Chardonnay is the most popular wine in the USA based on sales volume. That said, I was very, very slow to the starting gate because I “thought” I did not “like” white wine. I have told the story before when several years ago, I was graciously “slapped around” by a winemaker in France who clarified that I had just not found the style of white wine I preferred. I was so used to only trying the wines that my husband and sister liked that I had never really given most white varieties a chance. Thankfully, I took the information to heart and began exploring white wines with a vengeance.
If you think you “do not like” white wine, I strongly encourage you to jump out of your comfort zone and start going to wine tastings at locations near you. You may “kiss some frogs,” maybe even a lot of frogs along the way. But I bet you will also find several white wines you will genuinely enjoy. In my opinion, this wine will please a wide variety of palates. And is one I no longer wish to live without.
Smith-Madrone 2015 Chardonnay Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley
Much like the S-M Cabernet Sauvignon that I wrote about previously, the winemakers at Smith-Madrone are making a wine that confounds the conventional chardonnay style most associated with Napa Valley. You know, that viscous, chewy, oaky and buttery style Chardonnay that folks either love or hate. Well, that is NOT this white wine. Make no mistake there is oak, as it spends ten months in 80% new French Oak barrels. But the oakiness of this wine is so well balanced with the other notes you will detect in this wine. This wine is elegant, expressive, and terroir*- (aka place) driven.
As I lift the glass to my face to breathe in my first sniff, I am caught by the beautiful golden yellow color of this wine. As the wine reaches for the edges of the glass, the intensity of the color fades to what I would call a mellow yellow. With my first whiff, I am flush with the smell of Golden Delicious (yellow) apples. This is not an apple I generally eat, but I love this note in this wine. Secondary notes of lemon rind also bounce around the glass.
As I take my first sip, I am refreshed by the lightness and freshness of the acidity in this wine. Yellow apple jumps out as the primary flavor I detect. Secondarily comes the oak and a citrus medley of lemon and lime.
The contradiction continues as I continue to enjoy this wine. This wine is easy to drink and complex. There is a richness and a brightness that play on the scale that allows these features to rise and fall in my mouth.
Through Stress Comes Complexity
Complexity in wine comes from the struggle that the vines lived through during the growth of its fruit. As with all the Smith-Madrone wines, the Chardonnay is dry-farmed. But this vintage also had a torrent of weather activity that affected the outcome and its uniqueness. First, was the mild winter that caused for an early bud break*. This was followed by a cool Spring which caused a long blooming period that contributed to smaller grape clusters and variable berry size. The early blooms never ripened which creating a huge shatter* of that fruit. Finally, the harvest was interrupted by over 2 weeks because of huge amounts of rain.
As bad as it all sounds, all of these factors contributed to the development of this wine. Add in the high-quality winemaking skills of the Smith family and you end up with a wine that confounds and pleases. Thanks, Mother Nature and Thanks Misters Smith!
Where to Buy
I was unable to find a local wine shop that carries this wine. That said, I would contact the stores that carry the Cabernet Sauvignon and ask them to order this wine for you.
Those stores include:
Crushed Fine Wines 716 S. Shelmore Blvd., #101 Shelmore Village, Mount Pleasant, SC * (843) 856-1156 * Hours: Mon.-Sat. 10:00 a.m.–7:00 p.m.
Lowcountry Wine and Spirits 3642 Savannah Hwy #140, Johns Island, SC * (843) 769-2722 * Hours: Mon.-Sat. 10:00 a.m.–7:00 p.m. (no website, email or other online presence).
The Wine Shop of Charleston has recently restocked the Cabernet as well, so you can reach out to Debbie to order this wine. 3 Lockwood Dr., Second floor, Charleston, SC (843) 577-3881 * Mon.-Sat. 10:00 a.m.–7:00 p.m.
This wine has national distribution so you may find it in your local area. Let me know if you need assistance and I will do what I can to assist you in tracking it down.
Order from Winery
Terroir– pronounced (terr-WAH) – the complete natural environment in which a particular wine is produced. This includes factors such as the soil, topography, and climate.
Bud break – Is the beginning of the annual growth cycle in the spring. In the Northern Hemisphere, this stage begins around March when daily temperatures begin to surpass 50 °F.
Shatter – refers to the phenomenon wherein a grape cluster fails to develop into maturity and un-pollinated flowers don’t turn into grapes.
This wine was provided as a free sample.
That is all for now.