Chardonnay Reviews

Oded's Wine Reviews, Oded Cohen, January 8, 2022

Complexity and more

2017 Chardonnay

A pretty deep gold in color.  Fruity nose with red and yellow apples, citrus, herbs, spices, toasted oak, marzipan, light vanilla and white pepper. Lovely nose.  Full bodied and creamy with medium acidity and long fat legs. Dry on the palate with citrus, limes, vanilla, oak, lemons, apples, pears, spices, bitter herbs and black pepper. Medium plus in length on the finish with almonds.  This is a very enjoyable Chardonnay from Napa Valley. Showing a nice mouthfeel with nice complexity. Easy drinking and good by itself or with food. A good quality wine, tangy and spicier than I expected.

NittanyEpicurean, Michael Chelus, January 1, 2022

Great acidity and balance

2017 Chardonnay

Following barrel fermentation, the wine was aged for ten months in French oak barrels (85% new). It comes in at 14.6% ABV. The wine showed a bright yellow color. Apple, cedar, honey, lemon, blood orange and oak all arrived on the nose. Apple, lemon curd, honey, blood orange, oak and hints of dried apricot followed on the palate where the citrus and honey stole the show. The wine exhibited great acidity and balance. It was light-bodied and demonstrated good length. This wine would pair wonderfully with a roast chicken stuffed with sage and garlic.

PullThatCork, December 20, 2021, Nancy Brazil

Brilliant acidity balances the rich flavors

2017 Chardonnay

Medium golden with generous aromas of stone fruit, grilled pineapple and toast. Flavors include ripe peaches and hints of pineapple supported by toasty notes and abundant citrusy acidity with a round mouthfeel. Flavors have become concentrated and rich with time in the bottle. There is no denying the oak influence in this wine, but the oak is skillfully used and results in delicious flavors. The generous fruit flavors are supported, not overwhelmed by toasty oak flavors and the brilliant acidity of the wine balances the rich flavors. The wine’s golden color hints at its age, but the flavors are lively. 100% Chardonnay was barrel fermented and aged 10 months in French oak, 85% new.

Brothers Stu and Charles Smith have been making wine on Spring Mountain above Napa Valley since the early 1970s. The mountainside location sets Smith-Madrone apart from the valley and so does the brothers’ winemaking style. They make Cabernet Sauvignon in an elegant, old-world style along with lively, oaked Chardonnay and Riesling — yes, Riesling, because they both really love Riesling. Their wines don’t chase current fads in winemaking. Stu and Charles make wines they love to drink and you will too. Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery has been a true labor of love. When Stu first walked the property in 1970 it was forested. Vineyards planted in the prior century had long since been reclaimed by the forest, but Stu recognized the fundamentals of a great vineyard site: soil, climate and elevation. Charles joined Stu at the winery in 1972 and is the winemaker. The vineyard is essentially dry-farmed and located between 1,300 and 2,000 feet above sea level on the upper reaches of Spring Mountain in the Mayacamas Mountains west of Napa Valley. Some of the steepest parts of the vineyard sit at a 34% slope. The red Aiken clay loam soil runs deep, is volcanic in origin, rocky and well-drained. The first vines were planted in 1972 and included Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir, which was grafted over to Chardonnay in 1986. Merlot and Cabernet Franc were added in 1998 and Petit Verdot in 2007. Each variety is planted at the optimal elevation and exposure: Chardonnay on the coolest north-facing slopes, east-facing slopes for Riesling, and Cabernet Sauvignon is planted on flat, south and west-facing exposures. All wines are sourced entirely from estate vineyards. Annual production is 3,000 to 4,000 cases. The mountainside vineyards and winery are beautiful and provide sweeping views of the Napa Valley below.

In 2021 Stu and Charlie celebrated the 50th anniversary of Smith-Madrone. Over those 50 years the Smiths have come to know Spring Mountain well. They have watched as the climate changed and wildfires increased in intensity and number. But they did more than watch, they made a plan to defend their property against wildfires. In October 2020 they were forced to execute that plan of defense when the Glass Fire skipped across the valley and up Spring Mountain. It was a harrowing time that could well have resulted in destruction of the winery. But it didn’t. Their 50th anniversary celebration must have been all the sweeter having survived the inferno.

Piedmont Post, November 3, 2021, Pierre DuMont

Perfect balance between butter-bomb and lean stainless steel style of Chardonnay

2017 Chardonnay

To me this wine strikes the perfect balance between the fat butter-bomb style and the lean acidic stainless steel style of Chardonnay. It has aromas of caramel and butterscotch with peach and apricot flavors on the palate. It has good balance and structure and a long, lingering finish. The perfect partner to roast chicken.

Dr. Owen Bargreen,, November 2021


2017 Chardonnay

92 points: Sourced from this stony, volcanic site at the top of Spring Mountain, the 2017 Chardonnay shows off ripe nectarine tones alongside vanilla cream and shades of roasted pineapple on the nose. The palate is full-bodied and viscous with a great veil of tension and salty undertones. Soft and rich on the mouth, with lemon rind and Macadamia nut accents, this is gorgeous to consume now and will cellar well over the next eight plus years, picking up nutty and earthy tones as it lies in the cellar. Drink 2021-2029.

Meridith May, The Somm Journal, December 2021

A layered, structured wine

2017 Chardonnay

94 points: From steep, rocky soil, dry-farmed estate vineyards on top of Spring Mountain, this 10-month French oak-aged white offers aromas of butter pecan and lemon oil. Rich notes of banana cream pie, lemon verbena, salted pears, and honeyed peaches make for a layered, structured wine. Acidity performs well and the finish is crisp. 

Pamela Riley, FoodandWineChronicles, August 2021

Exquisite, incredible complexity

2017 Chardonnay

Aromas of yellow apples, burnt caramel, and hazelnut reminiscent of a holiday tart. Zesty notes of citrus peel, tart green apple, pineapple, vanilla, baking spices, and hints of toast on the palate. The finish is lengthy, with citrus carrying through. Riveting acid. Tingly, almost peppery end. This wine has nice minerality, incredible complexity, and structure and is super balanced.....these wines were exquisite.... perfect for summer sipping. However, I could see myself drinking them year-round. The empty bottle happened way too soon. Both are lovely with or without food and a great value.

Planet Grape Wine Review, Catherine Fallis, September 15, 2021

Notes of yellow apple, peach, papaya, almond croissant, cinnamon and nutmeg.

2017 Chardonnay

91 points: Full, creamy, fresh and dry with notes of yellow apple, peach, papaya, almond croissant, cinnamon and nutmeg.

CaliforniaDateNight, August 3, 2021

An absolute stunner

2017 Chardonnay

Add this gorgeous old world style Estate Grown Chardonnay from Smith-Madrone in the Spring Mountain District of Napa Valley to your next summer picnic date and thank us later! This is what Chardonnay is supposed to taste like…. This mineral driven wine has layers of golden apple, stone fruits, butterscotch, vanilla and lemon curd with a bit of nuttiness on the finish. These elements work together, none overwhelming the others. The rich flavors are delicately restrained by the acidic bite by which it pays homage to the grape’s French background. An absolute stunner! The Smith-Madrone Chardonnay will pair nicely with rich semi-soft cheeses, grilled chicken dishes or a creamy Pasta Carbonara.

The Wine Guys, August 5, 2021

Everything we want in California Chardonnay

2017 Chardonnay

94 points:  Trends are temporary, but old school is here to stay—and with this Chardonnay from Smith Madrone, it’s everything we want in California Chardonnay. Notes of Meyer lemon, lemon curd, white florals toasted oak, crushed rock, citrus peel, apple, and hazelnut. Lucious and rich orchard fruit on the palate that gives an upfront weight which screams California until you reach that mid-palate with warm, toasty aromas that gets enveloped with a wave of acidity. Well structured, we found that the wine really came into form on day two—when we left about half the bottle out. More of that stony mineral notes near the finish that really cleans up the character of this wine. One of the great Chardonnays of Napa, and a true gem for the price. Classic California, give it an hour or two in the decanter if you can.

Brianne Cohen, Bri's Best Bottles, June 16, 2021

Restrained and Old World in style

2017 Chardonnay

Smith-Madrone is a pioneer of Napa Valley, especially Spring Mountain, which can be cooler than the rest of the Valley because of elevation. A Napa Chardonnay for those who don’t dig Napa Chardonnay. Restrained and Old World in style. The fermentation starts in stainless steel tanks and then moves to barrel to complete the fermentation. It is then aged in 85% new French oak for 10 months. How do we get a “not too oaky” Chardonnay with that much new oak? The secret is that they source tightly grained barrels, which impart less oak aromas and flavors than looser grained ones. I learned something new today with that tidbit!

MyRedWineGuys, June 3, 2021

A wine for the Chardonnay lover

2015 Chardonnay

With the first smell and taste you can tell this clear golden wine was aged in French oak. Not a butter bomb by all means, but definitely a wine for the Chardonnay lover.

Rich Mauro, Colorado Springs Gazette, June 3, 2021

A fabulous value

2017 Chardonnay

From a dry farmed, mountain-grown estate vineyard, the wine shows light oak notes preceding intense, tangy fruit, a touch of almond and a graceful palate. A fabulous value.

The Chalk Report, Andy Chalk, May 26, 2021

Lasting and satisfying

2017 Chardonnay

Consistency might be the watchword at Smith-Madrone, a winery that perennially turns out good quality wines at non-stratospheric prices. This chardonnay will win over most schools of chardonnay lover. While in an indubitably New World style it doesn’t mask the intrinsic qualities of this remarkable grape, resulting in satisfaction on several levels. Appearance: Deep gold. Nose: Intense tropical fruit (mango, pineapple). Lemon, ripe apricot, vanilla. Palate: As well as confirming the fruit in the nose this wine has a pronounced phenolic backbone. This translates into a lasting, satisfying finish.

Drinkhacker, Christopher Null, May 13, 2021

A distinct food-friendliness

2017 Chardonnay

A touch of spice up top gives this fairly traditional, moderately oaked chardonnay some pep, with thick notes of vanilla and a solid punch of lemon curd quickly developing on the palate. Some melon and strong honeysuckle notes emerge on the finish, with biting acidity and added lemon peel notes giving the wine a distinct food-friendliness.

John Jackson, April 25, 2021, AttorneySomm Instagram

Impressive, full bodies and opulent, yet well-balanced with ample acidity

2017 Chardonnay

I recently tasted the 2017 Chardonnay. Smith-Madrone has 7.5 acres of Chardonnay vines. Because Chardonnay performs best in cooler temperatures, these Chardonnay vines were strategically planted in the coolest vineyard on the estate with north-facing slopes.
The 2017 Chardonnay is impressive! The flavor profile was almost as rich as the golden hue. The intriguing flavor profile included pineapple, peach, Meyer lemon, blood orange peel, honeysuckle, oak and spice mix. There was a rich, creamy mouthful. This wine was full-bodied and opulent, yet well-balanced with ample acidity! This wine paired perfectly with perfect weather and a lazy Saturday on the patio!

The best view comes after the hardest climb. Or in the case of Napa's Spring Mountain, after a hard drive up a long and winding mountain road! But once you reach the summit you can enjoy spectacular views and equally impressive wines! Near the top of Spring Mountain, for example, you will find Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery. Founded 50 years ago, Smith-Madrone has 34 acres of vineyards on its 200-acre ranch. The vineyards are planted on steep slopes at elevations ranging from 1,300-2,000 feet. Smith-Madrone was an early proponent of dry farming. Dry farming causes the grapevines to struggle and search of water and nutrients. The result is lower yields with small grapes that have high skin-to-juice ratios and produce concentrated fruit. This fruit, in turn, leads to wine with greater intensity and concentration than wine made from grapes that are the product of high yields.

Kathleen Wilcox, April 22, 2021, Instagram

Caramelized white flowers

2017 Chardonnay

Sun-yellow, peaches, apricots, buttered toasted biscuits, caramelized white flowers, earth and pears.

EveWine101, Eve Bushman, April 16, 2021

Wowza, I want this one again

2017 Chardonnay

Sweet cream, vanilla bean, crème brûlée, unsweetened butter – just a lot of vanilla/dairy notes on the nose that I found really interesting. From there I also got toasted oak, caramel candy, fresh sliced apple and pears in light syrup. Wasn’t sure what to expect from the taste but in I went…and found a full and round mouthfeel, mild acidity – not as much creaminess as I expected from the nose but wholly pleasant – some earth, the pears and apple again as well as a hint of buttery corn on the cob. And hour later my husband and I were just finishing the bottle, and even with less chill on the wine, it was still being discussed. Wowza, I want this one again. I had this with a Falafel burger with lettuce, pickles and tomatoes. Again, it was perfect.

LM Archer Instagram, March 29, 2021

Vivid well-constructed wine

2017 Chardonnay

Ambered gold robe. Burled butterscotch, vanilla and creme brûlée on the nose. Unctuous golden apple and stone fruit compote on the palate, lingering through to the finish.
A vivid, well-constructed wine that pairs well with rich cheeses or creamy pasta dishes.

DrinkNatureInPhotography, February 23, 2021

Dancing with texture...really lovely on all accounts

2017 Chardonnay

Alluring and soft this delicious acid-driven Chardonnay, which is made from Smith Madrone's dry-farmed estate, has just the right amount of citrus, spice and smoke layered in with the green and stone fruit aromas and flavors. Tangy and dancing with texture from the barrel fermentation I really enjoyed the succulent finish and intriguing nuances that kept inviting me in for another sip. This Chardonnay was really lovely on all accounts

CaliforniaWinesandWineries, Michael Kelly, February 3, 2021

Layers of complexity and structure

2017 Chardonnay

Once in the glass you are greeted by a shiny golden straw color with light-medium viscosity. The clarity of the wine is pronounced.  On the nose, honeysuckle and a muted lemon are the key aromas. Once in the palate, this is where this “clean gem” shines. Light oak (aged 10 months in 85% new French), minerality (the entire estate is dry farmed), a light creaminess of beeswax with hints of green apple and peach. The finish is crisp and lively like an upbeat jazz tune. Layers of complexity and structure are evident in this wonderful wine. This is an excellent stand-alone sipping Chardonnay.

The food pairing was so appropriate with this clean wine. Paired with a straight forward charcuterie tray of Tillamook aged smoked cheddar and Kerry Irish cheddar cheeses.  Glazed pecans and crackers accompanied the wine and allowed it true character to shine through.

I was surprised and delighted by the uniqueness of this dry farmed Chardonnay (something you don’t find everyday) and its clarity and crispness was a welcomed embrace., Jeb Dunnuck, January 27, 2021

Fresh and lively on the palate with bright yet integrated acidity

2017 Chardonnay

Revealing a deeper gold hue, this has a slightly evolved style, yet it stays fresh and lively on the palate, with bright yet integrated acidity. Notes of caramelized orange brioche, marzipan and honeyed flowers give way to a medium-bodied, balanced Chardonnay that I suspect will age nicely for 4-6 years. 

Wine Enthusiast, Virginie Boone, March 2021

Graceful heartiness

2017 Chardonnay

94 points, Editors' Choice: This barrel-fermented white opens in oaky intensity before settling into flavors of kiwi, lime and green apple. Complex and structured, it has a graceful heartiness and offers tremendous value for the quality.

Tasting Panel Magazine, January-February 2021, Meredith May

A wine of distinction

2017 Chardonnay

93 points, 3 ½ kisses. The dry-farmed vines on the Smith family’s Spring Mountain estate produced this wine of distinction, whose accents of chamomile and lemon verbena on the nose lead to a palate of beeswax and stony minerality. Peach nectar enters midway, unleashing a flow of honey within an angular frame. Aged 10 months in 85% new French oak.

BiggerThanYourHead, Frederic Koeppel, December 15, 2020

Certainly one of the best chardonnays from California that I tasted this year

2017 Chardonnay

All the wines display a remarkable dedication to authenticity, integrity and terroir....

The Chardonnay feels so pure, so intense, so crystalline that it transcends categories and regions. It spent 10 months in French oak, 85 percent new barrels. The color is medium gold; notes of classic pineapple and grapefruit unfurl touches of cloves, sandalwood and jasmine, flint and crushed gravel; as with most great wines, it embodies paradoxes in an exquisite balance of tension and resolution, so while the texture is dense, almost talc-like in weight, it’s also sleek, lithe and supple, riven by a thread of bright acidity; a few moments in the glass bring out elements of lemon balm and lemon curd, quince and ginger, and a strain of sea-flecked iodine. Drink now through 2025 to ’27. Certainly one of the best chardonnays from California that I tasted this year. Exceptional. About $40, representing Good Value.

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