The Latin poet Virgil wrote “Bacchus loves the hills,” and he was on to something. Smith-Madrone’s riesling is planted in vineyards perched at 1,900 feet and it’s impressive.
Stuart Smith is behind our wine-of-the-week winner — the Smith-Madrone, 2014 Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley Riesling at $30.
This dry riesling’s rich mouth-feel is kept in check with its bright acidity. It has notes of honeysuckle, papaya, apple and petrol. With its depth of flavors and lingering finish, the Smith-Madrone is striking.
“It was the vintage that made the wine,” Smith said. “Nature puts her stamp on the vintage and it’s our job as winemakers to nurture the wine during this process and let the grapes express themselves into the wine. We vintage date wines to celebrate the uniqueness of each vintage.”
Smith’s philosophy is to let Mother Nature do the talking.
“We don’t ‘shoot’ for any style,” he said. “We try to listen and learn what the grapes give us and then nurture the best wine that flows from those grapes. We would never force a style; that is antithetical to our beliefs.”
Smith, 68, is the general partner and enologist of the St. Helena winery. His brother, Charlie Smith, is the winemaker.
“My brother, Charlie, and I believe that riesling is one of the great grape varietals of the world — not just a great white wine varietal.
“This means that we care about growing and making our rieslings just as much as we care for our chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon,” he said.
Smith said what makes him a good fit to be a vintner is his passion for wine and wine growing.
“I believe that wine is the greatest beverage on earth,” he said. “Being a winegrower is a passion first and a business second. Charlie and I, and now my son, Sam, make wine for our palates, not for some scorecard. Anyone can make wine, but to continue the pursuit of making great wine you must first truly know what great wine is, believe in yourself and be relentless in that pursuit.”
The most challenging part of the business is dealing with the market place to shift the perception of riesling.
“We have to convince folks that our riesling is not sweet,” Smith said. “Once tasted, folks love our dry riesling, but getting over the perception that all rieslings are sweet has truly been a life’s work.”