Riesling Reviews

Richard Hemming, September 23, 2022, JancisRobinson.com

Smith-Madrone proves it can be done and done well; it confirms all the expectations of elegance

2016 Riesling

Wine of the Week: Riesling completists, take note! Napa is probably one of the last places you might look for your fix of this most obsessive-compulsive of grapes, but Smith-Madrone prove that it can be done, and done well. Mountain viticulture is surely one of the vital elements, and the fog-wreathed hillsides shown above give an indication of the cooling influence that will benefit Riesling. Smith-Madrone's vineyards lie between 1,300 and 2,000 feet (400–610 m) with some slopes as steep as 34% according to their website. Furthermore, their Riesling vines date from their first plantings in 1972. They are own-rooted and the vineyards unirrigated. Such qualities indicate the sort of purist approach that bodes well, since old vines are generally revered for greater concentration of fruit and ungrafted vines are considered more authentic by some (perhaps unfairly, although they are certainly rare), while unirrigated vineyards appeal to our desire for minimal manipulation, especially when water is increasingly scarce. The 2016 vintage of Smith-Madrone Riesling confirmed all the expectations of excellence. It has flavour characteristics that echo the great German archetypes, yet is distinctly New World, perhaps most obviously via soft acidity that would be unusual in most Teutonic versions. Their helpful tech sheet reveals titratable acidity on the lower side of the Riesling range, at 8.1 grams per litre, although the pH of 3.04 is typical. Furthermore, residual sugar is 6.8 grams per litre, giving that impression of slight sweetness which is Riesling's great gift to the world. Six years of bottle age has brought out flavours of basil leaf, lime cordial, lemon meringue and a definite petrographic aroma that might be described as slate or oil or mineral, depending on your preference. While it will doubtless continue to mature, I felt it was showing at its best for drinking right now, with intact primary fruit and maturing complexity in equal measure – it is a wine to relish in all its varietal glory.


https://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/smith-madrone-riesling-201617-spring-mountain-district

Wine Enthusiast, Jim Gordon, November 2022

2018 Riesling

This traditional, German-style Riesling is scented with petrol and pine, leading to crisp flavors of tart peaches and apricots on a slightly grippy texture. It makes a wonderful alternative to the usual Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. 


https://www.winemag.com/buying-guide/smith-madrone-2018-estate-bottled-riesling-spring-mountain-district/

Los Angeles Magazine, Colman Andrews, December 2022

A textbook Riesling

2017 Riesling

A nice surprise, a textbook Riesling by an underrated producer from a region not particularly known for the grape. It’s bright and fresh, with plenty of fruit, crisp-apple acidity, and a long, bone-dry finish that leaves you wanting more. A fit pairing for Festa dei Sette Pesci (Feast of the Seven Fishes), the traditional Italian-American Christmas Eve supper, but also just to sip by the fire at the end of the day.



WineFoodTravel.us, Alex Gott, November 14, 2022

Lively and fruity, Anjou pear, nice acidity, mineral finish

2017 Riesling

𝐇𝐨𝐰 𝐃𝐨𝐞𝐬 𝐑𝐢𝐞𝐬𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐀𝐠𝐞?
Age-ability, a benefit of a well-made Riesling, is often overlooked.
If given time and the right cellar conditions, Riesling can age for decades. And Napa warm temperatures offer a unique expression for this wine: instead of lemony flavors, it leans toward ripe apricot, pear and a savory depth to the aromas.
A Smith-Madrone Riesling that is 25 or even 30 years old is a thing of beauty, with a complexity of aromas that makes swirling the glass a gift to the senses.
Aged Riesling pays great dividends to those with patience and rivals any equally aged red wine.

2017 Smith-Madrone Riesling
Made from mountain grown grapes
Color: Golden straw
Nose: flavors of passion fruit, orange and apricot
On the palate: Lively and fruity, Anjou pear, nice acidity, and mineral finish
Food pairing: cheeses, pasta or to fine fish dishes


https://www.instagram.com/p/Ck8sRuhL-R0/

CaliforniaWinesandWineries, Michael Kelly, October 13, 2022

Minerality and acidity are jovial and enticing

2016 Riesling

The 2016 Riesling is extremely aromatic with floral notes and green apple on the nose. A light golden yellow straw color and medium viscosity. On the palate, strong lime, mixed with stone fruits (white peach and apricots) tame the lime citrus. 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 are jovial and enticing with a semi-sweet crescendo. Thai, Pad Thai or Phad Thai, is commonly served as a street food and at restaurants in Thailand. The Smith-Madrone 2016 Estate Riesling was pulled from the cellar for last night’s meal due to the spiciness of the dish called Pad Thai Chicken. We had tried a similar recipe before with shrimp, but wanted to do it with chicken. The ingredients were flat rice noodles, virgin olive oil, fish sauce, minced garlic, chicken, eggs, bean sprouts, sliced red bell pepper, chopped green onions, roasted peanuts, brown sugar, rice vinegar, soy sauce, creamy peanut butter and Sriracha.  Accompanying the meal was a fresh garden salad with an Asian dressing. The meal packed such wide ranging flavors and textures.  The 2016 Smith-Madrone Riesling was a godsend. The wine was refreshing and quenched the palate. The barely sweet finish was spot on for this meal!


https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2022/10/13/smith-madrone-vineyards-2016-riesling-spot-on-wine-food-pairing/

JancisRobinson.com, Richard Hemming, September 23, 2022

The sort of purist approach that bodes well...Smith-Madrone proves it can be done and done well

2017 Riesling

Napa isn't just about Cabernet and Chardonnay …Riesling completists, take note! Napa is probably one of the last places you might look for your fix of this most obsessive-compulsive of grapes, but Smith-Madrone prove that it can be done, and done well. Mountain viticulture is surely one of the vital elements, and the fog-wreathed hillsides shown above give an indication of the cooling influence that will benefit Riesling. Smith-Madrone's vineyards lie between 1,300 and 2,000 feet (400–610 m) with some slopes as steep as 34% according to their website. Furthermore, their Riesling vines date from their first plantings in 1972. They are own-rooted and the vineyards unirrigated. Such qualities indicate the sort of purist approach that bodes well, since old vines are generally revered for greater concentration of fruit and ungrafted vines are considered more authentic by some (perhaps unfairly, although they are certainly rare), while unirrigated vineyards appeal to our desire for minimal manipulation, especially when water is increasingly scarce. (As an aside, I remember Ron Laughton of Jasper Hill telling me that all and any irrigation compromises terroir, which has logic to it, although is perhaps an example of the convenience of his own uniqueness.) Regardless, the 2016 vintage of Smith-Madrone Riesling confirmed all the expectations of excellence. It has flavour characteristics that echo the great German archetypes, yet is distinctly New World, perhaps most obviously via soft acidity that would be unusual in most Teutonic versions. Their helpful tech sheet reveals titratable acidity on the lower side of the Riesling range, at 8.1 grams per litre, although the pH of 3.04 is typical. Furthermore, residual sugar is 6.8 grams per litre, giving that impression of slight sweetness which is Riesling's great gift to the world. Six years of bottle age has brought out flavours of basil leaf, lime cordial, lemon meringue and a definite petrographic aroma that might be described as slate or oil or mineral, depending on your preference. While it will doubtless continue to mature, I felt it was showing at its best for drinking right now, with intact primary fruit and maturing complexity in equal measure – it is a wine to relish in all its varietal glory. However, many markets have moved on to the 2017 vintage, which is the current release. Our US executive editor Elaine, who knows the producer in far more detail than I do, advises that their Riesling is 'guided by style in the sense that they have to centrally pay attention to sugar levels since they want it to be on the drier side of things and so specifically aim for that style, whereas the Chardonnay and Cabernet are guided more by vintage conditions. That said, I believe their wines in general are guided by structural focus and vintage honesty.' She adds, 'Smith-Madrone in general has worked hard to keep their wines at good value for the region and still produce one of the best-value Cabernet Sauvignons from Napa Valley as well. The consistency across their wines is excellent (with appropriate vintage variation), and they each age quite impressively as well. The two brothers who founded it got up in the mountains of the Spring Mountain District in the early 1970s, and in many ways represent the last generation that could be middle class and start a new property in Napa Valley but they also happened to get in at a time when Cabernet from mountain property was still a relatively less explored concept so land was available and restrictions were not yet in place.'


https://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/smith-madrone-riesling-201617-spring-mountain-district

Free Run Juice, Doug Wilder, September 7, 2022

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 2022-2033.

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.



Wine & Spirits Magazine, Josh Greene, Summer 2020

Balanced and lasting

2017 Riesling

92 points: A youthful five-year-old riesling, this wine feels weightless in its heady jasmine floral scents and pretty lemon-tart flavors. The mountain-grown minerality creates a tense frame around the fruit and flowers, setting this up as an age-worthy white. Balanced and lasting.



KQED Check Please, Leslie Sbrocco, June 2, 2022

Perfection (with sushi)

2017 Riesling

Riesling is one of the world’s greatest grape varieties. It’s farmed in Germany and France, but the globe is dotted with areas of Riesling production from Australia to Washington state to California. One of this country’s top producers of Riesling is Smith-Madrone. Located high atop Napa Valley’s Spring Mountain, the winery founded in 1971 by Stuart Smith, is a heralded Napa classic. Their Riesling is a small-production, unique white that captures the essence of the variety with floral aromas, elegant earthiness, and vibrant acidity. Treat yourself to a night of sushi and Smith-Madrone Riesling. Perfection.


https://www.kqed.org/checkplease/21465/check-please-bay-area-reviews-angelicas-frisco-fried-kinka-sushi

The Wine Advocate, May 31, 2022

Cool, refreshing and stony

2017 Riesling

92 points: Opening with scents of petrol and cut grass, the 2017 Riesling is something of an oddity for Napa, where Riesling has largely been replaced by other varieties. Notes of paraffin, green apple and lime also appear on the nose, while the almost-dry, medium-bodied palate is cool, refreshing and stony, with a long, tangy finish and hints of beeswax and honey. It's already drinkable, but like many Rieslings, it should have a decently long drinking window.



Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Peg Melnik, May 3, 2022

Impressive

2017 Riesling

A complex riesling that rides on crisp acid. Layered notes of grapefruit, mineral and honeysuckle. Nice length. Impressive.


https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/lifestyle/wine-of-the-week-pennyroyal-farm-2020-anderson-valley-pinotrio/

Eric Hiltz, Bin 412, Instagram, April 7, 2022

Simply gorgeous

2017 Riesling

Consider me converted: 2017 Smith Madrone Riesling, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley, California 12.9%

I’ve long been enamored with the Cabernets(Sauvignon and Franc alike) and Merlots of Spring Mountain where a thin topsoil layer and high elevation above the fog line produces smaller, thicker skinned berries yielding wines of marked intensity, varietal character, structure and age worthiness that in the hands of the right farming and winemaking can also possess freshness and elegance not often seen in this part of the world.

Who would have thought that world class Riesling could grow next to these monumental reds and achieve similar heights?

Enter brothers Stuart and Charles Smith. Stuart purchased the property in 1971 and Charles makes the wine, all from estate fruit on vineyards ranging between 1,300 - 2,000 feet asl on slops as steep as 34%

I’ve been drinking a lot of Riesling lately given my recent bi-annual trips to the Finger Lakes region. I haven’t had anything from the west coast that matches the verve, tension and energy of some of my favorites. Nor have I had any that match the texture and balance of my favorite German examples. This wine changed the game for me.

Substantial weight and density on the nose. Oily, waxy petrol already coming through overtop of soaring florals, crisp apple and some savory herbaceous notes. Medium weight with more stone fruit than citrus flavors on the palate. Amazing texture. The acidity comes in next, not offsetting but accentuating, the seriousness of this wine, pointing to a long life ahead. Simply gorgeous.

I challenge you to give me a $32 bottle of white wine that provides this much immediate enjoyment with the promise of being rewarded with 10-20+ years of patience.


https://www.instagram.com/p/Cc09M0ppOCp/

Rupal Shankar, Syrah Queen, March 13, 2022

A delicious Riesling that will age incredibly well

2017 Riesling

Riesling is quite unusual in Napa Valley but it does well in the hillsides above the Napa Valley floor on Spring Mountain.  This is a delicious Riesling that will age incredibly well.  The wine has aromas of honeysuckle and apricot with a slight hint of petrol.  There is a silky texture on the palate with bright acidity and notes of citrus and stone fruit. This Riesling may possibly be my favorite wine from Smith-Madrone, a wine that is rare and very special from the mountains of Napa Valley.


https://syrahqueen.com/smith-madrone-wines/

Don Winkler, International Wine Review, January 20, 2022

Outstanding Riesling

2017 Riesling

92 points: An outstanding Riesling from the estate’s dry farmed, mountain vineyard. Intriguing tangy aromas of citrus and stone fruit with petrol and orange lozenge nuances. Clean and silky texture with mouthwatering acidity and nice minerality on a dry, beautifully balanced palate. This wine is still available on the winery’s web site, and we suggest snapping it up.   


https://i-winereview.com/blog/index.php/2022/01/19/smith-madrone-wine-fire-and-economics-in-napa/

Steve McConnell, Imbiber's Journal, July 20, 2021

92 points

2017 Riesling

92 points: Crisp, elegant, and refreshing - even at four years of age - this is straightforward and true to the variety while being both sophisticated and very approachable. What more could you want from a producer or wine? And then there's the quenching acidity and very subtle industrial funk - catnip for any wine nerd. Yum. I'm not sure there's another domestic riesling I enjoy vintage after vintage as much as this one. Pricey, but worth it.


http://www.imbibersjournal.com/2021/07/vintage-after-vintage-2017-smith.html

Elin McCoy, Bloomberg, December 9, 2021

Balanced....Ages brilliantly

2017 Riesling

Please drink more riesling! For decades this Napa winery has been perfecting a balanced, wintergreen-scented style that ages brilliantly.


https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-12-09/50-best-wines-under-50-bottles-of-white-red-champagne-rose

TheDrunkenCyclist, December 28, 2021, Geoff Kralik

Outstanding, White Wine of the Year

2017 Riesling

One of his White Wines of The Year

95 points, Outstanding. I try to avoid hyperbole. Nor do I ever (OK, rarely) suggest that one should buy a particular wine. But. What I have in my chubby, sausage-fingered hands (OK, I really have delicate, piano-player-like hands even though the only musical instrument I play is the car radio) is quite possibly the best American Riesling.... And it comes from, wait for it… Napa Valley. Yowza. All cards on the table? My Riesling chops were sown (grown?) in an odd combination of Alsace (where I studied), Germany (where I was a bicycle tour guide), and the Willamette Valley (where my spirit animal resides). And yes, this wine rates right up there with all of them. Crisp, “varietally correct” (which is a stupid notion, but nonetheless…), light straw in the glass, bright citrus, a healthy dose of minerality, and the omni-present(?) petrol component that defines Riesling (at least for me)–this wine has it all and then some. Simply put, if you don’t like, nay, love this wine? You will never enjoy Riesling. 


https://thedrunkencyclist.com/2021/12/28/my-white-wines-of-the-year-2021/

Piedmont Post, Pierre DuMont, November 3, 2021

Give this gem a try

2017 Riesling

The Smith brothers planted 20 acres of German clone Riesling in the early 70s. Back then there was quite a bit of it grown in Napa, but over the years it was pulled out and replanted with Cabernet. Now Smith-Madrone is one of the few producers left. The wine has about a half percent residual sugar and tastes basically dry. It boasts a lovely nose of jasmine and citrus with loads of apple and pear fruit on the palate. Round and clean in the mouth, it has a soft smooth finish. Even if in the past you have not liked Riesling, you should give this gem a try. Can’t think of a better wine to go with Thanksgiving turkey.



Pamela Riley, FoodandWineChronicles, August 2021

Exquisite, bright, crisp, almost creamy mouthfeel

2017 Riesling

The wine has charming legs that slowly drift smoothly down the glass like a pair of perfect silk stockings. It is pretty impressive to watch. Heavy aromas of petrol surge from the glass immediately upon swirling, nectarine and apple push through to reveal themselves afterward. The petroleum mixed with the fruit notes urges your nose to revisit before each sip. There is a barrage of lemon, lime, nectarines, and green apple on the palate, accompanied by Thai basil, wet stone, and unstated notes of beeswax. The wine finishes with white pepper, basil, pink grapefruit, and lively lime. This medium-dry, medium-body wine is bright and crisp with almost a creamy mouthfeel. Subtle flavors of mango appear on the finish as the wine warms....these wines were exquisite...perfect for summer sipping. However, I could see myself drinking them year-round. The empty bottle happened way too soon....lovely with or without food and a great value.


https://www.foodandwinechronicles.com/smith-madrone-remarkable-wine-at-alluring-prices/

OwenBargreen.com, September 2021

Seriously good now, with another decade ahead

2017 Riesling

92 points: A whiff of petrol really entices, as orange blossom and cantaloupe tones all combine brilliantly on the nose. The palate has just a kiss of sweetness and comes off fat on the tongue, giving this an air of unctuousness. Ripe melon fruits mingle with starfruit, lemon rind, stony minerals and smoky undertones on the palate. Seriously good now, this has another decade of life ahead of it. Drink 2021-2028.


https://owenbargreen.com/new-reviews#/california

Terroir Review, Meg Maker, July 28, 2021

A lovely wine, beautifully balanced

2017 Riesling

This is an estate Riesling, dry-farmed. The wine has firm acidity and is the color of a lemon drop with greenish glints. The fragrance is on-point for warm-climate Riesling, with that oily mineral note wafting atop yellow citrus in all its forms: Meyer lemon, lemongrass, lemon thyme. The flavors continue the theme, and the texture is ample, substantial, but with direct acidity. The finish has a flinty, mineral edge. It’s a lovely wine, beautifully balanced and great for seafood, salads, asparagus, young and milky cheeses, and coconut milk curries.


https://terroirreview.com/2021/07/28/2017-smith-madrone-riesling-spring-mountain-napa-valley/

KB7497 on Instagram, September 24, 2021

Best dry American Riesling...can't recommend enough

2017 Riesling

The 2017 Smith-Madrone Riesling is by far the best dry American Riesling I have tried. The aroma is full of citrus notes, a vibrant mix of lime, lemon and orange with a hint of minerality. The palate is soft yet bright with these same notes but an added touch of an almost a white pepper. This has a delightful finish and a white CA wine I can not recommend enough. Find this wine and by some!!


https://www.instagram.com/p/CUN7acBBg7i/

Planet Grape Wine Review, Catherine Fallis, September 15, 2021

Notes of lemon curd, green apple, dried pineapple, candle wax and custard.

2017 Riesling

91 points: Creamy and mellow with a sweet-tart aftertaste and notes of lemon curd, green apple, dried pineapple, candle wax and custard.


http://planetgrapewinereview.com/newworldwine_reviews/2017-smith-madrone-riesling-spring-mountain-district-napa-valley/

Carolyn Jung, FoodGal, September 10, 2021

Lovely, aromatic

2017 Riesling

Warm weather was made for the 2017 Smith-Madrone Riesling with its sunny yellow peach, candied apricot, and honeysuckle notes, and wet slate minerality. Smith-Madrone specializes in dry farming techniques. This medium-weight wine that boasts a hint of petrol on the nose, a hallmark of Rieslings, was produced by Smith-Madrone Vineyards in St. Helena. Operated by brothers Stuart and Charles Smith, it’s a winery that specialize in dry farming that not only conserves water, but concentrates the flavor of the grapes. This lovely aromatic wine, of which I received a sample, is ideal with any Asian dishes that have a touch of sweetness or spiciness, from green papaya salad and sweet & sour pork to fish tikka and fresh rice paper spring rolls.

Cheers: The hyphenated name of the winery is first and foremost based on the brothers’ surname. But the second part comes from the variety of evergreen tree that grows predominantly on the ranch. How fun is that?


HTTPS://WWW.FOODGAL.COM/2021/09/WHAT-IVE-BEEN-DRINKING-OF-LATE-PART-13/

CaliforniaWinesandWineries, Michael Kelly, September 4, 2021

Extremely aromatic

2016 Riesling

The 2016 Riesling is extremely aromatic with floral notes and green apple on the nose. A light golden yellow straw color and medium viscosity. On the palate, strong lime, mixed with stone fruits (white peach and apricots) tame the lime citrus. 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. This wine was pulled from the cellar for last night’s meal due to the spiciness of the dish called Pad Thai Shrimp. The ingredients were flat rice noodles, virgin oil, minced garlic, uncooked shrimp, eggs, bean sprouts, 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!  Limes were plated to squeeze the juice over the top of the dish. Accompanied the meal was a fresh garden salad with an Asian dressing. The meal packed a punch of flavor and warmth! The 2016 Smith-Madrone Riesling was a godsend. The wine was refreshing and quenched the palate. The semi-sweet finish was spot on for this meal!

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 and Charles Smith is the winemaker. Truly a family affair! All the wines are estate and dry-farmed on top of the mountain. Annual production is between 3,000 to 4,000 cases a year. Currently they are producing Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and their iconic Cook’s Flat (blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc).


https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2021/09/04/smith-madrone-2016-riesling-and-a-spicy-pad-thai-a-perfect-pairing/

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