Winery’s signature varietal spanning six vintages
Napa Valley, December 2020 — Smith-Madrone Winery is releasing a six bottle vertical collection of Smith-Madrone Riesling from the 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 vintages. “As we get ready to celebrate our 50th anniversary next year we wanted to offer our customers something fun, unique and something uniquely ours,” explains founder/General Partner Stuart Smith.
The 2014 and 2015 vintages are only available in very small quantities in the winery library. The 2017, 2018 and 2019 are not released yet. The 2016 is the winery’s current release (which is also available in a 1.5L magnum bottle). This vertical is being offered for $250.00.
“Tasting these wines is an absolute taste of our terroir,” adds Stuart Smith. “The same varietal, from the same vineyard, tended by the same hands for the last fifty years—this is a chance to really understand our estate and our approach to winemaking,” he says.
“This is literally an amazing set of wines, a fantastic way to go deep into one varietal, made lovingly by one producer, over the last five decades,” said Michael Madrigale, a New York City sommelier. “Whether people buy this and taste the wines over time with a Coravin, or enjoy them all at one time, it will be a very memorable tasting experience,” he added.
Smith-Madrone is considered to be a pioneer of growing and making Riesling in the Napa Valley. In establishing the winery and planting its vineyards on the steep slopes of Spring Mountain in 1971, Stu intentionally chose Riesling because of its characteristics of thriving on hillsides.
Entered accidentally, Smith-Madrone won the award for Best Riesling In The World for its 1977 Riesling in the 1979 Gault Millau Wine Olympics competition in Paris. It was a blind competition and the contenders were wines from all over the world, including prestigious names such as Schloss Vollrads.
In 1983 Smith-Madrone was the first U.S. Riesling producer to label its wines by its true name, “Riesling,” after an eight-month struggle with the BATF. Smith-Madrone had been the only winery to use only the word Riesling on its labels when other wineries at the time were using either Johannisberg Riesling or White Riesling. Why? “It’s the true name of the varietal,” Smith explains. “When was the last time you had a red Riesling? White Riesling is redundant; Johannisberg is a picturesque winery in Germany not too dissimilar from Smith-Madrone. Why should we call Riesling ‘Johannisberg Riesling’ if we don’t call Pinot Noir ‘Romanee Noir’ or Cabernet Sauvignon ‘Lafite Sauvignon?’ The true name of the varietal is simply Riesling and our fighting to use that terminology was an expression of our serious commitment to this grape,” he adds.
“With our Riesling you get the purest expression of the varietal. There’s no malolactic fermentation, no oak extraction, lees stirring or blending with other varietals,” says winemaker Charles Smith, Stu’s brother. “Once harvested, the grape juice goes directly into stainless steel tanks where it is fermented, clarified and then bottled. This is true minimalist intervention winemaking and Riesling is the only varietal that reaches its greatest heights this way,” he adds.
Riesling expert (author of The Riesling Story: The Best White Wine On Earth) Stuart Pigott named Smith-Madrone’s Riesling the only dry Riesling from North America in his list of Top 20 Dry Rieslings in the book. About the winery’s Rieslings, he has written, “they were not only of consistently high quality, they were also utterly distinctive. The 1996 was one of the best mature American Rieslings I ever tasted. Which other American Rieslings can match its vitality and uniqueness of flavor?” In describing the varietal in general terms, Pigott has written: “There’s not only a spirit of the times; there’s also a wine of the times, and Riesling is the white wine of our time. In a wine world dominated by smoke and mirrors, where standardization of flavor is the norm, Riesling remains strikingly and deliciously original.”
Smith-Madrone is one of Napa Valley’s authentically artisanal wineries, founded in 1971 by Stuart Smith. Winemaking and grape-growing are handled entirely by the two brother-proprietors, Stuart and Charlie Smith and Stu’s son, Sam Smith. All of Smith-Madrone’s wines come from the 38 acres of estate vineyards surrounding the winery, first planted 49 years ago by Stuart and Charlie. The vineyards extend across steep mountainsides, at steep slopes at elevations between 1,300 and 1,900 feet. Total production each year is less than 4,000 cases. More at www.smithmadrone.com.
Smith-Madrone’s current releases, all sourced from estate-grown fruit from vineyards surrounding the winery at the top of the Spring Mountain District appellation in the northern Napa Valley, are 2016 Riesling, 2017 Chardonnay, 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2016 Cook’s Flat Reserve.