riesling Reviews


Mary Mulligan, WineReviewOnline, December 2013

"91 points: 'a rare bird' and more ..."

2012 Riesling

This 2012 Riesling, despite being technically dry, has such exuberant fruitiness that it does not taste at all severe or angular. The wine is medium-bodied, with crisp acidity that hides behind the wine's fruitiness but reveals itself in mid-palate depth and a long thrust of flavor across your mouth and into the finish. The wine's texture is silky, shot through with energy from the acidity. Aromas and flavors suggest white peach, green apple, lime and melon; if "minerality" were not a problematic descriptor these days, I would say that the wine also has that character, a chalk-like, tactile nuance. ...if you enjoy Riesling, you should try this wine and have fun characterizing it for yourself, because it is an American original.

Mary Mulligan, WineReviewOnline, December 2013

Chicago Tribune by Bill St. John November 2013

"...old vines pack power into those aromas ..."

2012 Riesling

Old vines (40 years) pack power into those aromas and tastes of green apples, citrus and white peach, and close that finish with a zinger.

The Chicago Tribune, November 20, 2013

California Grapevine Magazine, November 2013

"Highly Recommended"

2012 Riesling

Attractive, moderately intense, citrussy, green apple and stone fruit aroma with floral notes and hints of jasmine and honeysuckle; crisp, well balanced, citrus and white peach flavors with a clean, dry finish.

California Grapevine Magazine, November 2013, p. 87-88

St. Helena Star, November 20, 2013, by Catherine Bugue

"...has the right nerve ..."

2012 Riesling

If you want to know what all the hubbub is about this sommelier-loved grape, taste this dry-style Riesling from Smith Madrone, which has been planted up on their mountain property since the early 1970s. It has the grape's renowned nerve, structure and a range of flavors: an orchard of different apple varieties, herb and minerality.

The St. Helena Star

Le Sommelier Fou blog, by David Pelletier, August 2013

...a beautiful minerality...

2012 Riesling

Pale yellow color with green highlights, beautiful tears on the glass. Aromas of stone dust, white pepper, tangerine, peach and orange zest. Very good acidity, flavors of lime, blood orange and stone, which imparts a beautiful minerality to the ensemble. Very long. Drink now or within seven to eight years.

Le Sommelier Fou blog, by David Pelletier

California Grapevine, September 2012

"...first place..very highly recommended…"

2010 Riesling

…medium to medium-full body; crisp, elegant, white peach and apple flavors with firm acidity; lingering aftertaste. Shows assertive varietal character and complexity, and should continue to develop with a
few more years of bottle aging…

Meredith May / The Tasting Panel / July 2012

"One of the most stunning, elegant domestic Rieslings!"

2011 Riesling

Perhaps one of the most stunning, elegant domestic Rieslings: white flowers and sunshine in a lithe body. Fragrant and juicy, Asian pear and honey come up to the surface like a mermaid seeking air. It has the perfume of Alsace and the tightrope acidity of Germany, but it is all Spring Mountain.
July 2012

Matt Mauldin / WineILike blog / July 2012


2011 Riesling

Aromas of kiwi, orange, slate and white flowers. Crisp and brisk palate, well balanced with bright fruit and depth. Long finish. Excellent.

Roger Beery / Bacchus & Beery blog / June 2012

"A magnificent dry Riesling"

2010 Riesling

A magnificent dry Riesling from the land of Cabernet.  This estate grown wine by Smith-Madrone offers up flavors of stone fruit, green apple, and citrus with an underpinning of minerality. Fresh acidity adds to the complexity. Full post.

Vintage Experiences Blog / Dan Berger / June 21, 2012

Vintage Experiences logo

"Very highly recommended"

2010 Riesling

Very classy earthy, complex citrus and a trace of TDN. Fine balance, slightly on the sweet side of dry.
...We write a lot about Riesling here and for good reason: it may well be the greatest grape variety of them all. This is not an idle statement... it is due more to my reflections on it over the last decade…It may be argued, with much support, that Riesling is the wine world's greatest proof that terroir does exist...

2010 Riesling in May 25 Wall Street Journal

Wall Street Journal logo

"...the 2010 Smith-Madrone Napa Valley Riesling, was a universal favorite."

In her Wall Street Journal column on May 25 (Men Are From Cab, Women Are From Moscato?), Lettie Teague includes the 2010 Riesling:

The idea that women are better tasters than men is hardly new. ..I called the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia and put the question to sensory psychologists... What did wine professionals think of the purported palate divide?... What about wine-drinking amateurs? What would they say? I decided to convene a group of six tasters, male and female, for some real-life insight... .The next wine, the 2010 Smith-Madrone Napa Valley Riesling, was a universal favorite. "It's a wine for men and women," said Peter, thanks to the wine's bright acidity and clean, minerally flavors. ...Do women have better palates than men? Based on my tasting experiences over the years, I'd have to answer: It depends on the woman. And it depends on the man."

Be sure to interact with the Interactive Graphics!

Full article


BachToBacchus Blog, December 2011

"...the finest American-made Riesling that I've ever tasted…"

2010 Riesling

Smith-Madrone Vineyards makes the finest American made Riesling that I've ever tasted.  The 2010 Riesling sells for only $27 and compares to the best Alsatian and German Rieslings being made today. The Smith Madrone Riesling is a drier style Riesling, drier than most German Kabinetts, more along the lines of an Alsatian Riesling, but without being overly crisp on the palate or rather austere on the finish, as some Alsatian Rieslings can be. It has a unique Riesling personality from its own vineyard. If I may be pseudo-poetic for a moment, the Smith-Madrone Riesling seems to reveal the subtle minerals that the vines slowly extracted and dissolved from the rocky soil of Spring Mountain, yielding something like a primal connection to the earth and nature, with perhaps subtle hints of heaven.  This is an interesting, complex and layered wine to slowly savor.  Roll it around in your mouth.  Notice how it is different on the various areas of the tongue.  Let it warm a bit in your mouth to see how it changes character.  This is a wine that invites investigation beyond its lovely color, tart apple taste and long finish. Like a beautiful painting, the more you spend time with it, the more you will appreciate it.  A quick glance or a cursory viewing will not allow you to understand or appreciate its beauty.  You will miss so much if you do not take time and savor the experience.

Santa Rosa Press Democrat / Dan Berger / December 12, 2011

Smith-Madrone Riesling a real treat

Planning the wine list for a holiday party can be frustrating for those only marginally interested in wine, so here are a few suggestions based on some wine lovers' secrets. …Riesling is generally a superb alternative to other wines that might be lacking in much distinctive character. For a real treat, try the drier Rieslings from …Smith Madrone…superb accompaniment to food.

Wine Enthusiast Magazine / May 2011

Wine Enthusiast Logo

90 Points

Smith-Madrone 2009 Riesling (Spring Mountain); $27. With 12.9% alcohol, this Riesling is absolutely dry and fascinatingly complex. High acidity frames citrus fruit, green apple and mineral flavors. Should develop in interesting ways over the next six years. —S.H.

Wine Review Online / Mary Ewing-Mulligan /April 29, 2011

wine review online logo

A terrific Riesling, well-balanced and stylish.

Smith Madrone, Spring Mountain District (Napa Valley, California) Riesling 2009. This is one of the few landmark Rieslings of California, grown high up on Spring Mountain in western Napa Valley. It is a trim, sleek Riesling with a slight sweetness that complements its high-acid depth and makes it particularly flexible with food. The wine has aromas and flavors that are floral, fruity (melon, apple, citrus) and minerally; these show lots of concentration and carry long on the finish. "A terrific Riesling, well-balanced and stylish." Only 12.9 percent alcohol. 90

Vintage Experiences Blog / Dan Berger / April 2011

Vintage Experiences logo

"Very Highly Recommended"

2009 Riesling

Reviewed in the April 14, 2011 issue of Dan Berger’s Vintage Experiences. Very Highly Recommended. Delicate Riesling aroma of stone fruit and citrus with a lovely soft entry and mid-palate, but a relatively dry finish. / February 10, 2011

Tim Elliott writes a great review on about the the "almost mythical Smith-Madrone Riesling."

Smith-Madrone, Riesling, Spring Mountain 2009 ($27/sample) – Light straw-green in color with aromas of green apple, citrus, honeydew and a hint of petrol. Tart green apple fruit with citrus finishing dry with refreshing acidity and a nice mineral note. A benchmark California Riesling that could take on the best of Alsace and give them a run for their money. Will continue to improve in the cellar for at least the next 25 years. Just over 300 cases produced so pick up some soon.

12.9% ABV Natural cork closure Rating: Score: 90

Wall Street Journal, ON WINE by Jay McInerny, October 22, 2010

Wall Street Journal

Riesling From the Land of Cab

Napa Valley Riesling? Sounds…odd, no? However, some years back, I discovered the Rieslings of Smith-Madrone, and I was so impressed I ended visiting the winery on top of Spring Mountain, a virtual wilderness twenty minutes uphill from St. Helena.

The ‘09 is the 32nd vintage of this wine. The very first vintage, the ’77, was named world’s best Riesling in the Gault Millau Wine Olympics of 1979. The Smiths, in fact, were the first California growers to bottle a California wine labeled as Riesling. For many years the term ‘Johannesberg Riesling’ was used, until Stu (who has lately gained some notoriety for his campaign against biodynamics) petitioned the BTF to use the name Riesling.

... Also highly recommended: the 08 Chardonnay.

Also from Jay's summary:

2009 Smith Madrone Riesling Napa Valley Spring Mountain, $27

Very light straw color, green-apple nose, with a citrusy vibrancy on the palate leading to a slatey, minerally note suggestive of a great Mosel.

Link to full story.


Peter Hellman, "Missing in Action," Urban Vintage, New York Sun, October 4, 2006

NY Sun

The choice of wines available in New York shops is vast, even overwhelming. Yet, amid such a global bounty, one of California's most distinguished wineries is glaringly absent on retail shelves. It's called Smith Madrone, now in the midst of its 35th vintage high on the upper slopes of Spring Mountain high over the Napa Valley. That this label can't find a place in any New York shop is not, I believe, due to lack of quality or value. It's because of the difficulty of selling the kind of wines that Smith Madrone makes.

The winery, owned by brothers Stuart and Charles Smith, bottles just three wines: cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, and riesling. In an era when most California wines are riper and more alcoholic than ever before, the Smith brothers make traditional wines, maybe even throwback wines. They're dry-farmed for intensity and harvested ripe, but not overly so. The result is wines which have alcohol between 12% and 13%, once a common level but now the exception in an era of wines that routinely reach 15% alcohol or higher. "Some of these huge wines can be seductive and fruit forward, or they can hit you so that your eyes bulge out, but then you say, ‘Now what?' They've nothing behind them. These wines will not age." Meanwhile, these voluptuary wines do fetch high scores from wine critics, notably Robert M. Parker Jr. in his Wine Advocate newsletter.

Smith Madrone wines, especially the cabernet sauvignon, are typically unyielding upon release. But the wines invariably blossom as the years go by. I don't believe there is any other dry California riesling that is the equal of Smith Madrone's in its improvement after 10 years and beyond. But such wines are a tough sell. "For many years, we've tried to make wines with elegance, restraint, and grace," Mr. Smith said, "and we got our brains beat out in the marketplace."

Sadly, that's currently the case in New York, although the wines are available in half a dozen other states, notably Illinois and California (check and direct from the winery ( The deeply flavored 2003 Napa Valley Chardonnay ($27) and 2001 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($38) are currently available, as is the 2000 Napa Valley Riesling ($50). This last wine, simultaneously floral and earthy, is what great Alsacian-style riesling is all about.

Robert Whitley, “Napa Excellence Doesn’t Have to be a Bank-breaker,” San Diego Union-Tribune, January 18, 2006.

Union Tribune

Visiting the Napa Valley, if only by way of your wine cupboard, need not be an expensive proposition...That is not to say they are cheap, but for the Napa Valley, the prices are modest....The Riesling is simply one of California's finest.