Riesling Reviews

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.


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. 


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.


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.


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.


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!!


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.


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?


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).


Dan Dawson, Napa Valley Register, September 3, 2021

Wonderful wine with mountain flavors

2017 Riesling

Smith Madrone’s 9 acres of dry-farmed Riesling vines on Spring Mountain make wonderful wine. First impressions include yellow grapefruit and honeysuckle, then with time comes citrus zest, bay leaves, orchard fruits and “mountain flavors” for lack of a better descriptor. Riesling is a natural with Thai dishes, especially where coconut milk is involved. Add on the kale sweet potato, lime, mushrooms and aromatic herbs for a great Riesling match. 


WineReviewOnline, Rich Cook, August 24, 2021

Impeccable balance

2017 Riesling

96 points: I generally reserve scores above 94 points for wines that have the capacity to not only be delightful at present but also have the structure to age gracefully over several years.  To see this number on a white wine is fairly rare in my backlog, but it’s there when it fits, as it certainly does here.  The numbers help tell the story of this beautiful Riesling -- 3.05 pH, .898 TA (!) -- numbers typically seen only in sparkling wines due to early harvesting for high acidity.  The 2017 is barely perceptibly sweeter than many of the previous vintages that I’ve had the opportunity to taste, but the impeccable balance will have you at the bottom of the bottle in no time.  Tart apple, bright citrus, stony minerality and incredible finish push are the hallmarks here, and they promise to reward well into the future, which of course means that a case or two are in order.   


Wine Enthusiast, Virginie Boone, September 2021

94 points: light, complex and silky

2017 Riesling

94 points: This atypical variety for the area shines from the producer's steep, dry-farmed estate vineyard. Light, complex and silky on the waxy palate, it offers flavors of green apple, apricot and grapefruit alongside touches of honey and wet stone. 


Talk-A-Vino, Anatoli Levine, May 17, 2021

One of the best Rieslings in the world

2017 Riesling

One of the best Rieslings in the world. Can an amazing Riesling be made outside of Germany? Taste this 2017 Smith-Madrone Riesling from Napa Valley and decide for yourself. In my book, this is one of the few Rieslings which I would be delighted to drink any day and every day.
A touch of honey and petrol on the nose make me not want to put down the glass ever. A distant honey note and clean acidity on the palate together with impeccable balance make this a “dangerous wine” - the wine which is gone before you notice that it is gone.


Imbiber's Journal, Steve McIntosh, July 14, 2021

What more could you want from a Riesling?

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.


James Melendez, July 16, 2021

Compelling, beautiful, elegant, crisp

2017 Riesling

Video review

Our thanks to James Melendez for his review of the 2017 Riesling: “…compelling, beautiful, elegant, crisp…” and more:

Wine Curmudgeon, Jeff Siegel, July 12, 2021

Highly recommended - the kind of wine that people who don't think they like riesling should try

2017 Riesling

Smith-Madrone’s riesling is a top-notch New World take on a classic grape: Once more into the riesling breach, dear readers: And why not? I’ve probably tasted more rieslings over the past 18 months than I have in the blog’s entire 14 year history. And I’ve rarely been disappointed. The Smith-Madrone, despite California’s lackluster track record with the grape, is just one more reason to sip and smile. This wine combines New World-style fruitiness with the varietal characteristics that make great riesling so much fun to drink. In other words, not sweet for the sake of sweetness, and not some kind of fruity confection because, you know, that’s what Americans drink. Look for lime zest, a bit of tingliness in the back, a hint of petrol, some sweetness floating around to remind you it’s riesling, just enough acidity to greet the sweetness, and stoniness in the finish. In fact, this is one of the few times where the wine geek descriptor “wet stone” almost makes sense. Highly recommended – the kind of wine that people who don’t think they like riesling should try. Even the very tough crowd on CellarTracker (the blog’s unofficial wine inventory app) likes this wine. And they usually only like high-end Napa wines.


Trevor Felch, Nob Hill Gazette, July 2021

From mountain vineyard maestros....

2017 Riesling

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.


Napa Sonoma Magazine, Laura Levy Shatkin, Summer 2021

Run, don't walk, to snag a bottle

2017 Riesling

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.


Beverage Dynamics Magazine, July 2021

WOW! A classically beautiful Riesling

2017 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!

NittanyEpicurean, Michael Chelus, June 24, 2021

Good acidity and balance

2017 Riesling

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).


The Tasting Panel Magazine, June 2021, Meridith May

One of our favorite California Rieslings year after year

2017 Riesling

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.

Terroirist.com, Isaac Baker, June 6, 2021

Consistently one of the most exciting California Rieslings 

2017 Riesling

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.


MyRedWineGuys, June 3, 2021

Truly an exceptional wine

2017 Riesling

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.


James Suckling, May 15, 2021

94 points: a showstopper!

2017 Riesling

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.


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