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Thursday, August 5, 2010

SMITH-MADRONE 2007 CHARDONNAY 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.  Whom You Know has tried all three of the Smith-Madrone wines and each is highly recommended.

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.

The 2007 vintage was both interesting and fun; more importantly the quality of the wine appears to be not only excellent, but maybe even great.  Because of a heat spike in mid-August, the vintage started early.  The first of the three wines from the vintage, the 2007 Riesling (now long gone), was excellent, and they think and Whom You Know agrees that the 2007 Chardonnay is every bit as good.  This Chardonnay is a lovely vibrant medium yellow, with a mixture of green apples, pears and lemons in the aroma.  This is a very user friendly, hedonistic wine that is fun to drink, but at the same time is very serious.  While the middle palate is soft, lush and round, the wine has an underlying backbone of acid which makes the wine go perfectly with food.   We would be surprised if you didn’t think this was one of their very best Chardonnays and maybe one of the best you’ve ever tasted. 

Smith-Madrone’s Chardonnay is grown at the top of Spring Mountain (1,900-foot elevation), west of St. Helena in the Napa Valley.  The vines are planted on very steep slopes (up to 35% slope) in red volcanic soil.  The vines receive only the rain that Mother Nature lets fall from the sky, forcing the vines to send their roots deep into the mountain soil in search of moisture.  This centuries old method of farming wine grapes, known today as dry farming, creates a grape with intense flavor, structure, and finesse. 

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.

AGE OF VINES: 36 years




FERMENTATION: 100% barrel fermented

TIME IN OAK:  11 months

ALCOHOL:   14.3%

CASES : 754 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 2007 Chardonnay and was impressed with the unsurpassed quality of this outstanding American wine.   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.
Our Champagne Wishes panel  comments on the 2007 Chardonnay:
If you are looking for an outstanding special occasion wine, I found one for you. From the spring mountain district of Napa Valley.The Smith-Madrone team makes a winning Chard every year, but in 2007 they outdid themselves. With only 754 cases produced, and 11 months in oak. This wine will receive a "Standing Ovation" from all who try it. Because of a heat spike during August the 2007 harvest started early. It has a buttercup yellow color. The bouquet opens with floral pear, light lemon, toasty light oak, green apple and ripe pineapple. On the palate, this full bodied wine is smooth, rich, and creamy, well balanced and elegant with delicious lemon flavors and a hint of minerality. Grown at the very top of spring mountain (1900 ft. elevation) and using a centuries old dry farming technique creates a grape with intense flavors and structure. The flavor profile is a really tasty lemon custard and anjou pear with notes of integrated oak and a touch of tangerine. There were hints of spice detected as well. The finish is dry and together with a very mild oak influence lingers on the tongue for some time. This elegant wine is a great Chard with food. It would pair perfectly with a seafood casserole, baked stuffed shrimp, lobster or a cedar plank cooked rainbow trout. This is a wine to brag about. You will desire a second glass while you're still sipping your first. It is made for a special evening -- or to make an evening special. Drink now or cellar for a few more years. Truly a wine to keep in your collection, Enjoy.

Smith Madrone Chardonnay gives new meaning to wine. The light yellow-gold color welcomes you to a tantalizing taste. It's like butter in your mouth. The taste dances on your tongue. The lovely texture and flavors of lemon and vanilla bring a unique taste. You can match up this wine with a nice fish. Or a nice mixed green salad and goat cheese. I also would serve this wine with a nice array of cheeses.  My husband and I love to have a bottle of chilled Chardonnay on hot summer nights. Especially the other night when it was blistering hot. We had a bunch of different cheeses and it was just an amazing combination of flavors. The wine complimented the cheese. The cheese brought out the distinct taste of the wine. It's safe to say that this is a nice strong wine that does not need to be spoken for. It's important for the wine to really burst in your mouth. You have to take the time to enjoy every sip. We have and we did. When we finished the wine we were so surprised. Neither one of us realized how fast we drank it. If you want to enjoy a bold, smooth wine then this is the one you should be buying.

I absolutely love, love, love California Chardonnay!  Smith-Madrone is aged in oak which gives it that great flavor.  The wine is a pale gold color, but the tasting is crisp and clear. When you swirl the wine in your glass you will see the viscosity of the wine.  It has a powerful aroma, guess what this is not made for the masses. Great undertones of citrus and pear.  This wine is not to be ignored, it is so distinctively fabulous. The finish is long and lasting.  I found the flavors to be wonderfully intense.  Not only great to pair with food, but I thoroughly enjoyed drinking this alone.  The acid is well balanced with a finish of stone minerality.  This really is one of the better Chardonnay’s I’ve had for a while.    This bottle tasted much leaner than other great ones I have tried.  In a world dominated by top-heavy chardonnays, you would be crazy not to give this a try. This truly is a Chardonnay that is filled with loads of flavors that will have your taste buds scintillated.  A very nice ride.  Highly recommended.  A great Napa Valley Chardonnay!

My mom has always said, “You get what you pay for,” and in the case of the 2007 Smith-Madrone Chardonnay, she is absolutely right.  At near $30/bottle, I have to say that I wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit to try this wine.  I pride myself on my ability to find great tasting wines at bargain basement prices – quite often on “discount” racks filled with all kinds of great wine that are overlooked everyday!  In any case, I’m not big on $30 bottles of wine.  When entertaining recently, however, I served the Smith-Madrone Chardonnay, and I’m still patting myself on the back for it.  This pale gold chardonnay has a crisp, citrus and pair flavor that paired perfectly with the veal chops and herb roasted root vegetables prepared by my lovely wife.  We usually don’t prepare such fare in the middle of summer, but given the cooler summer nights in the mountains of New Hampshire and the urging of a friend to try this Chardonnay, I went in search of the perfect food pairing.  Of course, many (most!) of the recommendations I found were way beyond my culinary abilities, so I went something a little more familiar.  And so the food was good, but the wine was the real star of the evening.  All guests were in agreement that the Smith-Madrone had a full flavor and finish unlike any other they’d tasted in a Chardonnay.  Intrigued by the quality of this Chardonnay, I couldn’t help but investigate the origins of this wine, its maker and the vineyard on which its grapes are grown.  What I read about it made me love this Chardonnay even more.  From the Smith brothers to the Madrone trees for whom the vineyard is named, all that I learned had me back at the liquor store purchasing more fine wines from Smith-Madrone.  I’ve now tried the Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon, and neither disappointed.  Now I’m recommending all three wines to friends!

Whom You Know highly recommends the Smith-Madrone 2007 Chardonnay~!

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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