. “FK, you get to taste and write about terrific wines all year long! This task should be easy!” Look, my apostrophe-addicted friend, I started with a list of 76 potentially great wines and had to eliminate 26 of them. It was painful; it hurt my brain and my spirit. Even now, going back over this post just before I click the PUBLISH button, I am wracked by indecision and regret. On the other hand, life is about choices, n’est-ce pas, and we all have to knuckle down and make those choices, difficult as the job may be.

I reviewed 624 wines in 2013. How did I choose, for “50 Great Wines of 2013,” the 22 examples to add to the 28 rated Exceptional? By reading again every review I wrote over the past year, by weighing the description and the language, by revisiting my memory of the wine, by looking for wines that possessed that indescribable quality of charisma, that combination of personality and character that distinguish a great wine.

NowandZin blog by Randy Fuller, January 2014

Palate is gorgeous

2011 Chardonnay

Featuring a petty yellow-green tint in the glass, this Chardonnay offers a nose of apples, peaches and a touch of vanilla spice.  The palate is gorgeous, with nice oak flavors layered over lovely green apple and white peach notes.  A little citrus - in the form of lime and tangerine - lingers on the finish. The wine is not big and buttery, but the oak definitely shows.  Minerality - a hallmark of a cooler vintage – also makes itself known. by Robert Whitley, December 5, 2013

Uncompromising integrity

General Chard Comment

Smith-Madrone Vineyards is owned and operated by Stuart and Charlie Smith, who founded the winery 42 years ago on Spring Mountain, overlooking the Napa Valley village of St. Helena. They make three wines: cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and riesling. The brothers have uncompromising integrity in the vineyards and the cellar, and they believe even great wine should be affordable. Hence, the Smith-Madrone wines are priced well below the market for estate-grown Napa Valley wines with so much history behind them.

Now and Zin blog by Randy Fuller

The palate is gorgeous

2011 Chardonnay

Featuring a petty yellow-green tint in the glass, this Chardonnay offers a nose of apples, peaches and a touch of vanilla spice.  The palate is gorgeous, with nice oak flavors layered over lovely green apple and white peach notes.  A little citrus - in the form of lime and tangerine - lingers on the finish. The wine is not big and buttery, but the oak definitely shows.  Minerality - a hallmark of a cooler vintage – also makes itself known.

BiggerThanYourHead blog by Frederic Koeppel

Exceptional...a divine wine

2011 Chardonnay

Damn this was good! LL made pappardelle with chanterelles; I opened the Smith-Madrone 2011 Chardonnay. Ka-wham! Synergy. Meeting of true minds. Cosmic twins. Sublime dish with a divine wine. I could probably stop there, but you know I won't. The wine is made from a high-elevation dry-farmed - that means no irrigation - vineyard planted 39 years ago. What's remarkable is that the wines went through complete barrel-fermentation and aged in 100 percent new French oak barrels, yet it retains no sense of being woody or over-oaked or stridently spicy; those excellent mature grapes soaked up that oak and came out as a supple, subtly spicy and deeply nuanced chardonnay. The color is brilliant medium gold; aromas of pineapple, grapefruit and roasted lemon carry notes of jasmine and camellia, a hint of cloves, a bell-tone of mango. The wine is unusually dense and substantial without being heavy or viscous; it's quite dry, almost tannic in effect, but it feels permeated with light and grace and elegance, a lithe and resonant construct of stones and bones, which is to say, abandoning metaphor, that it's thoroughly enlivened by bright acidity and scintillating limestone minerality. The Smith brothers do it again. Ablout $30, a price more than fair for the quality.

Wines by Benito blog, Benjamin Carter

Round mouthfeel...a long finish

2011 Chardonnay

100% fermentation in French oak gave this California Chardonnay a nose of buttered popcorn with a touch of vanilla. Beneath that are scents of warm roasted peaches. Mild acidity and a round mouthfeel lead to a long finish. I found that it was a great match for Dad's pecan-smoked turkey.

Food For The Spirit and the Soul, blog by Robert Neralich

Equal parts power and finesse

2010 Chardonnay

Consequent to having been aged in 100% new French oak barrels, this has notes of vanilla and toast among its lively apple aromas, and these vanilla and toast notes complicate the wine's generous pear, apple, tropical fruit and spice flavors. Equal parts power and finesse, this richly-textured Chardonnay would be an ideal companion for meals featuring salmon, sea bass or poultry.