I taste a lot of Chardonnay. I don’t open a ton of bottles at home, but sample probably 3 or 4 a week. Few of them impress terribly: for reasons typically at opposite ends of the Chard spectrum. I’m not super hard on the grape, and its intimate relationship with oak I have espoused publicly at length–something which constantly inflames the black-and-white–and very narrow-minded–SS crowd. There’s a handful of chards I return to again and again when I want a beautiful expression of the frequently-maligned grape, and heading up to Spring Mountain tops the list. Smith-Madrone only makes 3 wines, and TWO of them are NOT what the general public usually associate with Napa Valley. They are outliers in the wine-world: for their dedication to classic styles, limiting focus to estate fruit on THREE wines, and not muddling this recipe for bountiful marketing–something almost EVERY brand has done.
Light canary in body, wide clear edges rimming a green-golden magnifying-glass. Dusty and oak-polished in perfect relationship to the fruit. Smoky vanilla almond milk lay a savory, flush foundation for glimpses of ripe tropical and heady floral. Drinking at mid-to-high 50’s, and I do not know or care what this wine tastes like at 30 or 40 where MOST will probably drink it. Layers of glossy melon and potpourri flow out of it, bruised apple, pear-sauce and soft apricot lay thick and ripe over fairly-cloistered acid and minerality on this vintage.
It enters the mouth as warm and round as the bouquet suggests, still carrying the patina of oak, but now bristling with shards of acid. Soft citrus and a gravelly, mountain-slope earthiness present chalky, high-note steeliness. It’s SOOOO young: not flushed out yet in middle, no curves of maturity or even graceful poise, at this juncture merely a juxtaposition of brash nubile and fermentation-forces presenting malo, lees, and oak in fairly textbook fashion: gorgeous but lacking the depth this wine is capable of. In a half-decade, look for budding magic. In 10, it will start to truly shine. These wines are nearly timeless.
2018 SMITH-MADRONE Chardonnay Spring Mt. Napa Valley 14.5