Cabernet Sauvignon Reviews

Grape Collective, January 15, Dorothy Gaiter

One of 2017's most exciting wines, a stately, confident pleasure

2010 Cabernet Sauvignon

The Grape Collective held its first holiday party last year and the boss, Christopher Barnes, opened some really good wines, including the 2010 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon. Stuart Smith founded the 4,000-case winery in 1971 after earning a degree in economics from Berkeley and taking some enology classes at UC Davis. With the help of family and friends, the 22-year-old purchased 200 acres of forest that had been part of a 550-acre homestead that more than 100 years earlier had included vineyards. Talk about Kismet! About 40 of those 200 acres are vineyards now. Today, Stuart is general partner, enologist; his brother Charles is winemaker; and Stuart’s son Sam is assistant winemaker. The Madrone part of the name comes from Madrone trees on the property, evergreens with red bark. The 2010 was lovely. I love well-aged wines and this one had great fruit and rich earth with tannins in perfect balance. A stately, confident pleasure. I could have sipped it all night....

International Wine Report, Owen Bargreen, January 2018

Beautifully balanced Cabernet 

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

91 points: The 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon from Smith-Madrone is a classic display of Napa Valley Cabernet. This instantly grabs your attention as it releases aromatics of dark fruits intermingling with spices and herbal elements. The mouthwatering acidity is lovely, as this medium to full-bodied wine delivers flavors of blackberry cobbler, crushed mint and coffee grounds which entice. This beautifully balanced Cabernet will cellar gracefully over the next decade.

International Wine Report, Owen Bargreen, March 2017

93 points

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

93 points: Sourced from their Spring Mountain estate, this gorgeous, deep-hued Cabernet wine begins with complex aromatics of violets, black cherry, crème de cassis, black olives, coffee grounds, cigar box and suggestions of baking spices. Tannic and rich, this wine yields flavors of dark fruits, crème de cassis and dark chocolate shavings. Dense, tightly wound and intense come to mind when savoring this lovely Cabernet. The mouthfeel is gorgeous, showing beautiful texture and structure. While this is excellent now, some additional bottle age should allow this to soften nicely and become even more appealing.

Enofylz, Martin Redmond, January 11, 2018

92 points

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

92 points: This is an alluring, harmonious wine that offers terrific value for a top-shelf Napa Valley Cab! It’s approachable now, especially with a decant, but will improve with more time in the bottle.

Color – Nearly opaque ruby/violet
Aromas – Aromatic cassis, blackberry, eucalyptus, cacao, cedar wood, espresso, anise and a hint of violets
Body – Medium-bodied, elegant and harmonious with ample fruit and balancing acidity with firm well-integrated tannins.
Taste – Alluring cassis, black cherry, blackberry, espresso, graphite, and cedar flavors
Finish – Medium/long.

This wine is crafted from 100% estate fruit from vineyards sitting at 1,800 ft elevation. The vines are planted on very steep slopes (up to 35%) and dry- farmed. It’s a blend of 85% Cab, 8% Cab Franc and 7% Merlot.   It was aged for 18 months in 70% new French oak, and 30% one-year old French oak.

Martin Redmond, Instagram, January 7, 2018

Compellingly beautiful

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

Loving this 2014 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon! It’s 100% estate fruit from vineyards sitting at 1,800 ft elevation. The vines are planted on very steep slopes (up to 35%) and dry- farmed. It’s a blend of 85% Cab, 8% Cab Franc and 7% Merlot. The Smith brothers have an Old World winemaking aesthetic, and it shows in this compellingly beautiful, elegant and harmonious wine! Bravo!

The Drunken Cyclist, Jeff Kralik, December 14, 2017


2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

As I mentioned, I have never visited the winery, yet I am a huge fan of Smith-Madrone. Why? Simply, they over-deliver. Great wines, modest prices. This is a good example: all kinds of pepper on the nose (white, black, red, and green) with plenty of fruit on the palate, but balanced with acidity and earth. In the age of bombastic Napa Cabs, Smith-Madrone seems to realize that wine is part of the meal, not the sole focus. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.

California Grapevine, January 2018

Richness in the mouthfeel

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

Medium ruby; earthy, dark berry fruit aroma with hints of green olive and dried herbs; full body; earthy, dark cherry and boysenberry fruit flavors with richness in the mouthfeel; full tannin; lingering aftertaste. Very highly


Orange Coast Magazine, Valory Reed, December 21, 2017

Oozing with character

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

This Smith-Madrone Napa cab is oozing with character since it is grown at a high elevation under the duress of dry-farming and old-school principles.  It is uniquely velvety and plush. It will showcase your grilled meats and delight any wine lover as it can be enjoyed now or cellared for 20-plus years.

Forbes, December 19, 2017, Katie Kelly Bell

A top ten wine of 2017

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

Brothers Charles and Stuart Smith are chief cook and bottle washers at Smith-Madrone—managing the winemaking and grape-growing--they tend smaller estate plots high atop the steep terrain of Spring Mountain in Napa. Blended with 12% Cabernet Franc, this wine from an epic California vintage shows supple, smooth tannins threaded with almost juicy-savory black cherry and warm spices, while currant and cassis sing in the background. Authentic and a trifle rustic. The almost entirely dry-farmed vines grow on steep slopes at elevations of 1,400 to 1,900 feet. Lovers of Smith-Madrone should also look for their reserve label: Cook’s Flat Reserve.

JamesTheWineGuy, James Melendez, December 12, 2017

Heritage blackberry

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

Video review:

SoifKnows, Stephen McConnell, December 12, 2017

Mind-numbingly brilliant

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

Nearly impenetrable ruby with miniscule pink edges.  Intense mint and sharp rock gradually develop into one of the most-lusciously-fruited 2014’s in memory.  A teensy peek at oak and leather pops in blissfully mid-breath, sandwiched between the alpine conifer and rich, sweet, stirrable, fruit-at-the-bottom cherry yogurt–a butter-fat base with solid blocks of deep, dark fruit, potential tertiary, and pungent spice.

So many young cabs!  I love drinking them with a few years on them, but almost equally I enjoy feeling them out blisteringly young.  Often,  I am disappointed by vapidity or overt structure in a young cab.  Too many people believe the-bigger-the-better and well-meaningly espouse the popular theory that the more tannin and obfuscation of all else there is in a Cabernet, the better it will age.  This is completely false.  There HAS to be fruit.  Just remember that and barrel-tasting and futures-tasting will be a breeze.  THERE HAS TO BE FRUIT.  Fruit HAS to be IN the wine–even when young.  Fruit doesn’t just magically appear as a wine ages.  It doesn’t just pop up out of nowhere when a cab reaches a certain age. It has to be IN THERE from Day 1. The main reason to taste Cab young is the opportunity to purchase more of a REALLY GOOD ONE, and this one is seriously fueling that joy.

In the mouth, all that pretty fruit is piled all over the entry, attempting to block the wiry tannins from obliterating everything.  The sheer quantity and quality of the fruit is capable of this task, but only for a short period. Your mind has barely come to grips with the intensity and richness of the succulent ripe cherry and blackberry before green shards of cinnamon and cardamon-tipped tannins worm their way in.  They grow to a perfect earthy-bitter plateau and take a balanced bow to thinness, allowing huge leathery smears of fruit to play out long into the finish.

This wine is just mind-numbingly brilliant, and one you are SO GLAD you tried young.  Buy two cases and drink one a year. I would say buy 3 cases and drink one a year, but I haven’t read a critic advising a wine be held for 36 years in quite some time.  Still, I think this one could do it.  I haven’t drank a huge amount of 2014 cab this year, but this one definitely stands out.

This bottle is a testament to dry-farmed, mountain fruit and a leaner, lower-alcohol profile in Napa Valley Cabernet, and I am always thrilled when I discover wines being made in this style.

TheFermentedFruit, Ryan O'Hara, November 28, 2017


2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

A consistent overachiever, Smith-Madrone’s Cabernet Sauvignons are noteworthy for their uncommon combination of terroir-driven restraint and sheer value. Founder Stu Smith is a pioneer of dry farming, and his 200 acre property boasts 34 acres of vines planted in the rocky, hillside soils of Spring Mountain at elevations ranging between 1,300 and 2,000 feet. I wrote about how much I enjoyed Stu’s stylish 2011 Cabernet, and the 2013 is even better. Boasting more density and extract, the rich core of black cherry and anise remains grounded by savory notions of sage, graphite and white pepper, with just enough acid to maintain ideal balance. This remains one of the finest Cabernet values in Napa.

Wine & Spirits Magazine Winter 2017 Buying Guide

95 points

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

95 points: The Smith brothers hit a home run with their 2013, their mountaintop vines producing a cabernet that rises far above the grapey purple fruit and chocolate-oak richness of so many wines of the vintage. Instead, it tastes like freshly picked raspberries, their bright flavor structured by mountain-grown grape-skin tannins. There’s a pear-like shape to the wine, plump and delicious as it fills the mouth with flavor. Here’s a Napa Valley cabernet to make you smile, whether you open it now or any time over the next ten years.

WineSplashing, Rick Fillmore, October 2, 2017

93 points

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

 This wine is actually a blend of 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc, and 6% Merlot. It is 100% estate grown in the Spring Mountain District and was fermented in French oak for 18 months. Garnet to violet color in the glass. Aromas of blackberries, black pepper, ripe cherries, and hints of oak and baking spices. Full bodied across the palate with good, grippy tannins. Robust flavors of black cherries, blackberries, red berries, savory herbs, pepper, and a long vanilla oak finish. A very refined and distinguished wine with a good tannin structure. Pair with grilled red meats, beef, pasta with hearty tomato based sauces, filet mignon, and stronger cheeses. 93 Points.

Samantha Stowell, ILikeThisGrape, October 6, 2017

Velvety and layered palate

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

This 100% estate fruit Cabernet sings with an aromatic nose of black cherry, dried herbs and hints of perfume. The mouthfeel continues via flavors consistent with the initial aromas, plus additional flavors of star anise, oak and black cherry skin. A velvety and layered palate bleeds seamlessly into the long, enjoyable finish that extends a warming sensation. In other words, this wine is a flawless pairing for the cooling weather outside. With this lovely drop, try a pairing of roasted vegetables with parmesan polenta, or skirt steak with rosemary butter.

WineForNormalPeople, Elizabeth Schneider, July 19, 2017

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

Dark red with decent legs on the swirl, the aroma of this Cabernet is mouthwatering! Subtle oak hits first, then a dark flower note, and then tons of pure tasting black fruit — blackcurrant, blackberry, black cherry, black plum show themselves perfectly. The wine tastes like it smells with excellent tannin and acidity that are perfectly balance. This is a wine made in a focused, thoughtful way. It’s clear that the picking was expertly timed and the decisions in the winery were made to achieve maximum balance. 

Made from their estate grown fruit high atop Spring Mountain, the brothers Smith, who own and operate the winery, are focused, land-oriented, and produce one of the best and most affordable Cabernet Sauvignons in Napa Valley. Vines have thrived on the hillsides of their 200 acre property for over 100 years, and not much has changed. Smith Madrone dry farms their estate (they don’t use irrigation/watering), they study terroir – especially slope and soil type – to match the grape to the site, and the result is distinctive wines that have a sense of place.

The best part: these wines won’t break the bank. The Cabernet is probably the best wine for the money in Napa.

Dave Razzari, September 30, 2017

Big recommendation

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

Settling into my Saturday with this 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Spring Mountain District of Napa Valley. This is an old school family winery that was founded in 1971 by brothers Stuart and Charles Smith. Tastes of black currant, mocha and earthy tobacco are led to by a nose of pine forest, black cherry and a cigar box. Smith Madrone holds tastings by appointment in St Helena so book one and visit. This is a big recommendation of mine!

Vinography, Alder Yarrow, August 6, 2017

Truly fantastic

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

Smith-Madrone, a small producer high on the slopes of Napa's Spring Mountain, where Stu and Charlie Smith craft honest, unpretentious wines with an old-school approach. The perfection of the 2013 vintage (Cabernet Sauvignon) helps take what is usually an excellent wine and push it into outstanding territory. Truly fantastic, if you appreciate Napa Cabernet with poise and restraint, you'll swoon over this elegant bottling. Highly recommended. Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and tobacco and espresso with a touch of green herbs. In the mouth, beautiful cherry and tobacco leaf flavors bounce with excellent acidity. Hints of graphite and leather and mint swirl in the billowy cloud of fine grained tannins. Poised and elegant, this is a wine that will go two or three decades without blinking. Fantastic.

Meg Houston Maker, Makerstable, August 9, 2017

A blaze of red cherry

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

A fruit-scented Cabernet from Spring Mountain, estate-grown at 1,800 feet. It offers aromas of cassis, black cherries, and black raspberries, but also juniper leaf and cedar bark, a crackle of black pepper. The weight is light, with a blaze of red cherry at the mid-palate. There are more black fruit notes here, too: blackberries and their seeds, coffee, cedar-earth, savory black currant. The finish is grippy, vigorously so, but the wine has the acidity, tannic structure, and fruit to carry it forward, and the tea-staining of age will taste good on it.

Grape-Experiences, Cyndy Rynning, August 3, 2017

A wine that should be in everyone's glass

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

Bold, yet light and refreshing, I remarked after a few velvet-like sips that this luscious Cabernet, aged in French oak for 18 months, is one that I could drink anytime, anywhere, with or without food. Consisting of 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc, and 6% Merlot, I was mesmerized.  Intense aromas of deep rich black cherries, freshly picked blueberries, vanilla, and a dash of black pepper led to flavors of dark fruit compote, baking spice, wet earth, and savory herbs. Of course, soft tannins and lively acidity provided the foundation to a wine that should be in everyone’s glass.