A Spring Mountain District Gem – Smith-Madrone – James Melendez


It was my birthday October 2 2015 and it is one of the few days on a calendar year that I take completely off….well sort of.  I had a rush getting to Napa Valley–I planned on a taking a leisurely stroll up to Napa but that was not to be.  A breakneck pace getting there was assured from the moment my head lifted from the pillow to the end.  But it was not bad–it was not bad at all.  Though I had a lot to do on my day.  It was a day to take up as much for myself as possible.



I have visited hundreds of wineries and tasting rooms and Napa Valley is both well traveled in my logs but one where I haven’t visited every nook and cranny–I find it challenging and satisfying at the same time.  I have repeated visits to many wineries and hence I could have visited over 90%.  But that is still too come.  In my early Napa Valley days visits I would visit at least twice monthly–I am lucky to get there twice every six months.  I know so many people who are jaded about the experience.  I still look upon with fondness — for me my earliest memories of Napa Valley were not that long ago.  Somehow it seems several decades worth of journeys to the same wine region.  I do look north to optimism and to revel in each experience as if it were my first.  In my videos I have said a number of times and have a video on this subject matter as well:


I want to highlight my visit to Smith-Madrone in Spring Mountain District; getting off of Highway 29 or Silverado Trail can be both exciting and venturing to produces off the beaten path.  The windy road to Smith-Madrone was an exquisite ride gorgeous evergreen scenery.  Getting to the top of the hill was to navigate where Smith-Madrone was—mobile phone service was not there to help–thanks Siri–hence all numbering conventions can be thrown out the door–they are not as intuitive as you might think.



I finally found the path and glided down in the beautiful, ethereal mid-autumn season in Napa.  Autumn and winter my absolutely favourite seasons–even though there is a bit of warmth in the air the breeze sends a different signal.

I find a parking spot and I hear people coming up from their tasting “…I just loved the Cabernet.”  I am familiar with all three of their wines: Riesling, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.  When I think of Chardonnay and Riesling I don’t naturally think of Spring Mountain; however, because this is a pioneer producer in Spring Mountain I know don’t think of it as a curiosity but more “of course.”  Elevation and soil content go a long way to help the Chardonnay and Riesling.  Riesling a rare variety for California is hardly produced even though it certainly could produce more.  I had the opportunity to sit meet, sit down and talk a bit with Stu Smith.  Stu and his brother Charles founded Smith-Madrone in 1971.  I remember seeing a bottle of Smith-Madrone when I first moved to California in 1997 at K&L Wine Merchants at their original San Francisco location at Harrison and Second Street and back then I couldn’t afford a nice library of wines.  I would have to wait another half decade before I could taste Smith-Madrone wines.  I was anticipating their wines–I knew of the site, elevation and history.  For me I was going to taste the good labours and fruit of Spring Mountain.  



I got a driven tour of the site–varies greatly from 1,300 to 2,000 feet above sea level–the steep grade is a great incentive for drainage and strong and forthright root development.  The site has a specific orientation for the three bottled varieties–eastern facing is the Riesling–it’s cooler.  Southern and western facing is for the Cabernet and a northerly orientation for Chardonnay.  Beautiful red soil of clay loam, sandstone and limestones amongst others.

After the site tour Stu and I sit down and tasted the latest vintages of Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling and Chardonnay.  I felt immediately comfortable talking with Stu about everything from the then always-top-of-mind drought, current vinicultural trends–namely the concrete egg, his early years of winemaking and no vineyard stone was left un-turned in our conversation–it was a conversation not an interview.  Stu has an authentic view–and his view of both vini and viticulture are not old fashioned but centered–Stu is well educated and has a long time perspective of being a wine producer, a long time resident of Napa Valley.  There is something comforting in knowing that a family like Charlie and Stu are committed to their namesake label and site; where in Napa Valley constants, commitments and being a vanguard are becoming rarer.  I wouldn’t know where to begin when I think of a producer who truly sells out their equity and assuring their consumers that they will remain as a consultant.  But the level of consultancy is not the same as commanding your own venture.  I enjoyed the experience, the conversation and of course the Smith-Madrone wines I tasted.

For a great down-to-earth and genuine experience of tasting fine Spring Mountain wines; find these wines and also find time to visit.  The price points listed below are very reasonable by Napa Valley standards.  A Napa Valley let alone a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon mountain fruit for $48.00 is not just reasonable–it is unheard of the Valley.

I tasted:

  • Smith-Madrone Spring Mountain District Chardonnay – 2013 – $32.00
  • Smith-Madrone Spring Mountain District Riesling – 2013 – $27.00
  • Smith-Madrone Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon -2012 – $48.00




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© 2016 James Meléndez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content, logo, brand name, rating, rating graphic and award and designs of James the Wine Guy.

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About James Melendez

I love wine and have had the privilege of working in the wine trade as a senior national wine marketing manager for a wine, food and home goods retailer in 30+ US States. I executed into making wine experiential and made 'wines of the world' programme work in a highly regulated framework for a successful business proposition. My "wine" site also incorporates those categories intimately involved with wine such as food, travel and lifestyle. This site incorporates my many dimensions of interest. I love to review and also talk about many aspects of wine. I have been privileged to visit many wine countries and find them enthralling no matter how many times I visit. I love all aspects of wine: viticulture, history, winemaking, brand development, wine regions and many more aspects. This is a living tradition that needs documentation, education, reporting and reviewing. Do I have favourite varieties and styles? I love so many varieties and often it is situational and yet there are time honoured wines that I anticipate and I am passionate about. I like all colours of wine and all styles. I have had a mad passionate affair with sparkling wines and they are always top of mind. Wine nourishes our soul and is the key to connecting with other people at our dinner table. Salute, James © 2014, 2017 James Meléndez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content, logo, brand name, rating, rating graphic and award and designs of James the Wine Guy. James the Wine Guy also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and other social medias.
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One Response to A Spring Mountain District Gem – Smith-Madrone – James Melendez

  1. Dave says:

    I love Smith Madrone. Thanks for the article. Just curious why “what you tasted” at the end date of the article has two different vintages for the Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon? I think their 2012 cab may be the best I have tasted going back to 2000.

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