From mountain vineyard maestros....
Northern California wine world, the idea of cold-weather-adoring riesling vines thriving in the sun-drenched Napa Valley is certainly near the top. It seems like a terroir odd couple, but a handful of Napa Valley producers — led by this Spring Mountain District legend celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2021 — have the steep terrain and temperate conditions to let riesling thrive. The 2017 from Smith- Madrone’s estate high above St. Helena is an exemplary version of a bright, balanced riesling, courtesy of mountain vineyard maestros Stu, Charles and Sam Smith. The nose approaches with a touch of tar and citrus oil, leading to ripe peach and bay leaf notes and concluding in a finish that conjures up melon draped with prosciutto. Move over chilled rosé — this is definitely the wine to pair with some sausages off the grill and fresh corn on the cob by the pool this summer.
Run, don't walk, to snag a bottle
It’s hard to imagine such a classic riesling grown up the mountain in St. Helena. This charmer, with a silky texture and deep flavors of grapefruit and citrus, has a good dose of acidity to pair with your favorite summer foods, such as grilled seafood, goat cheese, or a garden-fresh summer salad. Fewer than 1,500 cases are made so run, don’t walk, to snag one.
WOW! A classically beautiful Riesling
95 points: The wine is 100% Riesling and produced from the same Spring Mountain vineyards, in the same way every year, yet the wines continually offer new characteristics every vintage. This Riesling has a light straw core with light legs. The nose offers wet rocks, white flowers, cream and whiffs of petrol. The palate has medium intensity with flavors of Granny Smith apples, orange blossoms and Bosc pear that jump into medium-plus acidity and tinges of honeysuckle. The finish is balanced and lip-smacking with touches of lime custard, minerals and petrol. A classically beautiful Riesling. WOW!
Good acidity and balance
The wine showed a bright yellow color. Pear, apple, lemon, petrol and citron all arrived on the nose. Pear, lemon curd, peach, citron and hints of dried apricot followed on a palate that began with pear and citrus and meandered its way to just a hint of dried stone fruit. The wine exhibited good acidity and balance. It was light-bodied and demonstrated good length. This wine would do as well as an aperitif as it would alongside a classic dim sum dish - Har Gow (shrimp dumplings).
One of our favorite California Rieslings year after year
94 points: Grapes grown on steep mountain vineyards continue to create one of our favorite California Rieslings year after year. Aromas of beeswax, buttercup and wet stone are enticing, and flavors of passion fruit are accentuated by fine acidity and a remarkable mouthfeel. Daisy, lemon blossom and freshly sliced Anjou pear feel serene as saltiness refreshes the palate, urging another sip.
Consistently one of the most exciting California Rieslings
94 points: Smith-Madrone’s Spring Mountain Riesling does it again; it is consistently one of the most exciting California Rieslings I’ve come across. Light yellow color. Aromas of gorgeous limes, orange peels, exquisite fruit mixed with white flowers, new tennis balls, wild mint, with chalky and saline tones. Pristine acidity, zesty, a chalky and salty appeal with white flowers, white pepper and wild green onion tones. Lime, orange and kiwi fruit provide generous support for this intense but refined wine. Perfume, focused, dry yet ripe, this is complex and age-worthy, and a consistently spectacular California Riesling.
Truly an exceptional wine
Wow, what a surprise! All of us were anticipating a sweet wine that we would try to move quickly beyond. Not the case here! Stu’s passion for this varietal is strong as he speaks about this Alsace style wine. A beautiful dry wine with a floral and peachy bouquet. Smith-Madrone is one of the last wineries in Napa to grow this grape. If you gravitate towards red wines, then this white wine might be an OMG moment for you. Truly an exceptional wine.
94 points: a showstopper!
94 points: A show-stopper! The lovely candied-orange and orange-cream nose leads you into the succulent palate, which has a wonderful combination of vibrancy and concentration, the kind of which you don’t expect from a Californian riesling. The hint of tannin is as well integrated as the racy acidity, and all this pulls together on the powerful, mineral finish. Drink or hold.
Exuberance on the palate
Fruity and floral but mostly dry, this riesling is a crowd pleaser with an exuberance on the palate that features lemons, figs, gooseberry, and melon notes. Lots of honey on the palate as the wine develops, sweetening up and showing more fruit and just a hint of oxidation. There’s also some saline minerality here, which is effective at brightening up the wine and giving it a sunny and satisfying sense of balance on the finish
91 points: Pale lemon in color with a yellow tint. Pretty nose of lemons, citrus, yellow apples, diesel, light tangerines, light river rocks, spices and minerals. Medium plus in body with high acidity. Dry on the palate with citrus, spices, lemons, apples, light earth, minerals, light sea salt and white pepper. Tangy finish with limes and grapefruit. This is a delicious Riesling from Spring Mountain District in Napa Valley. Showing mild complexity with a nice mouthfeel. Still young and would benefit from a a few years in the bottle. Already drinking nicely with nice balance. Good by itself or with food, and better after 45 minutes of airtime. Very yummy. A great sipping wine and a good pool wine too. Fresh with a dry finish.
Pale gold with a hint of green, this wine smells of melted candle wax, tangerine pith, and a touch of white flowers. In the mouth, that paraffin quality continues, along with flavors of Asian pear, mandarin oranges, grapefruit, and white flowers. Wonderfully balanced, with just the barest hint of sweetness amidst the racy, mouthwatering acidity. Quite delicious, as usual, with great aging potential….It’s a classic Napa interpretation of Riesling produced unerringly every year by Smith-Madrone up on Spring Mountain, which just celebrated its 50th anniversary. Stu and Charlie Smith (joined in 2010 by Stu’s son Sam) have been making this wine for decades, and thankfully haven’t stopped, despite the vines being planted in what some might consider prime Cabernet country. Varietally correct and wonderfully delicious, it’s a wine that will please the fussiest of Riesling lovers.
Brilliant golden color with concentrated flavors of pineapple and more
Brilliant golden color in the glass with concentrated flavors of pineapple, apricot, ripe pear, petrol and crushed gravel. Notable acidity keeps me salivating. The color is darker and the flavors have become considerably more concentrated since we first tasted this wine in 2016. During that visit we tasted the Smith-Madrone 2013 and 2014 Rieslings together. This 2013 Riesling was lush compared to the more austere 2014. Charles told us, “At the 20-year mark the 2013 will be insanely delicious. The 2014 will have 10 years to go.” Clearly we didn’t make the 20-year mark, but we have no regrets because this Riesling is pretty darn delicious right now.
Not only is this Riesling delicious on its own, it makes a brilliant dinner partner. I put together a simple pasta dish that has me thinking of springtime - creamy pasta with peas and prosciutto. The acidity of the Riesling is even more notable when paired with creamy pasta.
We found this beauty we purchased several years ago when we visited Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery in Napa’s Spring Mountain District. Riesling might not be the first variety you think of in Napa, but it’s the first wine Stuart and Charles Smith made in the early ‘70s. The brothers have a serious appreciation and respect for Riesling and know how to craft bright, brilliant, flavorful Riesling.
Generous and juicy acidity
Light golden color in the glass with aromas of petrol and stone fruit. Flavors follow with white peach and pear, stony minerality with a bit of roundness in the mouth. The fruit flavors might lead you to think the wine is off-dry but the finish tastes dry with generous and juicy acidity. This Riesling has just been released. Obviously, the Smiths don’t rush their winemaking. The flavors are lively, with a bit of roundness in the mouth and notable acidity. It is a pleasure to sip on its own and it loves food. The first evening we enjoyed this wine with Thai Peanut Chicken Salad in Butter Lettuce. The richness of chicken from coconut milk and peanut butter was perfectly balanced by the acidity and flavors of the Riesling. On the second evening we sipped this charming Riesling with guacamole and chips. Should you have the restraint to make this Riesling last, it will be delicious for several days corked and stored in the refrigerator.
Steeeeeeeep slopes pay
Fantastically pure and crisp, grapefruit and stones, texture and spirit, zest. A precise white screamer in the best way. Steeeeeeeeep slopes pay.
Absolutely gorgeous. Aromas are delicate and evocative of spring flowers, including rose and jasmine. On the palate, the wine is bright, refreshing, delicate and engaging, with flavors of honeysuckle, white grapefruit, Meyer lemon, lime, peach, cantaloupe, white pineapple, sweet orange zest and hints of minerality suggestive of celery. It is a beautiful expression of this varietal and how it blossoms into its full self in rocky mountain vineyards. This dry riesling has broad appeal at the table.
Wine of the Week: Striking
4.5 stars. A gorgeous riesling with aromas and flavors of honeysuckle, mineral and grapefruit. It’s intense yet nimble and light on its feet. Finishes crisp. Striking.
Perfectly balanced, with a silky texture, zesty minerality and long finish
With spring weather and everything in bloom, nothing pairs better than a fantastic Riesling and some afternoon sunshine. Opened a 2017 from Smith Madrone grown atop Spring Mountain in the northeastern corner of Napa. The cooler spot is just perfect to grow Riesling. The Smith brothers have been producing pure terroir driven wines for decades on their estate.This wine opened up beautifully with a whiff of petrol, jasmine and citrus blossoms. Crisp and clean wine. A great textured wine with flavors of honeysuckle, warm summer peach, apricot, orange zest, limestone, and jasmine. Perfectly balanced, with a silky texture, zesty minerality, and a long finish.
This wine is delicious out the gates but will evolve for a decade or more.
Not your mother's Riesling...it's all grown up
This wine has the exact shaped bottle a Riesling from Germany has, long with a slender neck, meant to mimic a perfume bottle. Aromas of white flower, lemon-lime, white peach and cool, wet pebbles. The taste was not sweet, so if you are expecting an overly sweet Riesling, this isn’t it, or in other words, this is not your mother’s Riesling. It’s all grown up and it leaves the sugar behind. Bone dry, lemonade, limeade, and fresh fruit including pineapple and melon. We had this with a Caesar Salad topped with warm grilled chicken. Perfect.
Made from dry-farmed, mountain-side grapes, the Smith-Madrone Riesling 2017, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley, reveals its typical purity and intensity of purpose and effect in every molecule. The color is a radiant medium golden hue with a tinge of pale green; aromas of jasmine and honeysuckle, peach and apricot, lime peel and flint are permeated by riesling’s classic note of petrol or rubber eraser, every element impeccably seamless and integrated; on the palate, the wine is rich with apple and grapefruit flavors that tend toward quince and ginger, all animated by riveting acidity and a burgeoning tide of limestone minerality; the texture is almost sumptuous yet deftly held in check by a sense of spare elegance, the whole point being perfect balance in all parts, top to bottom; a few minutes in the glass bring in hints of candied orange zest and a wild, earthy note that partakes equally of meadows and forests; the finish is bracingly dry and saline. 12.9 percent alcohol. Production was just under 1,500 cases. A masterpiece, not to be missed by lovers of the grape. Exceptional.
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.
Fine balancing acidity and a thread of minerality through the zesty finish
Opens with scents of citrus and a fragrant white floral bouquet. Peaches, savory apricot jam and nectarines marry nicely with underlying river rock elements on the palate, and the texture is silky. This wine is complex and lush, while maintaining fine balancing acidity and a thread of minerality through the extended zesty finish.
Delicate, discrete, nuanced
Brilliant golden robe. Dusky golden fruit, ginger, exotic white fruit notes. Delicate, discrete, nuanced.
The 2016 Riesling is extremely aromatic with floral notes and green apple on the nose. A light 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.
Lots of classic lychee, lime and white grapefruit emerge from this wine, which is medium-bodied and has a kiss of sweetness, balancing acidity and a great finish. This beautiful, outstanding Riesling is going to age nicely for at least a decade.
Bright, acidic notes of white peaches, lime zest, and green apples will coat your mouth like stardust
Pour a glass of this delightful Riesling in twilight hours while the hazy melodies of Lo-fi hip-hop drip like honey in the air. Sip it slowly and let the gaiety of this wine lift your spirits into the darkening sky. Bright, acidic notes of white peaches, lime zest, and green apples will coat your mouth like stardust. Cosmic stones will collide, and crack before your eyes. Their remnants streaking flame across the atmosphere - which has now become the floor beneath your feet - with a blinding yellow light. You’ll smell the industrial perfume of petroleum gas as the world seems to burn, but who cares? Not today. Not in this moment. Nothing is standing between you and your bliss, save for your own lips; already parting, opening, ready for another taste.