Chardonnay Reviews

Terroirist, Isaac Baker, December 14, 2019

Racy acidity that keeps it bright and lofty

2016 Chardonnay

93 points: Nuanced aromas of honey, warm tea, almond, with sea salt, crushed chalk, yellow apples and pears. Full but integrated so well, with deep texture, but this racy acidity that keeps it bright and lofty. Glazed apples, candied orange peel, lemon, the fruit mixes well with these salty, chalky, rocky, mineral elements. Lovely stuff that should age wonderfully. From their dry-farmed vineyard, barrel-fermented, aged nine months in 80% new French oak., February 6, 2019


2016 Chardonnay

91 points: Grapefruit, kiwi fruit, fresh cloves, spices and smoke are the main attraction on the nose. A tangy core of stone and green fruit is supported by crunchy acidity on the palate, which is medium-to full-bodied and delicious. Drink now., Cori Solomon, November 26, 2019

Subtle in its style, well-integrated acidity

2016 Chardonnay

I consider this Chardonnay from the Spring Mountain District very subtle in its style and not overwhelming. Although the wine ferments in 80% new French oak and then is aged for nine months, you cannot tell because the wine is not oaky at all. With a nice well-integrated acidity the wine exhibits aromas of pear and flavors of pear and lemon., Rich Cook, November 26, 2019

95 points and a command performance that's destined to resonate for years

2016 Chardonnay

95 points

I’ve been raving about Smith-Madrone for some years now, and I won’t be slowing down any time soon.  I got a sneak preview of this wine last fall, and it has certainly lived up to its initial flash.  Dry farmed and barrel fermented, it’s then aged in mostly new French oak, which might lead you to expect overt wood influence.  That’s not at all the case here, with singing lemon forward fruit soloing above supportive yet nuanced oak spice and a trumpet section of acidity that gives the wine a great finish and push through to the bold finale.  Bravo once again to the Smith clan for a command performance that’s destined to resonate for years.

Grape-Experiences. November 21, 2019, Cindy Rynning

Balanced and structured, distinctive terroir

2016 Chardonnay

This is a wine you’ll swirl and sip on a regular basis. Of 100% Chardonnay that was barrel fermented for 9 months in French oak, intense aromas of butter, toast, golden apple, lemon, white peaches, yellow flowers and herbs were clearly present. Balanced and structured with a creamy, round mouthfeel, its moderate acidity was on point and flavors of overripe, juicy peaches, peach flesh, and herbs reflected the distinctive terroir of well-drained, volcanic based soils.

Wine Enthusiast, Virginie Boone, December 2019

94 points, Cellar Selection, gorgeous, acid-driven

2016 Chardonnay

94 points, Cellar Selection: This gorgeous, acid-driven Chardonnay is made from the producer's dry-farmed estate. Stone, apricot, apple, pear and fig ride along a focused, linear palate. Barrel fermentation has lent texture and nuance without distraction. It finishes succulent, soft and inviting.

NittanyEpicurean, Michael Chelus, October 14

Good acidity and balance

2016 Chardonnay

This wine is 100% estate grown chardonnay. The wine showed a golden color. Apple, like zest, lemon and oak all arrived on the nose. Apple, blood orange, pithy lemon, limestone and oak followed on a palate where citrus stole the show. The wine exhibited good acidity and balance, along with good length and light-bodied. This wine would do well as an aperitif and would pair nicely with a stuffed turkey breast.

Vinography, Alder Yarrow, September 21, 2019

Classically influenced California Chardonnay

2016 Chardonnay

....the latest vintage from Smith Madrone, who make a classically influenced California Chardonnay that will satisfy those who are looking for slightly less oak influence but still hope to have the richness that has come to characterize the form....

Light yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon curd and a touch of caramelized oak. In the mouth, bright lemon curd flavors mix with a hint of butterscotch and toasted oak. As usual, this wine walks the line between the fresher, brighter style of Napa Chardonnay and old school richness.

Purely Domestic Wine Report, p. 42, Issue 7.4, September 2019

94 points, exceptional mouthfeel and texture

2016 Chardonnay

94 points: The nose is a deep, oily lemon and hazelnut with notes of dry chalk, buttercream, licorice, sap and whiffs of toffee. The palate entry is a lean, pure white pear and citrus with a core of mouth-coating peach and lemon cream. Exceptional mouthfeel and texture. Drink 2019 – 2027.

Terroirist, Isaac Baker, August 24, 2019

Gorgeous deep yet vibrant

2016 Chardonnay

Light yellow color. Aromas of juicy yellow apples topped in complex notes of honey, almond, cinnamon, sea salt, hay and chalk dust. Deep texture on the palate with pretty acidity and lovely balance. Yellow apples, candied lemons, orange peel and apricot, juicy and fruity but also airy and elegant. Salty, minerals, chalky, with notes of honey, nougat and hay. Gorgeous, deep, yet vibrant. Another beautiful Chardonnay from Smith-Madrone.  I’d love to age this for five years. 

Anyway… Smith-Madrone’s Spring Mountain wines are consistently some of my favorite from Napa, and I love their Chardonnay and Riesling in particular. So, since I tasted these wines sighted, I tried to approach them with as much skepticism as possible. That said, the 2016s showed wonderfully. Crystal clear, pristine wines, and both are worthy for serious cellar time. Especially considering the price, I’m still amazed these wines exist.

EllenOnWine, Ellen Landis, July 30, 2019

Rich and mouth-filling with perfect acidity

2016 Chardonnay

 A brilliant hue captures the eye, and scents of lemon-splashed stone fruit awaken the nose as this sophisticated Chardonnay is poured from the bottle.  Peach flavors are mirrored on the palate, melding with Honeycrisp apple, citrus, herbal accents, and beautiful oak spice nuances.  Rich and mouth-filling, with perfect acidity offsetting the juicy fruit through the long memorable finish

Stephen McConnell, June 20, 2019

Incredible structure and the complexity to work with red meat

2015 Chardonnay

Smoky, graphite nose, pencil eraser and charcoal, clean and briary, ridden with beurre blanc and the sort of grassy sauciness typically reserved for Sancerre. An earthiness defying all imaginations of peat and volcano brings crystal-rockiness and diamond-cutting to mind.

So many people hear “Chardonnay” and instantly form a mental image. I’m here to tell you there are SOOOO many Chardonnays in the world–or even California alone–which lie so far out of the ENTIRE SUPERMARKET 5-SHELF AISLE OF YELLOW, if you’ve never happened upon one, I beg you PLEASE try and once you are hooked, the desire will be insatiable. The 80s are over, and people who still Chardonnay-shame get an asterisk. I’m not even saying you need to drink Chablis or Burg–there are PLENTY of ridiculous clean bright chards in California. Very few of them will be on a supermarket aisle though. Go to your wine shop and ask. It’s not difficult to find.

And this is one of them. One of the old-school ones. I’m actually serving this wine with rib-eye tonight. And not because it is a huge oaky buttery monster: THAT wouldn’t work at ALL. No, because it is serious heavy acidic stuff with crazy fruit, incredible structure, and the complexity to work with red meat.

In the mouth, a plasticine stay-krisp coating on rich fruit positively bursting at all of its acidic seams. All that funk and earth in the nose translates straight into a grimy dirty-baby-diaper of loveliness, compounding the nectarine and dried apricot, driving it hard against walnut shell and Oolong tea where chardonnay dreams really exist. Sweet and delicate in the finish, an almost Riesling-or-Gewurztraminer nectar situation closing things out–but with bitter grip.

If you can’t stop hating Chardonnay, you are NOT drinking the right ones.

JVB Uncorked, Jim Van Bergen, May 27, 2019

The wine is so well-made....

2015 Chardonnay

Color is pale straw. The nose offers pear, apple, lemon zest, and just a hint of oak. On the palate,  however, the fruit is beautifully pronounced: yellow peach, sweet apple, citrus crossing from the mid- to back palate, leaving a swath of mouth-watering heat from the alcohol. Secondary notes of baking spice, stone, vanilla, and vegetation with marzipan on the lingering finish. As a wine lover, my first thought on this wine is that it’s so tasty, you don’t want to think about it. You simply want to enjoy this delightful glass of wine that is so unlike what we’ve come to expect from Napa.Smith-Madrone’s winemakers (Stuart, Sam, and Charles Smith) actually dry-farm (no irrigation) and in doing so, they develop a grape and create a wine that is closer to a Beaune-style chardonnay than the common flavor profiles that are popular with New World grapes. What does this mean to you?  It means you’re going to enjoy this wine more than you expect, and you’re going to need to buy more of it than you’d expect because like me, you’ll drink it faster, even if you’re savoring the flavors. You’re going to wish you bought a bigger bottle…or several bottles, because your mouth is going to ask you for MORE. As a wine drinker who personally tries to shy away from the high alcohol content of some California wines, this is one where I take exception. The wine is so well-made, I’d easily buy a case of this to tuck into my cellar (if I only had the room!) it’s such a delicious wine that sings through warm weather and is incredibly agreeable with food. If this is a good price point for your chardonnay drinking, (or a good price point for a special bottle) I can not recommend highly enough that you give Smith-Madrone a taste. As passionate as I am about white Burgundy, this is a wine I will remember for shattering my conceptions of Napa Valley chardonnay.

Fermented Fruit, May 25, 2019, Ryan O'Donnell

Pure and beautiful

2015 Chardonnay

I can never get enough of Smith-Madrone's Spring Mountain District Chardonnay’s crisp, bright fruit and lemon curd nuances. It’s always so well-balanced and is the complete opposite of what many expect of NapaValley Chardonnay. It’s not buttery or oaky, just pure and beautiful. 👌

Enofylz, Martin Redmond, May 24, 2019

Wonderful balance

2015 Chardonnay

The wine is pale gold color with pear, Granny Smith apple, citrus cream, and savory spices with a hint of butterscotch. On the palate it's medium-full bodied with a texture that manages to be both creamy and mouthwateringly fresh with citrusy acidity. Wonderful balance here. It shows apple, pear, lime zest, lemon cream and spice flavors with a long tangy finish. Fruit for this wine sourced from dry farmed 40+ y.o. vines from the Spring Mountain AVA in the Napa Valley. The wine is 100% barrel fermented. Raised in 80% new French oak for 10 months 14.4% abv. Bravo!

BiggerThanYourHead, Fredric Koeppel, January 9, 2019

One of 50 Great Wines of 2018

2014 Chardonnay

Chosen as one of the 50 Great Wines of 2018: crystalline tone and chiseled presence.

SoifKnows, Stephen McConnell, December 7, 2018

Top 25 Wines of the Year

2014 Chardonnay

Top 25 Wines of the Year

Enofylz, Martin Redmond, December 6, 2018

92 points

2014 Chardonnay

92 points: This wine is 100% Chardonnay crafted from 42-year-old dry-farmed vines on Spring Mountain.  It was 100% barrel fermented and raised for 9 months in 100% new French oak. 

Color – Pale straw yellow
Aromas – Apple, pear, lemon curd, almond, and toasty oak with a hint of chalk
Body – Medium-bodied and impeccably balanced with very fresh with vibrant acidity
Taste – Baked apple, fresh pear, lemon meringue, and key lime accented with very appealing baking spice flavors
Finish – Long

Year in and year out, this distinguished wine is one of my favorite California Chardonnays!

Pair with:  Steamed Dungeness Crab with drawn butter

EllenonWine, Ellen Landis, January 30, 2018

Rich with good offsetting acidity through the last enlivening sip

2015 Chardonnay

Aromas of fresh-picked tree fruits and spiced oak notes zone in on what’s ahead.  Poached pears, Granny Smith apples, brown spices and a kiss of butterscotch pudding join underlying oak on the palate.  Firmly structured and rich with good offsetting acidity through the last enlivening sip.

Greg Ballington and India Okoh, MillennialDrinkers, March 5, 2018

Long tangy finish

2015 Chardonnay

90 points: Medium golden yellow. Oak on the nose with some candied lemon and some butter. Medium plus acidity (7/10) and medium bodied. Citrus zest on the attack of the palate followed by a touch of lemon curd and apples. Long tangy finish.

The Wine Guys, Philip Kuo, July 5, 2018

Good juice...fabulous value

2015 Chardonnay

93 points: You already know by the label it's good juice, and props to Smith Madrone for planting Chardonnay on a mountain when you could make 10x more money planting Cabernet. Notes of lemon peel, yellow apple, toasted nuts, apricot, unsalted butter, toasted oak, peach and spice. Real good integration of oak, just the right amount of toast that complements fine stone fruit and bright acidity. A kick of spice on the finish rounds it out to be quite a well balanced Chardonnay that won't bog you down with mega oak and butter bombing. It's from the mountains so enjoy it over the next 8-10 years. Fabulous value.

WineForNormalPeople, Elizabeth Schneider, June 20, 2018

New world Chardonnay done right

2015 Chardonnay

This is new world Chardonnay done right. Fantastic acidity, excellent tropical and apple fruit, and a moderate use of oak. Smith-Madrone Winery is a class act every year.

BiggerThanYourHead, Fred Koeppel, June 4, 2018

Exquisitely poised between zephyr-like softness and riveting acidity

2014 Chardonnay

How can a chardonnay that was 100 percent barrel-fermented and aged nine months in 100 percent new French oak barrels display such amazing purity and intensity, such crystalline tone and chiseled presence? Certainly, a factor must be the 42-year-old, dry-farmed vines that struggle to find nutrients in the hillside vineyard, sending roots ever downward in search of water. In any case, the Smith-Madrone Vineyards and Winery Chardonnay 2014, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley, a favorite in our house whatever the vintage, offers a medium gold hue and arresting aromas of peach, pear and quince that unfurl notes of lemon balm and apple blossom, gunflint and limestone. Supernal in its lithe, supple texture and exquisitely poised between zephyr-like softness and riveting acidity, this chardonnay delivers spare and elegant citrus and stone-fruit flavors that culminate in a finish of glittering limestone minerality. 14.3 percent alcohol. Now through 2021 to ’24. The Smith brothers concocted 850 cases. Exceptional. About $34.

Slow Wine Guide, January 2018

Creamy texture and refreshing acidity

2015 Chardonnay

The 2015 Chardonnay is 100% barrel-fermented and aged in new oak, boasting deep apple and pear fruit, a creamy texture and refreshing acidity.

Vinography, Alder Yarrow, April 14, 2018

Sun-drenched richness + high acidity freshness

2015 Chardonnay

Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon curd and buttered popcorn. In the mouth, wonderfully juicy flavors of lemon curd, candied grapefruit and a touch of butterscotch are positively electric with acidity. Phenomenally mouthwatering and delicious. There's oak at work here, but it plays mostly into the silky texture of the wine, leaving the rich fruit and the explosive acidity to shine. This wine is a great example of a middle path for California Chardonnay, one which displays sun-drenched richness but at the same time keeps with the tradition of high acidity freshness that we all expect in our Burgundian Chardonnays.

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