Cabernet Sauvignon Reviews

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!

Decanter Magazine, September 2020

Sleek and silky

2016 Cabernet Sauvignon

90 points: Reserved black fruits on the stylish nose. Sleek and silky, yet concentrated and lifted, with fine intensity of fruit.

Terroirist, Isaac Baker, November 14, 2020

Long life ahead for this beautiful Cabernet

2016 Cabernet Sauvignon

93 points. Medium purple color. Aromas show tart but deep currants and black cherries, with lots of earthy, spicy complexity (tobacco, paved road, warm clay, graphite) with dark chocolate and espresso notes. Full but nuanced on the palate, well-built, grippy but refined tannins support juicy, tart red and black currant, and the balance between all these elements is lovely. Notes of leather, black pepper, tobacco leaf, mint, along with charcoal, vanilla and cedar nuances. Delicious, pretty, packs complexity and nuance. Long life ahead for this beautiful Cab. Includes a combined 10% Merlot and Cabernet Franc, this is aged 19 months in 45% new French oak.

Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Peg Melnik, November 10, 2020

4 stars

2016 Cabernet Sauvignon

4 stars. A striking cabernet with black and red fruit, coupled with savory herbs. Generous fruit, yet manages to be balanced. Lingering finish. Lovely.

BiggerThanYourHead, Frederic Koeppel, November 4, 2020

Ecstatically flavorful

2016 Cabernet Sauvignon

The Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley, was made from steeply sloping, dry-farmed vines at 1,800 feet up Spring Mountain. This is a blend of 89.7 percent cabernet sauvignon, 6.4 percent cabernet franc and 3.4 percent merlot, aged 19 months in French oak, 45 percent new barrels. The color is very dark but not impenetrable ruby-purple; the wine’s hillside origins are evident in its first impression of sage, thyme and graphite, briers and brambles; scents of black currants and blueberries unfurl notes of sour cherries and sandalwood, crushed lavender and violets, licorice and wild cumin pulverized in a stone bowl with black pepper; the wine is quite dry, framed by rigorous tannins and seething acidity, with layers of flint, chalk and loam, yet, paradoxically, the effect is not ponderous or overwhelming but lithe, supple, energetic and ecstatically flavorful. Now through 2030 to ’32.

Vinography, Alder Yarrow, September 6, 2020

Predictably lovely, with wonderful hints of green herbs and other savory notes that are unfortunately rare in Napa Cabernet these days

2016 Cabernet Sauvignon

Smith-Madrone has long been a favorite producer of mine up on Napa’s Spring Mountain. Their 2016 Cabernet is predictably lovely, with wonderful hints of green herbs and other savory notes that are unfortunately rare in Napa Cabernet these days. Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black pepper, cut fresh herbs, and just a hint of green bell pepper. In the mouth, wonderfully bright and juicy flavors of cherry, cola, and a touch of pipe tobacco have faint fresh herbal notes backing them up as well as gorgeous acidity. Powdery, fine-grained tannins ghost the edges of the mouth, as a hint of bell pepper lingers in the finish. Really lovely.

WineTravelEats, Amber Burke, July 17, 2020

Lovely structure, acidity and layers of flavor

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon

The 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon is made up of 84% Cabernet Sauvignon and 16% Cabernet Franc. Each year the blend changes slightly. One of the things I love about this Cab is that it is great right out of the bottle. It, of course, can age – it has lovely structure, acidity, and layers of flavor. Because Smith-Madrone ages this wine in barrel for a whopping 18 months before bottling, you get a more mature wine from the start. No need to wait for years until you can drink this beauty. On the nose, you will find an intoxicating blend of dark fruit, ripe red plums, and baking spices. On the palate, you will find all of the classic notes of a fine Cabernet Sauvignon – summer forest fruits dance in the glass with layers of forest floor, cigar box, and baking spices coming together in a luscious sip. This wine is a medium body with well-integrated tannins that make it truly food-friendly. No need for a great big steak, although it can easily handle that bulk. Instead, it can be served with more delicate meats like veal or lamb, pasta, or even a simple burger. When someone asks me to recommend a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon I always put this one at the top of the list.

Tasting Panel Magazine, Meridith May, November 2020

Round and elegant mouthfeel

2016 Cabernet Sauvignon

93 points: Grapes are grown on steep, dry-farmed vineyards in cool mountain temperatures.A blend of 89.7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6.4% Cabernet Franc and 3.4% Merlot, the wine was aged in (45% new) French oak. Bold aromas of brush, black plum, and espresso. Round and elegant mouthfeel – to the point of silky – with coffee-flavored tannins, sweet earth, and dark chocolate.

Oded's Wine Reviews, August 7, 2020

Drinks like a Left Bank Bordeaux

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon

Dark ruby in color with a wide reddish rim. On the nose blueberries, black currants, black plums, sweet cherries, light vanilla, wood, licorice, spices, tar, earth, vegetables, eucalyptus, pencil lead, tobacco, dark coffee and black pepper. Full bodied with medium plus acidity, and smooth with long legs. Dry on the palate with black currants, black cherries, wood, licorice, spices, dark chocolates, green olives, graphite, earth, leather, tobacco, bell pepper, vegetables, bitter herbs, peppercorn and dark coffee. Spicy finish with round tannins and tangy raspberries. This is a very enjoyable Cabernet Sauvignon from Spring Mountain District. Not the typical Napa Cabernet. Drinks more like a Left Bank Bordeaux. Showing nice complexity with a nice mouthfeel. Nicely balanced and enjoyable by itself or with food. At this point, the Cabernet Franc in the blend, is really showing dominance. Showing lots of earth notes at this point, which makes it very interesting. I would imagine that it will diminish with time.

Jamie Goode, Instagram, July 9, 2020

Distinctive and quite delicious

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon

Lovely nose. Black currant & berries, kind of sweet, almost like a little sour cherry edge, really distinctive. Little bit of oak meshes quite well with everything else. Palate: old school Napa, fresh, good acidity, appropriate ripeness, not picked too late. Almost red berries as well as black. Not lush super sweet liqueur-like black currant jam that some wines from this region are. Really fresh & distinctive. Mediterranean feel, almost garrigue like herbal notes as well as spicy oak. Grippy & structured. I think this wine is destined for a long life; although it’s delicious now, quite a structured cab. Will develop beautifully with age. I’m really impressed with this. Fresh, focused, quite delicious.

Swirling Dervish, Lauren Walsh, July 1, 2020

An enticing blend

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon

An enticing blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (84%) and Cabernet Franc (16%), this wine is the product of fruit grown at the top of Spring Mountain (1,800 feet) on weathered volcanic soils mixed with sedimentary rock. The wine was aged in French oak barrels (65% new; 35% one-year-old) for 18 months. Stu called this wine a throwback to the Napa Valley of yesteryear: a wine with pure, clean Cabernet Sauvignon character. I happen to love that it’s blended with a healthy dose of Cabernet Franc, a variety they expect to plant more of. You can get just a hint of it on the palate, where it adds an attractive, peppery note. As opposed to many varietal Cabernet wines from Napa, this one strikes a rather modest pose: medium+ acid and tannin, medium+ intensity black and red fruit aromas. There are spicy notes of cigar box, earthy scents of forest floor, and kirsch and vanilla. It’s clean and fresh and a perfect partner with grilled steak. I would actually enjoy drinking this wine on its own – something I can’t say of many Napa reds.

Jim Van Bergen, JVB Uncorked, June 27, 2020

Luxurious nose

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon

A blend of 84% cabernet sauvignon with 16% cabernet franc. The wine shows a ruby color with purple edging, and offers a luxurious nose, expansive with floral and fruit notes, menthol, with a hint of young leather. The palate features black currant, blackberry, forest floor, and fresh herbs. With a fruity, old world mid-palate, heat lingers gently across the mid and back palate, with a lengthy and complex finish. My next reaction is: “this can pair with almost anything.” Absolutely, unlike some cabs which are really large (some even too big in my opinion), this is a medium-sized cabernet that is delicious by itself as well as able to complement food well. As a result, you can drink this start-to-finish with salad to grilled meat to dessert, knowing it can also pair nicely with salmon, soup, and fresh fruit, a task that many cabernets are unable to accomplish. Kudos to the 16% cab franc, a secret popular in France and often ignored in California cabernet. This wine has a nod to the historic Napa cabernet style, with an old world approach. Far from the modern California cab, Smith-Madrone is a rare winery that bridges multiple styles, crafting wines of wide appeal from a singular location and focus.

PullThatCork, Nancy Brazil, June 26, 2020

Elegant, balanced, leaves me wanting another sip

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon

Light ruby in the glass with complex aromas that include dark fruit and dried tobacco leaf. Layers of flavor begin with red fruit, then dark fruit, leather, dusty earth and tobacco. Tannins are a bit grippy, but well integrated. The wine is medium bodied with a long finish. This Cabernet is light on its feet, with very good complexity and bright acidity. It’s elegant, balanced and leaves me wanting another sip.

Gabe's View, Gabe Sasso, June 16, 2020

I wish more Napa Valley Cabernets tasted like this

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon

In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon there’s also 16% Cabernet Franc blended into this wine. Black cherry and hints of leather present on the nose. Red cherry drives the palate along with spice, savory herbs, lots of earth and a core of mineral notes. The finish is long and acid rich. Delicious now this wine will improve over time. I wish more Napa Valley Cabernets tasted like this. People often ask me for Cabernet recommendations to buy as a gift to impress someone. Often they say their budget is $100. I tell them to buy two of these.

Joe Roberts, 1winedude, April 13, 2020

Rugged and brambly in all of the best wayss

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon

Like a mountain hike, rugged and brambly in all of the best ways.

RedWinePlease, Neil & Cheri Dubois, April 25, 2020

Just a beautiful wine

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon

The wine was dark purple out of the bottle. There was a big nose of macerated berries, with leather and some tar. Also making an appearance were some light oak, candied orange and anise. This is complex. The palate brought less intense fruit at first, right out of the bottle, with brisk tannins and a lean profile. With some time in the glass this really opened up, showing more body, rich fruit, cherry, caramel and herbal notes. We went back to it the second day and it was smoother, more integrated, and just a beautiful wine with pure berry fruit.

Tasting Panel Magazine, Meredith May, April 2020

A silky and statuesque wine

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon

94 points: An exquisite bouquet of lavender, dried violets and jasmine arises in tandem with sweet black and red fruit. This is a silky and statuesque wine with a fruit-forward bent, but echoes of graphite and chocolate add complexity of character; its freshness and concentration of fruit is perceptible. The grapes were grown at 1,800 feet atop Spring Mountain (16% Cab Franc is blended in) and aged 18 months in 65% new French oak.

Wine & Spirits Magazine, April 2020

Well-priced collectible

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon

92 points: Richly oaked, this wine takes several days to show itself. As the oak recedes, the character of the mountain soil comes up in the detail of the tannins while dark plum, currant and sage notes take the wine toward an austere mountain-grown structure. Suited to long aging, this is a well-priced collectible grown by the Smith brothers, Stuart and Charles.

Decanter Magazine, Elin McCoy, February 2020

Silky texture

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon

92 points: The vintage was marked by drought conditions and a hot growing season. Yields at Smith-Madrone were smaller than usual, and the lush blend contains no Merlot. The wine is filled with warm rich, ripe fruit and a silky texture, with a broad, open, inviting character right now. The intense aromas brim with a mix of red plums, violets, cedar and herbs. Drinking Window 2020 – 2030.

Winethropology, Steve McIntosh, February 1, 2020

A wine of depth

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon

Nothing showy here; just a deep currant nose with herbal and medicinal aromatics that leads into a closed (at first) mouth...tightly wound, firm, tannic structure and silent power. Definitely going to be a long-lived wine. After enough air, it’s easy to appreciate, but simple it is not. Rather, it’s a wine of depth to enjoy as fortification for body and soul prior to a winter’s hibernation.

Terroirist, Isaac Baker, January 25, 2020

Gorgeous concentration...I'm so stoked this wine exists

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon

Spring Mountain’s Smith-Madrone has long made incredible, age-worthy, unique wines, and their new Cabernet delivers oodles of goodness for not much money.

94 points: Light purple color. Wow, the aromas pop with juicy yet crunchy red and black currants, plum skins, along with earthy, rocky tones, graphite, coffee and violets. Full but balanced so nicely on the palate. Solid tannic structure for aging, vibrant acidity, the mouthfeel sets the stage for smooth black cherries and tart red currants. Fruit is laced with violets, clove, graphite, tobacco, and there are lots of earthy, savory tones that need years to fully show themselves. Gorgeous concentration, yet balanced and lively. Includes 16% Cabernet Franc, aged 18 months in 65% new French oak. For my palate, this is one of the most insane bargains in Napa Cabernet. I’m so stoked this wine exists.

I-Wine Review, Don Winkler, January 22, 2020

A delight to drink

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon

Sourced from dry farmed vineyards high up (1800’) on Spring Mountain, this is a superb example of mountain Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa.  It offers black currant, plum, and berry fruit complemented by dried herbs and mountain underbrush aromas and flavors. It’s highly aromatic, firmly structured, and a delight to drink as it evolves in the glass, revealing a complexity of flavors that matches the bouquet.  It shows a youthful exuberance, so additional cellar time will only add to its drinking pleasure.

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