Cabernet Sauvignon Reviews

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.

GoodVitis, Aaron Menenberg, January 21, 2020

Elegant and refined tannin

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon

The nose is a mountain slope of dark sweet cherry and strawberry, wet barky soil, Herbes de Provence, licorice, molasses, black olive and smoke. It is medium plus in weight with elegant and refined tannin and acute acid that combine to form a traditional Old World style structure. The flavors are layered and extended aging will reveal them all. Right now they include salty cherry, strawberry, plum and rhubarb fruit that cohabitate nicely with olive tapenade, black pepper, rose water and graphite. I’d sit on these for at least another five years and then enjoy through 2030.

Washington Wine Blog, Owen Bargreen, January 8, 2020

Marvelous balance and poise

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon

92 points: marvelous with its balance and poise, with deep darker fruit flavors

BiggerThanYourHead, Fredric Koeppel, December 16, 2019

Star-bright acidity, perfect balance and poise

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon

The Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley. derived from dry-farmed vineyards 1,800 feet elevation on Spring Mountain, west of the town of Saint Helena. The wine is a blend of 84 percent cabernet sauvignon and 16 percent cabernet franc, aged 18 months in French oak, 65 percent new barrels. The color is a deep yet radiant ruby-purple hue; there’s no mistaking this cabernet for anything other than mountain-grown, with its array of iodine and iron, dusty heather, sage and rosemary; a few moments in the glass unfold layers of black currants and raspberries, with notes of plums, black olives, bell pepper and tar; though the wine displays plenty of structure in its stony, graphite infused tannins and star-bright acidity, its perfect balance and poise lend surprising elegance and balletic grace; these qualities are not contradicted by but bolstered by a chiseled, granitic finish. 14.3 percent alcohol. Now through 2026 to ’28. Excellent.

WrittenPalate, Cori Solomon, December 23, 2019

High elevation Cabernet

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon

Definitely one of the pioneers in the Spring Mountain area of Napa, I remember discovering their hideaway winery in the 1980's. Revisiting them today, I found they have developed a nice style. You might call their Cabernet Sauvignon an old styled Napa wine. This winery represents a high elevation Cabernet. The wine consists of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon mixed with Cabernet Franc while it ages for 18 months in 65% new and 35% one-year-old French oak. The wine displays the herbaceous green pepper and spice offset by dark fruit and typical of many old school Napa wineries.

Decanter Magazine, December 2019

92 points

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon

Creamy start to the palate, good freshness and very drinkable. Shows some leafy and tomato characters with a bit of dried fruit and sage. Long finish.

Orange County Register, Paul Hodgins, November 28, 2019

One of Napa's best higher-altitude wineries

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon

OK, so nobody actually expects to give or receive 12 Christmas presents, like the old carol implies. And not many of us know the reason for the tradition. The 12 days of Christmas marks the span between the birth of Christ and the coming of the Magi, the three wise men, on Jan. 6.

But here’s a dandy way to mark the year’s turning: a different drink for each of those dozen days. We’ve found three cocktails, three wines, three beers and three nonalcoholic alternatives that are fit for your end-of-the-year enjoyment.

2015 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon: Stuart Smith, who founded this winery in 1971, almost lost his Spring Mountain estate to wildfire a couple of years back, which would have eliminated one of Napa’s best higher-altitude wineries. Smith says this about the 2015 Cab: “Aromatically the wine is thrilling in its laser-like focus and intensity of fragrance. At the same time, it delivers remarkable complexity; every inhalation reveals a new and surprising element. Bright fruit, dark fruit, black currants, red plums, lavender, spices violets, green olives, all are present and more. The aroma is so intriguing it is an end in itself.”

1er, Stephen McConnell, November 15, 2019

Do I have to explain about Smith-Madrone? Nah… I didn’t think so. If you know, ya know. If you don’t, there’s more for the rest of us.

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon

Medium ruby with an abrupt pink edge. Despite the transparency, it manages a typical glass-staining ability. Heavy perfume pours from the glass, but right where you might expect banana or vanilla, it heads green, averting flabbiness with petrichor and minerality. Blackberry and pomegranate continue their onslaught, overturning piles of wet decomposing wood and black earthworm-filled loam. The cassis and licorice continue building with heavy applications of air, but equally suffocating is the matching build-up of fruit. This thing just CAN’T slow down. Liniment, wet wool and Vicks take their turns through the nose, but like every other amazing nuance of the bouquet, are spread thin on softly-undulating waves of fruit so crystal-clear you can see the bottom many feet below.

Decanted heavily. I can’t wait to taste this thing. Do I have to explain about Smith-Madrone? Nah… I didn’t think so. If you know, ya know. If you don’t, there’s more for the rest of us. They only make 3 wines, all estate, all hillside, all dry-farmed: A Cab, a Chard and a Riesling. Been doing it the same way high up on Spring Mt. forever and it’s getting harder and harder to find wineries where NOTHING changes to suit marketing styles and popular palates as the years progress, Smith-Madrone remains one of the few who stick to the basics, what works, a formula tried and true and not trendy.

In the mouth, an absolute blockade of impenetrable fruit packs every pore. Bright but ridiculously concentrated SHRILL acid conjoining and shearing it apart–first to balance the blackness and then to leverage the concentration. One of those wines you taste with bling-bros raised on tourist-wines and they’re like, Hmmm is there even fruit? OMG YES This is EXACTLY the kind of fruit you WANT at this age. You shouldn’t have to go looking for it, but it also shouldn’t be flopping around giving you cavities. Pie cherry goes directly into the dryness of angels, gunpowder jasmine tannin doing the lord’s work on your tongue and enamel.

Buy 3 cases of this and drink one per year.

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