Cabernet Sauvignon Reviews

Men's Journal, Matthew Kaner, July 31, 2023

Ideal Napa Cab to give newlyweds

2019 Cabernet Sauvignon

The property was first planted in 1972, a magical year that birthed many pioneering wineries in the Napa Valley. The Smith brothers, Stuart and Charles, made the early decision to dry-farm their vineyards on Spring Mountain. The soils are mostly deep-red Aiken Stoney Clay loam, part of the Aiken, Kidd, Forward complex of soils which are volcanic-based, well-drained and deep for mountain soils. Ideal for making mountain Cabernet Sauvignon with a unique character. The name immortalizes their last name, as well as the famous Madrone tree found all over the 200 acre ranch - home to black bears, hawks, and enormous 120-year-old Picholine olive trees in this hilltop sanctuary. With its approachable price, this is an ideal Napa Cab to gift the newlyweds two bottles, and encourage them to pop on their 1st AND 2nd anniversary!

Prof. Stephen Bainbridge, June 30, 2023

Complex, tasty, elegant

2019 Cabernet Sauvignon

Deep purple. Powerful bouquet. Intense flavors with a long finish. Drinkable now with smooth tannins, but there's plenty of structure to support cellaring. If I drink another bottle in the near future, as I'm very likely to do, I would loosen it up a little by double decanting and allowing it to breath for about 30 minutes. Plenty of rich, dark fruits. Black currant, blackberry, and black cherry. There's also a green element that I associate more with left bank Bordeaux than Napa cabernets. Herbs and green bell pepper. Complex. Tasty. Excellent.

Ellen Landis, EllenOnWine, July 8, 2023

Deep and rich with a gorgeous texture and supple well-integrated tannins

2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

The expressive aromatic drives you into the glass.  Deep and rich with a gorgeous texture and supple, well-integrated tannins.  Black plums, blackberries, sweet tobacco, crème de cassis, and graphite flow seamlessly across the palate.  Pleasing barrel spice sits nicely in the background adding further dimension. Intensely built while elegant, with years of enjoyment ahead.

Ellen Landis, EllenOnWine, July 8, 2023

Palate fully delivers what aroma promises

2019 Cabernet Sauvignon

The compelling aroma will keep you lingering over the glass, and the palate fully delivers what the aroma promises.  Flavors of dark berries, freshly turned earth, black currants, olive tapenade, blueberry coulis, and underlying oak marry deliciously.  Tannins are firm, the texture is velvety, and savory notes add depth through the long, memorable finish.  Approachable now, yet age-worthy if you have the patience to wait!

Amateur Sommelier, Alec Termer, June 18, 2023

Wonderfully dark and juicy

2019 Cabernet Sauvignon

Making its way off of Spring Mountain, this Cab is wonderfully dark and juicy, with a nicely contrasting spice and dryness to tie it all together. The aroma fills the glass with cherry, plum, marionberry, sage, pepper, and clove. The taste evolves from the aroma with a bolder black cherry, blackberry, plum, marionberry, toasted oak, baking spice, pepper, and some leather. From the bottle, this wine rushes across your palate with a peppery spice along with the more woody and earthy taste. After a couple seconds the fruit begins to reveal itself using the dryness and spice as a platform to become the dominant aspects of the taste. If you let the wine rest for even just 15 minutes the dryness started to take a backseat to the fruit. The darker fruit character takes the seat at the front of your palate while all of the other components slowly begin to creep around. Personally, letting the wine rest gave more opportunity to pick apart and analyze all the different aspects of this bottle. There is a long and jammy aftertaste that allows the spice to settle as more of a baking spice, and the fruit gets dark to the point where through the juicyness you can almost taste the skins of the cherry and plum. To push this Cabernet a little further it is slightly blended with 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc and 5% Merlot. This blending helps to highlight some of the more unique qualities, and separate it from other Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon.

Jeff Siegel, The Wine Curmudgeon, June 12, 2023

Quality grapes meet top-notch winemaking

2019 Cabernet Sauvignon

We’ve waxed poetic about Smith-Madrone wines on the blog before--its riesling is one of the world’s best. But this red is the wine – because of the way the wine world works – that made the winery famous. Taste it, and you’ll know why. The Smith-Madrone 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon demonstrates what happens when quality grapes meet top-notch winemaking and there is a vision for what the wine should be. That is, not just another 93-point wine, but a bottle that reflects who is making the wine and where the grapes are grown. In other words, wine the way it should be. This is a stylish and layered red – 83 percent cabernet sauvignon, 12 percent cabernet franc, and five percent merlot – in which the cabernet franc adds a a surprising amount of structure. I didn’t know the blend when I tasted it, but – if I may boast – I figured there had to be something else there to lend that sort of backbone. Look for all of the characteristics that define a cabernet from Napa’s Spring Mountain District: tannins that don’t stick out and hurt the back of the mouth, what the tasting notes call zingy acidity, and lots and lots of dark fruit – some berries and some not – plus a touch of black pepper. Know that the wine needs food to stand up to all that it offers. This is still a young wine, and though it’s more than drinkable now – yes, for Father’s Day – it should age nicely for four or five more years.

Catherine Fallis, Planet Grape, June 3, 2023

Rich, finely chewy

2019 Cabernet Sauvignon

Rich, finely chewy and dry with notes of black cherry, blackberry, dark chocolate, clove and mint.

James Suckling,, May 23, 2023

Polished tannins

2019 Cabernet Sauvignon

Aromas of cassis, currant leaf, pine needles, nut shell and cedar. Full-bodied and a little tight with raw but polished tannins and juicy dark fruit. Hints of spiced oak and leafy herbs at the end. Needs some time to soften. Try after 2025.

Steve McIntosh, Imbiber's Journal, May 24, 2023


2019 Cabernet Sauvignon

Signs of summer are spreading across much of the country, which means a swapping out of cuisines in favor of summer fare. For whites, this means porch quaffers that won't weigh you down; sauvignon blanc, Alsatian whites, pinot grigio, and so on. For reds, a shift towards more fruit forward wines that will stand up to the char flavors of grilled food; zinfandels, grenaches, shiraz, etc. But there's still time to sneak in a few more meals in this springtime shoulder season where a more nuanced approach to cabernet will fit nicely. The 2019 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon Spring Mountain ($65) is one wine that can do the trick, and which remains remarkably consistent year to year, and is an anomalous value in the context of Napa Valley. Pair it with a marinated cut of lean beef and a lightly-dressed, hearty salad with some crunch to it. Alchemy. This wine has terrific clarity despite its very deep burgundy color. Classic Spring Mountain aromas emerge, including dark fruit, pencil graphite, forest floor, and a whisper of conifer needles. The texture strikes the mouth first: fine tailoring around a poised structure of blue-tinged fruit, subtle oak, and regal acidity. Medium density and medium body, the restraint here allows grace and elegance to shine through more easily. Very enjoyable now, but would love to meet this wine again in 10, 20, and 30 years.

Napa Wine Project, Dave Thompson, May 2023

"Goofy delicious"

2019 Cabernet Sauvignon

The 2019 Smith Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc and 5% Merlot. It was aged for 18 months in 55% new French oak. It is dark ruby in color with purplish tinges along the rim of the glass; the bouquet immediately offers darker spices including of crushed peppercorn, a subtle green pepper note, more like Jalapeno (we have become intimately familiar this year with numerous types of peppers after frequent stops and purchases of such produce at Regusci farm stand in Napa Valley’s Stags Leap District), toasted oak and tobacco along with violets, dark plum and a mocha sweetness found deeper in the aromatics. The palate offers primarily red fruits (cherries and currants) anchored by a bright acidity. Unlike more robust contemporary mountain Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon bottlings, the tannins here are kept in check, are rounded, finer grained and are well-integrated into the seamless, dark, and savory finish (menthol, dried tobacco leaf and light notes of pepper). Smith Madrone crafts their wines to be enjoyable to drink in their youth but have all the characteristics to age for quite some time. And they want their wines to have a fun aspect, to continue to beg another sip. And this bottling in particular, Charlie simply calls, “goofy delicious.”

Ellen Clifford, Scrumptious Gruel, April 25, 2023

Rich 'n ripe, plush and silky

2019 Cabernet Sauvignon

Rich 'n ripe, plush and silky. Green but like richly moss forest green Cabernet pyrazines tickle the tannins which are persistent, I’ll give them that they are like me in a dysfunctional relationship, unable to give up, but these tannins will make their case known and I will not break up with them. They are followed with black cassis and oaky fun–vanilla, maybe a toasty nut, and is that maybe even coconut omg it draws out the finish. All the richness ends with a hit of what I can only describe as marine blue freshness. That is probably my synesthesia–maybe some salinity or fresh herbal notes is a better way to describe it but to me it is undeniably marine blue. I paired it with a walnut while drinking it (go crazy, Elle) and lemme tell you a little protein goes a long way.

Oded Cohen,, April 5, 2023

Left Bank Bordeaux?

2019 Cabernet Sauvignon

Dark ruby in color with a wide reddish rim. On the nose blueberries, black plums, black cherries, earth, oak, licorice, eucalyptus, spices, herbs, dark coffee and light black pepper. Medium plus in body with medium acidity. Dry on the palate with blackberries, black currants, cooked cherries, oak, licorice, earth, spices, dark chocolates, tobacco leaf, herbs and peppercorn. Tangy finish with fine grained tannins and raspberries. This 4 year old Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley is still young, but starting to drink very nicely now. Shows nice complexity and smooth. Definitely not the extracted Napa cab Style. Feels more like a Left Bank Bordeaux. Nice to see that coming from Napa. Needs 90 minutes to open up properly, and will continue to age nicely in the next 10 years. Good by itself or with food. A nice wine to pair with a nice piece of steak. Paired nicely with aged Gorgonzola cheese from France.

WineReviewOnline, Vince Simmon, March 22, 2023

Vineyard management is both scientific and ephemerally artful           

2019 Cabernet Sauvignon

94 points: Every now and then you find a wine that fills the room with a beautiful bouquet of aromas immediately after being poured.  Maybe it’s the scenery or maybe the time of day but Smith-Madrone’s Cabernet did just that for me, with red and black cherry, hard cheese rind, marionberry, and subtle leather notes.  The body is all business with rich, complex blackberry, black cherry, boysenberry, black currant, cedar, and tobacco notes.  Much of the complexity of this wine comes from the vineyard where Stu Smith has put in countless hours.  No detail goes unconsidered from his duty as a sustainable farmer, row direction and spacing impacts on sunlight for each grape, to his own trellising system that manages canopy sunlight.  His vineyard management is both scientific and ephemerally artful.  This Cabernet Sauvignon can be aged further but I can also see why many Napa wine lovers would want to enjoy its raw power just the way it is.    

Meridith May, Tasting Panel Magazine, March 2023


2019 Cabernet Sauvignon

94 points: Generous notes of boysenberry up front are seasoned with basil and tarragon, mulberry, spearmint and violet-toned underbrush (possibly a result of the addition of 12% Cabernet Franc) are relaxed by the presence of delicate tannins, but the inner strength of this determined red shows through a savory line-up of black olive and slate. Complex and layered but ultimately luscious., Stephen McConnell, March 7, 2023

Classic forever-ageable...beautiful vintage....

2019 Cabernet Sauvignon

Deep ruby in the glass, transparent but staining–with well-defined legs. The color is magnificent: the rim sometimes kissed with amber–sometimes feeling pink. Decanted heavily. The nose has big, rich qualifications with plentiful tar and leather underpinnings, but pulls back before flabby flatulence spoils the effect into crowd-pleasing chubbiness. Bruised floral–rose and lily–paint wide swaths edged with sharp tobacco which morphs to wet earth.

In the mouth, a Mourvedre- or cold-climate Petite Sirah-peppery robustness plays tricks on the Cabernet foundations, producing a sharp, green-leather and muddled-herb topping to good acid and a gentle introduction of mineral. Brambly berry and cherry maintain steady beat throughout, as pointed and aggressive as the rasp of powerful tannins. The finish thins in classic forever-ageable fashion, evoking the best of Left Bank. As with any producer dedicated to heritage over early-term lusciousness, the beautiful vintage makes it agreeable now, but machinations are in place for 20+ years.

BiggerThanYourHead, Frederic Koeppel, January 6, 2023


2018 Cabernet Sauvignon


Chosen as one of Top 50 Wines of 2022: Here it is, the annual list of 50 Great Wines from whatever year is in question, this, of course, being’s a highly subjective tally of what I perceive to be the greatest wines that I encountered during that year. By “great,” I mean exciting, provocative, transcendent, the ultimate translation of a grape or grapes into their best and most laudable purpose. These factors rely on my personal taste, experience, judgment and intuition....

Wilford Wong,, January 3, 2023

An exceptionally lively and elegant wine

2019 Cabernet Sauvignon

93 points: The aroma of the 2019 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon immediately hits you with a luxurious combination of blue and black fruit. Cassis, black cherry, marionberry and black plums dominate. Dig in a little deeper and you will find subtle hints of black pepper, graphite, black olives and a range of spices. An experienced taster should also be able to identify the signature quality that 12% Cabernet Franc lends to this wine’s seductive nose. Medium weight on the palate, this is an exceptionally lively and elegant wine, loaded with delicious dark fruit. It is bright, creamy and plush at mid-palate, then slowly tapers off to a long, lingering finish that is both succulent and zingy. It is a completely lovely wine that qualifies as serious fun in a glass. The Spring Mountain pedigree insures deliciously integrated tannins and a long life-span.

James Melendez, JamesTheWineMan, December 1, 2022

Balanced, beautiful, gorgeous

2019 Cabernet Sauvignon

Youtube video review

95 points: "...balanced, beautiful, gorgeous, emblematic of Spring Mountain mountain terroir..."

Jeff Kralik, The Drunken Cyclist, December 29, 2022

Whoa. Outstanding. 

2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

95 points. Outstanding. There are few wines that I receive as samples every year about which I get more excited than those from Smith-Madrone. And I know I am not alone in the wine writing/blogosphere when it comes to that sentiment. All it takes is one encounter with Stu Smith and it is easy to become hooked. Let’s just say that Stu does not shy away to share an opinion, which is so refreshing in a wine industry that seems much more focused on “message” and “image.” I scheduled an hour interview with Stu a couple of years ago and it lasted nearly two-and-a-half hours. And it was one of my absolute favorite interviews I have ever conducted. And the wine? Whoa. Medium to dark color with intense fruit aromas of blackberry, plum, and cassis. Whoa. There is a hint of oak (21 months in 50% new French), a dash of spice (clove, black pepper), and a sliver of herbs (sage, mint, basil). Whoa. The palate is even more worthy of remark as the fruit initially dominates, followed by a perfectly balancing acidity, and then the potpourri of flavors: spice, oak, sage. The lasting finish reveals that wonderful balance and just a hint of nearly integrated, soft tannins. Whoa.

Nancy Brazil, PullThatCork, December 19, 2022

Elegant, layered flavors

2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

Dark ruby with generous aromas of dark and red fruit, dried thyme and hints of roasted green pepper. Flavors include blackberries, raspberries, black currants and earth with hints of dried tomato leaf, tobacco and cedar. Ample acidity enhances the lively fruit flavors. Tannins are firm but fine in a medium body with a moderately-long finish. Elegant, layered flavors with integrated tannins make this Cabernet one to sip and savor. The 2019 blend includes 5% Merlot and 12% Cabernet Franc aged for 18 months in 55% new French oak. Beef Wellington anyone?

Owen Bargreen, October 22, 2022

Serious poise, beautiful and elegant

2019 Cabernet Sauvignon

93 points: I adored the new 2019 Smith-Madrone Cabernet which shows serious poise and lovely herbal accents. Concentrated and showing great aging potential, this beauty will cellar well for decades. Beautiful and elegant, the wine shows off red bell pepper with anise, black currants and pencil lead notes on the nose. The palate is fleshy and ripe with great acidity. With more air tobacco leaf and worn leather notes emerge, as this is beautiful to consume now and over the next fifteen years. Drink 2022-2037.

Jeff Kralik, TheDrunkenCyclist, December 12, 2022


2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

95 points: There are few wines that I receive as samples every year about which I get more excited than those from Smith-Madrone. And I know I am not alone in the wine writing/blogosphere when it comes to that sentiment. All it takes is one encounter with Stu Smith over a glass of Smith-Madrone and it is easy to become hooked. Let’s just say that Stu does not shy away to share an opinion, which is so refreshing in a wine industry that seems much more focused on “message” and “image.” I scheduled an hour interview with Stu a couple of years ago, which lasted nearly two-and-a-half hours. And it was one of my absolute favorite interviews I have ever conducted. And the wine? Whoa. Medium to dark color with intense fruit aromas of blackberry, plum, and cassis. Whoa. There is a hint of oak (21 months in 50% new French), a dash of spice (clove, black pepper), and a sliver of herbs (sage, mint, basil). Whoa. The palate is even more worthy of remark as the fruit initially dominates, followed by a perfectly balancing acidity, and then the potpourri of flavors: spice, oak, sage. The lasting finish reveals that wonderful balance and just a hint of nearly integrated, soft tannins. Outstanding., Alison Batz, December 2, 2022

A shining star

2019 Cabernet Sauvignon

A shining star of the Spring Mountain District of Napa, the aromatics of this vintage of the Cabernet come in waves. First, there is the cassis. Then, the black plums. Finally, the black cherry settles on the nose. To the taste, there is a noted spice – both baking and pepper – as well as a zing on the long finish, Elaine Chukan Brown, December 1, 2022

Go-to for classic character, reliable quality and comparative affordability

2019 Cabernet Sauvignon

Napa Valley finds at under $65

Top tips around an unlikely theme from someone who knows how to sniff out the bargains.

It’s a common criticism: Napa Valley wines are too expensive. As the prestige of the region has increased, so has the price of land, the expense of farming, and the overall cost of living. Altogether it means the investment needed to make wine from the region is simply higher, too. Finding bottles from the Napa Valley that over-deliver on quality for their price point can seem challenging but it is not impossible. I spent part of this year seeking out wines on the more affordable side to see if I could offer some useful guidelines. My target price point to start was $55 and under. Admittedly, that is more than what most people spend on everyday wine. But for a region where a single bottle can easily reach over $500, and even well above $1,000, $55 and under seems modest by comparison. 

As a region, Napa has steadily grown in prestige since the late 1970s. But that means producers who were able to buy land before the 1990s did so at far lower prices than today. Many historic wineries still owned by their founding families benefited from early investment in the region and some have used that advantage to keep prices generally lower than many competitors.

One of my go-to wineries for classic character, reliable quality, and comparative affordability is Smith-Madrone. Set on the upper slopes of the Spring Mountain District, the property was established by Stu and Charlie Smith in the 1970s, with Stu managing the vineyards and Charlie taking over the winemaking. They continue to farm and make the wine themselves in the finely structured, light-touch style they were founded on, and have raised prices only slowly over the years. Vintage to vintage their Cabernet Sauvignon stands out. Its price snuck up to $65 in recent vintages but it can be hard to find Cabernet with this level of integrity and freshness so it’s worth mentioning. The wine consistently respects its vintage while bringing structure with mountain character balanced by flavour.

Wine Enthusiast, Jim Gordon, November 2022

Good acidity and firm tannins

2019 Cabernet Sauvignon

Good acidity and firm tannins combine for a grippy texture in this tangy, red-fruited wine made from the dry-farmed mountain property. Slightly lean red cherries and raspberries are accented with light herbal, toasty notes. Best from 2027–2037.

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