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Riesling from Smith-Madrone * Napa Valley

This is the last of my three posts starring the Smith-Madrone family of wines that I was fortunate enough to taste. You will recall that I sampled the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon which melted my heart with its perfect harmony and their 2015 Chardonnay, a fantastic California Chard that goes easy on the “butter” and complexity is king. This third and final bottle is the 2014 Smith-Madrone Riesling.

This tasting brought me back to the restaurant gig I had in college where I was first introduced to wine. (other than Boones Farm, my wine of choice in high school.) Ok, sing it with me folks, “Memories, light the corners of my mind, misty water colored memories….” But I digress.

Riesling, My Introduction to “Real” Wine

My family was not a “drinking” family. It was a financial issue more than anything else. That said there was always a bottle of whiskey or rum hidden in the closet of my parent’s bedroom. If there was ever wine in the house, it was a Lambrusco, the semi-sweet, slightly sparkling red wine from Italy. Why? I have no idea that is just the way it was. Sadly, my childhood was devoid of wine.

And Then…

… while studying at The Ohio State University, I got a job at a German restaurant, named Burgermeister Wein Haus. It was owned by Dr. Werner Motzel, a German winemaker who married the granddaughter of President Harding. Thus the connection of this German doctor to Columbus, Ohio. Dr. Motzel and his family resided in Germany where he operated Motzel Winery. I am not sure, but I think the restaurant was a way for Dr. Motzel to import his wines into the USA.

We sold eight wines, seven from the Rheingau region and one from the Mosel region. All were Rieslings except for the one red (I can not for the life of me remember what it was). We had a Liebfraumilch, Mosel, Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese and that forgotten red. Occasionally we would also sell a Berenauslese. These wines were my introduction to wine, and as a 21-year-old, I did not “taste” these wines. I drank them after the dinner shift with my co-workers. As you can imagine, I thought wine was always sweet.

Unfortunately, the restaurant, the winery and Dr. Motzel have all left this world, but my memories of my introduction to wine remain. Fast forward to 2015 when I started drinking white wine through to today, and I had rarely tasted nor drank a Riesling. The wine I am about to share with you is far from those days at the Burgermeister and for that, I am thrilled to get this experience. Check it out.

riesling Smith-Madrone Riesling 2014
Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley

I wanted to get the most I could from this dry, California Riesling, so I made sure to drink it within the suggested temperature range for this variety. This is much warmer than most folks drink white wine. It is a shame really because one can miss so much. Out of the fridge, the wine is 37 degrees. So I left the bottle on the counter until it reached the low end of the desired range which is 45 to 55 degrees.

One of the classic “tells” that you are tasting a Riesling can be the aroma and taste of petroleum, beeswax, even gasoline. Petroleum is one of several dominant aromas of a Riesling, and for me, this wine is no exception. Some are turned off by this, but I would tell you not to be that person. It is just one note or many. In this case, we only found it in the aroma and not on the palate.  In a way, it was comforting for this wine to have this aroma. We also noted wet slate and notes of citrus and spring flowers.

The Taste

The color in the glass is medium yellow. The wine is bright with pleasing acidity and a silky viscosity that hugs your tongue. My first note is Meyer lemon on the palate; Gary’s is blood orange. The backend through to the finish seems to be a revolving door of citrus notes for me. In one taste I get lemon, in another pink grapefruit. The finish is cleansing making this a great wine to serve with food. Gary wants to eat something salty. I want something spicy. While this is a dry Riesling, Gary makes a note of the residual sugar*.

My sister arrives to retrieve her dog and sits down with us. I pour her a glass. Note that she is a hardcore buttery, oaky Chardonnay drinker. Even in light of that, she still finds this wine delicious and very drinkable even though its “not her preferred” style of wine. This is huge and says a great deal about the mastery of the winemakers to make such a great wine. Gary and I both look forward to drinking this wine again sometime and will watch out for future vintages.



Like all of the Smith-Madrone wines, the Riesling is dry-farmed. The vines are 42 years old and thriving on the steep hillsides from where they grow. The wine is made from 100% Riesling grapes. The ABV is 12.8%.

Where to Buy

I was unable to find a local wine shop that carries this wine. That said, I would contact the stores that sell 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 PleasantSC * (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. NOTE: She happily special ordered the Chardonnay when I referred a client to her who was looking to buy it.

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

If all else fails, you can find this Riesling on their website: Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery where the 2014 vintage sells for $30.00 per bottle and the 2015 vintage retails for $32.00 plus shipping.

New Definitions*:

Residual Sugar – is any natural grape sugars that are leftover after fermentation stops.

Fermentation is the process when yeast feeds on the natural grape sugars which then creates alcohol as a by-product. The amount of remaining (thus residual) sugar can vary. Simply stated, a lot of residual sugar makes a sweet wine, and the absence of residual sugar makes a dry wine. (although some dry wines may have a small amount of residual sugar.)

The range goes from bone dry, dry, off-dry, semi-sweet, sweet and very sweet.

That is all for now.




Photo Credit Meg Smith
Courtesy of Smith-Madrone
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