Thursday, January 3, 2013

Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon 2007


Napa Valley producer Smith-Madrone is run by two brothers named Smith.  The "Madrone" part of the winery's name comes from some of the trees that populated the Spring Mountain property when they planted the vineyards in 1971.  Stu and Charles feel that Smith-Madrone sounds better than "Smith-Douglas Fir, Smith-Manzanita, Smith-Oak and certainly Smith-Poison Oak."  Their steep, mountainside vines are dry-farmed at an altitude of between 1,300 and 2,000 feet.

Stu Smith was kind enough to send samples of his three latest releases.  The Smith-Madrone Riesling and Chardonnay have been covered already in this space.  Today, we’ll try the Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon 2007.

The fruit from which this wine is made comes from vines that have been around for 36 years, and they are at the very top of the property.   The Smith brothers get a little geeky when talking about the dirt - “red ‘Aiken’ soil which is derived from weathered volcanic materials and sedimentary rock.  The underlying geology, the Franciscan mélange, is just 500 miles long and was created by the Continental Plate grinding off the top of the Pacific Plate as it subducts under the Continental Plate.”

Now put your textbooks away, and we'll taste some wine.

The Smith-Madrone Cab is actually a Bordeaux-style blend, at 97% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Merlot and 1% Cabernet Franc.  The wine is aged in new American white oak barrels for 22 months and is unfined and unfiltered.  1,434 cases were produced, and it sells for $45.

This Napa Cab is inky dark in the glass and explosively aromatic.  Big, ripe blackberries and plums hit the nose first, followed by oak spice and cedar.  The use of American oak puts a brash spin on the nose and the palate.  It is amazing how different the effects of French and American oak are in wine.  Flavors of dark fruit walk hand in hand with notes of eucalyptus and cardamom.  A bit of graphite emerges on the finish, which is lengthy and memorable.  The wine's tannins are somewhat brawny and should prove worthy of beef in a pairing situation.

The wine leaves me feeling that it's a Zinfandel-lover's Cab.  It wears a Stetson, not a chapeau.


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