Chardonnay Reviews

Dr. Owen Bargreen, September 21, 2023

A gorgeous offering

2018 Chardonnay

This is a gorgeous offering that looks bright and bold in the glass. This standout Chardonnay saw considerably less new French oak (55%) than the ’16 bottling. It offers very bright acidity with loads of mouth-watering acidity once on the mouth. Layers of peach and lime zest combine with suggestions of vanilla cream, baking spice dusted pear and salted Macadamia nut all enter the fold. Full-bodied, neatly textured and full of tension, this has a long way to go still in the cellar. Drink 2023-2031- 93

Dr. Owen Bargreen, September 21, 2023

Equally complex and delicious...a stunning wine

2016 Chardonnay

93 points: The 2016 Smith-Madrone Chardonnay is soft and generous, slowly getting into nutty and earthy tones. It is such a pleasure revisiting this warm vintage beauty. Vines for this wine are set on Aiken Stoney Clay loam, part of the Aiken, Kidd, Forward complex of soils which are volcanic-based and well-drained. Aged for nine months in 80% new French oak, this offers complex aromas of toasted hazelnuts alongside brioche and hints of bananas foster, giving us plenty of allure. The palate is wonderfully concentrated and very smooth, as this glides throughout the drinking experience offering buttercream, Meyer lemon zest, mango and roasted pineapple notes alongside nutty and flinty undertones. Equally complex and delicious, this is a stunning wine that is right at its peak. Drink 2023-2029- 93

Dr. Owen Bargreen, September 21, 2023

Fantastic new bottling....well-balanced...a beauty

2019 Chardonnay

The new Fall 2023 release for this winery comes from the 2019 vintage which saw relatively even warmth throughout the growing season. Dry-farmed vines for this wine come from the Spring Mountain District as this is a fantastic new bottling made by winemaker Charles Smith. The nose is really fantastic with toasty oak alongside Marcona almond, nectarine, marzipan and shades of Pazzaz apple. The palate is soft and decadent with a great underlying verve. Layers of buttercream alongside copious minerals, kumquat rind and Brazil nut all combine on the palate. Well-balanced and showing a soft mouthfeel, with a lengthy finish, enjoy this beauty now and over the next eight years to come. Drink 2023-2031- 93

Isaac James Baker, September 19, 2023

One helluva well-made Chardonnay

2019 Chardonnay

95 points: Rich yellow color. The lemon curd, orange peel, and yellow pear aromas are delightful, with notes of yellow and white flowers, inviting tones of biscuit dough, sea salt, crushed stones – love it. The palate is racy and spritely with a delightful texture and harmonious fruit (lemons, yellow pears, white peach). Nuances of white tea, honey, sea salt, slight nougat and graham cracker. Racy and precise, deep and age-worthy, this has it all. Disclaimer, I’m a huge fan of this wine in general, but even if it was not my personal style, I don’t think you can argue that this is one helluva well-made Chardonnay. And the 2019 is singing, and will continue to do so in the cellar. Absurd value, easy buy.

Decanter Magazine, September 2023

95 points: great complexity and freshness

2018 Chardonnay

Drinking Window: 2023 - 2032

Smith-Madrone has been making wines from its dry farmed estate vineyards in Napa for 50 years now. This Chardonnay represents one of California’s great-value wines, particularly in the context of the Napa Valley, where wine prices continue to rise. Barrel fermented and aged for nine months in 55% new French oak.

Ronan Sayburn MS: Smoky and bright style showing great acidity and a tight, lemony citrus palate. Saline and mouthwatering.

Eugenio Egorov: Bold and powerful on the nose, fresh and linear on the palate. Beautiful hints of lemon custard and shortbread. Great complexity and freshness.

Ben Gubbins: Toffee, honey, ripe apple. Lots of freshness and zingy citrus notes. Really sings. Although the alcohol glows on the finish it still doesn’t feel too heavy.

James Melendez, Youtube, August 31, 2023

95 points

2019 Chardonnay

95 points: fantastic fruit, great terroir and more

Prof. Stephen Bainbridge, July 30, 2023

Very well balanced, highly recommended

2018 Chardonnay

Highly recommended. As it approaches its fifth birthday, the 2018 is drinking really well. This is a very well balanced wine. Buttery oak/rich fruit/good acidity all play well together with none dominating. The color is a rich yellow-gold. On the nose and palate, one notices toast, vanilla, oak, Meyer lemon, and peach. I served it with pan-seared scallops and pea risotto, for which it was a great match.

As longtime readers know, I'm a big fan of Smith-Madrone, which I think is one of the (what's the right word? small, boutique?) wineries in Napa. We've visited their facility on the top of Spring Mountain a couple of times and always enjoyed spending time with Charlie and Stu. We've drunk a lot of their wine over the years and have never had one that wasn't excellent. Their wines are usually drinkable on release but have the potential to age well. On top of which, they're very reasonably priced given the quality.

Ellen Landis, EllenOnWine, July 8, 2023

Beautifully complex...heavenly texture...brilliantly balanced

2018 Chardonnay

This beautifully complex Chardonnay opens with aromas of honeysuckle and butterscotch.  Expansive on the palate with a heavenly texture, as flavors of fresh pineapple, Granny Smith apple, Lemon Drop melon, spice cake, and a suggestion of toast reach every nook and cranny in the mouth. Brilliantly balanced and pure, and the lip-smacking finish is persistent.

Catherine Fallis, Planet Grape, June 4, 2023

Notes of apple pie and more

2018 Chardonnay

Rich and creamy with notes of apple pie, hot buttered rum, caramel popcorn and toasted marshmallow.

James Suckling,, May 23, 2023

Bright acidity, juicy mid-palate

2018 Chardonnay

This has a tropical character with hints of pastry crust, honeysuckle and cream. Full and waxy with bright acidity and a juicy mid-plate. Creamy finish. Drink now.

Decanter Magazine, Clive Pursehouse, February 2023

This wine has everything

2018 Chardonnay

94 points: A glorious example of Napa Chardonnay from the dry-farmed vines atop Spring Mountain. Ripe pear and hints of lemon peel underline vanilla bean and nutmeg aromas. The palate astounds. Richness is balanced with verve and energy led on by a glorious acidity. The sheer complexity of flavours is beguiling. Rich lemon meringue, bright nectarine flesh, peach skin, a savoury, wet stone minerality and a boisterous finish that sings with brilliant acidity. This wine has everything.

Napa Wine Project, Dave Thompson, May 2023

The definition of balanced

2018 Chardonnay

The 2018 Smith Madrone Chardonnay is deep gold in color; the aromatics are pretty and offer a diversity of scents including honeycomb, caramel, crème brûlée, pineapple, marshmallow, vanilla, ginger and toasted nuts. The palate is bright with a noticeable richness and intensity of flavor including mandarin, pineapple, lemon juice and apple. The texture is supple and smooth. It lingers with notes of hazelnut and a rich tangy-like citrusy finish. Their Chardonnay is fermented in barrel (rather than tank) and this vintage was aged in 55% new French oak. One might think that both fermenting and aging Chardonnay in oak would pick up an oaky and or woodsy quality, but it does not; rather it inherits desirable secondary aromas and flavors from the barrel which add to the complexity of this bottling. Our definition of a balanced wine is a bottling that can be described by one word; seamless – where there are no sharp edges and nothing in particular stands out. This wine is the definition of balanced.

James Melendez Youtube review, May 8, 2023

Amazing fruit, amazing terroir and more

2018 Chardonnay

94 points: Golden color. Rich concentrated nose of apples pine nuts and more. Palate: pear, golden apple, almond. Amazing fruit and terroir.

Ellen Clifford, Scrumptious Gruel, April 25, 2023

It just keeps on giving

2018 Chardonnay

It just keeps on giving. Came on almost too strong at first–nearly sweet in its richness. Buttery caramel corn with a spritz of Meyer lemon nose. But on the palate things get ripping. Mouth watering. And downright…well heck was that caramel corn treated to an ample sprinkle of flour de set because there is something saline going on too. Let it linger. In the glass. And it brings overripe blood orange, white chocolate even? Truly one of those delights for its ability to bring something new and delicious with every sip. There’s an almost herbal undercurrent. It’s good times. And a little marine or is that the salinity I was just citing? Pair with the latest Succession episode.

ABottlePoured, Andrew Pittman, April 24, 2023

Rich and bright with beautiful acidity

2018 Chardonnay

Have very much been looking forward to trying this one, as I’ve heard such good reviews. And it lived up to the hype. Beautifully made, this is pure California chardonnay. Gold in color. Creamy buttery notes lead, along with some tropical fruit. I also get some herbal and cedar notes, giving off Cabernet vibes. On entry it’s rich and bright with beautiful acidity. Apples and lemons with a finish that lingers for a long time. I don’t even recommend chilling this one. Drink it at cellar temp and experience all the complexity and nuance in its purest form. You might give it a decant to let it open up, or just sip it and enjoy the journey. They also produce a Riesling and a Cabernet Sauvignon that I can’t wait to try.

Alec Termer, AmateurSommelier, April 18, 2023

Old world style Chardonnay with mouth-watering acidity and a bit of a bite

2018 Chardonnay

A very much appreciated departure from the typical overly buttery and smooth California Chardonnay. More akin to an old world Chardonnay, this has robust citric acidity, and a lively aroma that pours from the glass. The aroma is very fragrant with pear, green apple, lemon, and toasted vanilla. The taste evolves from the aroma with crisp acidic lemon, green apple, white peach, toasted vanilla, oak, and just a little spice to round it out. It's always nice to get an old world style Chardonnay with mouth-watering acidity and a bit of a bite. This acidity in this wine isn't strong enough to be off putting, just enough to complement the citrus flavors. The spice is subtle, but lingers enough to help give some contrast to the acidity. Quickly following the acidity, you begin to get the toasted vanilla, which then becomes a main aspect of the aftertaste. Along with the toasted notes, the crisp acidity begins to fade and you start to get more of the sweeter white peach and a bit more of the Meyer lemon. To wrap it up... this is a delicious, crisp, and mouth-watering Chardonnay with a long lasting and evolving aftertaste that will make you want to pour another glass.

WineReviewOnline, Vince Simmon, March 23, 2023

Stunning Chardonnay with deep, rich flavors, bright acidity and balanced oak

2018 Chardonnay

95 points: Smith-Madrone delivers a stunning Chardonnay with deep, rich flavors, bright acidity, and balanced oak use.  Located in Napa’s North-West Spring Mountain District, it enjoys a cooler climate, for Napa, that helps their wines to develop really rich flavors while retaining much of their natural acidity.  Smith-Madrone wines are elegant expressions, focused on elevating the best fruit into wines focused on balance, acidity, complexity, and notes distinctive of their source.  This Chardonnay, for instance, sings with notes of baked nutmeg-spiced pears, praline, caramelized pineapple, and ripe red apple accents.  One of the beautiful aspects of this wine is that it’s ready to drink now and is beautiful out of the bottle right after opening

The Chalk Report, Andrew Chalk, January 3, 2023

One of the quiet heroes of Napa Valley

2018 Chardonnay

Appearance: Burnished gold hue;

Nose: Tropical fruit of pineapple and mango. Ripe golden apples. Lime. Toasty notes;

Palate: Vibrant acid, underlying phenolic backbone contributes to a rustic mouthfeel, tropical fruit shines through;

Fascinating to sip through during a Godfather rerun, or with roasted poultry, pork chops, or almost any type of seafood. Newcomers to wine might like to try this as their first chardonnay (America’s most popular white grape, by a country mile) since its nose and palate amount to a kind of “reference case” for New World chardonnay. However it talks to you, I think you will like it. Recommended.

Smith-Madrone is over 50 years old, but one of the quiet heroes of Napa. So quiet that its consistent commitment to quality may have gone unnoticed in an environment of wineries that seem behaviourally equivalent to screaming teenagers on a Spirit airlines flight. This wine, like all Smith-Madrone wines, is dry-farmed (i.e. the vines are not irrigated). The grapes grow on the top of Spring Mountain, a beautiful district of Napa Valley set out on either side of narrow, tortuous Spring Valley Road. The soil is very important to founder Stuart Smith and winemaker Charles Smith. In their words: “Our soils are mostly deep-red Aiken Stoney Clay loam, part of the Aiken, Kidd, Forward complex of soils which are volcanic-based, well-drained and deep. The underlying geology is the very old (250,000,000 years) Franciscan Series Assemblage, unique to California coastal ranges, which includes altered mafic volcanic rocks, deep-sea radiolarian cherts, sandstones, limestones, serpentines, shales and high-pressure metamorphic rocks, all of them faulted and mixed in a seemingly chaotic manner as a result of the Pacific Tectonic Plate subducting under the Continental Plate and shears both off into an aggregate mix. Overlying this formation is the much younger weathered Sonoma Volcanic soil that forms our soils of today.” Their style is unapologetically artisan. Emanating distinctiveness that doesn’t stress the inherent qualities in the grapes, and never produces ‘paint by numbers’ wines. That deep commitment to authenticity has been a model for many young winemakers.

Nancy Brazil, PullThatCork, December 19, 2022

A Chardonnay to respect for its balance and nuanced flavors

2018 Chardonnay

Light golden with generous aromas of toast, citrus and melon. Flavors are citrusy with melon and toasty oak in a round, medium body with notable acidity. The finish is round and clean and very long. This is a Chardonnay to respect for its balance and nuanced flavors. Yes, it is fermented and aged in oak, but in the right hands this is a good thing. It has many years ahead of it, but it’s delicious now. Pair it with Halibut with Swiss Chard and Ginger Cream Sauce.

TheDrunkenCyclist, Jeff Kralik, December 16, 2022


2018 Chardonnay

I have long been a fan of the wines from Smith-Madrone, a tiny (as least as far as Napa goes) outpost on Spring Mountain. Their Riesling might be one of the best wines produced in Napa, the Cabernet Sauvignon is easily one of the best values in the Valley, and the Chardonnay is a wine that I would assert belongs on the list of best Napa Valley Chardonnays. Gorgeous fruit on the nose with tropical fruit, white flower, and almond paste predominate. The palate is quite tart, with fruit at the forefront, hints of oak, and a subtle creaminess that defines Smith-Madrone. This is not the biggest, most bombastic Chard from Napa, but I doubt there is another that I would rather have on my dining room table. Outstanding. 93 Points.

NittanyEpicurean, Michael Chelus, December 14, 2022

Great acidity and balance

2018 Chardonnay

The wine showed a bright yellow color. Apple, lemon curd, honey, roasted brioche, oak and whiffs of stone fruit all arrived on the nose. Apple, cedar, toasted almond and dried apricot were the leaders out of the clubhouse on a robust palate followed by notes of honey and oak. The wine exhibited great acidity and balance. It was medium-bodied and demonstrated good length. This wine would pair perfectly with a classic preparation of Sole Almondine.

Wine1percent, Stephen McConnell, December 12, 2022

Here we have someone doing it perfectly for decades right under everyone's noses and it really doesn't get any better

2016 Chardonnay

One sniff and the floral aromatics on this one are off the charts. Another and the chalky, mineralific, raspy match-head blows you away. Swirl again and the melding of these two is magical as it caresses thick buttery fruit. Is this how you spell perfect Chardonnay? I suppose that argument could be made. Significant golden straw showing here at 6, the chartreuse aspects a faint glow in the body. A nose so overwhelmingly restrained in its grandeur, its elegance, its expression of tasty melon, lychee and green apple.

And then you taste it. The entry a powerful slam of stone-fruit and tropical, edged with bitter acid, petrichor, and steely flint. The middle cascades ridiculous fruit–sweet and chewy–on all surfaces, the balance of which boggles and stuns as the wet soil and high sparkly notes go tête-à-tête on each other in a cuddly battle for non-supremacy. Golden butter and applesauce coat the finish, where the kind of tannin reflecting a near-endless lifespan cause cherubic dreams.

Ya know–Chardonnay’s a weird thing. Marketing is constantly insisting this region or that region will produce the most spectacular examples and we should look no further. Wine-writer is continually penning the same, cookie-cutter captions extolling this producer or that producer as the end-all of modern exhibition. But here. Look here. HERE we have someone doing it perfectly for decades right under everyone’s noses and it really doesn’t get any better.

TheFermentedFruit, Ryan O'Hara, September 5, 2022

Overdelivers yet again

2018 Chardonnay

Smith-Madrone is a consistent favorite of mine. Great to have a sneak peek of their recent releases, and not surprisingly their Spring Mountain Chardonnay overdelivers yet again, with gorgeous fruit laced with preserved lemon and white floral aromatics. There’s tension, acidity and even a chalky minerality. Dare I say it makes me think of White Burgundy?! Bravo, I can’t get enough!

Free Run Juice, Doug Wilder, September 7, 2022

Nose is pristine toast

2018 Chardonnay

The nose is pristine toast, crème brûlée, Meyer lemon, penetrating pineapple and saline with a whiff of mint. The palate entry shows taut acidity leading to a graham cracker, citrus and marshmallow core finishing with pain grillée and apricot. Drink 2022-2034.

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.

Rupal Shankar, Syrah Queen Instagram, September 1, 2022

This Chardonnay will turn anyone into a Chardonnay lover

2018 Chardonnay

Winding down the last few weeks of the summer with a delicious Chardonnay. Do you have a favorite bottle? Let me know. One of my favorites is Smith-Madrone. This Chardonnay will turn anyone into a Chardonnay lover with its understated personality. It is everything you want in a Chardonnay. The wine is subtle at first but then exuberantly opens up with sensational aromatics of apple, lemon, apricot and brioche. There is nice zippy acidity, structure and balance on the palate. There is a refined elegance on the mouthfeel with a purity that lasts through the finish.

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