Cabernet Sauvignon Reviews

Stephen McConnell, Wine1percent, February 26, 2022

The kind of Napa Cab that makes you proud

2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

This one’s gonna need a bit of a decant, a fact ridiculously obvious from first sniff. Normally–even with young cabs requiring air–I begin formulating my review–or even writing it–from first pop, but allow things to evolve before solidifying my analysis on paper. But this one. Oh boy. Just clamshell-tight. Which seems odd from a vintage WS gave 99 points, because… well… I don’t have to explain the general *style* of vintages that get 99 points from major mags since about 2000. But this bottle has NONE of the trademarks typically associated with “vintages of the decade”–probably attributable to the way Smith-Madrone MAKE their cabs. The way I like them. Old-skool. So I’ll be back in an hour or so. Don’t click around.

The best thing about sampling cabs like this is feeling their perfection at an almost-un-enjoyable age and projecting the things you KNOW will happen with a decade or more of rest. Dark, dense ruby in the glass–nearly impenetrable and non-staining. Tobacco and wet leaves form a black-tea bouquet headily tinged with damp volcanic and barky smolder. The amber vegetal is sultry and crazed with tender bramble and shy revelations. Crimson bottomless cherry gradually evolves, encrusting all in glorious ripe fruit hiding in the wings.

Tasting it takes you back to the near barrel-sample viscosity of this infant. Sure: you can enjoy it now–many will, probably MOST will–as the perfect balance coats all regions of the palate. Light and piercing on entry, it gathers momentum instantly, hammering the senses with fruit, grip and structure. Blackberry and pomegranate seared with acid, an achingly dry tincture of briary tannin never quite overwhelming the mouthfeel, but powerful enough to cause pause. Mountain-stream cool and refreshing over the middle, green bristles of tannin again presenting a rasp of elegant ire. Not a drip of slutty fruit or alcoholic heat ANYWHERE. And throughout: acerbic berry pounds a mantra of beauty to come. So be patient with this one. This wine will outlive YOU. The kind of Napa Cab that makes you proud: built stunningly perfect without stooping to the lavish early lusts of the Parker set.

Buy two cases; drink one every-other year. Yes, that’s FORTY EIGHT years.

Wine Enthusiast Magazine, Virginie Boone, April 2022

95 points, balanced, energetic, elegant

2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

95 points: This wine is energetic and distinctive in style, with earthy elements of pencil shavings and clay most pronounced. Balanced and fresh in approach, it provides flavors of currant and black berry around its earthier, more herbal components, which lend balance and elegance to it all.

Don Winkler, International Wine Review, January 20, 2022

Unctuous yet silky with bright acidity and freshness

2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

93 points: The Smith-Madrone vineyard is at high elevation where temperatures are cool and the soils are sparse, and this is an excellent example of mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s dark fruited and spicy with mineral and herbal nuances. On the palate, it’s unctuous yet silky with bright acidity and freshness and super long on the finish. It has a long life ahead of it. A blend of 86.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7.5% Cabernet Franc, and 6% Merlot sourced from the estate’s dry farmed, mountain vineyard; matured 21 months in 50% new French oak.

James The Wine Man, Youtube, November 2, 2021

Outstanding, approachable

2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

Youtube review

CaliforniaWinesandWineries, Michael Kelly, November 4, 2021

A proud authentic wine

2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

The 2018 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon provided a unique perspective to Cabernet Sauvignons from Napa. While I have enjoyed many Cabs from Spring Mountain, I suspect it is the dry farmed quality that presents such a welcoming twist. First on the eyes a deep red crimson color, along with royal purple hues presenting a medium heavy viscosity, intrigues your visual awareness. On the nose raspberry, dark Bing cherries, vanilla pipe tobacco waft up to stir up your excitement. Once in the mouth dark fruit mixed with red fruits are predominate. Then leather weighs in with the fulfillment of the aromas previously mentioned along with “Christmas spices” of nutmeg and cinnamon.” On the finish, it is smooth and silky at first but later puffs out its structure and tannins as a proud authentic wine. Also traces of minerality provide a complete and enjoyable wine. This is a solid mid-priced wine at $62 at the winery! I have had many other wines much closer to $100 that did not provide the balance, fullness and enjoyment that this did!

Steve McIntosh, Imbiber's Journal, December 3, 2021

Santa, are you listening?

2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

91 points: From the Spring Mountain stalwart in Napa comes the latest vintage of a dependable red. Shimmering ox blood color and moving cleanly around the glass, the nose is seductive and inviting, offering generous cigar box and soaring red fruit spices. The experience across the palate arcs from the youthful vigor frontal attack, through an energetic mid palate showing green vegetables alongside dark blue fruit, and into a tension-gripped finish that suggests revisiting after adequate decantation. A little air goes a long way towards coaxing this infant of a wine out of its tightness. The still-coiled fruit and tannins begin to evolve as the demeanor offers a cardigan-like comfort cloaking the muscular structure. This wine has years, decades probably, ahead of it. But, just as in previous years, there's plenty to enjoy right now. Santa, are you listening?

International Wine Review, Don Winkler, December 14, 2021

Excellent example of mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

93 points: The Smith-Madrone vineyard is at high elevation where temperatures are cool and the soils are sparse, and this is an excellent example of mountain Cabernet Sauvignon.  It’s dark fruited and spicy with mineral and herbal nuances.

PullThatCork, December 20, 2021, Nancy Brazil

Wines that stand the test of time

2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

Medium ruby with aromas of red and dark fruit, dried tomato leaf and tobacco. The flavors follow with bright red fruit and blackberries, dried tomato leaf and dried tobacco. Over time a slate-like minerality develops along with notes of cedar. Acidity is bright and lifting. Fine tannins are a bit grippy and well integrated. The finish is medium+ in length and the body is medium. 14.3% abv. 1,006 cases made. $62.

This is a Cabernet to sip and savor — it doesn’t need a meal to be enjoyed, something that cannot be said of many Napa Cabernets (not to my taste at least). It has plenty of complex fruit flavor, but isn’t even close to being overripe and certainly has just the right amount of oak influence. The blend is 86.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7.5% Cabernet Franc and 6% Merlot aged for 21 months in French oak, 50% new. This Cabernet will be delicious for years to come.

Brothers Stu and Charles Smith have been making wine on Spring Mountain above Napa Valley since the early 1970s. The mountainside location sets Smith-Madrone apart from the valley and so does the brothers’ winemaking style. They make Cabernet Sauvignon in an elegant, old-world style along with lively, oaked Chardonnay and Riesling — yes, Riesling, because they both really love Riesling. Their wines don’t chase current fads in winemaking. Stu and Charles make wines they love to drink and you will too. Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery has been a true labor of love. When Stu first walked the property in 1970 it was forested. Vineyards planted in the prior century had long since been reclaimed by the forest, but Stu recognized the fundamentals of a great vineyard site: soil, climate and elevation. Charles joined Stu at the winery in 1972 and is the winemaker. The vineyard is essentially dry-farmed and located between 1,300 and 2,000 feet above sea level on the upper reaches of Spring Mountain in the Mayacamas Mountains west of Napa Valley. Some of the steepest parts of the vineyard sit at a 34% slope. The red Aiken clay loam soil runs deep, is volcanic in origin, rocky and well-drained. The first vines were planted in 1972 and included Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir, which was grafted over to Chardonnay in 1986. Merlot and Cabernet Franc were added in 1998 and Petit Verdot in 2007. Each variety is planted at the optimal elevation and exposure: Chardonnay on the coolest north-facing slopes, east-facing slopes for Riesling, and Cabernet Sauvignon is planted on flat, south and west-facing exposures. All wines are sourced entirely from estate vineyards. Annual production is 3,000 to 4,000 cases. The mountainside vineyards and winery are beautiful and provide sweeping views of the Napa Valley below. In 2021 Stu and Charlie celebrated the 50th anniversary of Smith-Madrone. Over those 50 years the Smiths have come to know Spring Mountain well. They have watched as the climate changed and wildfires increased in intensity and number. But they did more than watch, they made a plan to defend their property against wildfires. In October 2020 they were forced to execute that plan of defense when the Glass Fire skipped across the valley and up Spring Mountain. It was a harrowing time that could well have resulted in destruction of the winery. But it didn’t. Their 50th anniversary celebration must have been all the sweeter having survived the inferno.

WineSipping, Oded Cohen, December 4, 2021

Feels like a Left Bank Bordeaux

2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

91 points: A very pretty color of dark ruby, with a red /brick rim. Earthy on the nose with black currants, black plums, oak, licorice, light vanilla, light vegetables, earth, tobacco leaf, dark coffee, dust, pencil lead and peppercorn. Full-bodied with medium acidity and fat legs. Dry on the palate with currants, cherries, spices, tobacco, oak, green herbs, vegetables, earth, spices, red chili pepper, bitter herbs and dark coffee. Medium finish with fine grained tannins and tangy cranberries. This Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley is still young, but already enjoyable. Showing nice complexity with a nice mouthfeel and good structure. Earthier than I expected, actually, and good by itself or with food. Feels like a Left Bank Bordeaux. Interesting stuff. Needs time to open up properly, I gave it 90 minutes. A good quality wine. Spicy and interesting. Will be nice to revisit it in 5 years. Will pair nicely with BBQ Meats. I paired it with a French Brie cheese. A blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot and 8% Cabernet Franc. Aged for 21 months in (50% new) French Oak barrels.

NittanyEpicurean, Michael Chelus, December 14, 2021

Would pair well with a classic steak and Guinness pie

2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

This wine is mostly cabernet sauvignon (86.5%) blended with small amounts of merlot (6%) and cabernet franc (7.5%). Following fermentation, the wine was aged for 21 months in French oak barrels (50% new). It comes in at 14.3% ABV. The wine showed a dark garnet color. Blackberry, black cherry, raspberry preserves, vanilla, dark chocolate and oak all arrived on the nose where the chocolate married with the berry fruit. Blackberry, raspberry preserves, currant, vanilla and oak followed on the palate where the chocolate notes were replaced by more dark berry fruit. The wine was full-bodied and exhibited good length along with moderate tannins. This wine would pair very well with a classic steak and Guinness pie., Isaac Baker, December 12, 2021

Complex, fresh, beautiful stuff

2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

94 points: Deep purple color. A warm, inviting mix of currants and black cherries with dusty earth, clay tobacco, leather, graphite, just a ton going on as it opens up. Full but suave with such vibrant acidity and structured tannins. The fruit is a deep but crunchy mix of tart currants and juicy cherries, and the fruit is mixed with delightful mix of earth and graphite, leather and charcoal, roasted red pepper and nuanced cedar. Complex, fresh, beautiful stuff, this will age wonderfully for who-knows-how-long. Includes some Merlot and Cabernet Franc, aged 21 months in 50% new French oak.

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 touch of mint on the nose are tell-tale signs of the beauty of this wine, which was dry-farmed on a steep mountainside and aged 21 months in 50% new French oak. While plush, its mouth-coating notes of blueberry and mocha are precise. White pepper inspires a mouthwatering effect led by espresso, graphite and cedar that lingers on the palate.  

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.

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