Brothers Charles and Stu Smith started their 37 acre vineyard a top Spring Mountain in 1971. With vineyards planted to Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling and most recently Cabernet Franc and Merlot they produce about 4,000 cases combined. One would expect them to build their reputation on Napa Valley staples of Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay, but at Smith-Madrone their known for their Riesling. The Riesling is considered to be on par with celebrated Riesling producers from around the world and is often on wine writers “best of” list each year. With breath taking views of Napa Valley the dry farmed vineyards are anywhere from 1,300-2,000 ft. above the valley floor. Doing almost everything themselves around the vineyards and winery Charles and Stu deserve the accolades they receive.
With 13 acres planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2005 is a blend of 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot and 9% Cabernet Franc and saw 22 months in new American oak. It is neither fined or filtered. Soft and lush at the beginning, with good black cherry and currant fruit and medium tannins this wine has nice character and complexity. A long lingering finish on the back of the palate, “this is one of the best Cabs I’ve had all year” said my drinking companion. This is not a big Cab, with huge tannins but a Cab. with finesse and structure. With less than 1,500 cases of the 05 produced this bottle is a steal at approximately $45. If you can find it make sure you grab a bottle or 2 and while at it if you can find their Chardonnay or Riesling one should stock up on those too. www.smithmadrone.com
Started in 1989 by transplanted east coasters Walt & Joan Flowers fulfilling their dream, have made Flowers Winery into a staple on the northern California Chardonnay and Pinot Noir scene. From high a top their vineyards in Sonoma, Walt & Joan and their team, make wine from estate vineyards, Flowers Ranch and Camp Meeting Ridge and other vineyards from throughout the Sonoma Coast.
Using several different clones the 2008 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir is light in color, yet bold on the palate. Aged in French oak and coming mostly from Flowers estate vineyards it’s made in a Burgundian style, as it has good toasty oak and good fruit, along with mild tannins it offers balance and complexity. Leather and spice make for a nice finish. This wine will be at it’s best in the short term. Pairs well with roasted meats and salmon. 13.8% Retails about $45.
In the past few days I’ve had the opportunity to taste 3 wines from Rodney Strong Vineyards. First a brief history of Rodney Strong Vineyards. Rodney was former dancer who in 1959 retired from dancing and set off on a new career in winemaking. He was one of the 1st to plant vineyards in Sonoma County and its sub appellations of Russian River, Chalk Hill and Alexander Valley. Prior to that most of Sonoma was planted to fruit orchards. In 1970 Rodney started to build his winery in Sonoma County and in 1979 he hired Rick Sayre as winemaker, and to this day Rick still makes the wines. Fast forward to 1989 when Tom Klein purchases the winery from Rodney and expands the winery and starts to put the winery on a path to going green and sustainable winemaking practices. Rodney stayed on with the winery after he sold it and passed away in 2006 at age 78. I had the opportunity to meet and join Rodney for lunch early in my wine career when he was in town, a memorable experience. Now to wines.
2009 Estate Charlotte’s Home Sauvignon Blanc- Sonoma County
Named after Rodney’s wife this wine offers a delightful combination of crisp acidity and fruit structure. A lighter style wine it has a beautiful nose and seems to get better after it’s been opened for a day or two. Nice hint of minerals on the finish. Perfect to compliment a salad or sandwich or by itself on a hot summer afternoon. $9-$11. 4 out of 5 corks!
2007 Estate Chalk Hill Chardonnay- Sonoma County
A medium bodied chardonnay, this wine offers a balance of toasty oak and a buttery finish. A French oak presence is noticeable with a hint of vanilla along with some apple. A great wine for someone who is not a big fan of chardonnay’s(me). $16 3.5 out of 5 corks!
2007 Estate Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon- Sonoma Valley
This medium bodied cabernet is blended with a little bit of merlot, malbec and hint of syrah. It offers a nice mix of tannins and good dark fruit. A mix of French and American oak is used giving it the satying power to be drank over the next few years. $18 3.5 out 5 corks!
All wines were tasted over a few days and seem to get better after being opened for a day or 2.
So look for Rodney Strong wines and see what a winemaking pioneer’s philosophy can do with some of the lands great appellations and the grapes the land gives him.