Smith-Madrone Riesling 2014 – 95 Pts.


Happy Friday!  Next month, a full-length piece I wrote on Smith-Madrone’s entire portfolio will come out in Food & Spirits Magazine. Until then, however, I wanted to start the weekend off by jotting a few notes on what I consider to be one of the most impressive wines I’ve had all year.

High up on Spring Mountain with a gorgeous view of the Valley, the Smiths — Charlie, Stu, and Sam, dry farm their way to producing some of the best wines anywhere in Napa. They’re amiable, casual men, and the winery is one-of-a-kind, with unparalleled views, barrels stacked from floor to ceiling, and the occasional call to behead a rattlesnake. It’s a place that reminds one that the Napa Valley is a rural, agricultural area, and to someone hailing from Nebraska’s isolated Sandhills as I do, it felt more familiar and more comfortable than anywhere else we visited.

The 2014 Riesling, which is just now being released, is an impressive example of what dedicated, knowledgeable winemakers can do with good fruit. The Smith’s craft the varietal in a manner far more reminiscent of Alsace than of the ways that many Californian producers are inclined to bastardize the varietal, as if somewhere it is written that it should sit on the bottom shelf and compete with the White Zinfandel. The 2014 Smith-Madrone Riesling is bone dry and very smooth, with that familiar nose of petrol and the crispness of a dry English cider. With high acidity, subtle notes of white fruits, and a clean finish, this is a beautiful wine.  In my estimation, it could compete amongst the best Rieslings in the world. Though I’ve never experienced it for myself, I’ve heard a number of people suggest laying S-M Rieslings down for a decade or more. I plan to give it a try at some point.

Two weeks ago today my friend Zach and I had the pleasure of visiting Smith-Madrone for ourselves. It was cathartic, a genuinely fulfilling and life-giving experience, and we’re grateful to Charles and Sam for being wonderful hosts.  Whenever you’re next in Napa, I cannot overstate the need for you to visit Smith-Madrone. It’s one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in all of wine country. Until you can arrange to visit, their 2014 Riesling is a spectacular wine, and should tide you over until you, too, can climb the winding roads of the Spring Mountain District. 95 points on my scale, and I highly recommend it.


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