Chardonnay Reviews

PullThatCork, Nancy Brazil, June 7, 2024

A gorgeous Chardonnay

2019 Chardonnay

Light golden with aromas of ripe pears and melons with hints of toast. Flavors include melons, pears, citrus and hints of sweet oak. The body is a bit round with fresh, juicy acidity and a very long finish. What a lovely, complex, vibrant Chardonnay. Yes, it is barrel-fermented and aged for nine months in 55% new French oak, but the oak is well integrated and doesn’t trample the complex flavors of the Chardonnay. In fact, that is one of the characteristics of Chardonnay grown on the mountainside according to Charlie— it stands up to oak aging. This is a gorgeous Chardonnay for a meal (or to sip while preparing a meal).

I have a thing for mountainside vineyards. Growing vines on the side of a mountain is definitely not the easiest place to grow them, but some of the most interesting and complex wines I’ve tasted are grown there. Smith-Madrone wines are both. They are also elegant, unexpected and affordable. Affordable and Napa Valley are sometimes mutually exclusive with regard to wine.

Stephen Bainbridge,, July 2023

Highly recommended

2018 Chardonnay

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. 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. Highly recommended.

Purely Domestic Wine Report, Doug Wilder, January 2024

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 grilleé and apricot. Drink 2023-2034.

Stephen McConnell, Wine1percent, February 29, 2024

The beauty of pure chard berry transferring through...the finish glorifies the perfection in Chardonnay...

2019 Chardonnay

A CLASSIC California Chardonnay, seamless and packed with goodness from start to finish. A bit golden, a nose churning with tropical and earthy fruit nuances and showing definite signs of age here at merely 4. I’m not going to go down the *premox* road here, but the polish this wine shows hints at a *settling down* into almond-paste and–albeit gritty–decadence surprises this reviewer–considering the source. Oh don’t get me wrong: there’s a shock of acid and even tannin belieing any assumptions of short-lividness, but some of the essences seem a bit progressed. On the palate, the acid hits acrid points throughout, squashing any thoughts of dilapidation and age-worthiness. Green-bitter melds with buttery richness in a yin-yang seesaw exposing outliers at each range. Chalky and dry, the beauty of pure chard berry transferring through at each point of consideration. It’s not an easy wine to criticize, but it’s a painless wine to love. I guess what I’m trying to say is: blind, I would put this bottle at a few more years than the label decrees. The finish though. The finish glorifies the perfection in Chardonnay and why we love this variety–despite its wide range of styles across several continents. It’s not Chablis… I mean, we’ve been through this before. It’s straight-up California Chardonnay: there’s no denying the elegance and extravagance concentrated within. Spring Mountain strikes again.

Joe Campbell, The Wine Bulletin, October 27, 2022

Refreshing with bright acidity

2019 Chardonnay

 Light gold in color with flavors of lemon, pear and a touch of toast. Crisp, refreshing with bright acidity.

Jeff Kralik, The Drunken Cyclist, January 24, 2024

Boy is it delicious

2019 Chardonnay

94 points: Responsible bottle. Under cork. Sample tasted in Houston. Certainly yellow and on its way to golden in the glass with boatloads of lemon curd and a bit of an herbal note (sweet basil) curiously on the nose. The palate is rich and luxurious (but short of being the dreaded cougar juice) with plenty of lemon creme pie balanced with an incredibly zingy tartness and more than a hint of oak. Sure, this is a bit of a throwback to the “classic California” Chardonnay style, but boy, is it delicious. Weighty but also lithe, big but also deft, tart but also round. What else could one want? Outstanding.

Obviously Wine Blog, Tanous El-Kareh

Tremendously satisfying wine

2018 Chardonnay

A truly golden Chardonnay with high intensity of color and aroma. It has an aromatically diverse nose of ghee butter and movie theater popcorn that works in concert with the scents of bruised yellow apple and late harvest orchard fruits. The palate consists of notes of oak, beeswax, cooked sugar, toast and a leesy flavor profile that makes for a tremendously satisfying wine and is begging to be paired with food. This Chardonnay is as robust as it is complex and serves as a fine example of why Smith-Madrone has found success for over 50 years.

Food pairing:

Cave aged cheddar cheese, Red Leicester, 18-month-old Mimolette

Rosemary and thyme-roasted chicken with crispy skin

Lobster tail with herbed grass-fed butter

Spanish flan

A wine of very good quality that can be drunk now but shows potential for aging. This Chardonnay over delivers for the price.

BiggerThanYourHead, Fredric Koeppel, January 12, 2024

Exceptional and a great value.

2019 Chardonnay

Remarkable intensity and resonance, while remaining light, bright and appealing. Slightly brassy medium-gold hue; lemon oil and spiced pear, a notion of lightly baked pineapple and grapefruit, and a hint of crème brûlée; a few moments in the glass unfurl touches of jasmine and honeysuckle and insinuating notes of quince and crystallized ginger; the primary driver of the wine is the momentum toward exquisite, even risky balance among all elements; lip-smacking acidity poised with an ethereal texture, lovely citrus and stone fruit; the almost subliminal oak influence seamlessly coexisting with chiseled limestone and flint minerality; in all, a profoundly beautiful chardonnay that embodies and reflects all the advantages and exigencies of its mountain-side vines. Now through 2029 to ‘31. Exceptional. About $45, representing, for the quality and price, a Great Value.

The Tasting Panel, Michael Franz, January 2023

Beautifully balanced wine

2019 Chardonnay

Only 1,153 cases of this high-end wine were made, but it will prove worth any needed searching for lovers of intensely flavorful Chardonnays. Aged in 55% new French oak, it is very spicy and toasty, but the fruit’s concentration and energizing acidity are up to the task of producing a beautifully balanced wine. It is thoroughly enjoyable now, but this will be even more complex and finely integrated if you can summon another four years of patience. 


Michael Chelus, Nittany Epicurean, December 27, 2023

Great acidity and minerality

2019 Chardonnay

This wine is 100% estate grown chardonnay from Napa's Spring Mountain District. It was both fermented and aged for nine months in French oak barrels (55% new). The wine comes in at 14.6% ABV. The wine showed a yellow color. Apple, candied orange zest, cedar, lemon and oak all arrived on the rich nose. Granny Smith apple, candied orange zest and dried apricot carried the theme of luxury to the palate supported by notes of lemon, honey and oak. The wine exhibited great acidity and minerality. It was light-bodied and demonstrated great length. This wine would do well as an aperitif or paired alongside roast Cornish game hens.

TheWineGuys, December 22, 2023

One of Napa's finest Chardonnay values

2019 Chardonnay

Citrus peel, lemon, pineapple, apple, nectarine, crushed rock, saline, flint and toasted oak. Nice density of orchard fruit, smooth palate throughout, with a burst of freshness and the back palate and a mineral driven finish. Ever so slight reduction, nice purity of fruit, and terroir. Year in and year out, this is one of Napa’s finest Chardonnay values.

Vinography, Alder Yarrow, December 9, 2023

Excellent acidity

2019 Chardonnay

Light yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon peel and sweet oak. In the mouth, pineapple and lemon peel flavors are bright with excellent acidity and shot through with the sweet vanilla of oak.

International Wine Review, Don Winkler, November 2, 2023

Expressing ripe fruit in a restrained style

2019 Chardonnay

Medium yellow-platinum straw. This mountain vineyard Chardonnay expresses ripe fruit in a restrained style. The nose offers subtle orchard fruit and hazelnut aromas. The mouthfeel is crisp and fresh, offering nicely focused line of rich, integrated orchard and stone fruit and integrated oak along with bright, lemony acidity.

Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Michele Anna Jordan, November 1, 2023

A classic...bursts of citrus keep the wine bright, refreshing and very food-friendly

2019 Chardonnay

Wine of The Week: A classic. Its high-toned fruit suggests peaches, nectarines and pears. Bursts of citrus keep the wine bright, refreshing and very food-friendly. You’ll likely notice hints of yeast and orange blossom in the aromas. The texture is rich and succulent, with a solid backbone of fruit. The wine is outstanding with mussels, prepared almost any way. Sweet potatoes are a good match, too, and in a mild Indian curry is a great way to prepare them. Roasted cauliflower with Dijon vinaigrette, carrot fritters with honey-mustard sauce, coconut shrimp, smoked salmon and corn chowder, lobster rolls and spaghetti squash carbonara all make this wine soar. This wine is also an excellent choice with roast chicken.

Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Peg Melnik, November 1, 2023

Gorgeous...pitch-perfect balance

2019 Chardonnay

Wine of The Week: It’s a gorgeous chardonnay with citrus aromas and stone fruit on the palate. Buoyed by crisp acidity, this chardonnay has pitch-perfect balance.

Alec Termer, Amateur_Sommelier, October 26, 2023

2019 Chardonnay

From the very lively aroma, to the last bit of the aftertaste, this Chardonnay is crisp, acidic and refreshing. The aroma is fragrant and spills out of the glass with green apple, orange blossom, lemon, and a little light toasty wood. The taste is similar to the aroma, but does change a little with pear, lemon, lychee, green apple, toasted vanilla, white peach, and a slight woodiness. This is a nice crisp wine that has a sharp but not off putting acidity. The acidity in this wine is a great way to single out and highlight the citric aspects of the taste. This is a much appreciated break from the overly buttery and soft Chardonnay that comes from other wineries in the area.

Rich Cook, WineReviewOnline, October 18, 2023

Fabulous, a unanimous 'wine of the night'

2019 Chardonnay

96 points: Wow! A unanimous “wine of the night” with my tasting group (an extremely rare feat). This stuff is fabulous. Apple, mixed citrus, nectarine, and soft vanilla dance beautifully together through a long, zesty finish with big push – it literally has a two-minute post taste presence. The vintage allowed for Champagne-like acid numbers combined with optimal ripeness, and the Smith brothers are more than happy, as always, to let the vintage be what it is. Don’t hesitate to buy this by the case!

WineSipping, Oded Cohen, September 27, 2023

Very tasty, elegant and fruit forward

2019 Chardonnay

Light yellow in color with a golden hue. Light nose of citrus, apples, apricots and light spices. Medium plus in body with medium plus acidity. Dry on the palate with apples, pears, ripe lemons, pineapples, spices, light oak, light vanilla and minerals. Nice finish with limes and lemons. This is a very tasty Chardonnay from Napa Valley. Elegant and fruit forward. This 4 year old is neither bitter nor tart, just right. Nicely balanced and a great sipping wine.  I've had a few vintages of this Chardonnay, and it is very consistent, and much better with some age. Tasty right out of the bottle, and better after an hour of airtime. Will continue to age nicely in the next 5 to 7 years.

James Melendez, Youtube, September 7, 2023

95 points

2019 Chardonnay

95 points: family owned and operated, handsome place to grow grapes. Mild gold color; apple, quince, nutmeg on nose; on palate, character of Granny Smith, mineral and more.

Bin 412, Eric Hiltz, October 12, 2023

Rich but energetic with good acidic lift

2019 Chardonnay

The 2019 Chardonnay, a testament to Smith-Madrone's commitment to purity, exuded elegance. Barrel aged in 55% new French Oak for 9 months, it opened with a bouquet of lemon with a touch of under ripe apple and a touch of vanilla and baking spice.  On the palate, the mouthfeel was decently rich but still energetic with good acidic lift, showcasing the delicate interplay between fruit and oak.

John Jackson, AttorneySomm Instagram, October 11, 2023

Impressive, full-bodied and opulent yet well-balanced with ample acidity

2019 Chardonnay

Climb mountains not so the world can see you, but so that you can see the world! Near the top of Napa Valley’s Spring Mountain you will find Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery. Smith-Madrone has 34 acres of vineyards on its 170-acre ranch. 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 in 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 leads to wine with greater intensity and concentration than wine made from grapes that are the product of high yields. I recently tasted the 2019 Chardonnay. Smith-Madrone has 10.25 acres of Chardonnay vines. Because Chardonnay performs best in cooler temperatures, these Chardonnay vines were strategically planted in the coolest vineyard on the estate with north-facing slopes. The 2019 Smith-Madrone Spring Mountain District Napa Valley Chardonnay was barrel fermented and matured in 55% new French oak for 9 months. The 2019 Chardonnay is impressive! The flavor profile was almost as rich as the golden hue. The intriguing flavor profile included Meyer lemon, peach, blood orange peel, honeysuckle, oak and spice mix. There was a rich, creamy mouthfeel. This wine was full-bodied and opulent, yet well-balanced with ample acidity! This wine paired perfectly with autumn weather and a lazy Sunday on the patio! Tasted in my beloved Zalto Burgundy glass.

Catherine Fallis, Planet Grape, September 28, 2023

Rich and ripe with firmness and freshness

2019 Chardonnay

94 points: Rich and ripe with a firmness and freshness and notes of lemon zest, apricot, nectarine, cheesecake and honey wheat pretzel.

Michael Kelly,, September 26, 2023

Extremely dry and balanced

2019 Chardonnay

If you are a buttery Chardonnay wine lover stop reading as this is not your wine. If you are a soft and cuddly Chardonnay drinker, again stop reading this story. This wine being dry farmed; it has enough minerality to mirror spelunking in a cave. The wine tastes like no other Chardonnay in recent memory and I have enjoyed many Chardonnays. On the eyes, while possessing your typical light straw or golden coloring and medium body viscosity, something is “different.” Next on the nose, lemon zest is the predominant aroma wafting into the senses. No tamed or watered-down Chardonnay with roundness and little flavor. On the palate, minerality and freshly rained-on granite stones, come bursting to the forefront along with white stone fruits. The acidity is sharp, pointed and clearly targeted for specific food pairings. The finish is crisp, lively and an extremely dry and balanced Chardonnay. A Chardonnay packing a punch of a heavy weight boxer!

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

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