Riesling Reviews

PullThatCork, Nancy Brazil, June 7, 2024

A Riesling for all seasons

2019 Riesling

Pale yellow with generous aromas of petrol, pineapple and stone fruit. Flavors include petrol, lemon, stone fruit and stony minerality. The body is relatively light with bracing acidity. The flavors are fresh and refreshing. Riesling is the first wine Charlie and Stuart made on the mountain after establishing the winery in 1971. It was more in fashion then, but even when Riesling’s popularity ebbed their interest never did. They didn’t have to re-discover Riesling, as some winemakers have, they have always loved and appreciated Riesling. They know how to grow it and how to bottle the flavors the mountainside vineyard gives them. This is a Riesling for all seasons.

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. 


James Melendez, YouTube, May 30, 2024

Unequivocally the best Riesling in California

2019 Riesling

A Youtube review: I always look forward to tasting Smith-Madrone I would say unequivocally this is the best riesling in California now and in the past. I would love to taste aged versions of this wine itself and to see what it tastes like in say 20 years. What makes it so tremendously wonderful is that it has a really nice departure in temperatures from nighttime to daytime in the growing season so I think that's an important aspect to this wine itself. This wine does not have Malolactic fermentation nor does it have lees stirring and it is not Oak Barrel aged. Ultimately this is not trying to be anything other than what it is which is the Spring Mountain district and comes out in a superb beautiful gorgeous manner so I would say light gold colorization to this wine what I like about this wine is lemon curd, freshness of orange blossom as well as petrol and Beeswax notes. Apple dry as well as abundant acidity notes on this wine are green citrus pomelo skin as well as green apple Asian pear and mineral. This wine is 95 points out of 100 points so it's a good honest price point at $40.


Stephen Bainbridge, ProfessorBainbridge.com, May 16, 2024

Complex bouquet....a lot of youthful vitality

2019 Riesling

Long time readers will recall my affection for Napa Valley's Smith-Madrone wine. It's a 34 acre vineyard perched on a steep slope high atop Spring Mountain on the western side of Napa Valley, with beautiful views. It's run by great people who make excellent wines that they price very fairly with high quality per dollar.

We drank the 2019 Estate Riesling with some moderately spicy Thai food, for which it made a great match. Unlike some vintages, the 2019 did not exhibit the trademark Riesling whiff of petrol (which can be a good thing). Instead, its lovely yellow-gold body offered up a complex bouquet of citrus, peach, pear, almonds, and honey. On the palate, it suggests Meyer lemon, papaya, peach, and a note of flint. This wine still has a lot of youthful vitality. Unlike most California white wines, this one will age well. Past experience with vintages that were allowed to mature suggests it will develop into a mature wine with lots of character. 

Highly recommended.


Dave McIntyre, The Washington Post, May 16, 2024

What’s amazing about this wine is the structure: It made me sit up straight and pay attention

2019 Riesling

Fans of old-style Napa Valley wines know Smith-Madrone, and fans of riesling know this winery perched high on the slopes of Spring Mountain in the northern stretch of Napa Valley, makes one of this country’s best. Citrus — orange, pomelo, grapefruit — floats from the glass and dances around your palate. What’s amazing about this wine, though, is the structure: It made me sit up straight and pay attention. It seemed to be pulling its essence from the depths of Spring Mountain and pouring it into my glass. Smith-Madrone also makes compelling chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon. If you find them, snap them up — the winery did not release any 2020 wines because of the Glass Fire that ravaged Spring Mountain and threatened their vineyards right at harvest.


Rupal Shankar, Sante Magazine, May 2024

Wonderfully stylish and delicious

2019 Riesling

This elegant Napa Valley Riesling is sure to impress your mom. The wine is made from mountain-grown grapes, honoring the international tradition of Riesling which thrives on steep hillsides. The Smith-Madrone Riesling is racy and beautifully balanced with a backbone of juicy fruit acidity. Wonderfully stylish and delicious and built to last. Drink now, or twenty years from now. Seriously!  This is perfect for the mom who is a wine connoisseur and appreciates wines that can be drunk now or aged gracefully in the cellar.


Isaac James Baker, May 9, 2024

Streak of excellence

2019 Riesling

If you’re looking for very high-quality Riesling, and like saving money, Smith-Madrone’s new release (the 2019) continues with their streak of excellence. It’s one of the best, not just from California, but from anywhere in the U.S. – my humble opinion, of course. It drinks great now since it’s been aged a bit, but don’t hesitate to lay some down for five to eight years, as this will improve in the long run.

Medium yellow color. The nose is so vibrant and sings with these harmonies of white peach, lime, papaya, backed up with white flowers, honey, almond skin, and hints of white pepper and celery seed. On the palate, this is racy and tangy but sports significant depth, and the balance is on-point. The papaya, white peach, banana, and lime fruit blend well with elements of chalk dust, limestone, honey, sea salt, and these deep nuances that need years to develop. Beautiful to drink now (due to its later release), and this will age for so many years. Another win for Smith-Madrone team! 


Alder Yarrow, Vinography, April 28, 2024

Fresh and bright...and profound

2019 Riesling

A perennial favorite....Light yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of paraffin, Asian pear, and mandarin zest. In the mouth, mandarin oil, candied lemon rind, winter melon, and a hint of toffee have very good acidity and a lovely wet chalkboard minerality. Aging beautifully. Here's a  wine that is beginning to show some of the secondary characteristics that transform Riesling from something fresh and bright into something more profound.


AttorneySomm Instagram, John Jackson, April 20, 204

A magnificent mix of flavors

2019 Riesling

The 2019 Smith-Madrone Estate Riesling is impressive! A magnificent mix of flavors that included lemon, lime, grapefruit, Valencia orange, and petrol. These flavors were balanced with ample acidity. This wine is very food friendly, but can also be enjoyed on its own!
The best views come after the hardest climb. Or in the case of Napa’s Spring Mountain, after a hard drive up a long and winding mountain road! But once you reach the top you can enjoy spectacular views and equally impressive wines! For example, 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. Of these 38 planted acres, Smith-Madrone has 6.25 acres of Riesling vines planted on slopes with eastern exposure. 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 low-yield fruit, in turn, leads to wine with greater intensity and concentration than wine made from grapes that are the product of high yields.


WineReviewOnline, Rich Cook, April 16, 2024

Don't miss out on one of California's greats

2019 Riesling

96 points: What to say that hasn’t already been said about the Smith brothers’ Riesling commitment?  Many thought they should have been “committed” (likely more than once) for not grafting it over to something more market friendly — but thank your lucky stars that they persevered, as I do every time I open one.   This continues a long line of age-worthy, drink any time over the next 20 years or so wines that you need to have in your cellar.  I say this not as a seller, just as a fellow aficionado that wants to make sure you  don’t miss out on one of California’s greats.           


Philip Kuo, TheWineGuys, April 15, 2024

Consistently one of the best domestic Rieslings

2019 Riesling

Lime, petrol, crushed rock, white florals, citrus peel, lemon and peach. Crisp, with a hint of sweetness on the back palate, sharp tang of acidity and a wallop of minerality on the finish. Like its predecessors, this wine needs obvious age or hours of decant to strut its stuff. Consistent year after year, one of the best domestic Rieslings.


BiggerThanYourHead, Fredric Koeppel, April 15, 2024

A superior Riesling from the Napa Valley; Exceptional

2019 Riesling

This is a superior Riesling from the Napa Valley....not just Napa Valley but specifically from the Spring Mountain District and a seven-acre vineyard that slopes at 34-degrees and lies between 1,300- and 1,900-feet elevation. In other words, the Smith-Madrone Riesling 2019, Spring Mountain, is a mountainside wine whose environment pushes the vines — you could say, stresses them — to send their roots deep through the rocks and into the soil and subsoil for nutrients. In human beings, we would call this process “character-building.” The color is very pale straw-gold; the bouquet offers intense, penetrating aromas of green apple and pear, tangerine and grapefruit, with beguiling notes of quince, green tea and lychee; a few moments in the glass elicit hints of jasmine and honeysuckle, damp limestone and flint; zinging acidity courses through this riesling like an electrical charge, lending tremendous vivacity and tone and tying together all the elements of ripe peach and pomelo, traces of dried sage and thyme and crystalline limestone minerality; the wine finishes with a high, wild note of slightly bitter grapefruit, bringing a perfect sense of balance. 13.3% alcohol. Now through 2030 to ‘34. Brothers Charles Smith and Stuart Smith produced 1,087 cases. Exceptional. 


Cameron Kossen, CMK Wine, April 14, 2024

A phenomenal estate

2018 Riesling

Nothing beats a great Riesling. Smith-Madrone produces a phenomenal estate grown on their steep hillside vineyard between 1,300 and 1,900 feet on Spring Mountain. They have been growing Riesling for over 4 decades. Cooler mountain temperatures in red, rocky volcanic Aiken clay loam. Brothers Stuart and Charles let the grapes express themselves. This wines balances notes of lemon peel, orange blossom, green apple, honeysuckle, crushed stone, acid and a dose of minerality and little creaminess. The 2019 is delicious out the gate but as with all Smith-Madrone Riesling, will age gracefully for a decade or even two. It’s one of those wines, you need to invest in a handful of bottles to truly enjoy the aging evolution. I try to hide a couple as they are tempting to pop before they are given their time.


Purely Domestic Wine Report, Doug Wilder, January 2024

This producer always excels with this variety

2017 Riesling

The nose is peach and mango with alluring perfume of orange pulp. The palate entry is focused apricot and sticky lemon with a core of spice and resinous herb. This producer always excels with this variety. Drink 2023-2033.

WineSipping, Oded Cohen, March 31, 2024

Beautiful and aromatic nose...elegant and fruit forward with enough acidity to balance the fruit

2019 Riesling

Light yellow in color with a golden hue. Beautiful and aromatic nose with apples, white flowers, diesel notes, honey and minerals. Medium plus in body with high acidity. Dry on the palate with a touch of RS. Showing citrus, limes, apples, spices, white pepper, minerals, sea salt, light river rocks and diesel. Tangy long finish with limes and spices. This is a delicious Riesling from Spring Mountain District in Napa Valley. Elegant and fruit forward with enough acidity to balance the fruit. Rich and nicely balanced. Feels like a Mosel Riesling. Tangy and interesting. Still young, and already drinking beautifully. Will continue to age nicely in the next 15+ years. Good right out of the bottle, and better after 20 minutes of airtime. Better when not too cold. 
I had a few vintages of this wine and it always delivers. This vintage is delicious. Good by itself as a sipping wine or with food. Will pair nicely with spicy Asian food.


Eve Bushman, March 2023, EveWine101

Very appealing

2018 Riesling

The wine is the color of pale gold, and sparkly, making it very appealing. On the nose, which I detected from about three inches away, I was reminded of sweet Meyer lemons, ripe grapefruit, wet pebbles in a stream, a touch of pineapple, talcum powder and Golden Delicious apples. I was anxious to taste the wine and immediately noted its rich mouth-coating viscosity, a lot of that Golden Delicious apple I found on the nose, as well as more pineapple, less lemon, with a mild to medium acidity that held on for a nice long finish. It wasn’t bone dry or sweet; instead it had a nice sweet spot that I thought would pair well with a cheese board, pasta in a cream sauce, fried chicken or all by itself!

The wine is all estate Spring Mountain District fruit, 100% Riesling, grown at an elevation of 1,300-1,900 feet, with slopes angling up to 34%. The vineyard is partially dry-farmed and most of the Riesling was planted on its own rootstock…the same hands cleared, planted, tend and make the wine…for the last fifty years. Smith-Madrone was founded partly on the premise of making great Riesling (i.e., not to dis the Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay!), given its mountain site and steep slopes. Stu Smith describes the effort to market Riesling as Sisyphean…and to that point beginning with the 1983 Riesling vintage Smith-Madrone went where no other American winery would go for the next 17 years – changing the label from Johannisberg Riesling to “just” Riesling, and essentially outlasting the BATF and prevailing with that name.


Michael Kelly, CaliforniaWinesandWineries, March 24, 2024

Extremely aromatic and more

2019 Riesling

The Winery

Smith-Madrone Vineyards is located on 200 acres on top of Spring Mountain west of St. Helena with 38 acres planted in vineyards. The vineyard elevation ranges from 1,300 to 2,000 feet. The Founder, managing partner and enologist is Stuart Smith, Charles Smith is the winemaker and François Bugué is the associate winemaker. Truly a family affair! All the wines are estate and dry-farmed on top of the mountain. Currently their production is approximately 6,000 cases a year. They are producing Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and their iconic Cooks Flat (blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc).

A quick background on Riesling shows it is the 20th most grown variety and  in “terms of importance for quality wines, it is usually included in the “top three” white wine varieties together with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc planted world wide” per Wikipedia.  Riesling is adaptable to grow in both warm and cool climates with the flavors varying per temperature respectively of citrus and peach notes for warm, apple and tree fruit for cooler temperature regions.

In the California Dept of Food & Agriculture Grape Crush white wine harvest in 2023 was 1,709,270 tons. Riesling was only 34,057 tons, but it showed an increase of 6% outpacing Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

The 2019 Riesling is extremely aromatic with floral notes and green apple on the nose. A more golden yellow color than previous vintage with medium viscosity. On the palate, hints of lemon zest, mixed with stone fruits (white peach and apricots) tame the lime citrus. A modicum of beeswax making it extremely mouth filling. On the finish, the minerality comes through strong and pure from either the volcanic soil, or sandstone, limestone or the general rocky soil found on the property. The minerality and acidity is jovial and enticing with a semi-sweet crescendo. Very low residual sugar (.7%) and coming in at 13.3% alcohol, Smith-Madrone Vineyards produced 1,087 cases. The current release is their 2019 and listed on their website for $40/bottle.

The Food and Wine Pairing – “Food without wine is a corpse; wine without food is a ghost. United and well matched, they are as body and soul: living partners” – Andre Simon

Duck, Pork, Bacon, Chicken, Shrimp, and Crab are suggested foods for Riesling. Chose this wine to pair with one of my favorite dishes, Chicken Pad Thai. However with my wife still recovering, this is the first time I prepared it. The Smith-Madrone 2019 Estate Riesling was pulled from the cellar for last night’s meal due to the spiciness of the dish called Chicken Pad Thai. Last evening went with a much more flavorful and spicy recipe. The ingredients were fresh angel hair noodles, virgin olive oil, minced garlic, cooked chicken, eggs, bean sprouts, sliced red bell pepper, green onions, peanuts, chopped cilantro and lime juice. The Pad Thai sauce included fish sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, rice vinegar, Sriracha and creamy peanut butter!   The Riesling’s semi-sweet finish was spot on for this meal.

Limes were plated to squeeze the juice over the top of the dish. Accompanying the meal was a fresh garden salad and steamed broccoli. The meal packed a punch of flavor and warmth! The 2019 Smith-Madrone Riesling was a godsend. The wine was refreshing and quenched the palate.

The meal was fixed for friends joining us for dinner and one bringing the salad and the other bringing the broccoli. Beyond the dinner we enjoyed talking and sipping some other wonderful wines during and after the dinner for hours.

The 2018 Smith-Madrone Riesling had made the Best Wines tasted in 2023 and the 2019 will also make my Best Wines tasted in 2024!


James Melendez, Youtube, March 17, 2024

Truly California's best Riesling

2019 Riesling

Truly California's best Riesling. There's no other Riesling that would match the quality and finesse of this wine.


Jeff Kralik, The Drunken Cyclist, January 24, 2024

Palate is simply exquisite

2018 Riesling

Under cork. There are few constants in life: death, taxes, and stellar Riesling from Smith-Madrone. This is a perfect example. While it is close to a full five years out, this is actually the current release from the venerable winery. Medium color in the glass with lemon predominate as well as some lemon rind, a bit of wet rock, and a hint of an herbal aspect (basil?). The palate is simply exquisite, great fruit, good weight, fantastic acidity. Whoa. Perhaps a bit rounder than previous vintages, but holy cow. Outstanding. 


Tasting Panel Magazine, Meridith May, March 2024

Vibrant minerality

2018 Riesling

96 points, Publisher’s Picks:  Perfumed linen holds peonies, honey, and tangerine. A juicy, unctuous mouthfeel, with lemon bar, pineapple, and jicama. Vibrant minerality with a stark lemon drop-induced acidity.

Fredric Koeppel, BiggerThanYourHead, January 4, 2024


2018 Riesling

The annual list. Here it is. But how do we define “great”? Notice that I didn’t write “greatest” or “best.” That’s because I believe it would be folly for any writer to attempt to enumerate the “greatest” or the “best” wines released in any year. There are too many wines, and there is too little time to accomplish such a feat. What I aim for in this annual summing-up post is a roster of 50 wines, from those I reviewed in the year in question, that touched me, moved me, convinced me that they were complete in terms of integrity, character and personality, tone, balance and inevitability. To which I add, a sense of excitement, a frisson, perhaps, of risk; nothing of complacency or settling for the quotidian. Profound wines? Oh, sure, plenty of these wines possess the sort of depth and dimension that we could name as profound. Don’t forget, however, the realms of elegance, grace, ethereality, litheness. It’s remarkable, I think, that this list, which represents almost an extreme range of intent, diversity and price, captures many of these criteria. These are all selections that should provide my readers with a great deal of thoughtful provocation and pleasure. Many of these wines are limited in production or probably not easy to find or off-putting in their financial requirements. So be it, friends.


Sultan Khalid, InsiderMonkey, December 24, 2023

One of America's top white wines

2017 Riesling

The 2017 Smith-Madrone Riesling is one of America's top white wines. A youthful five-year-old Riesling, this wine feels weightless in its heady jasmine floral scents and pretty lemon-tart flavors. This alluring expression is made from mountain grown grapes, honoring the international tradition of Riesling which thrives on steep hillsides. Smith-Madrone is a family-run estate-bottled winery dedicated to producing fine wines exclusively from its own vineyards. The winery is blessed with some of the most breathtaking vineyards in all of Napa Valley.


Bloomberg, Elin McCoy, December 28, 2023

Racy acidity and deep minerality 

2018 Riesling

I love drinking rare, expensive wine as much as anyone, but I’m a bargain hunter at heart. I’m always on the lookout for the reds, whites, rosés and sparklers that deliver top quality at a reasonable cost. So, as I reviewed my 2023 tasting notes, I was delighted to discover this was a banner year for good values, despite inflation. I culled my 50 good buys from 3,243 wines from 21 countries that I sipped this year. I’ve tried to highlight what’s new, at least to me, but some are familiar labels that consistently deliver deliciousness—and they haven’t raised their prices, either. 
Every year I ask the same rhetorical question: Why don’t people drink more riesling? Napa pioneer Stu Smith has been making stylish German-style examples with racy acidity and deep minerality for decades on Napa’s Spring Mountain. This is an excellent vintage. 


Dale Robertson, The Sporty Wine Guy blog, November 30, 2023

Surprisingly complex with a veneer of Old World elegance

2018 Riesling

It’s indeed special — fruity and flowery but surprisingly complex with a veneer of Old World elegance despite its Spring Mountain provenance. I don’t drink a lot of riesling, and certainly not from California, but that may have to change thanks to the folks at Smith-Madrone.


International Wine Review, Don Winkler, November 2, 2023

Excellent freshness and depth of flavor

2021 Riesling

Light yellow straw. This youthful Riesling shows excellent potential. The bouquet evokes floral notes, wet river stones, and citrus. The palate reveals excellent freshness and depth of flavor with firm, mouthwatering acidity. The wine will become more expressive over time.


International Wine Review, Don Winkler, November 2, 2023

A sense of purity, minerality and freshness

2019 Riesling

Medium yellow. Opens with scents of cling peach, lemon and chamomile flowers. The palate reveals a scintillating, sweet fruit-firm acid tension, very clean with bright yellow fruit flavors. Finishes with good length and a sense of purity, minerality and freshness. Excellent potential for a very long life and beautiful evolution in the bottle. My recommendation: buy a case to drink over the next decade. 


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