08 Feb Please The Palate Wine of the Week: Smith-Madrone 2018 Riesling, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley
This week I drank a wine from Napa Valley but it was not a Cabernet Sauvignon. It was a Riesling! It was the Smith-Madrone 2018 Riesling. Funny enough, I first fell in love with the Smith-Madrone Riesling in 2018 when I drank the 2015 and 2016 vintages. And now it is 2023 and I drank the 2018 Riesling and it did not disappoint. In fact it impressed and that is why the Smith-Madrone 2018 Riesling, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley is the Please The Palate wine of the week.
About Smith-Madrone Winery
Smith-Madrone Winery was founded in 1971 by brothers Stuart and Charles Smith. Located in the Spring Mountain district, there are 38-acres of estate vineyards that surround the winery. When the brothers purchased the land, it was a densely forested property with an abandoned vineyard. They logged the land and planted Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, and Pinot Noir, which was later grafted over to Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.
The Riesling, which used to be called Johannesburg Riesling, was popular in the 1970s when Stu and Charles planted it. But by the mid-1970s, there was a red wine boon and most of the Riesling in Napa Valley was pulled out. Luckily Stu and Charles were some of the few who kept their Riesling. This is because Stu believes that Riesling is one of the great white wine in the world (and I agree).
In 1979, they entered their Riesling in a wine competition sponsored by the French restaurant guide Gault Millau and Smith-Madrone’s Riesling was selected, above German Rieslings, as the Best Riesling. And to this day, in my opinion, Smith-Madrone continues to make one of the best Rieslings in California, if not beyond.
The Smith-Madrone Riesling comes from 20+ year-old vines on their estate in the Spring Mountain district. The Riesling is grown at an elevation of 1,300-1,900 feet, with slopes angling up to 34%. The vineyard is partially dry-farmed and most of the Riesling was planted on its own rootstock. The grapes are tank-fermented using a proprietary yeast that is a combination of German and Alsatian yeasts.
The Smith Madrone Riesling is a dry-style Riesling. According to Charlie Smith, “there are no “tricks” to Riesling; if you don’t have good grapes, you’re in trouble! You pick it early, ferment & bottle. Riesling is a straight line from vineyard to bottle and the quality of the grapes is all important. The vineyard is everything; the job of the winemaker is not to screw it up.”
And Smith-Madrone does not screw it up! The 2018 Riesling is a pure expression of the grape with aromas of citrus, floral, and mineral notes. On the palate, the wine is delicate and elegant chalky acidity. The wine lightly coats the midpalate and lingers with a tart apple finish.
This wine already has five years of age on it and is drinking beautifully. But, it could be held onto for a few more years.
Rieslings can range from dry to sweet and therefore different styles of Riesling pair with difference foods. Dry Riesling, with its acidity and minerality, pairs perfectly with raw fish, oysters, and seafood, as well as dim sum or a delicate white fish, such as Sole or seabass. For me, I enjoyed this bottle of Riesling with sushi. The wine had enough texture to balance with the sushi and the acidity was just bold enough to match the rice and fish.
Where to Purchase
The Smith-Madrone Riesling retails for $36 and is available directly from the winery. In my opinion, this is an affordable price for a wine that is so exquisite!