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Posts Tagged ‘Smith-Madrone Riesling’

Celebrate Riesling!

March 13, 2023 2 comments

I have to admit, I’m missing most of the grape holidays lately. While checking the Twitter feed today, I was surprised to find out that today we celebrate International Riesling Day. Considering the fact that I never wrote a post about Riesling Day, I couldn’t resist an opportunity to reminisce about my Riesling experiences.

Riesling is one of the 3 main white grape varieties – Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling. Of course, there are lots more white grape varieties in the world, but in terms of plantings and production volumes, these three grapes are way ahead of all other white grapes. However, despite the “main variety” consideration, Riesling’s position in the wine world is rather peculiar.

Riesling is capable of a full range of expressions, from bone dry and acidic Rieslings of the Clare Valley in Australia to the dense and viscous late harvest Rieslings made in different parts of the world. Germany, which has about 38% of all Riesling plantings in the world, is typically associated with Riesling – however, there is hardly a wine-producing region in the world where Riesling wines are not made – Germany, Austria, Alsace, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, California, Washington, Oregon, New York – Riesling is literally produced everywhere. And yet walk into any wine store of your choosing – Riesling is typically relegated to the far corner of the store which almost nobody would visit. You can barely find any Riesling on the restaurant’s wine lists. And many consumers are often shy about their love for Riesling as it is almost shameful to be seen with a glass of Riesling in public.

I don’t fully understand the cause of this phenomenon. Germany’s overcomplicated labeling laws might play a role. The fact that it is very difficult to assess the level of sweetness of a bottle of Riesling also plays a role – put a few of the Kabinett Rieslings in the row and see how different the sweetness levels will be where you expect them all to be about the same.

But those of us who trust our own palate and are not afraid of being seen with a glass of Riesling in our hand are typically in for a treat. The everpresent hint of honey, maybe pears, white flowers, and honeysuckle, supported by the cleansing acidity, and hopefully my favorite, a hint of petrol make these wines an absolute delight in my book. Most of the Rieslings also age very well – to understand the pleasure of the 20-30 years old Riesling you simply need to taste one for yourself – the words are very limited in describing the pleasure.

Over the years, I had plenty of delicious Rieslings. And yet if you would ask about the most memorable ones, I would easily give you 3. First, Brooks Ara Riesling from Oregon, which I tasted during a few of the Wine Bloggers Conferences – a pure standout. My next choice would be Smith-Madrone Riesling, which is rather surprising coming from Spring Mountain District in Napa Valley in California – nobody would ever associate California with Riesling, and yet you have a live, delicious proof.

And then, of course, there are Clare Valley Rieslings from Australia. Grosset Polish Hill Riesling from Clare Valley might be a quintessential pleasure, with its high energy, brilliant acidity, intertwined with the fruit – another wine that needs to be tasted to believe it.

I have come across many other excellent renditions of Riesling, but the three I just mentioned are definitely my personal standouts.

What do you think of Rieslings? Do you have your favorite Rieslings which you care to share with everyone?

Happy Reisling Day!

 

Thanksgiving with Smith-Madrone, And a Few More Delights

December 9, 2018 4 comments

Holidays are all about pleasure. The pleasure of the company. The pleasure of food. The pleasure of wine. As the very least, they should be.

Let me tell you about the pleasures of my recent Thanksgiving – in one picture:

Turkey with Smith-Madrone wines

If this would be an Instagram, I could end my post here, but in this blog, I can add a few words, right?

Let’s talk about the wine first. Everyone has their ideas as what is the best Thanksgiving wine. Some talk about how difficult it is to pair any wine with the Thanksgiving table, due to the large variety of dishes and often prevalent sweet flavors (this is not universal, of course). I have a very simplistic view of the wine and food pairing – give me tasty food and good wine, and if they don’t work together – no problems, I’m happy to consume them one by one. Difficult or not, pairing is not the focal point of my Thanksgiving wine selection. I really have only one strong preference for the Thanksgiving wines – they should be all American. Thanksgiving we celebrate here in the USA is all about this country, and so the wine should match that. And thinking about American wines, you understand how easy it is nowadays to have all-American wine experience.

How many of you heard of Napa Valley? Okay, I see that look, this was a stupid question, I know. But let me go on. How many of you heard of Spring Mountain District? Okay, I see your facial expression changing to say “hmmm, I’m not so sure”. And the last question – how many of you heard of Smith-Madrone? Okay, don’t feel too bad, at the end of the day it is one of the about 400 wineries located in the Napa Valley, so of course, one can’t know all of them. But – this is why I’m talking about it – this is the winery you might want to get better acquainted with.

Smith-Madrone is one of the oldest wineries in Napa Valley, started by brothers Stuart and Charles Smith in 1971. Smith-Madrone property is about 200 acres, with some parts of the vineyards planted more than 100 years ago, all located near the top of the Spring Mountain in Napa Valley. The name Smith-Madrone combines the family name with the name of the evergreen Madrone trees, prominently growing at the property. Well, instead of me trying to regurgitate the past and present of the Smith-Madrone winery, let me direct you to this article – it is a good story, well worth a few minutes of your time.

Smith-Madrone wines

When was the last time you had Napa Valley Riesling? If you answered “never”, it could’ve been my answer too – until I discovered this Smith-Madrone Riesling. Riesling is simply not a common grape for the Napa Valley, but Smith-Madrone produces the absolutely beautiful rendition of the famous grape. It might be due to the mountain fruit – all the Smith-Madrone vineyards located at the altitude of 1300 to 2000 feet, with slopes reaching 34%. Sustainable dry farming and winemaking practices also play a role, but one way or the other, the 2015 Smith-Madrone Riesling Spring Mountain District Napa Valley (12.9% ABV, $32) was just delicious. varietally correct both on the nose (honeysuckle, a touch of tropical fruit, lemon, apples) and the palate, which was beautifully balanced with golden delicious apples, a touch of honey and acidity. To make me ultra-happy, the Riesling is sported a distant hint of petrol, which is my pet peeve.

2015 Smith-Madrone Chardonnay Spring Mountain District Napa Valley (14.4% ABV, $40, 10 months in French oak) was equally beautiful. Again, the wines of that styling I call in my book “classic”. A touch of vanilla and apples on the nose, a distant hint of butter, continuing with the same vanilla and white apples on the palate. Clean acidity, noticeable minerally undertones, restrained, balanced – a very classic example of “how to do chardonnay right”.

With the risk of sounding very boring and repetitive, I have one more classic wine for you – 2014 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon Spring Mountain District Napa Valley (13.9% ABV, $52, 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, 7% Merlot, 70% new French oak, 30% one-year-old French oak for 18 months). How classic was this wine? Bordeaux-classic. The mountain fruit was shining, showing great restraint. This was not an exuberant typical Napa Cab – lean, tight, well-structured, with cassis both on the nose and the palate, the wine was very enjoyable now, and it will be equally or more enjoyable in 30 years.

So that was my main wine story on the Thanksgiving day. The rest was about the food – starting the smoker as 9 am in the 21°F weather (about -6°C), and then watching the turkey slowly getting to the right temperature. The silver lining of that cold weather was the fact that instead of 4-4.5 hours in the smoker, it took about 6 hours to get that big bird to the right doneness – and slower cooking results in more tender and more flavorful meat. A glass of Smith-Madrone Riesling was adding to the cooking enjoyment.

After celebrating Thanksgiving at our house, we went to see our close friends in Boston. What I love about that house is that there are always a few of the older wine bottles laying somewhere on the shelf. You never know what you will find in the older bottle, but that is what makes it fun, isn’t it?

The first bottle I opened was 2007 Tishbi Cabernet-Petite Sirah Shomron Israel (12% ABV, 70%  Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Petite Sirah). Judging by the pronounced brickish, almost orange, color, my first thought was “this probably fully turned”. And it was not! Complex nose of dried fruit and herbs was supported by plums and prunes forward, but balanced palate. Good amount of acidity, tertiary aromas – this was a very enjoyable glass of wine. Only one glass, I have to say – by the time I wanted the second, the wine was gone.

Without much thinking, I pulled another wine, realizing later that I opened another wine from the same vintage – 2007 Marani Kondoli Vineyards Saperavi-Merlot Kakheti Georgia (13.5% ABV). This wine couldn’t be more different from the previous 2007 – dark garnet color, not a sign of any aging, tight, fresh, blackberries and blueberries on the nose and the palate, firm, fresh and young. I’m really curious about how much longer this wine could’ve last.

One last wine to mention – 2010 Massandra White Muscat Crimea Ukraine (16% ABV). Massandra winery roots go back to the old Tsar’s Russia in late 1800, but their cellars hold wines from the 18th century (if you are not familiar with Massandra wines, here is an article by Jancis Robinson). Massandra is best known for sweet fortified Muscat wines, like the one we tasted. To me, this 2010 was most reminiscent of a Sherry, and not necessarily an ultra-balanced one. But then the same Jancis Robinson’s article says that Massandra wines require 45-60 for the full maturity, so I guess the wine tasted within the expectations…

Spring Mountain District in Napa Valley, Israel, Georgia, and Ukraine – not a bad wine play for the holiday, what do you say?

Here you go, my friends. I will leave you with some beautiful wines to look for. And how was your Thanksgiving, if you still remember it? Cheers!

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