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
26 Nov 2010
I am not a huge fan of turkey. For Christmas I’d rather have ham, for Easter, I’d rather have prime rib. For Thanksgiving, we’ve established a tradition of lasagna and cheesecake. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate turkey. If you’re going to invite me over for Thanksgiving dinner, don’t think you have to serve something different. Just don’t serve me mushrooms, brussel sprouts or liver and onions.
Every other year my wife and I end up alone for Thanksgiving. With family in Portland, some in Phoenix, and shared custody of the boy, we stay by ourselves in Spokane on the even years. When we first got married we decided to try something different. Rather than make a big turkey dinner for the two of us, we, well mostly me, decided, “Why not make my two favorite things in the whole wide world?” Enter, lasagna and cheesecake.
Our good friends, Tim and Tracy Nodland (owners of Spokane’s Nodland Cellars), were gracious enough to provide us with three of their newer, recently released and soon to be released wines. Not one to be very patient, I jumped at the opportunity to pair these three wines with our non traditional Thanksgiving meal.
2008 Nodland Cellars Bebop Riesling
The Nodland’s make a Riesling only when the vintage is right. Tim loves the old world Mosul style Riesling full of petrol and minerality. I recall the 2005 Bebop having aged very nicely to display these characteristics. The 2008 is a very bright golden delicious apple color in the glass. A slight effervescence jumps out on the aroma. Further scents of slightly sweet peaches and tropical flowers add to the beautiful bouquet. On the sip, the Bebop strikes a nice chord or a hint of sweetness and a mild tartness. A little steely minerality spikes up on the mid-palate and the wine has a really good acidity which helps to cleanse the palate.
We used ½ cup of the Riesling in the raspberry puree reduction for the cheesecake. The dry Riesling was a great pairing for the tart sweetness of the raspberry sauce. The medium acidity provided a great wash after each bite of the thick white chocolate cheesecake. At $20, some may find this Riesling to be a tad out of their normal budget for white wines, but if you like a gently sweet dry Riesling, you’ll love this wine. 3+/5
2008 Nodland Cellars Bad Attitude
The first release of the Nodland Cellars Rock-n-Roll series label, Bad Attitude, has been a huge success. Tim and Tracy have only made one red wine in their previous vintage releases. At $35, their traditional Bordeaux Red Blend can be out of reach for most people’s every day drinking wine. The Bad Attitude uses the same great Seven Hills fruit but rather than aging the wine in $1200 French oak barrels, the wine is aged in $500 American oak barrels. This year’s Bad Attitude is a blend of 75% Merlot and 25% Malbec (two of the more amazing grapes grown in Washington).
The swirl showcases the light characteristics of Merlot with a fairly translucent color. The wines aromas begin to showcase their rock-n-roll attitude right from the beginning. A huge power chord of vanilla, blueberry and charcoal reverberate from the glass. In the mouth the wine is also very gentle. This wine reminds me more of a gentle Over the Hills and Far Away rather than the driving Black Dog (bonus points for those that get the reference). In the mouth you can feel the use of American oak. For me, it’s nicely integrated and I like the play of the overly cooked marshmallow, vanilla and graham cracker. At $20, the Nodland’s have a number one single on their hand. 4/5 Instant Classic!
2007 Nodland Cellars Avant-Garde
From the back label:
“Avant-garde represents a pushing of the boundaries of what is accepted as the norm or the status quo. This wine is made from the obscure Carmenere grape, referred to a Grand Vidure in French.”
Carmenere is rarely used, and when it is, it is used as a blending grape. The original traditional Bordeaux blends included Carmenere, but it has since been mostly neglected. Nodland Cellars uses Carmenere in their Red Blend release. For 2007, they held back a small portion to be released as a 100% Carmenere, a showcase of the varietal.
On the swirl the Avant-Garde has a thick center core of plum that fades to more translucence around the edges. Typical of all Nodland wines the aroma is full and big. Strong bouquet of blueberries and exotic spice (not sure how to describe it) are most prevalent. On the sip the wine is full and lush with a gentle mouth coating feel. A hint of cherry sweetness graces the front palate and strong minerality of lead and rocks poke through the mid palate. One of our guests didn’t care for the minerality and described it as a little biting. There is a slight alcohol heat on the finish. The spice of the wine wasn’t a great pairing with the spice and acid from the tomato based lasagna. A better pairing for this wine would be beef, or a Pork Osso Bucco. Personally, I loved the wine and the uniqueness of flavor. At $32 it might not be for everyone. Unless you know you’re a spicy Carmenere lover, I suggest you head to the tasting room for a sip of this wine before dropping the cash. Personally, I’d buy TWO, one to drink now and one to see how the magic evolves in five years. 4/5
The Avant-Garde is being released on Friday, December 3 at the Nodland Cellars tasting room at 11616 E Montgomery 5:30-8:30. Enjoy a sip and a special discount.
How was your Thanksgiving? Did you have any amazing wine pairings? Please share…
I enjoy exploring new regions of the country’s great grape growth. Every state in the union makes wine. With California, Washington, New York, and Oregon securing the top four spots, several states are making a play for the coveted number five. Wine writers like Russ Kane and Jim Wilkerson often talk up the big state of Texas. Great Virginia evangelists like Dezel Quillen and Frank Morgan waive the “Virginia is for Wine Lovers” banner. But, there is a glove shaped state making a play for the #5 spot. With the fine folks at Michigan by the Bottle and Mike Fifer on board, the home of the Lions, Tigers and Bear haters is getting good press for pressing out some quality juice.
Shannon and Courtney Casey run MichiganbytheBottle.com and seem to be on a single minded mission to get Michigan wine on the palates and minds of every wine loving tweeter in the twitterverse. The fifth installment of Tweet and Taste Michigan featured the wines of Silver Leaf Vineyard and Winery. Silver Leaf is a family establishment making nearly 2000 cases of small production hand crafted wines. Located north of Traverse City on the North West portion of the state (near the pinky), the winery is part of the Leelanau Peninsula Vintners Association. The produce 8 wines with the price points ranging from $11 – $16. VALUE ALERT!
For this month’s tasting, it was a pleasure exploring the region and getting to know their Pinot Grigio, Riesling, and Lemberger (Purple Foot).
2009 Silver Leaf Pinot Gris
- The Stuff: Labeled non-vintage and as American, this Pinot Gris is made from grapes in various vineyard sources in Michigan and is 98% Pinot Grigio and 2% Chardonnay. The wine sees “some” time in oak but undergoes no malo-lactic fermentation; 12.2%ABV – LOVE the zip tie type foil access!
- The Swirl: Pale yellow apple in the glass with hints of effervescence, seems moderately ‘thick’
- The Sniff: Nice soft aromas of spice, and lemon-lime erupt from the glass. A nicely presented nose really builds the anticipation for the first sip.
- The Sip: Very well balanced flavor with subtle presentations of peach, and citrus without being tart. A medium acidity provides a finish that makes this a good sipping wine or perfect for pairing with shell fish and spicy fair.
- The Score: While the wine wasn’t overly complex it was a solid effort and a super affordable price point. Retailing for $14, this could be a go to bottle for people who like crisp whites. 3/5
2009 Silver Leaf Riesling
- The Stuff: 100% Riesling from Leelanau area; 12.9%ABV; 1% residual sugar that on the web site is curiously listed as “added back” – not much else listed on the web site
- The Swirl: Very light straw color with hints of green apple
- The Sniff: Mostly tropical flowers on the nose, tight and restrained
- The Sip: A slight touch of sweetness on the palate that quickly gives way to soft flavors of peach and apricot. A wet stone minerality rocks the finish along with a pretty strong acidity. The finish is quick but pleasing.
- The Score: At only $14, this is another bargain that showcases the quality price ratio that is so strong in Michigan; 3/5
Silver Leaf Purple Foot
- The Stuff: 100% Lemberger from Southern Michigan vineyard sources; 10 months on French and American oak; 13.5%ABV
- The Swirl: Extremely light and translucent in the glass. Reminiscent of a Pinot Noir with ruby tones.
- The Sniff: On the nose this wine is a smoky blackberry aroma with hints of earth
- The Sip: A good “starter red” with a thin flavor profile. The taste turns tart with cranberry and puckered tannin on the finish. To me the wine feels a little disjointed and not what I’ve come to expect from a Lemberger.
- The Score: At $16, the Purple Foot is a good price but wasn’t something I would particularly purchase. 3-/5
*Wine was provided as an industry sample with the intention to review
09 Sep 2010
I don’t usually make a habit of travelling 3000 miles to taste wine, but this occasion deserved the trip. I packed my bags and headed east to the city they call the “big apple” to taste wine from Clare Valley, Australia. I mean really, how often does one get to taste Australian Shiraz?
Actually, I lie; we were in New York City (specifically Manhattan) for our annual family vacation. We gave our son the choice of NYC or Washington DC. He chose NYC, which means next year we’ll be headed to DC. Timing couldn’t be better as we can coordinate the trip with the 2011 Wine Bloggers Conference and visit my family just a few hours south in Roanoke, VA.
Before I get back to the wine, let me just say that Manhattan is a-ma-zing! The energy, the vibe, the fashion, the hustle, the passion, the art! Walking the streets felt as if we were walking in the center of what makes the United States (and even the world) run. The eye wall of Times Square rotates out spinning its massive energy force touching the corners of our globe. Would I want to live there? Nope. I couldn’t afford to, but it sure is a fun place to visit.
While on our travels, through the wonders of Twitter, I learned that Cork’d was hosting a wine tasting at the Roger Smith Hotel. In a previous business trip to Manhattan, I had the opportunity to tip a glass with Jon Troutman of Cork’d and Kristen Murphy of Wine Library. Any opportunity to reconnect with these ambassadors of wine immediately shot to the top of my priority list. A quick tangent here – my social media experience has been amazing. Because of the relationships I’ve established on Twitter and Facebook, every city I travel to results in cheers and toasts with “old friends.”
On To The Wine:
When I say Australia, you say?
Okay, when I say Australian wine, you say?
Well, yes, that’s quite true. Most people have narrow thoughts when it comes to Australian wine and it is usually the little kangaroo of Yellow Tail, Jacob’s Creek or Penfolds. The wine tasting at Cork’d hoped to shed some additional light on a region that exports over 1 billion bottles of wine per year (fourth largest in the world).
After a long day of meandering through the Metropolitan Arts Museum, the family was very accommodating and semi-enthusiastically agreed to accompany me to the Roger Smith Hotel (just off Park Avenue and 47th). The eclectic, warm and urban vibe of the hotel made me re-think my lodging choice at a national chain.
At the tasting I was excited to finally meet Lindsay Ronga, CEO of Corkd.com. We’ve spoken via phone and twitter, but in person, Lindsay is infinitely more adorable. She’s also smart as a whip! Lindsay and Jonathan introduced us to their guest, Tom Barry, a third generation wine maker for Jim Barry wines and explained the tasting “rules of engagement.” Immediately the ladies, and some of the men, were smitten with Tom’s thick accent. Most of the crowd was armed with laptops, but I committed to my family to leave mine at home, so I attempted to document the journey with a smart phone whose battery was about to go the way of some of the art exhibits we had just discovered.
Due to the nature of the tasting, these are my initial thoughts and observations of Jim Barry wines. This is not the full attention that I typically try to give to one of my reviews, but should give you a general framework of my thoughts.
Jim Barry Wine Tasting
2007 Jim Barry Lodge Hill Riesling
The dry Riesling (under 2% residual sugar) had surprising aromas of toasted nuts, white pepper and that standard petrol aroma of a well aged Riesling. The wine was clean fermented with no malolactic and zero oak. With 13%ABV the wine is slightly off balance with only mild acidity. Great flavors of apple, lemon zest, lime and a tart finish. Quite a surprising wine and at $17-$20, could be a good selling price point in the US. 3+/5 (Recommend)
2008 Jim Barry The Cover Drive Cabernet Sauvignon
This 100% Cabernet is a blend from various Coonawarra fruit. The name, and labeling design is inspired from the 30 acres of Cabernet that grow on former Cricket playing fields. The wine receives 12 months in American oak. In the glass there is a good thick color to the edge of the glass. Aromas of bright cherry, are offset by vegetal components, eucalyptus, and cinnamon. In the mouth the wine is slightly thin on fruit with heavy tobacco mid palate and a sweet zing at the end. A bold chalky tannin begs to be decanted, paired with food, or cellared for 5-7 years. $20. 3/5
2008 Jim Barry The Lodge Shiraz
We ended the evening by looking at two Shiraz; one, a new release, and the other from 2004 that should give an indication of age ability. In the glass, the 08 is thick and leaves a crimson residue on the edges of the glass. The 14.5%ABV is low comparatively speaking for some Aussie Shiraz. Fragrance of blackberry and clove present themselves to me. I love the way the wine feels in the mouth. A lush velvet coats the tongue. The black pepper is perfectly balanced with the sweet fruit. The wine is big without being jammy. $20 and a great buy. 3+/5 (Recommend)
2004 Jim Barry McRae Wood Shiraz
The final wine of the night is dark and inky in the glass; a brooding color similar to moonless foggy night. The nose offers up green berry twigs, sour black cherry and some hints of what I would guess coffee syrup would smell like. In the mouth the wine is big on fruit, but it is slightly sour. The finish offered moderate tannins with well integrated acidity. Many of the tasters were very impressed with the wine but this one left me feeling a little empty; a perfect example of taste variance and subjectivity. At $45 this was the highest priced wine of the night. 3/5
Tom Barry of Jim Barry Wines. Follow them on Twitter @JimBarryWines
01 Sep 2010
Othello Washington, population 6700. Foxy Roxy Winery, production 4800 bottles. This small Washington winery can easily supply every adult with one bottle of wine per year and stay at their current production levels. Othello is a few miles south of Moses Lake, WA. Put your pencil directly in the center of the state and then go south about an inch (on a regular map) and you’re in Othello. I stumbled across this boutique winery because a friend of mine recently started representing them in Spokane.
Foxy Roxy Wines are sourced from StoneRidge Vineyard where long time Royal Slope farmers, the Davis family, grow over 120 acres of grapes for Foxy Roxy wines and renowned award winning winemakers. StoneRidge vineyards is proud to have produced the only scores of 100, 99, 98 and 97 for the Syrah grapes in the state.
While Foxy Roxy may seem like a novelty brand to some, the wine definitely has a more structure and character than your typical novelty label.
- The Stuff: 100% Riesling from StoneRidge Vineyards, 12.3%ABV; no other information provided on their web site
- The Swirl: Typical Riesling golden straw. Slightly thicker viscosity.
- The Sniff: Aromas of sour apple, apricot, perfume and hints of orange blossom. Pretty fragrant fruit forward Riesling.
- The Sip: More sour apple. Reminds me of an apple that sat just a little too long. A moderate off dry sweetness that hints at 1.5%-3% residual sugar levels. The wine has some good layered fruit characteristics but comes across sour and doesn’t have the acidity levels to push through to the end.
- The Score: At $15 I have to compare this to other Riesling in the price range (Kung Fu Girl, Willamette Valley Vineyards, Chateau St. Michelle) and it comes up a little short. 3/5
- The Stuff: 100% Syrah from StoneRidge Vineyards; 13.9%ABV; no other information provided on their web site
- The Swirl: Medium thickness of color but still a dark brooding storm cloud of purple and black. The color presents as a lighter brewed black coffee.
- The Sniff: Fantastic aromas of coffee, black tea, smoked beef, cherry, and tobacco. Really loving the variety of scents that come off the glass here
- The Sip: This medium bodied wine surprises the palate with good layered flavor. If you’re into jammy Australian Yellow Tail Shiraz, then this wine will surprise you with a different flavor. Well layered stewed fruit, cherry, and prune flavors with a touch of spice. The finish is moderate that dies quickly.
- The Score: Put this wine in a blind tasting and it would score fairly well. Definitely an over achiever at the price point of $18. 3+/5
It is worth noting that these wines were tasted at a local bar with several people with various wine experience. The Riesling was a crowd pleaser and the Syrah was modestly received.
*Wines were received as an industry sample with the intetion to review