It all started in 1971 when the Smith Brothers purchased land on Spring Mountain to begin their amazing story of making wine in the Napa Valley. We visited last week in the midst of bottling and an unexpected rainfall. The winery was abuzz with activity, but both Charlie and Stu took time to chat with us about their winemaking adventures high atop Spring Mountain.
We have been traveling to the Napa Valley since 1966 and we divide the Napa Valley into two distinct eras, the old and the new is the simplest way to express it. Well, Charlie and Stu represent the old Napa Valley. You won’t find a fancy tasting room or barrel room, or any merchandise for sale. The only thing you will find is just pure, honest, old-fashioned conversation and a passion for making good wine. Yes, Smith-Madrone represents the good old days of the Napa Valley.
Charlie welcomes us and brings out a set of glasses and a library of Riesling wines dating back to 2002. While we taste, Charlie corks double magnums of 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon. He uses a hand corker to squeeze the cork and then with a rubber mallet taps the cork into the double magnum bottle, all the while talking about how he makes the wines at Smith-Madrone. Stu jumps off the forklift after depositing a pallet full of boxed 2005 Cabernet and joins in the conversation. Stu is the farmer of the team and we hear from him how the winery has recently replanted the vineyards. The phylloxera that has plagued the Valley has finally made its way to the top of Spring Mountain.
Smith-Madrone is a very small winery making around 1000 cases of Riesling, 1300 cases of Chardonnay, and a little over 2000 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon. The production is a little smaller these days as the replanted vineyards await the return to a full crop. The flagship wine is the Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2004 is the current vintage and the 2005 will spend about a year in the bottle before release. The 2004 Cabernet is a delicious wine with great berry aromas and lots of mouth structure. The tannins are light and this wine makes a excellent choice for all red meat dishes. The price for this wine is $40. It is the lowest price point that we know of for any estate Spring Mountain Cabernet.
Smith-Madrone was the first winery in the Napa Valley to produce a Riesling. Once you have tasted a Riesling, it will become one of your favorite white wines. The 2008 has just been bottled and the 2007 is already sold out. The 2006 Chardonnay is also sold out. The winery’s mailing list is large enough to put a huge dent in the inventory of wines, especially in the Riesling and Chardonnay. Visitors are welcome at Smith-Madrone, but call ahead to make sure someone is there to show you around. It is a beautiful ride up Spring Mountain and even more beautiful to experience this style of the Napa Valley.
The Good: Charlie and Stu Smith, the wines, Spring Mountain
The Bad: Sold out of Riesling and Chardonnay.