Smith-Madrone Chardonnay 2018, Spring Mountain, Napa Valley, CA.

One of the things to appreciate about wines from Smith-Madrone Vineyards is the time they spend in bottle before release, giving them more time to develop and reveal their dimension and complexity before they are purchased and tasted.

For example, the Chardonnay in the current version is the 2018 vintage; the always excellent Riesling is from 2017; and the Cabernet Sauvignon is a 2018. Luckily brothers Stuart and Charles Smith, who founded Smith-Madrone in the Spring Mountain district of Napa Valley in 1971, are able to hold the wines and let them age for a year. or two more than many other wineries.

Therefore, the 2018 Chardonnay is an amazing wine at this stage in its life. Not only is this one of the best chardonnays in Napa Valley, but also a significant value for its quality at $45.

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Its hallmark is its balance – crisp, refreshing acidity and just the right amount of oak barrel treatment (nine months in French oak barrels, just over half new) that blends perfectly and doesn’t not dominate.

Tastes suggest green apple, Meyer lemon and kumquat. Add to that a few baking spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, all leading to a remarkably long finish that leaves you with minerals, herbs and a hint of cream.

The wine is easy to drink – easy not in a trivial sense, but in that all the elements have come together seductively at this point and are expected to evolve further in the years to come. Like many California chardonnays, it weighs in at 14.5% alcohol, but you won’t even notice it because the wine is so balanced.

Smith-Madrone, a 200-acre ranch with 34 acres of steep vineyards up to 2,000 feet, pioneered dry farming in Napa and produces only a handful of wines. It has pretty much stuck to the less is more model for most of its existence. With the 2018 Chardonnay, it’s easy to see why.

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