Friday, January 3, 2014

Smith-Madrone Chardonnay Napa Valley 2011

In Napa Valley’s Spring Mountain District, brothers Stuart and Charles Smith run the Smith-Madrone Vineyards and Winery, established in 1971.  The winery was named for the forest of Madrone trees from which the vineyards were reclaimed.

The Smith brothers don’t make a lot of wine, but that is not their goal.  They set out to “make artisanal wines which are distinctive and are an expression of both the vintage and us as vintners, but above all else, are wines which bring pleasure to the senses.”The winemaking process seems more than business to them, seems more like philosophy.  “Every year our wine is made from the same vineyards, pruned by the same people in the same way, cultivated in exactly the same manner and harvested at similar levels of maturity, yet Mother Nature stamps each vintage with a unique set of flavors, senses and character. Vintage dating is a celebration of that uniqueness and diversity.”

The Smith brothers say, "2011 was a very cool and late growing season for the Napa Valley. Late spring rains contributed to a smaller than normal crop. The summer turned out to be one of the coolest growing seasons we can remember, with the one exception of a heat spike in late August. Fortunately, patience paid off and the vintage turned out to be exceptional."

Only 13 acres of their vineyard is dedicated to Chardonnay, and the vines are about 39 years old.

The 2011 Smith-Madrone Chardonnay is estate bottled, with grapes from the Spring Mountain district of Napa Valley.  Alcohol is up there, at 14.2% abv, and the wine is barrel-fermented and aged in new French oak for eight months.

Featuring a petty yellow-green tint in the glass, this Chardonnay offers a nose of apples, peaches and a touch of vanilla spice.  The palate is gorgeous, with nice oak flavors layered over lovely green apple and white peach notes.  A little citrus - in the form of lime and tangerine - lingers on the finish. The wine is not big and buttery, but the oak definitely shows.  Minerality - a hallmark of a cooler vintage - also makes itself known.

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