Here is how Stuart Smith, vineyard manager and general partner, explains how the Napa Valley winery he and his winemaker brother Charles operate got its name: “We had so much physically and emotionally invested in the development of the vineyard and the winery that we selfishly wanted our name on it. Smith is not exactly a grand Mediterranean wine name, and certainly we couldn’t call it just ‘Smith Winery.’” The predominant tree on the property is the madrone, an evergreen native to the coastal region of the west coast of North American – hence the Smith-Madrone Winery. I will have something more to say about this name at the end of my review, but first I will describe three Smith-Madrone wines that I tasted recently.
Smith-Madrone 2012 Napa Valley Spring Mountain District Riesling ($27) is easily one of the most interesting white wines that I have tasted this year. Its enticing peach, apple, citrus, and melon aromas lead to luscious tart apple, lime, melon, apricot, and peach flavors that close in an impressively vibrant finish. The exuberant fruit of this wine is perfectly balanced by ample acidity, making it completely delicious for casual sipping, though it would also nicely complement most seafood and poultry dishes. In fact, if you are planning to reprise a turkey-based Thanksgiving feast on Christmas or New Year’s Day and wish to pour something sure to delight your dinner guests, I wholeheartedly recommend this remarkable Riesling.
Consequent to having been aged in 100% new French oak barrels, Smith-Madrone 2010 Napa Valley Spring Mountain District Chardonnay ($30) has notes of vanilla and toast among its lively apple aromas, and these vanilla and toast notes complicate the wine’s generous pear, apple, tropical fruit, and spice flavors. Equal parts power and finesse, this richly-textured Chardonnay would be an ideal companion for meals featuring salmon, sea bass, or poultry.
Smith-Madrone 2009 Napa Valley Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon ($45) is an intense but nonetheless elegant wine with plum, dark berry, and cherry aromas that lead to beautifully orchestrated currant, blackberry, dark plum, and black cherry flavors accompanied by hints of mocha, herbs, and toasty oak. The tannins of this wine are supple, and its finish is polished and lingering. This complex but accessible Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon would be the perfect match for beefsteak or game.
Perhaps Smith is not “a grand Mediterranean wine name,” but a smith, after all, is a craftsman, as in the case of a goldsmith, for example. Perhaps the word is not in the dictionary, but I think that the three Smith-Madrone wines that I have reviewed in this posting provide ample evidence for the existence of “winesmiths,” and I an confident that anyone tasting them will agree.
Below – Stuart and Charles, WineSmiths
For more information about Smith-Madrone wines, here is a link to winery’s website: http://smithmadrone.com
A final note: The wines I have reviewed in this posting would make excellent Christmas presents.
“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” – Henry David Thoreau
Rarely has anyone proven the truth of Thoreau’s words as decisively as Dario Sattui, a fourth-generation California vintner, who owns and operates both the V. Sattui Winery and Castello di Amorosa. After extensive travels in Italy and considerable pondering, Sattui decided that he would build a castle and winery in Napa Valley. Here is how he describes the evolution of his dream: “At first, I had no intention of starting another winery- I already had V.Sattui. My plan was only to replant historic vineyards there. However, throughout my adult life, I had been fascinated with Italian medieval architecture; and, because of my passion- some would say obsession- I had already bought a handful of ancient properties in Italy, including a small castle near Florence (now sold), a medieval monastery near Siena (now being refurbished) and a Medici palace in southern Tuscany, which we are remodeling into a period hotel. You get the picture- it’s an incurable malady.”
Happily for wine lovers, the three wines from Castello di Amorosa that I tasted recently were as lovingly crafted as the structure in which they were made, thanks to the skills of the winemaking team of Chief Winemaker Brooks Painter, Associate Winemaker Peter Velleno, and Consulting Winemaker Sebastiano Rosa.
Peter Velleno and Brooks Painter
2012 Castello di Amorosa Anderson Valley Gewurztraminer ($25): This dry Gewurtraminer showcases the varietal’s exotic spiciness, with lively clove and cinnamon aromas that lead to generous lychee, pear, mixed spice, and apricot flavors which are complicated by hints of mineral, peach, orange, rose petal, and honey in its crisp finish. While perfect for sipping on a warm afternoon, this wine would make a great match for a wide variety of foods, including Thai dishes, smoked salmon, grilled poultry, blackened red snapper, and sausages.
2011 Castello di Amorosa Napa Valley Chardonnay ($28): The enticing lemon, pear, and vanilla aromas of this wine lead to apple, pear, and citrus flavors that are balanced by a pleasant acidity, supported by a creamy texture, and brought to closure in a delicately spiced finish containing notes of toast and vanilla-oak. This Chardonnay would complement most poultry and, especially, seafood dishes, including lobster, crab cakes, oysters, and shrimp-based pastas.
2011 Castello di Amorosa Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Barbara County Reserve Chardonnay ($38): Fans of bold, rich, perfectly balanced Chardonnays will find much that pleases them in this wine. Its aromas of tropical fruit, pear, melon, fig, orange, toasty oak, and almond precede luscious, beautifully orchestrated honeydew melon, pear, tangerine, pineapple, and ripe apple flavors, with notes of lemon, hazelnut, vanilla, and spice emerging on its delectably lingering finish. This wine would be the perfect companion for seafood, though it would also be splendid with appetizers.
(Note: 2011 Castello di Amorosa Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Barbara County Reserve Chardonnay won the Best in Class Award at this year’s San Francisco Chronicle Competition.)
No great dream comes to fruition without trials and sacrifice:
Dario Sattui: “As the years of building continued on, I divorced, lost my hair, became more wrinkled, was struck by a car crossing a San Francisco street and endured a major flood and a slowdown of my energy. But I always kept building. The 5-6 year project expanded from the original 8,500 to 121,000 square feet and 107 rooms, all different. I went through my money- all of it. Then I sold all my stock to raise cash, often when the market indicated to do the contrary. When that money didn’t suffice, I sold my castle in Tuscany. I fired my housekeeper, then the gardener in an effort to save money to use in construction. I skimped everywhere I could to keep building. And the years of construction kept slowly rolling by. Instead of semi-retiring to Italy in 1994 as I had envisioned doing, I was working harder than ever at both V. Sattui, my original winery, and on building Castello di Amorosa. But I loved it. I couldn’t wait to get out of bed in the morning and hurry to the construction site.”
After fourteen years of hard work and tribulation, Dario Sattui opened Castello di Amorosa on April 9, 2007, thereby demonstrating the wisdom of another Thoreauvian admonition: “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours.”
Castello di Amorosa
Note: Castello di Amorosa wines are available only at the castle or through shipping. For information, visit the winery’s website: http://www.castellodiamorosa.com
I’m sure that most Americans have happy memories of meals taken in the company of family and friends on Independence Day, and in this review I will describe four wines from Dry Creek Vineyard that would bring an added measure of joy to Fourth of July feasts and picnics, and I will supplement my wine-related comments with some quotes and photographs appropriate to the holiday. (Note: All the lovely photographs of vineyards and winery buildings were taken on the properties of Dry Creek Vineyard.)
“You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.” – Erma Bombeck
In my view, Zinfandel is one of the most food-friendly red wines, and Dry Creek Vineyard 2010 Sonoma County Heritage Zinfandel ($19) has everything one could want in a companion for barbecue or burgers. Blended with 12% Petite Sirah, this wine has aromas of dark berry, spice, and earth that lead to generous raspberry, blackberry, currant, and cherry flavors complicated by notes of blueberry, cocoa, black pepper, cinnamon, and vanilla-oak. This charming, medium-bodied Zinfandel has modest tannins, great balance, and a long, pleasant finish. I can think of no better way to celebrate our nation’s birthday than with a glass of Zinfandel, the most American of wines.
“That which distinguishes this day from all others is that then both orators and artillerymen shoot blank cartridges.” – John Burroughs
If you are serving your guests grilled chicken this Independence Day, you can be sure that they will be pleased were you to match it with the impeccably crafted, immensely appealing Dry Creek Vineyard 2010 Russian River Valley Foggy Oaks Chardonnay ($20). This wine offers seductive aromas of melon, ripe pear, apple, and honeysuckle that lead to luscious tropical fruit, apricot, peach, and citrus flavors that close in a lingering finish containing hints of mineral, vanilla, and toast. Here is an added benefit to choosing this Dry Creek Vineyard Chardonnay to complement your Fourth of July repast: Pouring it might provide an excuse to postpone dining until late afternoon, so that you and your guests could sip a pre-meal glass of this delectable wine while waiting for the temperature to go down with the sun.
“America is a vast conspiracy to make you happy.” – John Updike
Made from 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 3% Malbec, and 3% Petit Verdot, Dry Creek Vineyard 2009 Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($25) can easily hold its own against far pricier Cabernets – both foreign and domestic. This wine’s enticing aromas of cherry, raspberry, blackberry and spice precede perfectly balanced black cherry, plum, and dark currant flavors accompanied by well-integrated notes of mocha on its persistent finish. This deeply satisfying Cabernet Sauvignon would be the ideal companion for most grilled meats, especially beefsteak, though it would also be excellent with most poultry dishes.
“Wang Chi: Here’s to the Army and Navy and the battles they have won; here’s to America’s colors, the colors that never run.
Jack Burton: May the wings of liberty never lose a feather.” – “Big Trouble in Little China”
If you are planning to grill rib eye steaks or beef tenderloin this Independence Day, I suggest you consider matching such fare with Dry Creek Vineyard 2009 The Mariner Dry Creek Valley Meritage ($45), since this remarkable wine manages to be equal parts power and elegance. Blended from all five classic Bordeaux varietals – 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, 10% Malbec, 5% Petit Verdot, 5% Cabernet Franc – the aromas of this stylish wine include raspberry, cherry, mocha, and spice, and they lead to beautifully orchestrated flavors of dark currant, plum, blackberry, and black cherry that close in a long, uncommonly flavorful finish. There are few red wines that are at once as complex and accessible as this captivating Meritage.
I hope that everyone enjoys a fun-filled Independence Day and that the festivities include an abundance of good food, good wine, and good company.
25 June 1876 – The Battle of the Little Bighorn: The 7th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer, is wiped out by Sioux and Cheyenne warriors, who were inspired by the visions of Sitting Bull.
Below: A drawing of Sitting Bull and Custer, by Gary Saderup.
Below: “Call of the Bugle,” a painting of the battle by J.K. Ralston.
Below: A photograph of the remains of horses that littered the prairie after the battle. They were eventually interred with the fallen soldiers.
Below: A photograph of Last Stand Hill, 1894.
Below: A photograph (circa 1890) of four Native Americans (Crow) who served as Scouts for George Armstrong Custer. They are standing among some of the grave markers that memorialize the Battle of the Little Bighorn.
Below: Markers on the battlefield indicate where soldiers fell, including a special one (with black facing) for George Armstrong Custer.
Below: An individual Native American marker on the battleground.
Below: A Native American memorial at Little Bighorn battleground.
Below: Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument today.
6 June 1813 – With the help of treasonous American Loyalists, Canadian forces defeat the invading army of the United States at Stoney Creek, Ontario during the War of 1812, thereby frustrating our nation’s selfless attempt to bring civilization to the hockey-loving, offensively well-mannered, perpetually snow-covered, free-health-care socialists to our north. This blotch on the escutcheon of American military honor needs to be expunged, and with the help of the seven pictures, I will explain how our soldiers lost the battle, what patriotic Americans can and must do to avenge them, and why Canada will continue to be our Northern Nemesis until such time as we act in a decisive and righteous manner to assure ourselves a better and more secure future.
This is the only known photograph of the Canadian Field Marshall in charge of the strategic disposition of forces during the battle. What chance did our brave lads have against such an obvious military genius?
This drawing depicts the two generals who were responsible for Canadian combat operations at Stoney Creek. I’m sure that they employed unfair tactics against our troops, including inappropriate humor.
This is the monument in Stoney Creek that both celebrates Canada’s victory and mocks America’s defeat. What an insult to the collective dignity of the United States! (Nonetheless, it would be pretty cool to have a castle like this one in the parks of every American town and city.)
Here’s an intelligent response to the question of what is causing most of America’s current fiscal distress: Blame Canada! Need evidence? Have you checked the artificially inflated price of Canadian bacon lately? Do you know how many Americans go to bed hungry each night because they cannot afford to include Canadian bacon among their pizza toppings? How long will we allow ourselves to be held hostage to this sort of economic extortion?
This is Canadian model Maria Werbowy, who is present in this diatribe for no other reason than to provide a gratuitous display of sexuality.
Here’s my proposal for both exacting a measure of long-overdue revenge on perfidious Canadians and solving most of our country’s financial problems: Re-Invade Canada! I foresee just one potentially serious obstacle to realizing this worthy ambition: Given the state of education in the United States, there might not be a sufficient number of Americans of military age who can find Canada on a map. (Skeptics should know that a Gallup/Harris poll taken in 2008 revealed that 37% of Americans could not locate the United States on a map. It’s a damn good thing we don’t have to invade our own country.) But let’s not allow geographical ignorance to temper our bellicose passion; we will find Canada without the help of a road atlas. (Our warriors can borrow my iPhone 4, on which I have downloaded Apple Maps. Nothing “Apple” will ever fail us.) I mean, how hard can it be to locate the place? It’s somewhere “up there” just past Wisconsin, right? Or maybe it’s Montana. Yes, that’s it – Montana. Our army will march west until it reaches Wyoming, then it will turn right and march forward until it transits Montana and crosses the Canadian border. Our troops will know that they’ve arrived in enemy territory when one of them asks a local how far it is to Stoney Creek, and he replies “Aboot 2,700 kilometers” – the vowel-slurring commie.
“The afternoon is bright,
with spring in the air,
a mild March afternoon,
with the breath of April stirring,
I am alone in the quiet patio
looking for some old untried illusion -
some shadow on the whiteness of the wall
some memory asleep
on the stone rim of the fountain,
perhaps in the air
the light swish of some trailing gown.” –Antonio Machado
“When a man and a woman see each other and like each other they ought to come together—wham—like a couple of taxis on Broadway, not sit around analyzing each other like two specimens in a bottle.” – Thelma Ritter, American actress nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in “The Mating Season,” who was born on Valentine’s Day, 1902.
“Casanova! My dear man, Casanova is not worthy to untie my bootstrings” – Frank Harris, Irish-American writer, author of “My Life and Loves,” and sexual adventurer, who was born on Valentine’s Day, 1856.
SOME QUOTES APPROPRIATE FOR VALENTINE’S DAY
“Personally I know nothing about sex because I have always been married.” – Zsa Zsa Gabor.
“Love is the wisdom of the fool and the folly of the wise.” – Samuel Johnson
“Marriage – a living arrangement in which a woman learns to fake orgasms and a man learns to fake interest.” – Dr. Coyote
“Sometimes I wonder if men and women really suit each other. Perhaps they should live next door and just visit now and then.” – Katherine Hepburn
“The hottest love has the coldest end.” – Socrates
“A woman is faithful to her first lover for a long time – unless she happens to take a second.” – La Rochefoucauld
“Strange to say what delight we married people have to see poor fools decoyed into our condition.” – Samuel Pepys
“The most happy marriage I can picture or imagine to myself would be the union of a deaf man to a blind woman.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge
VALENTINE’S DAY FACT ONE:
According to the Society of American Florists, roughly 110 million roses are produced for Valentine’s Day. Men purchase 75 percent of these roses. That’s a lot of guilt – I mean love.
VALENTINE’S DAY FACT TWO:
According to Hallmark, 151 million cards are exchanged on Valentine’s Day.
“Time Does Not Bring Relief: You All Have Lied,” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountain-side,
And last year’s leaves are smoke in every lane;
But last year’s bitter loving must remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide.
There are a hundred places where I fear
To go,—so with his memory they brim.
And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell his foot or shone his face
I say, “There is no memory of him here!”
And so stand stricken, so remembering him.
A VALENTINE’S DAY POEM FOR MEN
“The Consolations of Sociobiology,” by Bill Knott
Those scars rooted me. Stigmata stalagmite
I sat at a drive-in and watched the stars
Through a straw while the Coke in my lap went
Waterier and waterier. For days on end or
Nights no end I crawled on all fours or in
My case no fours to worship you: Amoeba Behemoth.
—Then you explained your DNA calls for
Meaner genes than mine and since you are merely
So to speak its external expression etcet
Ergo among your lovers I’ll never be …
Ah that movie was so faraway the stars melting
Made my thighs icy. I see: it’s not you
Who is not requiting me, it’s something in you
Over which you have no say says no to me.
SOME QUOTES APPROPRIATE FOR VALENTINE’S DAY
“Marriage is a wonderful invention. But then again, so is the bicycle repair kit.” – Billy Connolly
“Love is a snowmobile racing across the tundra and then suddenly it flips over, pinning you underneath. At night, the ice weasels come.” – Matt Groening
“A lot of people wonder how you know if you’re really in love. Just ask yourself this one question: ‘Would I mind being financially destroyed by this person?’” – Ronnie Shakes
“The only difference between the women I’ve dated and Charles Manson is that Manson has the decency to look like a nut case when you first meet him.” – Richard Jeni
“If a man tells you he likes to go for long walks, it means he doesn’t own a car. If he says he enjoys romantic dinners at home, it means he’s broke.” – Paula Bell
“A successful man is one who makes more money than his wife can spend. A successful woman is one who can find such a man.” – Lana Turner
“We fall in love when our imagination projects nonexistent perfection upon another person. One day, the fantasy evaporates and with it, love dies.” – Jose Ortega y Gasset
LET US NOW PRAISE A VALENTINE’S DAY HERO: RUSTY CLUTTERBUCK
you dream in the language of dodging bullets and artillery fire.
new, sexy diagnoses have been added to the lexicon on your behalf
(“charlie don’t surf,” has also been added to the lexicon on your behalf).
in this home that is not our home, we have mutually exiled each
other. i walk down your street in the rain, and i do not call you. i
walk in the opposite direction of where i know to find you. that we
do not speak is louder than bombs.
there are times that missing you is a matter of procedure. now is
not one of those times. there are times when missing you hurts. so
it comes to this, vying for geography. there is a prayer stuck in my
throat. douse me in gasoline, my love, and strike a match. let’s see
this prayer ignite to high heaven.
A VALENTINE’S DAY POEM FOR MEN:
“Cuckoldom,” by B. J. Ward
of English. I blame
my ex-wife. She
dictionary, or re-
taught an old story:
in this book,
if you look
(if it can be seen).
Untruth in her
the language, sullied
a certain conjugation:
how she lied
as she lay with me.
monogamy was too
close to monotony.
Alas, after parting
with that particular
lass, I remain
SOME QUOTES APPROPRIATE FOR VALENTINE’S DAY
“Men are like puppies…you will get attached, bring them home, and they will shit all over everything you love.” – Source Unknown
“It’s easy to cry when you realize that everyone you love will reject you or die.” – Chuck Palahniuk
“When one is in love one begins by deceiving one’s self, and one ends by deceiving others. That is what the world calls a romance.” – Oscar Wilde
“True love is like ghosts, which everybody talks about and few have seen.” – La Rochefoucauld
“What is love but a second-hand emotion?” — Tina Turner
“I don’t think I’ll get married again. I’ll just find a woman I don’t like and give her a house.” – Lewis Grizzard.
“If love means never having to say you’re sorry, then marriage means always having to say everything twice.” – Estelle Getty
St. Valentine’s Day Massacre
Valentine’s Day, 1929 – Seven mob members are gunned down in a Chicago garage, an incident known as the “Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre.”
Born 5 January 1592 – Shah Jahan, Mughal emperor of India (1628-58).
Nearly everyone knows that Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal as a memorial to his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, but fewer people are aware of the tragic fate that befell this great ruler, and I will tell the story of his final years as a cautionary tale for all fathers cursed with sons.
Shah Jahan intended to build a second Taj Mahal, directly across the Yamuna River from his wife’s, but he never had the chance to do so. His third son usurped his throne and imprisoned him in the Agra Fort for the last eight years of his life. He could see the Taj Mahal from his cell, but he was never allowed to visit it, though after Shah Jahan died his third son allowed his father to be buried beside his wife.
The view of the Taj Mahal from Shah Jahan’s cell.
I have visited the Agra Fort three times, and on each occasion that I stood in Shah Jahan’s cell, I felt a chill of impending doom run down my spine. Every son-burdened father reading these words should be experiencing a similar sense of foreboding.