On My Short List: Smith Madrone

People ask me all the time to give them suggestions on what wineries to visit when they take a trip out to wine country. It is not a request that is as easily fulfilled as some may think as I try to take the time to ask a few questions: have they been there before, what type of wines they like, how long they will be there  (if you are only spending an afternoon in Napa, for instance, the list will likely be far different than if you will be there for three or four days).

I typically do not mind such requests (even though they can be huge time drains), since, well, it is what I like to do (for those of you that have made such requests of me and others in the past, it is always appreciated when you report back about your experience when you return). With few exceptions, I will counsel people to visit wineries that I have already been to myself, usually providing the name of someone to contact upon arrival, and often contacting the winery to let them know that I am sending someone their way.

Like I said–I really don’t mind as it is a passion for me (in case you haven’t noticed, wine is one of my three passions–it says so right at the top of this page).

Believe it or not, I often do the same thing–I will contact another blogger/writer asking if there are any new “must visits” even if I have visited the region already. There are just so many wineries out there, it really is tough to stay on top of any one region let alone all of them.

There are also several wineries on a bit of a short list of places that I have to visit sooner rather than later. Near the top is a winery that I learned about through my blogging pal, Gabe Sasso (he writes for the Daily Meal as well as his own site, Gabe’s View), who pointed me in their direction.

Madrone Riesling2013 Smith-Madrone Riesling: Retail $27. A bit of lemon, stone fruit, and some petrol on the nose, but still rather shy. On the palate rather impressive with a tart acidity and focus. While I was making my way through this wine, I could not help but think I was doing a bit of an injustice–I am fairly certain that it will continue to improve for 5, 10, even 15 years. Maybe longer. I doubt that I have not had a finer Riesling from Napa Valley. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.

Madrone Chard2013 Smith-Madrone Chardonnay: Retail $32. A great nose of pear and lemon meringue pie with a hint of oak. On the palate, great citrus flavors and some mineral notes. While the wine is long and flavorful, it is a bit short on acidity. Those flavors win out in the end though, resulting in an impressive wine. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.

Madrone Cab2012 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon: Retail $48. I have been writing this blog for close to four years now and have been drinking wine for about 37 times that. I still have not figured out Napa Cabernet. On one hand there are the big, muscular, jammy, $300/bottle wines for which all the critics seem to offer up their first-born son. Then there are wines like this: reserved, subtle fruit, good acidity, but nothing like their bombastic “brethren.” So how do you evaluate a wine? Do you judge it against its peers, against what is “typical” for the region? Or do you take it on its own, with a meal, and a bit of context? I prefer the latter. Paired with the medium rare skirt steak, Israeli couscous, and grilled asparagus, this was a near perfect match melding in well as a complimentary element, but still demanding attention. Subtle red berry fruit (with a tinge of bell pepper), a bit of campfire smoke, and black pepper was followed with some earth and a hint of anise on the palate. Over the course of the bottle, I vacillated from impressed, intrigued, encouraged, and ultimately very pleased. This is solid proof that more of an old-world style approach can excel in Napa. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.

About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
This entry was posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Riesling, Wine. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to On My Short List: Smith Madrone

  1. Here in Jersey we have Teacher’s convention. We are suppose to go to Atlantic City for a conference. Being it is mostly for elementary, most high school teachers don’t go. And I’m sure the ones that do go are in the casinos as much as in the conference. But I digress. I just had two different people come up to me and ask the very same question. One for Santa Barbara and one for Napa. It is a tough request, when you don’t know anything about their palate, so I go with the beauty more than the wine.


    • I am torn on the whole issue–on one side I am honored or flattered that they would ask me, but on the other I don’t think that they realize how much time it takes (or that there are a ton of people that do it for a fee…).


  2. Josh says:

    Hmmm. I had S-M Riesling at a wine event a few months ago and I thought it was disgusting. Tasted like buttered popcorn flavored Jelly Bellies. But everybody else seems to like it…


  3. Smith Madrone is a great winery to visit! Charlie and Stu give a wonderful tour and if you’re there on a clear day the view of the valley is marvelous. Great wines! And it believe it or not the tasting is free!


  4. Great people, winery and wine!


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