Smith-Madrone Vineyards is located on 200 acres on top of Spring Mountain west of St. Helena with 38 acres planted in vineyards. The vineyard elevation ranges from 1,300 to 2,000 feet. The founder, managing partner and enologist is Stuart Smith, Charles Smith is the winemaker and Sam Smith is the assistant winemaker. Truly a family affair! All the wines are estate and dry-farmed on top of the mountain. Annual production is between 3,000 to 4,000 cases a year. Currently they are producing Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and their iconic Cooks Flat (blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc).
This is the first time I had the opportunity to taste their Chardonnay. First, if you are buttery Chardonnay wine lover stop reading as this is not your wine. This wine being dry farmed, has enough minerality to mirror spelunking in a cave. The wine tastes like no other Chardonnay in recent memory and I have enjoyed many Chardonnays.
The wine on the eyes immediately let one know this is “not ordinary”. Rather than your typical light straw or golden coloring, this is a combination of a green and yellow color. Unfortunately, it does not come across in the photo. Next on the nose, apple is the predominant aromatic. Then on the palate is where this wine makes you do summersaults trying to figure it out! The first sip is one of minerality combined with stone fruits. If you were doing a blind tasting, you would be hard pressed to understand if this was a Chardonnay or blend of Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay, Picpoul Blanc/Chardonnay or Pinot Blanc/Chardonnay. The wine is lively, bouncy and flamboyant with a sophisticated and opulent presence on the palate. The finish is mid-length, structured and crisp with strong but not out of control acidity. It is still a lighter wine (as opposed to a Roussanne or Marsanne) being a Chardonnay, but a mysterious and elusive taste, eluding a typical Chardonnay. The wine is from Spring Mountain, barrel fermented for 9 months in 55% new French oak. Only 945 cases were produced and it goes for $45.
The Food and Wine Pairing
Paired with a chicken Piccata, baby asparagus and Yukon smashed potatoes. The wine was very enjoyable with this dish.
Essentially, the wine leaves one in a conundrum, scratching one’s head trying to define the traits, flavors and quality. In the end, I simply gave up on the mystery and enjoyed a great and unique wine. Worthy of your consideration and guaranteed at a blind tasting with friends to befuddle them with flavors with an enjoyable wine.