Winery Spotlight: Smith-Madrone Vineyards and Winery

Smith-Madrone Vineyards and Winery

Smith-Madrone Vineyards and Winery

Smith-Madrone Vineyards and Winery in Napa Valley is a hidden gem, offering outstanding wines and a nostalgic tasting experience in a beautiful natural setting. Founded by Stuart Smith, Smith-Madrone has been producing top quality wines since its first vintage in 1977. The winery sits on top of Spring Mountain in Northwest Napa Valley on steep slopes, with elevations between 1,300 and 2,000 feet, surrounded by a huge array of natural beauty and wildlife. Although Smith-Madrone Vineyards and Winery is on a 200-acre ranch, just a small portion of the estate is planted to grapes and the winery only produces about 4,000 cases per year.

Smith-Madrone Vineyards and Winery – The Story

Stuart Smith, with a partnership of family and friends, acquired the property which became Smith-Madrone Vineyards and Winery in 1971. Two years later, Stuart’s brother Charles Smith joined the winery and became its Winemaker. The name Smith-Madrone is a tribute to the Smith Brothers and the predominant tree on the ranch: The Madrone, an evergreen tree with red-brown trunk and branches that bear lily-of-the-valley-like flower clusters in the spring and orange-red berries in the fall. In 1972, Smith-Madrone planted its first vineyards with Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir (the Pinot Noir was eventually grafted to Chardonnay in 1989). However, the ranch was originally planted with vines in the 1800s by George Cook, the first owner of the property. Today, the vineyards consist of about 37 acres and Cabernet Franc and Merlot have been added to the plantings.

Grapes at Smith-Madrone Vineyards and WineryAll of Smith-Madrone’s wines are made entirely from the winery’s estate vineyards. Although drip irrigation was used to establish the vineyards, today the vineyards are dry-farmed. This forces the grapevines to send their roots deep into the soil to search for water and nutrients, resulting in small berries with a large skin-to-juice ratio. In addition, the cooler mountain climate, mostly deep-red Aiken Stoney Clay loam soils and the rugged property conditions (with some slopes angling up to 35%) also help to produce grapes which have intense flavor, structure and longevity. From these grapes, combined with winemaking practices blending traditional methods from France and Germany with new techniques developed in California, Stuart and Charles are able to produce mouthwatering small lot wines reflecting the uniqueness of their mountain terroir.
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The 2019 World of Pinot Noir: Santa Barbara Beckons

2019 World of Pinot NoirForget the cold and start planning for surf, sun and Spanish tiles at the 2019 World of Pinot Noir, on March 1st and 2nd at the Ritz-Carlton Bacara in Santa Barbara. Alma Rosa Winery, Balletto VineyardsFiddlehead Cellars, GoldeneyeMaison Louis Latour, Merry Edwards Winery and Wayfarer will lead the parade of over 250 wineries participating in expert-led Tasting Seminars, Luncheons, Dinners and Grand Tastings. You can purchase tickets for a single event, a day’s worth of events, or a whole weekend of activities as you find yourself surrounded by Pinot Noir producers and lovers from around the world.

The 2019 World of Pinot Noir (WOPN) offers not just one, but two separate Grand Tastings with over 100 different producers at each session. This is a comprehensive chance to “get current” on the latest wines made from Pinot Noir grapes grown in places such as Anderson Valley, Los Carneros, Russian River Valley, Santa Cruz Mountains, Santa Maria, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Ynez, Sonoma Coast, and the Willamette Valley. On the international front, the WOPN Grand Tastings will also include wineries from Chile (Ritual), France (Domaine Chanson), New Zealand (Brennan Wines), and Spain (Alta Pavina).

Pinot Noir Roses to expect at 2019 World of Pinot NoirOne of our favorite events from last year, the Rosé Lawn Party on the Bluff, returns again showcasing over 50 of the best Pinot Noir Rosés on the planet paired with a gourmet buffet lunch from Chef Alexander Bollinger of Angel Oak. Or, you can attend a special dinner this year celebrating the 30th anniversary of Fess Parker Winery with a five-course meal from Chef John Cox of The Bear and Star. One of the educational seminars at WOPN focuses on the Savoy Vineyard in Anderson Valley, complimented by wines from some of the premier wineries that source their fruit from this vineyard including FEL Wines, Peay Vineyards and Radio-Coteau.

World of Pinot Noir is a highly enjoyable occasion and if you keep reading we’ll describe highlights of this premier wine event or you can find the full details here.  Last year’s festivities hosted nearly 3,500 attendees, the largest turnout in its 18-year history, so you should probably go here soon to purchase your tickets as events will sell out.
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From Burgers to Surf & Turf: Napa Valley Restaurant Week

Grilled Pork Chop at ALBA, a Napa Valley Restaurant Week offering

Grilled Pork Chop at ALBA

You should know (if you hadn’t heard yet) that Napa Valley Restaurant Week is just one week away. Between January 20 and 27, over 50 Napa Valley restaurants are offering multi-course prix-fixe menus for lunch (at $20 or less per person) or dinner (at $36 or $46 per person). Lunch options include Sashimi, Fish Tacos, Mushroom and Fontina Bruschetta, Pastrami Sandwich or a Cheeseburger.  Dinner options include Ceviche Tostada, Seared Diver Scallops, Braised Short Ribs, “Surf & Turf”, or a Cheeseburger.  This is a great opportunity to explore the diversity of Napa Valley’s “Terroir to Table” Dining options, at a discount, from Napa to Calistoga.

Garlic Focaccia Bread at Bosko's

Garlic Focaccia Bread at Bosko’s

In fact, this may actually be the perfect week to immerse yourself in Calistoga’s dining scene.  You’ll find specials to try and navigate between All Seasons Bistro (lunch), Bosko’s Trattoria (lunch), Cafe Sarafornia (lunch), Calistoga Inn (lunch and dinner), Checkers (lunch and dinner), Evangeline (dinner), Hydro Grill (dinner), Lovina (lunch and dinner) and Sol Bar (dinner).  Menu choices include Spaghetti and Meatballs at Bosko’s, Warm Duck Confit and Kale Salad at Lovina and Crispy Petrale Sole Fish Tacos at Sol Bar. At Calistoga Inn, lunch options include Duck Mole Tacos, dinner options include Skuna Bay Roasted Salmon, and it’s a good time to ask for the latest scoop on their March 5 Fat Tuesday Celebration.

If you’re in downtown Napa at lunchtime during Napa Valley Restaurant Week, at Napa General Store you can add either a Cup of Soup or a special Dessert to your choice of lunch entrée all for $20. These entrées include Chinese Chicken Salad, Rueben Sandwich and a Smoked Salmon Flatbread. At Napa Noodles, you can choose from Items #1 – #16 on the menu, grab a Fountain Drink and then add any Salad or Starter for that price. Between numbers 1 and 16 you’ll find options such as Tokyo Ramen, Pho Ga, Tom Yum Soup, Adobo Pancit and a Kalbi Short Rib Plate. Or, at Ca’ Momi, you can start with a Mixed Green Salad, select either a Wood Oven or Fried Calzone, and then end your meal with Tiramisu for $20.

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New Year, New Wines: the 2019 Winter WINEland

2019 Winter Wineland PostcardIf your New Year Resolutions include more travel, more exploration, and discovering new wines, you can start down that path with Winter WINEland in just a few weeks. This wonderful Sonoma County wine event, from the Wine Road organization, invites you to visit wineries throughout the Alexander, Dry Creek, and Russian River Valleys on January 19 and 20. Between 11 am and 4 pm each day, you and your friends can explore new varietals, try limited production wines and perhaps meet the actual winemakers.

This is the 27th Winter WINEland and participants this year include Acorn Winery, Balletto Vineyards, Davis Family Vineyards, Geyser Peak Winery, Hawley Winery, Lancaster Estate, Longboard Vineyards, Martorana Family Winery, Ridge Lytton Springs, Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards, Taft Street Winery, Trentadue Winery, West Wines, White Oak Vineyards and Winery and Zialena Winery.

Zialena Winery, a 2019 Winter WINEland participant

Zialena Winery

Advance ticket prices are just $45 per person for both days or $35 for Sunday January 20 only (plus tax and a small service charge). Designated Driver tickets are $5 for either one or both days. To purchase advance tickets and/or to see the complete list of participating wineries, please go here. If you miss the advance purchase window, prices during the weekend itself will increase, or the event may sell out, so purchasing those tickets soon would be a good idea.

The 2019 Winter WINEland offers over 100 premium Sonoma County wineries to choose from and each of the participating wineries will highlight a particular vintage, varietal, or vertical tasting during the event. The bad news is now you have to choose which ones to visit (but if you keep reading we’ll try to help with that).
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Napa Happy Hour: Celebrate Harvest Your Way

Napa Happy Hour Cocktail at Alba

Screwdriver at Alba

Celebrate the 2018 grape harvest by exploring Napa Happy Hour options, whether or not you actually worked this year’s harvest. Maybe you don’t feel like cooking, or you just want to go out and have fun with friends. Regardless of the reason, the city of Napa actually has about 40 places to go for Happy Hour so there’s bound to be a place with drink and/or food specials you’ll be excited about. During the summer, we posted an article about 21 downtown Napa Happy Hour destinations. Now, we’re here to talk about the many other choices within the city limits.

Drake's Dry Stout at Napa Happy Hour at Hop Creek Pub

Drake’s Dry Stout at Hop Creek

Ready for a beer? You’ll find both draft and bottled beers for just $4 at Il Posto Trattoria and NapaSport. More interested in wine? Then you should check out The Q which has all glasses and bottles of wine at 50% off during Happy Hour. You’ll find well drinks for just $4.50 each at Hop Creek and $5 each at Alba. Premium Call Drinks are $6 at Fumé Bistro if you start with Jack Daniel’s, Tito’s or Hendricks, or $7 each at Trancas Steakhouse if your preference is Belvedere, Tanqueray, Crown Royal, Seagrams VO or Canadian Club.

Mimosas are $5 at The Grill at Silverado, House Margaritas are $5 at Frida’s Mexican Grill and Caipirinhas are $7 at Galpão Gaucho. Or, maybe your schedule works out well for the Progressive Margarita at Compadres: $3 per glass and $15 per pitcher from 3-4 pm, $4 per glass and $20 per pitcher from 4-5 pm, and $5 per glass and $25 per pitcher from 5-6 pm.

Garlic Fries at Napa Happy Hour at Trancas Steakhouse

Garlic Fries at Trancas Steakhouse

For appetizers, at Napa Happy Hour restaurants you’ll find classic Happy Hour offerings on the menus:  Nachos, Fried Calamari, Chicken Wings, Guacamole, Garlic Fries, Meatball Sliders and Pizzas. But, since this is Napa, you’ll also find dishes such as Grilled Shishito Peppers, Bacon Macaroni and Cheese, Patatas Bravas with Lemon Aioli, Spicy Mussels, and a Mushroom, Goat Cheese and Caramelized Onion Flatbread.
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2018 Napa Valley Film Festival: There’s a Drive-In!

2018 Napa Valley Film Festival Program GuideThe official program guide for the 2018 Napa Valley Film Festival was recently released and if you’re a fan of film festivals you should seriously consider attending. What makes a film festival special is the live participation of writers, directors, actors and producers in Q&A sessions following practically every screening. If you enjoy excellent films, great wine, and outstanding food, then you will find ways to enjoy all three of them at the Napa Valley Film Festival (NVFF) between November 7-11, 2018.

Many things are the same this time (Special Opening and Closing night films, Celebrity Tributes, Award Ceremonies, the annual Gala and the Friday Night Bash). But, there are also some changes this year for the 2018 Napa Valley Film Festival: a new festival hub site for Napa, a new location for the Friday Night Bash, SommSelect wine tastings during the Gala, and new screening venues including a Drive-In! Keep reading and we’ll try to convince you to grab that credit card and start ordering right now.

2018 Napa Valley Film Festival:  Reasons to Attend

The Front RunnerReason #1 to attend the NVFF: The movies, starring past and future Oscar Winners! The 2018 Napa Valley Film Festival will include showings of The Front Runner, a narrative recounting of the rise and fall of Senator Gary Hart (starring Hugh Jackman, Vera Farmiga and JK Simmons), Vox Lux, a story of personal and professional challenges faced by a pop superstar as she grows from teenager to mother (starring Natalie Portman, Jude Law and Willem Dafoe), and Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind, a documentary exploring the career and personality of Robin Williams (featuring interviews with Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg, Steve Martin, Pam Dawber, and Robin’s son Zak Williams).
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Come to the Cameo: Special SOMM 3 Screenings Start Soon

Special SOMM 3 Screenings, coming to the Cameo

Special SOMM 3 Screenings, coming to the Cameo

Beginning Friday, October 19, the Cameo Cinema in St. Helena has exclusive theatrical pre-release rights for special SOMM 3 screenings.  This is the highly anticipated third of a series of documentary films about sommeliers and the wine business. After each showing, you’ll be able to participate in a Q&A session with the film’s Producer and Director, possibly accompanied by a sommelier featured in one of the SOMM movies. Certain showings will also feature wines from producers such as the Boisset CollectionChappellet or Pine Ridge Vineyards.

It’s highly recommended to buy online tickets in advance before the showings sell out. You’ll have your choice of up to three shows daily, at 2:00 pm, 5:00 pm and 7:45 pm, from October 19 through October 25. Ticket prices are $20 each and that includes a wine reception before the showing. Producer & Director Jason Wise will attend each screening, speaking briefly to the audience before the film starts and then conducting a Q&A session afterwards.

Sommeliers expected to co-host the 5:00 and 7:45 pm screenings with him are Jay James (MS, Guild of Sommeliers) on 10/19 and 10/20; DLynn Proctor (Fantesca) on October 20 and 22; Brian McClintic (MS, Viticole Wine Club) on October 21, 22 and 25; Raj Parr (MS, Domaine de la Cote) on October 22 and Matt Stamp (MS and Guild of Sommeliers) on October 25. Wine Educator and Consultant Karen MacNeil will co-moderate with Jason on Saturday (10/20) and Sunday (10/21) at 5:00 pm.
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