Smith-Madrone winery has been making estate grown and bottled wine for 40 years! Founded in 1971 by brothers Stu and Charles Smith, Smith-Madrone makes about 4000 cases per year farmed from their 200 acre ranch in St Helena California. A visit to the winery will always be accompanied by a tour from one of the Smith brothers.
In 2010, Stu Smith became somewhat of a wine world personality with the launching of his www.biodynamicsisahoax.com web site. From the opening paragraph of the web site:
“I challenge any Biodynamic farmer or supporter to defend the writings of Rudolf Steiner. I submit that if you believe in science you cannot believe in Biodynamics, and the corollary is just as true, if you believe in Biodynamics you cannot believe in science. As you can tell by the title I believe that Biodynamics is a hoax and deserves the same level of respect the scientific community has for witchcraft, voodoo and astrology.”
I’m a fan of sustainable and responsible growing and distribution of wine and do not claim to be an expert on the subject but the practices of bull horns and cow manure don’t seem to have any bearing on quality grapes. So, this post isn’t about biodynamics…It’s about two Smith-Madrone wines. If you want to know more about biodynamics (and Stu’s view) click the video from Cork’d.
- The Stuff: 100% estate grown Riesling. The 2009 growing season resulted in the lowest Riesling yield in Smith-Madrone history. With only 302 cases produced the bone dry Riesling comes in at 12.9%ABV
- The Swirl: Very light in the glass, almost colorless with just hints of golden straw
- The Sniff: Amazingly vibrant nose that explodes with aromas of apple, pear and a nice minerality. This wine makes my mouth water with ever sniff.
- The Sip: Quality Riesling through and through. A wonderful kiss of sweet Asian pear graces the front of the tongue accompanied by a balanced tart citrus on the mid palate. Wonderful flavor profile with outstanding acidity and a balanced finish.
- The Score: At $27, this is more than I would spend without having had some experience or strong recommendation for this wine. So, here it is…if you’re a Riesling lover, you will like this wine. 4/5
- The Stuff: 100% big bold and bombastic Napa Valley Chardonnay. Aged for 11 months in 70% new French oak. 14.4% ABV, 790 cases produced
- The Swirl: Very light in the glass, lacks the traditional yellow gold color one comes to expect from Chardonnay.
- The Sniff: Immediately get a blast of cedar, smoke and earth. The nose has to really dig deep to catch a whiff of the granny smith apple. A nice minerality starts to present itself upon a second visit.
- The Sip: I’m a fan of slightly oaked Chardonnay and this one delivers on that front. The fruit seems to be a little more hidden than I would have initially liked. After the video review I enjoyed this wine with an Indian Curry based dish and it really came alive. The mouth feel was thick without being overly exaggerated. The presentation of the mineral acidity on the finish was a nice touch.
- The Score: At $30, I enjoyed the wine, but I preferred the 2007 vintage. Give this one a try in the tasting room if you think you’ll be on the fence at that price. 3/5
More from Smith-Madrone Winery
04 Aug 2010
The history of V. Sattui Winery dates back to 1885 when Italian born winemaker and baker Vittorio Sattui built a great reputation in San Francisco with St. Helena Wine Company. An expanding operation led to a new location and new name, V. Sattui Wine Company in the San Francisco Mission District. Prohibition forced the end of V. Sattui and the wine company lay dormant for 60 years. Pledged to re-establish a family legacy, Dario Sattui pursued his dreams and passions which led to the eventual re-establishment of V. Sattui on their existing property in 1975.
This story intrigues me for two reasons. First, I love the pursuit of the American dream by an Italian immigrant and the continued pursuit to re-establish that dream by the Sattui family. Second, rarely does a company celebrate 125 years. The oldest Washington Wineries are celebrating 30-35 years with Chateau St. Michelle being the grandfather at 76 years old. Congratulations to V. Sattui Winery on their longevity, rebirth, success and quality.
V. Sattui farms 230 acres of estate vineyards primarily in Napa Valley. All 45 of their wines are available only from their tasting room and through phone or internet orders. 100% self distributed, you will never see V. Sattui in stores or restaurants. Visitors to V. Sattui can enjoy a picnic on the beautiful grounds that include gardens, fountain and two story Italian themed castle. V. Sattui is Napa’s only winery to have their own extensive in-house Italian marketplace and deli that includes pasta, panini, charcuterie, dessert, bread, salad and 205 cheeses from around the world.
2008 V. Sattui Early Harvest Riesling
- The Stuff: 100% estate grown Napa Valley Riesling; aged 6 months in stainless steel; 12.3% ABV; 2004 cases
- The Swirl: Soft honey yellow with slight lemon lime components, appears thicker in viscosity
- The Sniff: Very bright and lively honeysuckle and floral components with a hint of the traditional petroleum aroma of a Riesling. The sniff gives off the hint that the wine might be sweet.
- The Sip: A wonderful full and round mouth feel that gently envelops your tongue with a hint of honey and pear. The finish leaves a slight pucker on your mouth but the bright acidity washes your palate clean leaving you ready for the next sip.
- The Score: At only $18.75 this is a top notch Riesling to pair with Asian food, spicy food and perfect for sipping on the back of a boat on a hot day. One of the more enjoyable Rieslings I’ve had. 4/5
Cellar Tracker Score 92 Points with 1 Review
2008 V Sattui Henry Ranch Pinot Noir
- The Stuff: 100% Pinot Noir from Los Caneros, fermented in stainless steel, aged in barrels, 951 cases produced, 14.6% ABV
- The Swirl: Thin plum colors with undertones of darker dried raspberries. The color presents itself as about 50% opaque. Definitely not your strawberry or cherry cola Pinot
- The Sniff: The bouquet is a concoction of stewed plums, tomatoes, and darker fruits with hints of gamey meat and earth.
- The Sip: Terroir driven with herb, black tea, coffee bean, and dark plum flavors. All these components come together in a softer and elegant presentation that makes them enjoyable and intriguing with layers of flavor.
- The Score: At $36 this is a more old world presentation of Pinot Noir that seems to brings forth a lot of characteristics of the soil it is grown in. If you love traditional then you’ll like this wine. If you want a lighter and fruitier Pinot Noir, then you may be disappointed. 3+/5
Cellar Tracker Score of 94 Points with 1 Review
2007 V. Sattui Vittorio’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Stuff: 97% Cabernet and 3% Merlot; fermented in stainless steel and aged in 50% new French and 50% used French oak; 930 cases produced; 14.8%ABV
- The Swirl: Thick, dull and dark. This wine presents itself with a muted deep purple and is solid in color all the way to the edges; about 80% opaque.
- The Sniff: A shy nose with hints of dust and dark raspberry aromas. Subtle hints of dark cocoa are also present.
- The Sip: A well structured Cabernet that behaves appropriately in the mouth but doesn’t dare to offend or surprise with anything. Good layers of dried dark fruits, herbs and dried tobacco. Everything about this wine says subdued and dark. A medium tannin and muted finish round out the sip.
- The Score: Without anything to stand out, this wine becomes an easy to forget $35 Cabernet that would sit well at the dinner table but doesn’t seem to leave a lasting impression. Well made, but at this point in its life it is a 3/5.
*Wine was provided as an industry sample with the intent to review
28 Jul 2010
Budweiser may be the “King of Beers” but it has nothing on Cabernet, the King of wine. Okay, yes I realize Barolo has been deemed the “wine of the kings,” but in America, King of Rock is Elvis, the King of Pop is Michael Jackson the King of burgers is Burger King and the KING of wine is Cabernet! I have to admit, I love the king!
Last week we explored the noble queen of wine, Pinot Noir. Each of the lovely ladies paraded their wears without shame. They pranced across the stage seeking to be chosen for the night. Some pushed forward their lush fruit while others were coy and playful with a velvet touch. The same night, five big bold king Cabernet sat across the room posturing for position. With their broad shoulders, each stood erect, claiming their dominance over the other.
In the previous review, Signorello Estate Vineyards stood proud and represented two of the five Cabernet Sauvignon. Today we explore two more California Cabernet based wines and one Walla Walla rock star! Of the five, who is crowned the king of kings?
Do You Love Cabernet? Rick Bakas of St. Supery Winery is hosting worldwide Cabernet day on September 2. Use the #Cabernet hash tag when posting on Facebook, Foursquare, Gowalla, Twitter, blogs and all the other sites you hang out on. You’ll be able to connect and chat with other Cab drinkers around the world that day. I’ll be there! If you’ve never participated in an online tasting, it is an amazing experience as hundreds (and potentially thousands) of wine lovers share their passions. Drink.Share.Connect.
2007 Edge Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Stuff: 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, aged 16 months in a combination of new French and American oak; extended maceration; 14.4%ABV
- The Swirl: Lush plum color with good color to the edges. A nice ruby jewel tone refracts in the light.
- The Sniff: A shy nose that offers up hints of oak and dried cherries. Over time the nose softened and reacted very well to aeration bringing out better aromas of pepper and brier.
- The Sip: A darker feeling Cabernet that showcases dark blackberry fruit, cloves, tobacco and vanilla. Looking for bright cherry fruit and full tannin? You won’t find it here, but the wine offers a medium balance and an average finish for the price point.
- The Score: At just $20 retail, this is a good tasting wine that will pair well with hearty steak, blue cheese sirloin burgers, and testarossa pizza. The Edge provides enough layers of flavor and structure to feel more expensive than $20. 3/5
Other Scores: 90 points Wine Enthusiast; Cellar Tracker 88.2 with 18 reviews
2007 L’Ecole 41 Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Stuff: 100% Cabernet from Seven Hills, Loess, Va Piano, Pepper Bridge, and Yellow Jacket vineyards; aged 22 months in 40% new oak; 2300 cases produces; 14.5%ABV
- The Swirl: Bright crimson and plum in color with slightly thin edges
- The Sniff: The fruit seems to be somewhat absent from the nose as dusty earth, spice pepper and cocoa float from the glass
- The Sip: Hello fruit, I’m glad you decided to join us. A full rich and thick cherry fruit mixed with hints of plum and white pepper. There is flavor that moves across all areas of your mouth that make this for a fun sipping experience. The tannin is mild and the acidity and finish are medium.
- The Score: At $40, this is a high quality, well layered Cab that reminds you of why Walla Walla is so great. $40 is fairly steep for a large percentage of people but know that you can trust this label (not to be confused with the Columbia Valley version) to be a special wine for parties, gifts, or a celebratory dinner. 4/5
2006 Fuse Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Stuff: 75% Cabernet and 25% Syrah; cold soaking and extended maceration; aged 16 months in French and American oak; 6,000 cases produced; 14.1%ABV
- The Swirl: A very smooth velvet plum color that presents itself as about 90% opaque; a slight tanning from age is presenting itself at the edges.
- The Sniff: A very big and bright aromatic nose that has a perfume exotic spice, lavender, and big cherry fruit. A beautiful marriage of Syrah and Cabernet
- The Sip: Starts off with a cedar / oak attack that almost immediately softens to a very full and round velvet cherry mid-palate. Subtle spices of nutmeg and baking spice jump up on the back end with the medium tannin and lingering finish.
- The Score: At only $25 the beautiful fusion of Cabernet and Syrah are showcased in the 06 Fuse. The blend highlights positive aspects of each grape and comes together to create a fantastic blend. 3+/5
Cellar Tracker 88 points in 12 reviews; 4 Stars Vines Magazine
Blind Cabernet Showdown
The Signorello reds participated in a blind Cabernet tasting that included a 2007 Walla Walla L’Ecole 41, The Edge and Fuse. The wines were bagged and tagged and 12 participants were asked to rate them with 1 being their favorite and 5 being their least favorite. The interesting results (from lowest to highest) are below:
- 2006 Signorello Estate Cab ($50) – Avg Score 3.8 – Received 4’s with a 2 and a 5
- 2007 Edge Cab ($20) – Avg Score 3.6 – Received several 2’s and several 5’s
- 2007 Fuse Cab ($25) – Avg Score 3.5 – Received all 3’s and 4’s
- 2007 L’Ecole 41 Cab ($32) – Avg Score 2.2 – Received mostly 2’s with a 1 and a 5
- 2006 Signorello Padrone ($110) – Avg Score 1.3 – Received all 1’s and a 2 (almost unanimous)
*Wines were provided as an industry sample with the intention to review
I have a confession. I’ve had this beautiful elegant and understated label staring at me for over two months. There is something engaging about the simple serif font with only the winery name and vintage on the front. There were times I even set the bottle on top of the cellar buffet just for show. Finally, the time has come to pop the cork and discover if what’s inside the bottle is as elegant and beautiful as the outside.
Penche is French for leaning bending or tilting and the winery name is taken from the old oak trees on the property. Scott and Pauline Asbill discovered the Oak Knoll property on their travels in 2001. Although wine lovers, they had no intention of creating wine, they fell in love with the panoramic views of the Napa Valley. The property originally included 4 acres of Chardonnay which Scott re-planted with three clones of Cabernet Sauvignon.
As the education, consultation, and passion continued, they began selling grapes to popular wineries and in 2005 took the proverbial leap and create Penche Wine. Paul is a wine grower and together with his wife and consulting wine maker Jay Buoncristiani they collaborate on each vintage for quality and direction.
The grapes for each wine are hand picked, hand sorted, re-sorted, and fermented in small containers before being stored for one year in new French oak. After blending trials and deciding on the proper blend, the wine is returned to barrel for an additional 6-9 months before bottling. The wines reviewed below represent only the second release in the fulfillment of passion and a dream!
2006 Penche Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Stuff: 88% Cab (Penche Vineyard) 5% Cab Franc (Saunders Vineyard), 3% Malbec (Caldwell Vineyard), 2% Merlot (Larry Hyde Vineyard), 2% Petit Verdot (Penche and Saunders Vineyard); 100% new French oak for 18-21 months; 14.8%abv, 364 cases made
- The Swirl: A dark thick extracted purple/plum with rim of bright neon glow; nearly 100% opaque
- The Sniff: Bright red cherry, currant, and slight toasted oak. Very opulent and aromatic
- The Sip: Big fruit forward cherry flavors with cassis. A chalkiness settles on the mid-palate but the acidity washes it away within a few seconds on the finish.
- The Score: At $60, this is on the upper side of the price point for many people. I score this wine a 4 (out of 5) and can highly recommend it for anyone that buys wine in this price point. The wine could / should still see 3 more years in bottle to soften up the chalkiness. If opening immediately, should decant and pair with a big hearty steak!
92 Points Wine Enthusiast for 2005 vintage
The 2006 Penche Cab Sauv comes alive with bright cherries and toasted cedar. The mouth feel is big, rich and fruit forward. The grip on the tongue is released with a nice balanced acidity and lingering finish. Cellar 3-10 years. $60, DrinkNectar Rating = 4
- The Stuff: 40% Cab, 38% Merlot, 10% Cab Franc, 7% Petit Verdot and 5% Malbec; 20 months in new French oak, 14.8%abv 289 cases
- The Swirl: Dark purple with softer tones. Edges move toward jewel tone garnet. About 90% opaque
- The Sniff: A wonderful representation of each of the five Bordeaux grapes. The bright cherry fruit is softened by black cherries and cocoa. A whiff of blueberries graces the nose as well.
- The Sip: A smooth mouth feel from front to back. The fruit that presents itself on the nose is also present on the palate with lively flavor all across the mouth. The tannin is less pronounced than on the Penche Cab, but still provides enough structure to pair with food
- The Score: At $40 I score this wine a 4+ out of 5. It is a large wine that is graceful like a offensive lineman in ballet class. It’s bold, smooth and elegant without losing the strength of the Cabernet grape.
No other reviews could be found.
The 2006 Penche Argent is a river of bold flavorful black cherry, cocoa, and well integrated spices. Expect an elegant flavor with strength to pair with food. Argent positions itself well as a sipping wine or to impress at dinner. $40, DrinkNectar Rating = 4+
*Wines were provided as an industry sample with the intention to review
07 Apr 2010
Big wine, small lot, Napa vineyards, small price. Looking at the Smith brothers, you might mistake them for iron workers in Pittsburgh or mine workers in West Virginia. One sip of their wine and there is no mistaking that Stuart and Charles Smith are definitely wine makers!
Planted in 1971 Smith-Madrone Vineyards sits on 200 acres of steep hillside on top of Spring Mountain in Napa Valley. The vineyards consist of 13 acres of Chardonnay, 13 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and 7 acres of Riesling. With less than 5000 cases of wine made each year, attention to detail stands out with these wines. Brothers, Charles Smith (the winemaker) – former school teacher and international croquet player – and Stu Smith (vineyard manager) – graduate of enology and viticulture from U.C. Davis, make wine that showcases the beauty of their vineyard.
In doing research for this review, two things stood out:
1) The reference to wine bloggers in the tasting notes. (Joe from www.1winedude.com was referenced in the recent Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon release notes)
2) This quote: “Let me make an analogy with the “Wizard of Oz” to the wine business. Like the Scarecrow, the wine industry is mindlessly making wines to achieve some vaunted number, thus the resulting wines, like the Tin Man, have no heart. I can only hope that the Cowardly Lion will find his courage and roar his defiance and independence by making wines of balance, complexity and nuance. The witch would be (wine critic) Robert Parker because he’s the cause of all this stuff.”
2007 Smith-Madrone Chardonnay
- The Stuff: 100% estate Chardonnay, 11 months in oak, 754 cases, 14.3%abv
- The Swirl: Pale gold color with hints of thicker viscosity, clean and clear
- The Sniff: muted undertones of toast, pear, and citrus fruits. Pleasing and crisp
- The Sip: Slightly effervescent and very crispy pear and citrus. A good thickness indicative of a Chardonnay, but could be mis-diagnosed during a blind tasting as a Sauvignon Blanc. Excellent acid with finish of stone minerality.
- The Score: At $30, slightly more than I would pay for a quality Chardonnay, but a good score of 4 out of 5. One of the better Chardonnay’s I’ve had from the 2007 vintage.
Cellar Tracker Scores – 90 pts (3 reviews)
2004 Smith Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Stuff:82% Cab , 8% Merlot, 10% Cab Franc; 22 months in American oak, 2164 cases, 13.9%abv
- The Swirl: Dark inky plum with some brilliant bright purple undertones. Nice ruby colors toward the edges, opaque.
- The Sniff: The hills are alive with bright cherry fruit, earthy evergreen trees and smoky tobacco. A bouquet that causes you to get lost in time, forgetting the final stages of sip and spit.
- The Sip: The flavor profile was slightly off balance with a good earthiness on the front end but a hollow mid-palate that lacked the fruit. The finish did show off cedar chocolate covered cherry finish with good tannin structure. The wine could show very well in 3-5 years.
- The Score: At $45, I can score this a 3 (out of 5). The sour burnt cherry and hollow mid-palate lowered the score a bit at this price range.
Wine and Spirits 90 points; No 2004 Cellar Tracker reviews