Cabernet Sauvignon Reviews

WineReviewOnline, Rich Cook, November 22, 2022

Captures at once both rusticity and elegance

2019 Cabernet Sauvignon

96 points: What this winery has accomplished over fifty plus years on Spring Mountain is astounding, and if you’re not familiar with them, this bottle is a perfect introduction.  Like so many of the vintages of this wine across time, this captures at once both rusticity and elegance, with classic Cabernet Sauvignon aromatics, flavors and build quality.  In the extensive line, I would say the 2019 is long on early generosity of flavor while maintaining the structure of a sure to be long lived wine.  A Napa Valley legend marches on, and at prices that make sure that those seeking classics can still afford them.  Bravo!  Contains 12% Cabernet Franc and 5% Merlot.

Nittany Epicurean, Michael Chelus, November 16, 2022

A rich palate, good length

2019 Cabernet Sauvignon

From a winery that I've been happy to feature many times in this series....This wine is mostly cabernet sauvignon (83%) blended with small amounts of merlot (5%) and cabernet franc (12%). The fruit was estate grown in Napa's Spring Mountain District. Following fermentation, the wine was aged for 18 months in French oak barrels (55% new). It comes in at 14.3% ABV. The wine showed a dark ruby color. Black cherry, cassis, raspberry, vanilla, eucalyptus and oak all arrived on the nose. Cherry, cassis, raspberry and vanilla were the foundation of a rich palate followed by supporting notes of eucalyptus, blackberry and oak. The wine was full-bodied and exhibited good length along with soft tannins. It would pair very well with a bone-in ribeye grilled over a wood fire.

Wine & Spirits Magazine, Holiday 2022 issue, Josh Greene

Beautiful tannins....a pretty smart Cabernet, especially at the price

2019 Cabernet Sauvignon

93 points, Best Buy: You can feel the dappled sunlight in this wine as the flavors shift from warm, sunny forest berries to cool forest-floor tannins. Those beautiful tannins coat the fruit in a drape of dark riches—espresso-roast coffee, redwood tea, smoke and madrone. Stu Smith has been farming the steep slopes of Spring Mountain without irrigation since 1971 (it’s not named Spring Mountain for nothing). His vines rise from 1,300 to 2,000 feet in elevation, rooted in a complex geology that seems to provide all the nuance in the lasting flavor. This is pretty smart cabernet, especially at the price—a 2019 that should age well.

Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, Peg Melnik, November 9, 2022


2019 Cabernet Sauvignon

4 stars. A tasty cab with black cherry, cassis and an undercurrent of cracked black pepper. Supple texture and well-crafted., Isaac Baker, October 21. 2022

2019 Cabernet Sauvignon

95 points: Vibrant purple color. The fruit on the nose shows these tart but deep vibes (black cherries, blueberries, currants), mixed with these scents of iron, graphite, sage, tobacco and pepper. Give it air, and there’s a ton to coax out. On the palate, this is full but fresh with nice grip and crisp acidity. The black currant and cherry fruit is juicy and tangy, and the mouthfeel is smooth and effortless. The fruit is woven in well with flavors of tobacco, roasted red pepper, sage and clove. Nuanced, gorgeous complexity, this is a stellar 2019 Cab that deserves time in the cellar and some great company. Includes 12% Cabernet Franc and 5% Merlot, aged 18 months in 55% new French oak.

Red Onion Restaurant, Saugerties, New York, October 20, 2022

A real California beauty

2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

One of our favorite Napa Valley AVA offerings, 2018 Smith Madrone Cabernet is a real California beauty. It opens with a sumptuous nose of red and black fruit with notes of pie spice and graphite. The palate that follows is big, elegantly textured and incredibly balanced, supported by robust and well-integrated tannins. We believe it's one of the better Cabernets that Spring Mountain District has to offer.

John Jackson, AttorneySomm, October 11, 2022

Always enjoyable

2019 Cabernet Sauvignon

Near the top of Spring Mountain you will find Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery. Smith-Madrone has 38 acres of vineyards on its 170-acre ranch. 13 of these acres are devoted to Cabernet Sauvignon. The vineyards are planted on steep slopes at elevations ranging from 1,300-2,000 feet. Smith-Madrone was an early proponent of dry farming. Dry farming causes the grapevines to struggle and search of water and nutrients. The result is lower yields with small grapes that have high skin-to-juice ratios and produce concentrated fruit. This fruit, in turn, leads to wine with greater intensity and concentration than wine made from grapes that are the product of high yields. While I typically enjoy Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon with some additional bottle age, I recently decided to get an early read on the 2019 Smith-Madrone Estate Cabernet Sauvignon! This wine consists of 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc and 5% Merlot. It was aged for 18 months in 55% new French oak. Flavors and aromas included blackcurrant, blackberry, black cherry, plums, pencil lead, violets, vanilla bean, sage and spice mix. This wine is always very enjoyable!

Napa Valley Register, Dan Berger, October 14, 2022

2019 Cabernet Sauvignon

Wine of The Week: To best illustrate how Napa Valley can produce Cabs of longevity and achieve it with wines that work brilliantly soon with food, the brothers Smith have crafted yet another classic from 1,800 feet above the valley floor. This wine has traces of dried herbs, Latakia tobacco, thyme, olive, and tea. Stu Smith said, “It’s my kind of Napa Valley Cab with layers of black and red fruit and good acid – a kind of old California style… We’re more of a European style winery, we want wines that age well.” The numbers: pH is 3.56, acid is .68, alcohol is 14.3%. It’s made to be at a peak in 20 years or more.

Vinography, Alder Yarrow, September 25, 2022

Elegant, excellent acidity, well-integrated oak, restrained, ageworthy

2019 Cabernet Sauvignon

....the perennially tasty Smith-Madrone Cabernet, made high on the slopes of Spring Mountain by two brothers who have doggedly stuck to their vision for what Napa Cabernet should be for many years—namely restrained and ageworthy. Their 2019 is a beautiful expression of their style and of the steep hillsides they farm. Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of crushed dried flowers, tobacco leaf, and black cherries. In the mouth, wonderfully intense black cherry and forest floor notes have a hint of pencil lead and more of the moist pipe tobacco scent that is so alluring. Excellent acidity and very well-integrated oak round out the package. The tannins are quite restrained, and fine-grained, like a soft suede against the top and sides of the mouth. Elegant.

Stephen McConnell, Wine1percent, September 20, 2022

Powerful and rich, perfectly balanced

2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

Mmmmm Cabernet. I love Cabernet. I love Napa Cab. All my Cab-haters out there be like meh… but I like GOOD Napa Cab, and Smith-Madrone makes a good one. Year-in, year-out. I’ve never had a bad one. Not even one *weird* or *odd* or *bad vintage* or even remotely *off*. And the price–a tired topic constantly making rounds through the blogosphere–remains an absolute bargain. Checking in on this 4YO proves no different. Deep sultry ruby, thick and dense at the core, a thin ruddy rim advertising the savory goodies. Layers of spice and muddled briar pack the nose, a crisp dark-green melange of delicious tobacco, red dust and redwood hillside flora over cherry so dark chocolate, mint and salt it boggles in its *lightness* of concentration. Decanted heartily. Visions of disgustingly deep berry swarm the entry. Powerful and rich, sweet and flavorful, tangy bitter exudes from the depth of blackberry in a strawberry-rhubarb sort of leathery angst. Perfectly balanced in expression here even at this young age, there’s no awkward edges, no glowing glycerine, no chubby splendor, no posting-up of lavish oak treatment obscuring ANYTHING but allowing pure Cabernet expression to flow freely. When was the last time you had a cab without a single asterisk? The fruit wanes delicately over the middle, letting structure speak: letting things OTHER than rich, terribly-concentrated sweetness, formulaic flavors or stupendous oak–things all-too-common in the current wagering for the tourist palate–do the talking. The acid plays with slight eucalyptus into a finish obviously rife with tannin, but it’s tannin you have to LOOK for between the clean, forever fruit. Go buy your 99-point desserts and be sad–I’ll just be over here with a real, affordable cab.

Decanter, Jonathan Cristaldi, September 12, 2022

A great wine

2019 Cabernet Sauvignon

93 points: Brothers Stu and Charles Smith craft some of the most structured, classic expressions of the Spring Mountain AVA, and the 2019 is no exception. All the trappings of a great wine are there: subtle dark berry fruit, wild mountains herbs and a pretty capsicum nose. Full-bodied, the palate has ample acidity and freshness, revealing green tobacco, blackcurrant, earth and crushed stone minerality.

BiggerThanYourHead, Frederic Koeppel, September 12, 2022


2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

Intense black-ruby color; you feel the hillside vineyards in the wine’s penetrating graphite and flint-like minerality, its notes of dried thyme and sage, its chiseled and faceted character; ripe black currants and cherries, crushed violets and lavender; hints of black tea, orange rind and bittersweet chocolate; very dry, with a lithe, lean structure, racy acidity and bright nervosity — nothing lavish or swashbuckling here, and all the better for it; the finish a melding of walnut shell, loam, stalwart tannins and clean, balletic black and blue fruit flavors. Now through 2030 to ’34. Exceptional.

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.

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