Cabernet Sauvignon Reviews

Rich Cook, WineReviewOnline, November 30, 2021

Classic Napa Cabernet

2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

95 points:  “Classic Napa Cabernet” is a phrase that often gets kicked around when describing what is consistently delivered by the brothers Smith across their 50 years on Spring Mountain.  The 2018 certainly fits the description once again, with mountainside tannins propping up a dry wine that shows blackberry, currants, dried herbs, a bit of bell pepper and the structure to go long.

Piedmont Post, Pierre DuMont, November 3, 2021

Purity and power of the mountain grown grapes

2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

The purity and power of the mountain grown grapes really shows in this wine. It has an ebullient nose of blackberries, cedar and leather. In the mouth the deep rich black fruit is layered and complex, finishing with substantial tannin on the finish. While delicious now this wine is really built for ageing and will improve for decades in the cellar.

Dr. Owen Bargreen,, November 2021

Exceedingly refined effort

2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

93 points: The 2018 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon is another fantastic effort by Stu Smith and his team. Inky in the glass, this exudes class with its range of aromatics from sandalwood and tar tones to black cherry cordial and cigar ash undercurrents. The palate is polished and exceedingly well-balanced with bright acidity that backs up its core of dark fruits with espresso grounds, graphite and leather undertones. Enjoy this exceedingly refined effort over the next fifteen years. Drink 2021-2036.

Eve Bushman, EveWine101, October 22, 2021

A magic conjunction of red and black fruit

2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

Lovely bottle with a deep punt, the front label showing Estate Bottled, and the date they were established: 1971. Also made note of the 14.3% alcohol. Then I anxiously got down to the tasting. Noting the color first, it was opaque and reminded me of lush blackberries. After a few swirls I noted layers of blue and black fruit, dried cherries, forest floor, milk chocolate, toasted oak, spice tingling my nose and a very slight menthol/mint. Tasting the wine proved to be exactly what I was looking for: those same layers of both fresh and dried dark fruit, green peppercorns, followed by some spice – this time tingling my tongue – and a very long finish due to the drying tannins. Tried the wine again an hour later with food and it only improved. 94 Eve points indeed.

Aromatically, the 2018 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon fills your glass with a magic conjunction of red and black fruit, cedar, graphite and perhaps a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg.

The superb nose is followed by a palate sensation of impressive size, shape and amplitude. The wine is big and beautifully textured, but with such impeccable balance. The structure becomes a dimension in and of itself. The piercing, focused aroma leads to a solid core of dark Cabernet fruit. The wine is a veritable treasure trove of aroma and flavor; it finishes long and strong with moderate fine grain tannins that suggests a long and happy future.

It is often the case that the best older wines were once the best younger wines and we are betting our fifty years of experience that the 2018 Cabernet is further proof of the truth of this wise old adage.

Tasting Panel Magazine, Meridith May, January 2022

Blue flowers, blackberry, and a whisper of mint on the nose are a tell-tale sign of this wine’s beauty

2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

94 points: Blue flowers, blackberry, and a whisper of mint on the nose are a tell-tale sign of this wine’s beauty. Plush, the mouth-coating notes of blueberry mocha are exacting. White pepper inspires a mouthwatering effect, spearheaded by espresso, graphite and cedar that lingers on the palate. Dry-farmed on a steep mountainside and aged 21 months in 50% new French oak.  

Napa Valley Register, Wine of the Week, Dan Berger, October 15, 2021

Seamless oak integration

2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

 The aroma of this prototypical 1970s-style example of Cabernet is fascinating. The aroma of this mountain-grown wine is really complex with dark cherry fruit, lots of dried and fresh herbs like bay leaf, olive, and oregano, and traces of cumin and exotic latakia tobacco. The mid-palate offers sour cherry and seamless oak integration, and the finish promises a long future. It’s better after aeration. Drinkable now, it will reward a decade or more in the cellar.

Vinography, Alder Yarrow, October 3, 2021

Old school Napa Cabernet in all its savory goodness

2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cedar, black cherries, tobacco, and earth. In the mouth, flavors of black cherry and forest floor have a wonderfully juicy acidity and a distinctly saline umami character that is quite compelling. Wonderfully earthy, with hints of graphite and espresso peeking around the edges, this is old-school Napa Cabernet in all its savory goodness.

Planet Grape Wine Review, Catherine Fallis, September 15, 2021

Notes of cassis, blueberry, fig, sun dried tomato, espresso, dark chocolate and clove.

2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

92 points: Full, youthfully gripping and dry with notes of cassis, blueberry, fig, sun dried tomato, espresso, dark chocolate and clove.

Houston Chronicle, Dale Robertson, September 8, 2021

Unanimous recommendation

2016 Cabernet Sauvignon

Our tasters gave it a unanimous recommendation: “blackberries, red currants and black pepper flavors. Dusty and herbal. Oak shows on the finish.” The grapes are from the producer’s steeply sloped dry-farmed estate, which sits atop Spring Mountain at 1,800 feet above sea level. The blend contains a small amount of merlot and cab franc. .

Tom Dobson, August 17, Instagram

Absolutely delightful

2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

So I had this the other day, and, well, it was delicious. This is NOT that super overripe, jammy, sweet style Cali Cab. No sir. This is crunchy dark red and black fruit. A touch of dried earth. A little bit of a dried savory herb. Tobacco and soft spice. Tannins that were already integrated. Oh, and some snappy acidity that made me go “Damn, I want to drink this again in about 5 years.” Absolutely delightful now, and it’s on its way to finding its happy place too.

Cheryl Garst and Ashley T. Martinez, CaliforniaDateNight, August 11, 2021


2016 Cabernet Sauvignon

There are many ways to enjoy the 2016 Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon by Smith-Madrone and we happen to think that relaxing by the San Diego Harbor at dusk is one of them. From the Spring Mountain District in Napa Valley, this wine is demure and sophisticated and is deep garnet in color. The blend is 89.7% Cabernet Sauvignon with just a bit of Cab Franc and Merlot. Both red and black fruits are present in the aroma and flavor but they are subtle and balanced by leather, tobacco, clove and a hint of green pepper. This wine is neither too bold (like many Napa Valley Cabs) or too light, it’s perfectly medium-bodied, acidic yet rich, and the mountainous tannins frame a full mouthfeel and lingering finish. This is a Napa Cabernet that is equally enjoyable to drink on its own or with food. It paired perfectly with the jalapeño venison sausage that Cheryl’s dad makes but would also be great with smoked brisket or a pungent Taleggio cheese.

Food & Wine Magazine, Ray Isle, July 2021


2016 Cabernet Sauvignon

Brothers Stuart and Charlie Smith spent several days last fall fighting fires that threatened their Spring Mountain estate, keeping it safe for its 50th anniversary this year. When I was there in May, trees were scorched but vines were intact—and this aromatic, black currant-rich 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon was just stellar.

Dr. Jamie Goode, WineAnorak, April 29, 2021

This is brilliant

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon

This is brilliant. Napa is often knocked for its excess: Cabernet Sauvignon wines made from grapes picked too late, spoofed up, and generally over-done, selling for hundreds of dollars a bottle. But this is a throwback to when the region made balanced wines with ageing potential. After all, it’s a great place to grow wine grapes. This is from a vineyard established in 1971 in Spring Mountain, on the site of a vineyard that was abandoned in 1919 with prohibition. This is a beautiful expression of Cabernet Sauvignon with freshness and lovely detail. Sweet berries and red cherries on the nose with some gravelly, spicy notes. There’s some oak here, but it integrates beautifully with the focused red berry fruits. There’s almost a Mediterranean herbal background to the berry fruits. So refined and balanced, this is a brilliant old-school Napa wine, with a bright future ahead of it. It’s certainly ripe, with a sweet fruit profile, but it’s nicely balanced with some nice structure.

MyRedWineGuys, June 3, 2021

Balanced tannins with a long finish

2016 Cabernet Sauvignon

A 100% Spring Mountain Bordeaux style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc with aromas of blackberries, dark cherries, cedar and forest floor....decant this wine for an hour for balanced tannins with a long finish.

Drinkhacker, Christopher Null, May 13, 2021

Notes of currants, chocolate and spice

2016 Cabernet Sauvignon

While it’s a touch green on the nose, time in glass helps temper some initial tannins and earthiness here, leading to a palate that features notes of currants, chocolate, and spice, filtered through a fairly sweet vanilla character.

Kathleen Wilcox, April 22, 2021, Instagram

Mountains create special flavors

2016 Cabernet Sauvignon

The Cabernet gets a little pop of Merlot and Cabernet Franc, and brings a basket of black and red fruit, mountain brambles, with leather, cedar, smoke, as structured, quiet and powerful as an old church. Dark, mysterious, captivating. Yet another reminder (as if I needed it) that mountains create special flavors.

EveWine101, Eve Bushman, April 16, 2021

Bursting with spices

2016 Cabernet Sauvignon

Blackberry, blueberry, ash, cigar, incense, stewed mushrooms, char, earth and dark chocolate – all aromas I found on the nose. The flavors reminded me of the darkest of fruit, bursting with spices and layered with rich tannins and pepper. The finish was extremely long. I might like to lay this one down a few years and see how it develops. Was fine right now with Short Rib Ravioli.

LM Archer Instagram, March 29, 2021


2016 Cabernet Sauvignon

Deep garnet robe. Tomato leaf, capsicum, tobacco, dark fruit nose. Plum, cassis on the attack, hint of cocoa mid palate; lovely lingering finish. One of the absolute TOP Napa Cabs I’ve yet taste. Stunning.

Stephen McConnell, March 9, 2021, Wine1percent

Calm, balanced integriy....PURE....REAL....So absolutely PERFECT

2016 Cabernet Sauvignon

I grew up in the mountains of California, and one of the things which has always struck me about these wines is how palpable the mountain air is on the nose. The way the volcanic soil and rocks and towering conifers, sprawling oak and manzanita play so headily into how the wines smell–right down to the kinnikinnick underfoot. Tiger-lilies along the creek and dogwood flushing out, lazy alder sitting in the shade of sycamores down in the draws, beds of lush nettle and blackberry brambles running up from the water into the warm sunshine where wild ceanothus and chaparral mingle. These are the magical points of mountain wines, and while valley-floor wines can be lush and well-fed, typically predictable by vintage variations, the hillside stuff doesn’t really see that kind of weather–or homogeny.

This stuff pours dark and dense, and obviously generous decanting is advised–especially at this ridiculous age. Nearly impenetrable and glass-staining, the black ruby comes to an abrupt edge. Black cherry and even blacker berry lie thick in the nose, accented by dusty mint and eucalyptus, mascarpone and petrichor driving it all along.

In the mouth, the calm, balanced integrity of the wine takes center-stage. It is not jammily effusive, not chunkily gobb-stopping; what really rolls your eyes back into your head is the even distribution of everything across the palate. The only sharp edges come from the crazily-young structure, and even they are polite in their attack. Black and bitter mid-palate, completely uplifting the original focused fruit to concentrated status. The briar and spice are mellow and well-integrated, just serving as more subtle points contributing to the whole. Tannins are so easy, but impossible to ignore.

Drinking a wine like this quite shines a light on other Napa offerings shooting for the stars and the RP96 in distilled fruit pudding, hi-alcohol and breath-taking tannin. This wine is just so PURE. So REAL. So absolutely PERFECT., Jeb Dunnuck, January 27, 2021

Outstanding finish

2016 Cabernet Sauvignon

If you like classic, old school Cabernet and don't mind a solid kick of green, you'll dig this. Revealing a healthy purple/ruby color as well as notes of red currants, green tobacco, cedarwood and damp earth, it hits the palate with medium-bodied richness, a nicely concentrated, structured mouthfeel, solid ripeness in the tannins and an outstanding finish. Give bottles a good 4-5 years of bottle age, and it should evolve for 15 years or more.

Wine Enthusiast, Virginie Boone, March 2021

Elegant, restrained palate

2016 Cabernet Sauvignon

92 points: From the producer's dry-farmed estate, the grapes for this wine are grown at 1,800-feet in elevation. Dried herb, black pepper and clove arise on the nose. The elegant, restrained palate brings notes of forest floor, red currant and cigar, all wrapped in a mountainous tannic structure.

WineReviewOnline, Rich Cook, December 15, 2020

94 points: a fine glass

2016 Cabernet Sauvignon

This vintage from veteran producers Stuart and Charles Smith shows the typical structure and age-worthy character that has marked nearly fifty vintages for the duo. Careful farming and minimal intervention winemaking of the Spring Mountain fruit always brings a fine glass that shows a bit of the rugged spirit that drew the brothers to the land, and that’s a bonus in my book. Some Cabernet Franc (6%) and Merlot (3%) are evident on the nose and in the mouth, adding depth with notes of pepper and herb, and adding structure with Franc’s freshening acidity and suppleness with Merlot’s rich feel. Always built for cellaring, this wine will go long, so give it a long decant if you need to enjoy near term – a full day isn’t a bad idea. Once again, great wine from the mountain!

Vintage Experiences, Dan Berger, December 3, 2020

Stunningly complex red wine

2016 Cabernet Sauvignon

Anyone who grew up in wine in the 1980s and was able to taste and understand some of the complexity that Napa Valley Cabernets offered in those formative years will appreciate the overwhelming stylistic parallel in this stunningly complex red wine. The remarkable parallel to the past starts with wonderful acidity of almost 7 g/L, and continues with a remarkably low 3.4 pH, giving it a structural integrity that you will not find it very many other Napa Valley Cabs. In terms of flavor, the wine offers dried herbs, black cherry, and a trace of cassis, and although it’s drinkable now, it will be far better in a decade. Charlie and Stu Smith have made this Cabernet statement for decades and have always flown under the radar. Considering the price of so many Napa Valley Cabernets these days, this is an absolute bargain.

The Tasting Panel Magazine, November-December 2020, Meridith May

93 points: round, elegant, silky

2016 Cabernet Sauvignon

93 points: The grapes for this Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant blend with small percentages of Cabernet Franc and Merlot grow in steep, dry-farmed vineyards in cool mountain temperatures. Bold aromas of brush, black plum and espresso precede a round, elegant, borderline-silky mouthfeel with coffee-flavored tannins, sweet earth and dark chocolate. 

MyRedWineGuys, November 17, 2020

A wine with a special meaning behind it

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon

This weekend we were reflecting on which wine we should open that had a special meaning behind it. Ours was 2015 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon! It was 11 months ago on a chilly December morning. We drove up to Spring Mountain to visit Charlie Smith, winemaker at Smith-Madrone Estate. We joined a group of 10 as Charlie went through the different wines, how they were made and the unique characteristics of each wine! This was definitely a man in love with his wine, you could feel the electricity of his thoughts as he related stories to the different wines! Our heart was heavy with the thought of Smith-Madrone being destroyed by the Glass fire but the latest word we have, most was saved! The 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon from Spring Mountain is 84% Cabernet Sauvignon and 16% Cabernet Franc, all estate grow. Aged for 18 months in 65% new, 35% once used French oak which doesn’t take away from the terroir of Spring Mountain. Dark fruit aromas greet you as you bring your glass up for a taste. The mouthwatering fruits slowly entice you as this bold wine finishes with a soft long finish. .
Highly recommend you decant for 2-3 hours so the wine really opens up! Great job Charlie, Stu and Sam!

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