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Monday, August 2, 2010

Champagne Wishes: Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 Highly Recommended by Whom You Know!


COORDINATES:    4022 Spring Mountain Road, St. Helena, California
Phone 707/963-2283; Fax 707/963-2291
FOUNDED: 1971, by Stuart Smith
MANAGEMENT:   Stuart Smith, Managing Partner, Enologist
                 Charles F. Smith III, Winemaker

VINEYARDS:      All wines are made entirely from the winery's dry-farmed estate vineyards on steep mountainsides surrounding the winery on top of Spring Mountain in the Napa Valley. At elevations between 1,300 and 2,000 feet, with vineyards which range in steepness up to 35%, in deep red Aiken loam soil, Smith-Madrone is located at the highest point in the Spring Mountain District appellation. Stuart Smith chose specific slopes with different exposures for specific varietals when planting the vineyards: eastern exposure for Riesling, southern and western exposures across flat stretches for the Cabernet Sauvignon and the coolest north-facing slopes for the Chardonnay.  There are numerous intriguing historical traces on the property: Chinese workers had cleared the land in the mid-nineteenth century and left behind meticulous rock piles, stone walls and underground caves.  

CURRENT RELEASES:  2008 Riesling (sold out), 2007 Chardonnay, 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon: all estate-grown and estate-bottled

PRODUCTION: Approximately 4,000 cases a year (all wines are estate-grown and bottled)

HOSPITALITY:    Tours and tastings by appointment, always conducted by one of the Smith brothers

THE ESTATE:     200 acre ranch, partly planted as vineyard over a century ago; California black bears and other wildlife once thrived here; enormous 120-year-old Picholine olive trees frame a path and view down to the floor of the Napa Valley and Bothe Napa Valley State Park

THE NAME:       A tribute both to the Smith family and to the predominant tree on the ranch. The Madrone is an evergreen which can be low and shrubby or tall and stately, with a red-brown trunk and branches. In spring the tree bears lily-of-the-valley-like flower clusters; in fall orange-red berries appear.



Looking for that old fashioned Napa Valley kick-ass Cabernet Sauvignon, but without all those harsh tannins? Here it is.  On the palate it is big, smooth, full and has a velvety mouthfeel.  Combine that with a very dark, purplish and very deep ruby-black red color.  The aroma is just as intriguing, with briary and black cherry aromas, distinct suggestions of crushed violets and lavender and underneath it all are the elegant notes of dark chocolate.  If you are getting the idea that we like this wine – you bet we do!  Here is a hedonist’s wine, begging for that grilled steak.  See it, smell it and taste it – it’s consistent from beginning to end, as great wine should be. Enjoy!  

At Smith-Madrone their goal is to make artisanal wines which are distinctive and are an expression of both the vintage and them, as vintners, but above all else, their goal is to produce wines which bring pleasure to the senses.  Every year the wine is made from the same vineyards, pruned by the same people in the same way, cultivated in exactly the same manner and harvested at similar levels of maturity, yet Mother Nature stamps each vintage with a unique set of flavors, senses and character.  Vintage dating is a celebration of that uniqueness and diversity.



SUB-APPELLATION:  Spring Mountain District
FARMING:  dry-farmed mountain vineyard
VARIETAL CONTENT: Cabernet Sauvignon 82%, Merlot 10% & Cabernet franc 8%
TIME IN OAK:  22 months in new American oak barrels
FINING:   unfined
FILTRATION:  unfiltered

CASES PRODUCED:   2302 cases

Previously, we recommended the Riesling:

Remember, it's not who you know, it's Whom You Know, and we do know Stu Smith.  Recently on his Manhattan excursion, he invited Peachy Deegan to Ma Peche (How thoughtfully creative!  You non-francophiles, that loosely translates to "My Peach") where she first sampled the 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon and was impressed with the unsurpassed quality of this outstanding American wine.  On purpose, we run this review on a Monday because this wine will cheer you up!   Not only is Stu Smith an excellent winemaker, but also he demonstrates a remarkable American spirit.  Since Peachy was impressed, the Champagne Wishes panel put this to the test, and they say:

Our Champagne Wishes panel  comments on the Cabernet Sauvignon 2004:

Smith Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 is everything it is billed as plus much more.  This wine is very smooth and full on the palate, with an aroma that tickles the nose and complements the taste.  At first whiff you get the fruity cherry smell with hints of lavender and even dark chocolate.   This is truly a treat for your senses; even the color is vibrant and adds to the whole Cabernet Sauvignon experience.  I don’t know enough about wine to know whether it’s the red rocky volcanic soil or the cooler mountain temperatures that give this grape such a great flavor, but whatever it is – it works.  Smith Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 is “Estate Bottled” which means 100 percent of the grapes used were grown in the winery’s own vineyards or came from vineyards controlled by the winery.  For the buyer, that means Smith Madrone has complete control over the whole process which turns out a top notch wine.  

Of course I like to drink wine in social setting, but I especially love wine at meal time when I get the opportunity to play with pairings and try to find just the right wine to go with the meal.  The right wine can make a ho-hum meal much better, and it adds a bit a sophistication to your dinner table.  Tonight I grilled up some steaks with some veggies and potatoes wedges drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  The Smith Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 was the perfect match for the char grilled steak.  We enjoyed the wine so much that we opened bottle #2 long after the meal was over.   

Smith Madrone Cabernet's dark ruby red color is beautiful. The great smell of plum really rises from the wine. When you taste this wine you can feel the soft and silky flavors on your tongue. It's a bold but yet very light wine. This wine dances in your mouth. I love matching this wine with a nice stake or a spicy dish. I also like it when my red wines are slightly chilled. I feel like doing so really brings out the taste of the wine. My husband loves reds - I prefer whites. After trying this Cabernet well I have to be honest, I changed my mind. I made a wondering stake dinner for a few of our friends and they were blown away by the wine. Everyone asked me what we were drinking and wanted more. I mean to be honest we like to stick with our usual wines. This was a new one so we chanced it and fell in love. Sometime you have to take the risk to see if you'll be surprised and if you're wondering yes we were. The wine really brought out the taste of the stake and coated your mouth in a subtle manner. It was a new unfamiliar taste that we all couldn't get enough of. We will definitely buy more of this wine. I will be taking many bottles as gifts to family and friends. I will also buy many and host them to everyone when they come over. It's a must buy and trust me you should be buying! 

This Cab from Smith-Madrone is one of their best yet.The sub-appellation spring mountain district of Napa Valley produces some very fine wines. Grown on the top of spring mountain(1900 foot elevation). With 21 months in American Oak barrels. an early harvest of 2004 began on September 7th. This very dark purple Cabernet Sauvignon opens with a fragrant red currant, spicy blueberry aroma with hint of ash, crushed violets and red cedar. Also, it has an attractive spicy boysenberry bouquet with hints of menthol and black pepper. On the palate, this wine is medium bodied, soft and warm, very well balanced, smooth, harmonious, and elegant.  As a result of a centuries old farming technique of "dry farming". The grape produces an intense flavor and structure.The flavor profile is a blend of red raspberry and black cherry with notes of menthol and coffee, delicious blueberry and a touch of spicy black pepper. With a grape blend of 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, & 10% Cabernet Franc. The most distinct flavor is an appealing blend of black cherry and blackberry with notes of menthol mixed in, giving this wine a soft, enticing character. The finish is very dry. The tannins show some excellent length and are nicely prolonged. This wine would go particularly well with roast duck, your favorite meatballs, or a nice thick grilled ribeye. I paired this Cab with a NY strip steak right off the grill. Perfection. There were 2,161 cases produced. 13.9% alcohol content, unfined and unfiltered. You can expect some sediment to form in the bottle as it ages. Very drinkable now and will age well for many years to come. Enjoy.

This Cabernet is a must try in this beautiful BBQ season!  It blends perfectly with a freshly cooked steak.  This is fruit driven.  It shows a pure and intense expression of flavor that is very unique.  It is richly flavored with a wonderful long finish.  This is not too fruity nor over the top.  The blend is just divine.  This cabernet is so elegant and refined.  I absolutely thought it tasted phenomenal.  There is enough power for the long haul. I am absolutely positive this will stand up for many more years to come, if you can bear to store it.  The aroma channels plum and blackberry.  I also tried this Cabernet with cheese and it was just fantastic. The wine has a great ruby tone.  There is no sip and spit with this one, you will just want to savior the flavor.  I felt there was a slight hint of chocolate on the finish.  I would highly recommend this one.  It would make for the perfect hostess gift at that next BBQ.  Feel free to stock up on this one, like I said it will last for many years to come.  Enjoy!!

Whom You Know highly recommends the Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon 2004~!

Founder & GM/Enologist, Smith-Madrone

Stuart Smith walked through a forest on top of a mountain in the Napa Valley in the fall of 1970 and the next year founded Smith-Madrone Winery. Today he is the General Manager of the winery, acting as vineyard manager and enologist; his brother Charles is the winemaker. The family lineage includes the Fetherolf family, German farmers from the Palatinate region, who came to
America on The Thistle of Glasgow in 1730.

Smith was born and raised in Santa Monica, where during college he worked as a lifeguard on the beach. He received his undergraduate degree from U.C. Berkeley in economics and went on to do his master's work in enology and viticulture at U.C. Davis. He was the first teaching assistant for famed professors Maynard Amerine and Vernon Singleton. He has taught enology and viticulture at Santa Rosa Junior College and Napa Valley Community College.

He chaired the Napa Valley Wine Auction in 1986 and co-chaired in 2005. He judges at wine competitions in California. He is an active member of the G.O.N.A.D.S. (the Gastronomical Order for Nonsensical and Dissipatory Society), founded in the early 1980s by a group of Napa vintners who meet for lively monthly lunches, chronicled in James Conaway's books Napa: An American Eden and Napa: The Far Side of Eden.

Smith is often quoted and sought out for his leadership and expertise as a mountain vineyardist-whether it's by The New York Times or National Public Radio or The Napa Valley Register. He was appointed to the General Plan Steering Committee (2005-2007) by the Napa County Board of Supervisors. He was appointed to The Watershed Task Force, formed by Napa County's Board of
Supervisors in January, 1999. In 1998 he co-founded Farmers For Napa Valley, a group whose mission was to educate the public about hillside vineyard farming. He's a frequent participant in the Ahwahnee Hotel's Vintners' Holiday program in Yosemite and often serves as an auctioneer at charity auctions in Omaha (NB) and Sioux City (IA).

Father of five children (daughters Meg, Katherine, Charlotte and sons Sam and Tom), he recently stepped down after eight years as Scout Master for St. Helena's (Boy Scout) Troop One. He is an avid canoeist, having canoed through the Quetico Wilderness in Canada and the Klamath and Trinity Rivers in California. He enjoys barbecuing for guests at the winery: favorites are the (Smith-Madrone) Cabernet-marinated barbecued lamb and (Smith-Madrone) Cabernet Risotto.

The Vineyards

Stuart Smith started planting the vineyard, perched on top of the Spring Mountain District in St. Helena, in 1972. Unusual for North Coast viticulture at the time, the initial twenty acres were planted on their own roots. These vines were established under difficult conditions, with some
slopes angling over 30%. The cooler mountain climate is an additional factor which produces grapes of intense flavor, structure and longevity. Today the vineyard consists of thirty four acres in various stages of production dating back to 1972. In addition to the 7 acres of Riesling, 8 acres of
Chardonnay and 12 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, the vineyard now has one acre of Cabernet Franc and 3.75 acres of Merlot. Stuart chose specific slopes with different exposures for specific varietals: eastern exposure for the Riesling, southern and western exposures across flat stretches for the Cabernet Sauvignon; the coolest north-facing slopes for the Chardonnay. The history of international viticulture also supported his early belief in dry farming, where the mountain grapes have to "struggle" to survive. The vines send their roots deep to search for water and nutrients, only producing the precise amount of fruit exactly appropriate for their vigor, small berries
with a large skin-to-juice ratio.

Smith-Madrone enjoys dramatic views out over the floor of the Napa Valley and the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the distance, as well its own steep dry-farmed vineyards. Smith-Madrone is located at elevations between 1,200 and 1,900 feet. The vines flourish in vividly red and rocky volcanic soil
known as Aiken loam, which is well-drained and friable. In exploring the property before purchasing it, Smith discovered old grape stakes interspersed with the tall trees, evidence of a vineyard planted in the 1880s and abandoned with the onset of Prohibition. Douglas fir, oak, Redwood
and Madrone trees were cleared, and the vineyards planted. The name for the winery has two sources: as a tribute to the Smith brothers who pursued their dream and to the madrone trees which distinguish the property. As the estate was developed, traces of its intriguing history emerged. It may have been Chinese workers who cleared the land in the mid-nineteenth century and left
behind meticulous rock piles, stone walls and underground caves.

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