Cabernet Sauvignon Reviews

The Syrah Queen, Rupal Shankar, August 29, 2019

Layered, rich palate

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

From one of the pioneers of Spring Mountain, this Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon is 100% estate fruit grown at the top of Spring Mountain. Black cherry, oak and black pepper on the nose precede a layered, rich palate, where soft tannins are the backbone for flavors of forest floor, cloves, savory herbs and cassis. A long and complex finish persists with notes of loam and red fruits. These grapes grow on slopes of up to 30% at an elevation of almost 2,000 feet: this mountain pedigree insures deliciously integrated tannins and a long life span.

Cuvee1985, August 9, 2019

A wine that perfectly exhibits the terroir within which it is grown

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

I promise you’ve never had a Napa Cab quite like this. Smith & Madrone dry farm their Cabernet atop Spring Mountain, producing a wine that perfectly exhibits the terroir within which it is grown. Aromas of evergreen, juniper, fernet and fresh black fruit. So impressed with these guys.

San Francisco Chronicle, August 1, 2019, Esther Mobley

What makes the Smith-Madrone so compelling is that it could have been made in any era. It’s a product not of fashion but of principle. It abides by fundamental standards of wine quality — balance, simplicity — that have never gone out of style, and never will.

General Cab Comment

...And yet there is one wine in our tasting that seems to defy it all. The 2004 Smith-Madrone from Spring Mountain happens to carry a modest 13.9% alcohol, but that’s not the point. By the time we get to it, the 30th wine in our lineup, our mouths are parched and our tongues fatigued. But something in me perks up when I put my nose in the glass.

It’s not the most youthful wine on the table. It bears some telltale signs of aging — cigar box, leather, a browning rim. Still, it’s alive, pulsing with energy, generous with blackberry, currant, licorice and at the same time, restrained and delicate.

What makes the Smith-Madrone so compelling is that it could have been made in any era. It’s a product not of fashion but of principle. It abides by fundamental standards of wine quality — balance, simplicity — that have never gone out of style, and never will.

Tasting the Smith-Madrone, it seems clear to me that today’s trendiest wines have more in common with 2004 than their makers would like to imagine. In the annals of taste, wines that are immoderately funky or excruciatingly lean will have just as short of a shelf life as the extravagantly ripe wines of the aughts.

No matter what form it takes, excess will always get old. But sometimes, when something stays the course, ignores the fads, keeps it simple, we get a taste of timelessness.

SyrahQueen, Rupal Shankar, December 6, 2018

Elegantly integrated mouthful

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

 Best Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon for intimate holiday dinners (Under $60)

Smith-Madrone wines are made entirely from dry-farmed estate vineyards surrounding the winery on top of Spring Mountain in the Napa Valley. Stuart Smith chose specific slopes with different exposures for specific varietals when planting the vineyards, specifically southern and western exposures across flat stretches for the Cabernet Sauvignon. Stu was named one of the wine industry’s most inspirational people in January 2018. 

This wine opens with a concentrated nose of dark fruits, leading with notes of boysenberry and plum. The palate is remarkably seamless, an elegantly integrated mouthful with a velvety, silky texture which leaves you realizing how wine-making can ‘distill’ a grape into a powerful perfume, the essence of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Forbes Gift Guide, Katie Bell, November 21, 2018

Finesse, power and silk in one sip

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

The year of the earthquake, and one of the region’s fiercest droughts, brought vineyard challenges but ultimately yielded some exceptional wines. Smith Madrone’s mountainside Cabernet Sauvignon is a classic example of how challenged grapes bring densely concentrated fruit flavor and also ensure distinctiveness. This wine shows off with deep black cherry notes, spice, finesse, power and silk in one sip.

Greg Ballington and India Okoh, Millennial Drinkers, March 5, 2018

Gets richer

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

91 points: Deep and dark purplish ruby red. Very young on the nose with greenery, twigs, some cinnamon and dark berries. Even a touch of mint as it opens. Full bodied. Notes of nutmeg, cinnamon, dark cherries and cocoa. Gets richer as it airs. Long and dry finish.

International Wine Report, Owen Bargreen, January 2018

Beautifully balanced

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

91 points: this is a classic display of Napa Valley Cabernet. This instantly grabs your attention as it releases aromatics of dark fruits intermingling with spices and herbal elements. The mouthwatering acidity is lovely, as this medium to full-bodied wine delivers flavors of blackberry cobbler, crushed mint and coffee grounds which entice. This beautifully balanced Cabernet will cellar gracefully over the next decade.

Terroir Review, Meg Houston Maker, August 31, 2018

On point for higher elevation Napa Cab

2005 Cabernet Sauvignon

This is an estate wine, grown on the Smith-Madrone property on Spring Mountain. In 2014, the cuvée was 85 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 8 percent Cabernet Franc, and 7 percent Merlot. The vintage was extremely dry — and this estate is dry farmed — so the berries were small, and their higher skin-to-juice ratios delivered a concentrated must. The wine spent 18 months in French oak, 70 percent new. It has a youthful aspect with glints of purple and fuchsia, suggesting ripeness and density and the stuffing for age. The fragrance is on-point for higher elevation Napa Cab, viz., cedar, juniper berries, and cassis. Right now the oak notes are prominent, although I expect them to integrate over time. The acidity is moderate and buttresses the finely ribbed tannins, and a coffee note adds both flavor and the suggestion of structure. The finish is like spiced plums. I love that the wine clocks in below 14 percent alcohol. Cellar for five years if you can; its price makes it attractive to those seeking an age-worthy Napa Cab.

The Daily Meal, Roger Morris, August 29, 2018

Lots of earthiness and chocolate 

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

A straightforward red with muted cherries and lots of earthiness and chocolate notes.

Fred Swan, August 11, 2018

Full-bodied and luxurious yet juicy

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

A very generous Cabernet on nose and palate with classic notes of dried leaves, cassis, mocha, black raspberry, milk chocolate, spice and oak. It’s full-bodied and luxurious, yet juicy, in the mouth with very fine, softly chalky tannins, and an extremely long finish. Delightful now but will age until 2030+

As they stuck with Riesling, Smith-Madrone has also stood by their original winery building, traditional winemaking approach, and producing wines that are about balance and drinking pleasure, rather than impact and opacity. This is expected of Riesling, but applies equally to the Smith-Madrone Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines.

RockinRed blog, Michelle Williams, July 4, 2018

Juxtaposition of finesse and power

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

Crafted of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, and 7% Merlot from dry-farmed grapes grown in Spring Mountain District estate vineyards; this beautiful ruby wine opens with aromas of fresh black fruit, dried violets, cassis, black pepper, forest floor, sweet tobacco and spice notes, licorice, minerality, and vanilla; incredibly balanced wine that meets the palate in a juxtaposition of finesse and power infused by the volcanic soil and guided the gentle hand of Stu Smith; tannins are high yet silky, acidity is balanced and mouth-watering, with a long and lean finish; another wonderful wine of great value by Smith-Madrone.

Vinepair, Edward Deitch, June 28, 2018

All about consistency

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

These days, California’s Napa Valley is filled with celebrities, corporate big shots, and other one percenters who have caught the wine bug and bought their way into the region and the wine business.

So it’s refreshing to think about two bearded brothers who have been at it for almost half a century, high up on a mountain in their rustic corner of the Valley, with little ostentation or self-promotion.

The brothers are Stuart and Charles Smith, who have been growing grapes and producing distinctive estate wines at their Smith-Madrone Winery on the top of Napa’s Spring Mountain since 1971. This is not the Napa Valley overrun by the wine-soaked masses. (Tours are by appointment only.)

Smith-Madrone has been all about consistency, producing the same excellent wines — primarily a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Chardonnay, and a Riesling — year in and year out.

My recent tasting of the 2014 Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon confirms it. This is classic, terroir-defined Cabernet with a signature that says Smith-Madrone (the latter part of the name refers to a type of evergreen tree on the property).

The grapes are grown in steep, mountainside vineyards in largely volcanic soils. The vineyards are mostly dry-farmed (no irrigation is used), not only to conserve precious California water, but to produce more complexity in the wines, which results from the vines having to dig deeper for their nourishment.

That complexity is a hallmark of the 2014 Cabernet, a $52 wine with aromas of violets, red fruits, and graphite, followed by concentrated dark and red fruit tastes and a hint of eucalyptus. The oak is well integrated, the tannic structure is refined, and the ample acidity gives the wine an overall brightness. A slightly green note, not uncommon in young Cabernet, gives way as it opens up. The blend is 85 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 8 percent Cabernet Franc, and 7 percent Merlot.

With alcohol listed at 13.9 percent, it’s also a refreshing counterpoint to the still-prevalent model of Big California Cab. It’s enjoyable young and will be worth exploring 10, even 20 years from now.

Briscoe Bites, Stacy Briscoe, June 24, 2018


2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

I’ve been dying to taste Smith-Madrone wines since I don’t know how long. I’ve only heard fantastic things about the estate and their wines. And after interviewing Stu Smith, founder, manager, and enologist for Smith-Madrone Winery, for a recent article, I was even more eager and curious what this downright passionate proprietor is creating with these lovingly tended-for vineyards. So what better way to start than with the varietal Napa is known for?

Flavor Profile: Pop the cork and breathe in immediate aromas of dried fruits, forest floor, and a bit of mocha. This Cabernet Sauvignon presents a dark purple-black on the pour, settling into the glass more purple-rouge, nearly impenetrable at its core, and with a tint of orange-brown at the outermost perimeter. Initial aromas are of leather, dried black cherry, unsweetened cacao, and bourbon barrel. Swirl and the wine releases scents of dried rose petals, a hint of chocolate, and a solid acidic line. The palate is full, presenting a solid acidity, and tannins that maintain a friendly presence. There’s just a slight amplification of the acid as the tasting progresses, which in turn showcases the fruit. Likewise, the tannins slightly increase towards the finish, paying homage to those floral notes. Dominant flavors are of oak barrel woodiness, black cherry, tart plum, decadent but dark chocolate, earth, a bit of bacon, and a hint of Brazil nut complete with its skins. 

Food Pairing: I paired the Smith-Madrone 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon with a veal roulade: thinly sliced veal rolled with goats cheese, spinach, and cranberries, and encased in prosciutto. First of all, yum. Second of all, perfect pairing. As the evening progressed, the wine opened up beautifully, making way for a rounder texture. The salty prosciutto also gave the wine a more supple mouthfeel and played up the fruit and acidity.

Decanter Magazine, June 2018, Anne Krebiehl

Elegance of mountain fruit

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

94 points: The elegance of mountain fruit shows through here, with ripe plum coated with smoky notes of thyme. The palate has very fine, drying but pleasantly crunchy tannins with lovely grip, and there's a sexy, smoky tint of single-malt whiskey around the edges. Lovely, crisp Cabernet structure. Drinking Window 2020 - 2035

American Wine Society Journal, summer 2018, Ellen Landis

A gem that shows off the terroir

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

Here is an intensely built Cabernet Sauvignon blended with 8% Cabernet Franc and 7% Merlot. This gem shows off the terroir of this long growing season region in spades. Deep fruit on the nose segues to plum, black raspberry, black currant, licorice, herbs, spiced oak and earth coating the palate. Tightly wound with a firm backbone of tannins. Decant if you pop the cork now, or wait patiently, there are rewards to gain by cellaring.

Slow Wine Guide, January 2018

Great wine

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

The Smith-Madrone line-up, and especially the Cabernet Sauvignon, leave no doubt that they have been crafted from old-vine, mountain grown fruit. The 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon is a big, brooding wine with concentrated black and blue fruits framed by iron-shaving tannins and subtle oak spice (and, it should be noted, this powerful red easily outperforms Cabernets twice and three times its price).

VinePair, Courtney Schiessl, February 2018

Great Balance

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

A fresh green edge characterizes this balanced mountain Napa Cab. Perfect for Dinner With The Parents, Steak Dinner. Cabernet Sauvignon’s green character certainly comes through on this mountain Napa wine, likely amped up by the small proportion of Cabernet Franc blended in. Ripe, dusty black cherry fruit transitions into brambly berries on the grassy palate, the fine, grippy tannins providing great balance.

StrongCoffeeToRedWine, Rick Dean, April 11, 2018

Rocking my world

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

The Smith-Madrone 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon is the perfect balance of Old World and New World styles. It is soft and finessed. It is earth and fruit. And oh, it makes me smile from ear to ear while I look for a place to hide the bottle, so I do not have to share. Drats foiled again, Gary knows my hiding place. The color is dark and purple with subtle purple-ruby edges. The aromas at the top* bring out cedar and a hint of wet terra cotta. At the bottom*, I find stewed prunes and raisins, and other black fruits mixed with a woodsy earthiness.  My drinking partner finds similar yet different aromas calling out dusty, dry cherries and dense mossy forest. We are both intrigued by the smells/aromas that seem to complement each other rather than fight for top billing. From the first sip to the last there is roundness and balance. To me, black fruit permeates with a light kiss of acid right from the start. The tannins are soft and approachable.  As the wine finishes you get a second burst of acidity that cleanses your palate in anticipation of your next sip. Which I did… over and over and over again. This wine is rocking my world. For my partner, he is struck by the harmony between the dark fruits and the earth. Geez, we are both loving this wine. My sister pops in the house while we are sipping, so I hand her my glass.  All she can say is, “WOW!, damn that is good.” One final comment: I was prepared to like this wine but did not expect to want to search it out locally.  I was so incredibly wrong. This is a fantastic wine.

Nittany Epicurean, Michael Chelus, April 6, 2018


2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

Earlier this week, my ongoing series of discovery of some of the great wines of California brought us wines from some of my favorite wineries in the state.Today, the series will stay in Napa for another delicious cabernet from a winery for which I've developed quite an affinity. This wine is mostly cabernet sauvignon (85%) blended with small amounts of cabernet franc (8%) and merlot (7%). The fruit - all estate grown - hails from Napa's Spring Mountain District. Following fermentation, the wine was aged for 18 months in French oak barrels (70% new). It comes in at 13.9% ABV. The wine showed a dark ruby color. Blackberry, raspberry, vanilla and oak on a nose that showed initial restraint. Cherry cola, raspberry, blackberry, vanilla, plum, licorice, oak and hints of eucalyptus followed on a palate much more developed than the nose. The wine exhibited good structure and length, along with soft tannins. This wine would pair classically with a dry-aged prime rib.


Wine Enthusiast, Virginie Boone, May 2018

Restrained take on mountain-grown fruit

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

91 points CELLAR SELECTION: This is a concentrated wine made with 8% Cabernet Franc and 7% Merlot within the blend, a restrained take on mountain-grown fruit and tannin. Cassis, red currant and cedar persist within a framework of tart acidity and balanced oak, the structure suggestive of further aging. Enjoy best 2024 through 2034.

International Wine Review, Michael Potashnik and Don Winkler, March 20, 2018

Nicely integrated and complex

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

Nicely integrated and complex with a melange of red and black fruit with noteworthy boysenberry, plum,  savory herbs and notes of underbrush and chocolate.  It is nicely concentrated, round on the palate with firm tannins and a long finish.

Vineration, Brian Seeling, March 16, 2018

Exceptionally integrated oak

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

It's a steal, with aromas of pipe tobacco, unripe black plum, blackberry, and exceptionally integrated oak. When you sip it, a rush of juiciness washes over your palate and the silky texture falls effortlessly down the hatch. The medium strength tannins cling to the insides of your cheeks to extend the long dark cocoa finish.

The Intox Report, Chris Kassel, March 7, 2018

Clarity and precision

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

Altitude plays a role in producing wines of potency and nuance, but without a proper foundation, it’s all for naught.  The reddish Aiken soil that predominates throughout Smith-Madrone vineyards is derived from nearby Sonoma Volcanics, and tends to be gravelly, leading to even more radical drainage than elevation alone would account for.  In the Spring Mountain AVA soil depths vary, but tend to be deeper than in nearby mountain terrains, and as a result, so do their red wines. Notable is the Cabernet Sauvignon, which is almost inky black in color (high elevation reds seem to tan in the direct UV rays like people) and has a bracing dose of acid that preserves the elusive quality of freshness in extraordinarily rich wines.  The wine displays the pedigree of middle-aged vines; these are in their early forties. It’s juicy with dark, saturated berry flavors—fruit crushed for jam, but not yet stewed.  It’s accented by coffee, spicy plum and crushed peppercorn and shows clarity and precision. I always welcome an opportunity to circle back to see what the brothers-on-high are up to at Smith-Madrone.  Smith is the most common name in the United States, so it’s gratifying to note that these two are making some of the most unusual wines.

Winethropology, Steve McIntosh, March 7, 2018

Instant infatuation

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

Oh, lord, the luxurious aromatics coming off this alone are enough to incite instant infatuation. Deep, beckoning black fruit invites more sniffing for those with the patience to not just dive in. The attack, however, sits juxtaposed with its blue-green fruit/vegetable profile and a restraint that is in contrast to the nose. Prominent acidity, combined with its old school cabernet fruit elements suggest longevity. Even after seven hours decanted, drinking this feels like infanticide. Would love to revisit this one in a decade. And then again in another.


Decanter Magazine, April 2018, Alex Hunt

94 points

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

94 points: Green notes are a key part of Cabernet’s aroma, yet often suppressed in California. How refreshing, then, to find them lifting the juicy fruit of this wine to another level of complexity. Drink 2020-2030.

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