Cabernet Sauvignon Reviews

Free Run Juice, Doug Wilder, September 7, 2022

A textured core of raspberry and more

2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

The nose is forward juniper and bay laurel with sticky shrub berries and chocolate. The palate entry is lean herbal-tinged red fruit with a textured core of raspberry, hard cherry and watermelon finishing with silky brown spice. Drink 2022-2045.

Founded in 1971, this dry-farmed estate on Napa Valley's Spring Mountain produces exceptionally well-made wines at value points commonly seen no later than a quarter-century ago.

International Wine Review, Don Winkler, August 13, 2022

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. 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.

WineSipping, Oded Cohen, August 10, 2022

Full bodied with long legs and nice complexity

2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

91 points: Full bodied with medium acidity and long legs. Dry on the palate with nice complexity. Showing black fruits with cedar, earth, vanilla, spices, vegetables, bitter herbs, green pepper, tobacco leaf, coffee and black pepper. This Napa Cabernet is still young, and shows lots of earthy notes. Feels like a Left Bank Bordeaux. The Cabernet franc is very dominant right now. A good sipping wine with good structure and a nice mouthfeel. Good right out of the bottle and better with air time. Would be nice to revisit it in 3 years. Nicely balanced and good by itself or with food. Will pair nicely with BBQ Meats. A blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon with Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Aged for 21 months in French Oak barrels.

Restaurant Wine, Ronn Wiegand, June 2022

Splendid vintage and outstanding value

2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

Five stars:  Splendid vintage of Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon; and the finest I have tasted. It is very aromatic, full bodied, and vibrant on the palate, with intense, complex flavors (blackberry, cranberry, green leaf, tobacco, black currant, pepper), balanced, and very long on the finish. Has medium tannins; warrants several more years of aging. Outstanding value. [2025-2035]

WineReviewOnline, Norm Roby, May 24, 2022

Polished, focused, wonderfully balanced and solidly structured

2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

95 points: Dark, concentrated, multi-layered and age worthy, this Napa Cabernet is a great expression of the  estate vineyard which was established 50 years ago.  Aged 21 months in French oak (50% new), it  displays dry-farmed, mountain-grown concentration.  Ripe black fruit mingle with graphite and cedar aromatics with the oak always in the background.  Mouth-coating with soft tannins, it delivers blackberry and spice flavors with some herbal notes.  Around a core of ripe fruit, this Cabernet is polished, focused, wonderfully balanced and solidly structured.  Deserves at least 5 years of cellaring.

Philip Kuo, TheWineGuys, May 25, 2022

Impeccably structured

2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

94 points: One of the what we consider the “old guards” of Napa Valley, Smith Madrone has continued to stick to their roots and make the same consistent age-worthy wines that they always. Notes of tobacco, red currant, pencil shavings, baking spice, cedar, peppercorn, coffee, earth and underbrush. Extremely coiled to start even with a two hour decant, this needed another half a day to coax out the fruit despite its initial pretty aromatics. Impeccably structured, and with the a perfect growing season like ’18, Smith Madrone has still managed to show restraint and not let the fruit get over-extracted which is so easy to do. A hint of savory herbs, grippy tannins and lively acidity, this is built for the long haul. Consistent and a true showcase of typicite, always good.

Jancis Robinson, April 15, 2022

Fine tannins

2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

Mid ruby/garnet colour. Good honest well-integrated Cabernet nose. Some sweet cassis notes but no excess alcohol. Fine tannins. Appetising wine.

Santa Rosa Press Democrat, March 16, 2022, Peg Melnik

This cab is gorgeous

2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

This cab has an enticing streak of black raspberry from start to finish. It also has notes of black cherry, mineral and cracked black pepper. With a supple texture and generous fruit, this cab is gorgeous.

Rupal Shankar, Syrah Queen, March 13, 2022

Prime example of what a mountain Cab should be

2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

Smith-Madrone Cabernets get me excited about Napa Valley wines. There is a freshness to this wine that is appealing and instantly draws you in.  This is a prime example of what a mountain cab should be with its terroir-driven style that screams Smith-Madrone.  A blend of 86.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot, 7.5% Cabernet Franc, the wine is aromatic, structured and complex. The purity of fruit comes through in the aromatics, with notes of black currant, dried cherries, cocoa, dried herbs and spice.  The palate is balanced and complex with layers of dark fruit and spice.  Its youthfulness will evolve gracefully with time in the bottle, though it is drinking beautifully now.

Vinography, Alder Yarrow, March 5, 2022

Built for the long haul

2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and plum skin. In the mouth, juicy and fresh flavors of black cherry and plum are shot through with mint and other green herbs, with hints of oak peeking through an herbal-savory quality that also shows some flavors of iodine. Fine-grained tannins flex their muscles as the wine finishes. Excellent acidity. Built for the long haul, in the old-school style.

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.

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