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“Felt like family”

Smith-Madrone Vineyards
Ranked #70 of 116 things to do in St. Helena
More attraction details
Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: 1-2 hours
Owner description: Reservations need to be made in advance by either visiting the winery website. Tours and Tastings run approximately 75 minutes. Tasting fee is $25 per person and waived with purchase from each person.
Level 3 Contributor
15 reviews
4 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 11 helpful votes
“Felt like family”
Reviewed 27 June 2013

This was one of the best experiences my husband and I had while visiting Napa Valley. We arrived a little early for our scheduled complimentary tasting but were greeted by Charlie who encouraged us to take a short walk up the hill for a birds' eye view of Napa Valley. We were escorted by the family dog to a gorgeous and peaceful spot, so different from the bustling main corridor of the valley. When we came back down, Stu showed us into the barn/barrel/tasting room where the other guests were. Charlie continued the tasting with no shortage of factoids and stories about their craft. We sampled their cabarnet, chardonnay and riesling which were all top-notch. We left that day with a bottle of chardonnay, feeling like we had stepped back in time to the way Napa used to be. Thank you Smith Madrone for an unforgettable afternoon!

Visited May 2013
Thank Lauren G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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21 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
Date | Rating
  • Dutch first
  • English first
  • Spanish first
  • Any
English first
Cincinnati, Ohio
Level 5 Contributor
77 reviews
12 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 46 helpful votes
“Truly personal an/d unique experience”
Reviewed 21 October 2012

While recently in the Napa/Sonoma area for harvest and crush, visited Smith Madrone on recommendation of my daughter's colleague. It was one of our favorite experiences. A very intimate, family experience allowing us to experience, first hand, their crush process. As a small winery, it was amazing to watch Tom, who had come home from Europe to help his family, loading the press. And, for Stu to actually dip acontainer wine glass into a container of crushed grapes for us to taste. Their wines are wonderful You do need to make an appointment, but it is worth the personal attention and every last sip! Can't wait to receive our wine shipment from Smith Madrone.

Visited October 2012
Thank cindygolden
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Napa, California
Level 3 Contributor
20 reviews
16 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 29 helpful votes
“Smith-Madrone provides the sort of experience you might have found in Napa Valley back in the 1960s or early 1970s; ther”
Reviewed 24 December 2011

Smith-Madrone Vineyards makes the finest American made Riesling that I’ve ever tasted. It compares to the best Alsatian and German Rieslings being made today. Arguably, the Riesling varietal is one of the four greatest or most noble grapes in the world, along with the Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. In the 1970s, I went through a Riesling phase back when wines from famous wineries around the world were still affordable, even first cru French wines and great German ones. Over the years, I have found only a few decent American made Rieslings, with most of dryer ones lacking complexity and minerality and the sweeter and late harvest ones usually being too simple and sweet without the interesting layers that can be found in high-end late harvest German and Austrian Rieslings. The Smith Madrone Riesling is a drier style Riesling, drier than most German Kabinetts, more along the lines of an Alsatian Riesling but without being overly crisp on the palate or rather austere on the finish, as some Alsatian Rieslings can be.

Rieslings are among the most visually beautiful wines in the world with their deep gold to green-gold colors. This one leans toward light straw. Hold the glass up to the sunlight before you drink it or you will miss part of the pleasure of a Riesling. The nose tends more toward a tart apple aroma like a Granny Smith rather than a sweet apple like a Fuji or Gala. Rieslings make one of the most nakedly honest wines in the world, with no malolactic conversion, oaking or winemaker skills or tricks to compensate. (Some are late harvest with botrytis, but that is really nature’s doing.) The varietal characteristics always come through strongly as well as any minerality and regional characteristics or terroir. This Riesling gives me Cox’s Orange Pippin apple on the palate (I grow one, so can be specific.), with a touch of sweetness (0.65%), balanced acidity, and great minerality. It is a respectable 12.9% alcohol, making it all the more interesting and substantial compared to some of those of those low alcohol. (7.5 to 10%) German Rieslings. This Riesling tells me that it does not come from the Rheingau, Mosel or Alsace. It has its own Riesling personality from its own vineyard.

If I may be pseudo-poetic for a moment, the Smith-Madrone Riesling seems to reveal the subtle minerals that the vines slowly extracted and dissolved from the rocky soil of Spring Mountain, yielding something like a primal connection to the earth and nature, with perhaps subtle hints of heaven. This is an interesting, complex and layered wine to slowly savor. Roll it around in your mouth. Notice how it is different on the various areas of the tongue. Let it warm a bit in your mouth to see how it changes character. This is a wine that invites investigation beyond its lovely color, tart apple taste and long finish. Like a beautiful painting, the more you spend time with it, the more you will appreciate it. A quick glance or a cursory viewing will not allow you to understand or appreciate its beauty. You will miss so much if you do not take time and savor the experience.

On a less poetic level, this is a crisp, but not bone dry, very well balanced wine that should go well with seafood. Others might suggest Thai or Vietnamese food, but I confess to liking this sort of wine either alone, with a little cheese or with sushi or sashimi. If you understand the difference between grocery store sushi and sushi from a great Japanese sushi bar then you will understand the differences between various Rieslings. Or perhaps, if sushi is not your thing, you would prefer to think of the difference between French food at an informal sidewalk café compared to a great French meal from a master chef. It has that extra magic, that interesting complexity that eases you into the experience. Time seems to slow down when you are drinking this wine. The Smith-Madrone Riesling is ideally pared with a kiss!

Smith-Madrone also makes a very nice Chardonnay that is not overly oaked or too buttery from excessive malolactic conversion. And their Cab is very good as well. I would love to try their Reserve Cab when it comes out and have a rifle with scope I’d trade for a bottle of it if Stu or Charlie ever read this. Smith Madrone makes three wines from three of the four greatest varietals and they do a great job on all three. They use to make a Pinot Noir, but you would have to break into the winery with scuba gear to find a bottle of it in the underwater cellar.

If you visit Smith-Madrone, and you really should if you love wine and “Authentic Wineries,” then you will have the pleasure of meeting Charlie and Stu. Charlie will conduct the tour and chat with you about wine while Stu works hard in the back. It is not the easiest winery to get to, although directions are pretty straightforward and four wheel drive or mules are not necessary. Once you do arrive, you will meet the friendly winery dog who will gladly show you where the entrance to the building is after he finishes peeing on one of the empty barrels. Upon entering, you will encounter what is referred to by some as an “Authentic Winery” with a “tasting room” that is as colorful as the two owners are. But before you get to the “wine bar” be sure to look at the chalkboard to the left with the wonderful quotation. A great story goes with it, and more interesting stories are sure to follow.

There is also no tasting fee (another sign of an “Authentic Winery”) but, as with all of the wineries located up on Spring Mountain, reservations are needed, although easily arranged. Prices are very reasonable for the quality of the wine, with the Riesling being a downright steal at only $27. Smith-Madrone provides the sort of experience you might have found in Napa Valley back in the 1960s or early 1970s; there is really nothing quite like it. If you don’t visit Smith-Madrone, you are missing a part of this history as well as Napa Valley today at its best. I encourage you to visit Smith-Madrone Vineyards while there is still the opportunity to experience a winery that was and continues to be the real thing.

Visited December 2011
1 Thank TJJones25
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
St. Augustine, Florida
Level 5 Contributor
86 reviews
35 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 85 helpful votes
“Excellence, in the glass and the handshake”
Reviewed 18 December 2011

Appointments required here (and most Spring Mountain wineries), and I strongly encourage you to visit. Charlie and Stu are wonderful people, and they make three of the best wines I have ever tasted. The Chardonnay is the perfect crispness, with a subtle oak that does not overpower. Their Reisling is exquisite, really world class stuff. The Cabs are always amazing mountain fruit, with a balance of minerality, fruit, oak, and a finish that must be tasted to be believed. Charlie and Stu were so patient with us and we had a great afternoon. If you visit Napa / Sonoma, do not miss this.

Visited December 2011
Thank richarddavis2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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