Thursday, December 20, 2012

Smith-Madrone Riesling 2011

Napa Valley producer Smith-Madrone makes wine from grapes grown on their estate at the top of the Spring Mountain district.  Stu Smith writes me that he and his winemaker brother Charles planted the vineyards in 1971.  The steep mountainside slopes are primarily dry-farmed at an altitude of between 1,300 and 2,000 feet.

On their website, they answer the question, 'Why Smith-Madrone?' this way:  “"It sounds better than Smith-Douglas Fir, Smith-Manzanita, Smith-Oak and certainly Smith-Poison Oak.  These were the predominant trees and shrubs on the property when we began," Stuart Smith explains.  "We had so much physically and emotionally invested in the development of the vineyard and the winery that we selfishly wanted our name on it.  Smith is not exactly a grand Mediterranean wine name, and certainly we couldn't call it just "Smith Winery."  Somehow Smith-Madrone had a nice ring to it."

Stu was kind enough to send samples of his three latest releases, Riesling, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Today, we’ll try the Smith-Madrone Riesling 2011.

It's not a surprise to find Cab and Chardonnay being made in Napa Valley, but Riesling?  Riesling vines were among the first planted by the Smith brothers decades ago - the vines yielding the fruit for this wine are 39 years old, qualifying them as "old vines" in most accounts.  The alcohol content is 12.6% abv and residual sugar is a just-off-dry 0.7%.  521 cases were produced.  It retails for $27.

This Riesling appears pale yellow with green highlights.  The bouquet is blessed with a fair amount of low-level petrol, something I don't expect to find in a Riesling this young.  That’s quite a pleasant surprise.  The complex nose also displays undertones of apricots, peaches and pears, which reform as flavors on the palate.  A nice minerality - a slate flavor - comes forth, too.

The wine smells interesting and tastes wonderful - that petrol aroma and wet-rock taste grab me every time - but I could use a little more acidity.  Although I've already seen several wine writers extolling the acidity of this wine, it doesn't strike me as racy or bracing like, say, a Finger Lakes Riesling.  To my palate, the fruit expression of Napa Valley wine tends to be ripe rather than crisp.  I don't expect this Riesling will stand up to very hearty food pairings, but it should match nicely with salads and shellfish.  It's a great sipper, too.

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