Smith Madrone is located in the hilly Spring Mountain AVA. Vineyards are located on steep terrain between 1,600 and 1,800 feet. The vines are not irrigated to stress them as much as possible. The vineyard has a cool climate by Napa Valley standards.
Smith owns a 200 acre estate in the hills above St Helena. 34 acres are planted with vines. Smith Madrone uses only estate grapes to make about 3,000 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Riesling. The first vintage was produced in 1977.
The madrone is an evergreen tree that grows on Smith’s estate. He chose the name, Smith Madrone, to commemorate the land where his wine is from. It is native to the West Coast grows throughout the Napa Valley hills.
In 1972, Smith began planting his vines on their own rootstocks. This was not a common practice at the time and is still used sparingly. Vitis vinifera cuttings are usually grafted on to Native American rootstocks because the latter are resistant to phylloxera.
Over the past couple decades, research and practice have shown that phylloxera does not invade hillside soil as much as soil on valley floors. Silt and clay facilitate the pest, and porous, volcanic soil slows it down. But in the early 1970s, this was not common knowledge and Smith’s decision was considered risky by some.