Smith Madrone Chardonnay 2015
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Grown at an 1,800-foot elevation on Spring Mountain, these grapes are dry-farmed on red Aiken soil (a result of volcanic materials and sedimentary rock) on the estate property surrounding the winery. Barrel fermented for ten months in 80% new French oak, this Chard is a charmer with multiple personalities and an alcohol level of 14.9%. The nose goes from savory to sweet in 60 seconds, alluding to basil, capers, and vanilla pudding. The palate follows suit, with herb-y chamomile morphing from pineapple and mustard seed to orange-lemon drops. The finish pursues both crispness and creaminess, ensuring this wine offers options.
One of the least-known and most scenic appellations of the Napa Valley, the Spring Mountain District was recognized by the B.A.T.F. in May of 1993.The winery enjoys dramatic views of the floor of the Napa Valley and the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the distance, as well as of its own steep dry-farmed vineyards. Smith-Madrone is located at elevations between 1,600 and 1,800 feet 1,300 and 1,900. The vines flourish in vividly red and rocky volcanic soil known as Aiken loam, which is well-drained and friable.
Above the town of St. Helena on the eastern slopes of the Mayacamas Mountains sits the Spring Mountain District.
A dynamic region, its vineyards, cut by numerous springs and streams, vary in elevation, slope and aspect. Soils differ throughout with over 20 distinct types inside of the 8,600 acres that define the appellation. Within that area, only about 1,000 are planted to vineyards. Predominantly farmed by small, independent producers, the region currently has just over 30 wineries.
During the growing season, late afternoon Pacific Ocean breezes reach the Spring Mountain vineyards, which sit at between 400 and 1,200 feet. Daytime temperatures during mid summer and early fall remain slightly cooler than those of the valley floor.
Spring Mountain soils—volcanic matter and sedimentary rock—create intense but balanced reds with lush and delicate tannins. The area excels with Bordeaux varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot and in some cooler spots, Chardonnay.
One of the most popular and versatile white wine grapes, Chardonnay offers a wide range of flavors and styles depending on where it is grown and how it is made. While practically every country in the wine producing world grows it, Chardonnay from its Burgundian homeland produces some of the most remarkable and longest lived examples. As far as cellar potential, white Burgundy rivals the world’s other age-worthy whites like Riesling or botrytized Semillon. California is Chardonnay’s second most important home, where both oaky, buttery styles and leaner, European-inspired wines enjoy great popularity. Oregon, Australia and South America are also significant producers of Chardonnay.
Tasting Notes for Chardonnay
Chardonnay is a dry, white wine. When Chardonnay grapes are planted on cool sites, the resulting wine's flavors tend towards grapefruit, lemon zest, green apple, celery leaf and wet flint, while warmer locations coax out richer, more tropical flavors of melon, peach and pineapple. Oak can add notes of vanilla, coconut and spice, while malolactic fermentation imparts a soft and creamy texture.
Perfect Food Pairings for Chardonnay
Chardonnay is as versatile at the table as it is in the vineyard. The crisp, clean, Chablis-like styles go well with flaky white fish with herbs, scallops, turkey breast and soft cheeses. Richer Chardonnays marry well with lobster, crab, salmon, roasted chicken and creamy sauces.
Sommelier Secrets for Chardonnay
Since the 1980s, big, oaky, buttery Chardonnays from California have enjoyed explosive popularity. More recently, the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction, towards a clean, crisp style that rarely utilizes new oak. The Burgundian subregion of Chablis, while typically using older oak barrels, produces a similar bright and acid-driven style. Anyone who doesn't like oaky Chardonnay would likely enjoy this lighter style.