When it comes to Napa, is Chardonnay the first grape variety that comes to mind? Well, it is the second most widely planted grape in the county, at 6,397 acres/2,588 hectares it makes up just 15% of the county’s vineyards. No surprise, Cabernet Sauvignon leads the race with 20,342 acres/8,232 hectares planted, making up 47% of Napa’s wine grapes. But as a consumer, at least in my little world, when I think Chardonnay I think about the “other” side of the mountain range (Sonoma). But Smith-Madrone, once again with the care and attention to the vines and the very minimalistic and naturalistic approach to winemaking, proves that even white wine has its place in the land of “big red.”

About the Wine: The Smith-Madrone 2015 Chardonnay is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes harvested from the Smith-Madrone dry-farmed mountain estate located in the Spring Mountain District of Napa Valley. The wine was 100% barrel fermented in French oak (80% new) for 10 months.

14.4% ABV

Flavor Profile: Open up the Smith-Madrone 2015 Chardonnay and breathe apples, butter, cream, and spring time. This Chardonnay presents a faint Champagne shade on the pour, settling into the glass as a perfect golden yellow. Initial aromas are of vanilla cream and poached pear. Swirl and the wine releases an unctuous buttermilk scent combined with dry wood and yellow apples.

The palate of the Smith-Madrone 2015 Chardonnay is smooth, round, but there is a strong acidity that swirls and twirls around that smoothness, breaking up the texture, stimulating the tastebuds and then, just as curiously, dissipates into nothing, but leaves a lingering spice-like sensation. Dominant flavors are of flakey pastry, apricot, dry oak wood, buttered popcorn, and lemon peel complete with its lemony oils.

Food Pairing: I paired the Smith-Madrone 2015 Chardonnay with a wonderful apple and arugula salad tossed with cranberries, caramelized onions, swiss cheese, and almonds, tossed in an apple cidar vinaigrette. What I loved was that the cruciferous arugula actually counter-balanced the strong acidity of the wine, creating a softer, more seamless mouthfeel. Meanwhile the apple brought out the brighter, fresher flavors of the Chardonnay, subduing the more decadent components. Loved this pairing and would definitely do it again.

More Info: I received the Smith-Madrone 2015 Chardonnay as a sample for review. (Cheers Stu!) Retail: $34. For more information about Smith-Madrone, their wines, and to purchase wines directly, please visit the Smith-Madrone website.

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