Gems in My Glass: Rombauer Vineyards, Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery, and Sonoma Cutrer Vineyards

5:43 pm Napa, Sonoma, Tasting Notes

Stunning gems from Napa Valley’s Rombauer Vineyards, Smith Madrone in the Spring Mountain District of Napa Valley, and Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards in Sonoma County graced my palate recently.  It’s not the first experience I’ve enjoyed with these vintners, and it was a pleasure to gain an up-to-date perspective of wines they have recently released.

K.R Rombauer III (Proprietor/Board of Directors), Alan Cannon (Director of Distributor Relations) and I are often partnered together for the annual Vintners’ Holidays event at the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite, and they never disappoint!  It’s always engaging to moderate for the Rombauer team, and discover new gems they are crafting.  Most known through the years for their distinctive Chardonnay, you may have discovered several additional varieties that Director of Winemaking Richie Allen crafts, which deserve accolades as well.  Founded by the late Koerner and Joan Rombauer, the family legacy lives on with son KR Rombauer III, daughter Sheana, and granddaughter, Reagan Blackwood.

Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery was one of my first Napa “wow” wine experiences.  I visited them in my early years of wine study and appreciation while traversing Napa Valley with colleagues and savvy wine collector friends. It was an enlightening afternoon there, and the wines showed incredibly well, impressing the knowledgeable group assembled.  Founded in 1971 by Stuart Smith, the vineyards are situated at the top of Spring Mountain, on steep slopes at elevations up to 2,000 feet.  All their wines come from fruit rooted among their estate dry-farmed vineyards.  Today, brothers Stu and Charlie, and Stu’s son Sam, manage the property and tend to the winemaking, and they remain at the top of their game.

My first peek at Sonoma-Cutrer occurred years ago when my husband and I donned our whites and hats to attend a fabulous croquet and wine event there; it was memorable.  Winemaking Director Mick Schroeter gained a wealth of knowledge in his home country of Australia (at Kaiser Stuhl Winery and Penfolds Winery in the Barossa Valley) prior to heading to northern California’s wine country.  Mick spent 17 years at Geyser Peak Winery (VP of Winemaking) prior to taking on his current post as Winemaking Director at Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards in 2010.  More recently I’ve judged with Mick Schroeter and Sonoma Cutrer’s Hospitality Manager, Mark Elcombe at wine competitions in Sonoma County, and visited their picturesque site to discover their current vintages of vineyard designate Pinot Noir, and finely crafted Chardonnay.

Current releases I tasted from each of these vintners left a lasting impression:

Rombauer Vineyards 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon; Napa Valley:  Aromas of black currant preserves, and piquant spices engage the senses with this complex and finely balanced Cab Sauv.  Rich layers of Bing cherry, black plum, fresh tobacco, blackberries and savory spice fill the palate.  Velvety smooth with firm yet approachable tannins, drink now or hold for years of enjoyment ahead.   The intense and  long-lived finish will have you reaching for more, now and later!  SRP:  $65  www.rombauer.com

Rombauer Vineyards 2018 Sauvignon Blanc; Napa Valley: The mouthwatering tropical fruit aroma of this jazzy Sauvignon Blanc drives you joyfully into the glass, wow.  A refreshing well-balanced gem, it’s just the ticket for a picnic or a warm summer evening’s repast.  Fresh sliced pineapple, sweet Honeydew melon, a pinch of lemon verbena, hints of fresh grass, and lime zest unfold in harmony, and lead to a bright and energetic finale.  SRP:  $24    www.rombauer.com

Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery 2016 Chardonnay; Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley:  A brilliant hue captures the eye, and scents of lemon-splashed stone fruit awaken the nose as this sophisticated Chardonnay is poured from the bottle.  Peach flavors are mirrored on the palate, melding with Honeycrisp apple, citrus, herbal accents, and beautiful oak spice nuances.  Rich and mouth-filling, with perfect acidity offsetting the juicy fruit through the long memorable finish.  SRP:  $40  www.smithmadrone.com

Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery 2016 Riesling; Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley:  The classic petrol and citrus blossom aromas simple scream what is in this glass—a beautifully crafted, irresistible dry Riesling.  Unwinding with enchantment are layers of sun-ripened peaches, lemon basil, nectarines, fresh squeezed lime juice, and a solid thread of minerality creating a kaleidoscope of vibrant flavors on the palate.  Vitalizing and elegant with immaculate balance, and the finish soars.  SRP: $34  www.smithmadrone.com

Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards 2016 Vine Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir; Russian River Valley:  Here is a beautifully balanced Pinot Noir that engages at first whiff with an expressive berry aroma.  Lush while being bright and focused, it displays layers of raspberry preserves, fresh picked cherries, strawberry-rhubarb pie, a pinch of herbs and well-managed oak.  Brisk acidity, a firm structure, and refined tannins provide perfect framework, and the lingering finish extends well beyond the final sip.  SRP:  $46  www.sonomacutrer.com

Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards 2016 Founders Reserve Pinot Noir; Russian River Valley:  This magnificently textured Pinot Noir with a seductive black cherry and forest floor aroma knocks it out of the park.  Multilayered and complex, with flavors of cocoa-dusted Bing cherries, boysenberries, exotic spice, licorice drops, a subtle hint of black tea, and underlying oak nuances flowing seamlessly across the palate. Polished and immaculately balanced with silky tannins; a cellar worthy selection.     SRP:  $65 www.sonomacutrer.com

Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards 2017 Chardonnay; Sonoma Coast:  Here is a great value priced Chardonnay that broadcasts tree fruits and hints of buttered toast on the nose.  In the mouth, roasted almonds, spicy elements, and honeysuckle accent the succulent core of Gala apples and ripe summer peaches.  Nicely integrated oak adds dimension without being over the top; and the finish is lip-smacking delicious.  SRP:  $23  www.sonomacutrer.com

Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards 2016 Les Pierres Chardonnay; Sonoma Coast:  This classy and complex Chardonnay displays an upbeat nose of citrus, melon and flinty notes.  Fresh and pure on entry, it broadens fully on the palate.  Layers of crisp apple, peach skin, Crenshaw melon, cloves, nutmeg, well-integrated oak, wrap around a minerally backbone.  Beautifully nuanced and structured with a finish that goes on forever!   SRP:  $42 www.sonomacutrer.com

Visit their websites to order, or plan a visit to experience these properties and taste the wines for yourself, before these gems are sold out.  It’s not too early to think about wines for the holidays, which will be here before you know it; cheers!

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