Wine Talk

Snooth User: outthere

An afternoon tasting with Mike Smith

Posted by outthere, Aug 27, 2012.

In my daily travels I pass through the Napa Valley every Monday. A few weeks ago I asked Mike Smith a question about yeast for Sauv Blanc and he invited me to stop by and check out some of his new vintage before it went into bottle shock. Today was the day so I stopped by his cellar at Envy Wines in Calistoga. 

One of the more personable, down to earth winemakers I have met, Mike started out as a wine geek on the Wine Spectator boards back when only the geekiest wine geeks were chatting online. That's where he met Thomas Rivers Brown who at the time was the winemaker for Turley. One thing lead to another and Mike ended up interning for Thomas for 3 harvests helping with Outpost, Rivers Marie, Schrader and Maybach among others.

After that he was hooked and moved his family from Portland to St Helena. In 2005 Thomas offered him a ton of Las Madres Syrah fruit and asked if he was interested in making his own wine. Myriad Cellars was born. That quickly expanded to Quivet Cellars as well and Mike was now making not only Syrah but Cabernet Sauvignon from some of the most prestigious growers in the Valley. Andy Beckstoffer's To Kalon, Georges III and Dr Crane along with Kenefick Ranch.

Soon the offers were coming and Mike became winemaker for Tamber Bey where he brought that label back up form the ashes. Later, his Kenefick Vineyard SVDs helped a family grower go from losing money to making money and having labes line up for their fruit. Mike did the same thing with The Beckstoffer Dr Crane vineyard. Other winemakers were asking him why he was wasting his money buying that fruit. Mike produced a wine that garnered 95 points from Steve Tanzer, 97 pts from Wine Spectator and 98 pts from Robert Parker. Oops, Dr Crane is back on the map.

He rejuvenated Carter Cellars as well and has 3 To Kalon Cabernets from separate blocks among the 9 wines he does for Carter. His 2002 received a 100pt score. To say I was looking forward to this tasting was an understatement.

Mike poured a Semillon, 5 Cabs and 3 Syrahs.


The 2011 Myraid Semillon McGah Family Vineyard has really fleshed out since the last time I tasted it in April. Very expressive nose of Melon, Apricot  and Pineapple. Creamy texture showing more citrus on the finish than tropical or stone fruit. Lingering tart finish. Very refreshing.

The 2010 cabs were only bottled 3 weeks ago so they were extremely young:

2010 Quivet Napa Valley CS was a balanced mix of valley fruit from 4 sites Pellett, Spring Mountain, Rutherford and Kenefick. Tobacco and spice with some blackberry and mocha. Finish was clipped.

2010 Quivet Spring Mountain Cabernet was what one would call a crowd pleaser. Big fruit with lots of blackberry and plum, nice acid and a good grip on the finish

2010 Quivet Kenefick Ranch CS was more savory but still exhibited plenty of black currant, cigar box, and spice. Bigger tannins on the finish. This one needs time to come around.

2010 Myriad Beckstoffer Dr Crane was a WOW wine for me as was the 2009 but this one outdid its older sibling. Seamless from nose to finish this is a hedonistic wine that just does not give in. Luscious nose of dark fruit, anise, red meat and smoke. Mouth is an explosion of black fruits, dark chocolate and spice. This was the only wine I did not pour out because it was just that good.

2010 Carter Beckstoffer To Kalon "The Grand Daddy" was a much more polished wine than the Myriad but to say it was better was a judgement call I didn't want to make. Nice tartness to it and showing more red than black fruit as opposed to the Dr Crane. To Kalon is one of those legendary vineyards and Mike knows how to make it shine. Another seamless glass of wine.

The three Syrahs have yet to be released. The Quivet releases in February and the Myraid in March. They were bottled last week. Mike gave me the remainder of these three to take home with me so I got more time to spend with each one individually.

2011 Quivet Kenefick Ranch Syrah - Mike only made one barrel of this wine. A measely 24 cases. Translucent ruby purple color that just glows when swirled. The nose is savory showing blueberry, blackberry, black pepper and baking spice. The fruit was a bit primary  which was not unexpected. Real soft mouthfeel with accompanying pepper and smooth tannins on the finish.

2011 Quivet Las Madres Vineyard Hulda Block Syrah -  This vineyard is in the southernmost edge of the Carneros AVA. You can see the SF Bay from the vineyard. It produces some great cool climate fruit. It's made up of two blocks. Hulda block, which is comprised of clone 300 syrah whose cuttings came from Crozes-Heritage in the Northern Rhone and Esther block, which is clone 174. 2011 was one of those years where Las Madres almost gave up because the fruit was not going to ripen. Then came a heat spike in October that pushed the vineyard through to the finish line. I had a barrel sample of this back in April when Mike invited me to join him at a luncheon at the vineyard where all 8 producers offered barrel samples. The nose on this wine is unreal. Mike credits the  Remond Allier Forest MTL barrels for the incredibly savory, smoky, merde quality to the nose that just jumps from the glass. Really intoxicating but also polarizing as some people are put off by this aroma. The mouth is again silky smooth with creamy ripe red and blue fruit on the attack. Good balance of acid that lifts the palate right through the finish which does not exhibit a whole lot of tannin but brings a little bitter citrus zest into the fold late. I love a wine with personality and this one has a whole lot of it It's on my buy list for February.

2011 Myraid Sugarloaf Mountain 100% Whole Cluster Syrah. This one has another savory but roasted meat kind of nose to it. Loads of black pepper coat the mouth highlighting the dark red and black berry fruit, tart black cherry and smoke. The stem inclusion shows in the mouth stripping tannins but the fruit is big enough to linger beyond allowing a nice black olive note to develop. This one calls for a nice rich steak and a long decant.

Just when I thought I was done Mike introduced me to Robin Akhurst who has worked for a few years with Mike. Robin has his own label, Aspara Cellars, which is only in its second year. He pulled me a barrel sample of his 2011 Aspara Cellars Las Madres Syrah. Ripe primary red and blue fruit with a nice roasted meat nose. Pure and balanced palate with good acidity and ripe tannins on the finish.

Just another ho-hum day in Wine Country. :-p


Reply by napagirl68, Aug 28, 2012.

Nice write-up, Outthere!  Great suggestions.. especially for us more local folks.  I need to try to make it up Sonoma before Christmas..  My calendar is very full this early fall, but would love to get up there, perhaps in  November, after crush.  Or maybe late winter. 

Have you ever tasted Woodenhead Pinots?  I have missed them the last few times I have been up there, but have read great things. 

Reply by outthere, Aug 28, 2012.

So many wines so little time. I pass Woodenhead on my way to and from work every day but have never stopped. The only wine of theirs that I have tasted was a Zinfandel that wasn't my style. Maybe that's what has dissuaded me from trying more. They do get good reviews.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Aug 28, 2012.

I have heard good things about Smith's winemaking.  Any idea if these will be available (or are they fully allocated) and the prices?

Reply by EMark, Aug 28, 2012.

Very interesting, Outthere.  Thank you, very much.  My education continues.

Reply by outthere, Aug 28, 2012.

They are allocated Fox. But, times being as they are, getting on the mailing list is as easy as going to the websites and signing up.

The Syrahs are $35, they Cabs range from $60-$98.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Aug 28, 2012.

I added myself.  Hope you get a commission.  Syrah is a deal.  This shows how overpriced Cab has become.  I'm sure it's worth it, but the Syrah seems like a steal comparatively.  As does that Halcon.

Reply by outthere, Aug 28, 2012.

Commission, LOL, hey if it eans me another tasting like yesterday it was worth it. He said to stop by anytime I'm in the area. I asked, when is anytime? He said "When harvest starts I'll be here all the time."

I like buying from people who are so genuine. Mike Smith, Morgan Twain-Peterson, Wells Guthrie, Mike Officer, Tegan Passalacqua, Carole Meredith, Russell Bevan, Pax Mahle, Duncan Arnot Meyers, John Holdredge, Paul Gordon... They just exude customer service and down to earth goodness.

Speaking of Russell Bevan he just hooked up as winemaker for Chateau Boswell/Jaquelynn to go along with his duties at Jemrose, Bevan Cellars, Westerhold Cellars, Sanglier, Wren Hop and Showkett Vineyards. Busy boy. Makes damn good wines too.

Reply by JonDerry, Aug 30, 2012.

Sounds like a great time OT, this is yet another winemaker I knew nothing about. The TRB connection is obviously've got quite the portfolio of local connections going.

Reply by zinfandel1, Aug 30, 2012.

Great article. Makes me want to move from the east coast to the west coast.

I am in rural Connecticut and we never hear of or see these wines here. Now that I know of their existence, I will get on the mailing lists.

Reply by GregT, Aug 30, 2012.

Nicely done outthere. And good for Mike.

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