I grew up in the mountains of California, and one of the things which has always struck me about these wines is how palpable the mountain air is on the nose. The way the volcanic soil and rocks and towering conifers, sprawling oak and manzanita play so headily into how the wine smells–right down to the kinnikinnick underfoot. Tiger-lilies along the creek and dogwood flushing out, lazy alder sitting in the shade of sycamores down in the draws, beds of lush nettle and blackberry brambles running up from the water into the warm sunshine where wild ceanothus and chaparral mingle. These are the magical points of mountain wines, and while valley-floor versions can be lush and well-fed, typically predictable by vintage variations, the hillside stuff doesn’t really see that kind of weather–or homogeny.
This stuff pours dark and dense, and obviously generous decanting is advised–especially at this ridiculous age. Nearly impenetrable and glass-staining, the black ruby comes to an abrupt edge. Black cherry and even blacker berry lie thick in the nose, accented by dusty mint and eucalyptus, mascarpone and petrichor driving it all along.
In the mouth, the calm, balanced integrity of the wine takes center-stage. It is not jammily effusive, not chunkily gobb-stopping; what really rolls your eyes back into your head is the even distribution of everything across the palate. The only sharp edges come from the crazily-young structure, and even they are polite in their attack. Black and bitter mid-palate, completely uplifting the original focused fruit to concentrated status. The briar and spice are mellow and well-integrated, just serving as more subtle points contributing to the whole. Tannins are so easy, but impossible to ignore.
Drinking a wine like this quite shines a light on other Napa offerings shooting for the stars and the RP96 in distilled fruit pudding, hi-alcohol and breath-taking tannin. This wine is just so PURE. So REAL. So absolutely PERFECT.
2016 SMITH-MADRONE Cabernet Sauvignon Spring Mt. Napa Valley 14.3