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.
All 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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