A visit to Stuart and Charles Smith’s winery, high up on Spring Mountain, is like a journey back to the halcyon days of 1970s Napa Valley. This is not the land of technological wine making, fancy tasting rooms and slick marketing – this is a down-home, honest and authentic wine estate that has remained largely unchanged since it was established in 1971 (five years before the ‘Judgement of Paris’ tasting). It wasn’t until the Smith brothers began clearing their 15 hectares of woodland, bought after Stu had finished his masters in winemaking at UC Davis, that they discovered evidence of previous viticultural activity on the site. It transpired that their land had been under vine from the 1880s until prohibition, but had been reclaimed by nature after the passing of the Volstead Act in 1919. This will come as no surprise to anyone visiting the estate today – Smith-Madrone is blessed with some of the most breathtaking vineyards in all of Napa Valley.
Stu is a man of forthright opinions and strong convictions about how wine should be made, believing passionately in sustainable viticulture but railing against ideas like biodynamics with the same gusto that he decries the critic-led changes in wine style that engulfed the ‘90s and ‘00s.
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