CLONYC 38 - Fun with Mike & Leah (Smith) II

Think back to what it was about wine that made you fall in love with wine itself. Remember all the goose-bumps and tingles that shifted something in you that would never be undone. If you are like me your journey has gone around the world a bit, but I have always kept my feet firmly in Napa Valley and more specifically, with Cabernet Sauvignon. Sure, I have taken barbs from many in the Anti-Flavor group and the usual bunch that eschew anything Napa as well as those who play ‘remember when’ every chance they get. I also don’t get hung-up on alcohol levels. I am not in any of those clubs; my club remains open minded and constantly adapting to taste and style trends that my beloved grape takes me. I say all this because last evening, and a beautiful evening it was, 12 Cabernet aficionados converged in the town that the Dutch colonized in 1624 to eat, drink and just have a good old unpretentious time with our beloved Napa Cabernet. If you are like me, it does not get better than CLONYC 38. I say all of this simply because I myself can not think of a more exciting time to be a Napa Cabernet lover, (and my memory on such pre-dates many of those here’s birth) and if you really are anything like me, you’d be giddy too.

To say Mike Smith makes ‘wine’ is an understatement; Mike Smith lives wine. He is the type of guy that sleeps on the floor alongside his wine barrels just to make sure they have a good night sleep and where he can maintain the ability for the wines to stun their followers. Last night the CLONYC gang met Mike and Leah for round number two of a night that would make even a purple-tongued Backhaus jealous.

Mike and Leah came full fisted bringing nearly their full 2011 vintage of Napa Cabs, two peek-ins of their 2012s, two fantastic whites and a Pinot that will get your attention, and hold it. In chatting with Mike early after he arrived and while we were decanting, I sensed him having a ‘slight’ apprehension to showing these 2011s in public, and if I was right, that feeling was all for naught; his 2011 cabs ‘all’ showed spectacularly well, and his 2012s will astound. Any or all would be best bets for your Cabernet dollars. We started with his 2011 whites from Myriad and Quivet. Both delicious, but I was saving my note-taking for my first love, so lets talk Cab. (But not before an amazing Pinot).

All wines were opened at 5:30 and single decanted back into its own bottle.

2011 Patine Pinot Noir (Gaps Crown Vineyard) Wow! Great aromatics with juicy black and blue fruits. This has tons of verve. I am slowly becoming an aficionado of well made Cali Pinots and this is certainly in the group of some of the best I have had. It’s glossy and pure and just perfect. One to serve for your special guests.

2012 Carter To-Kalon Cabernet Sauvignon, barrel sample- I fully understand Mike’s trepidation on bring these but I am oh so glad the brains of the operation talks him into it. This is amazing. I half-jokingly told him he needs to get a new shirt for when Wine Spectator puts him on the cover of their big 2012 Napa Cabernet issue in November 2014. It has beautiful structure with black dense fruits and an interesting hint of cardamom. It does not suffer the fate of many young wines and actually has some semblance of being well knit already. Wow

2012 Myriad Dr Crane Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, barrel sample - yes, you have read it correctly, Dr Crane Reserve. (Please forgive my wows, but there will be many). WOW Dense and packed with cassis, blackberries with the signature creaminess I expect from site. The nose alone is worth the price. I always thought that Dr Crane stood on its own and never needed elevation in title, but this one deserves it. This will be a star of the vintage—I told Mike this will make the other cover. You heard it here.

2011 Myriad Cabernet Sauvignon Napa- This wines has quickly become one of my house wines. In 2011 Mike has hit it out of the park and unless this one takes some turn to somewhere else, there will be many smiling faces once people get this one in their glasses. Red and black fruits with some nice aromatics and a liveliness that belies its price point of $50. Grab all you are offered.

2011 Quivet Cabernet Sauvignon Pellet vineyard- A new one for Mike and one he certainly wants to hone in on in the coming years. This has a ‘pretty’ sweet nose of black raspberries and currants but crosses the palate slightly disjointed and angular. Strangely once food arrived this became much more focused. I would love to see where he goes with this.

2011 Quivet Cabernet Sauvignon Kenefick – if you ever would buy a wine on nose alone, this would be it. Densely packed with dark fruits of black plum, currants and black cherries, this has a wonderful sense of balance and place. Full bodied and pure with some weighty tannins and a finish that haunts. Wow! One of my favorites for two years running now and we haven’t even got to 2012 yet. Daddy’s gonna need a new credit card.

2011 Myriad Three Twins- A bit redder in fruit profile, this comes across with a classiness and elegance that could boggle the mind. All Mike’s wines (Quivet/Myriad) have a liviliness that makes you sense the family bond. This one had great depth and focus with a super long fruit filled finish. Very nice indeedy.

2011 Myriad Cabernet sauvignon GIII- other than loving this, my notes were a bit sparse. I must learn to STFU and focus focus focus. It garnered a WOTN vote from Mr. Eisenhauer.

2011 Scarlett Cabernet Sauvignon- A new cool label (Client of Mikes) and a very great wine in 2011. Mike must be (and is) very happy with this outcome. A roundness of red and black fruits with purity and elegance. I remember his 2010 last year and this one outshines it leaps and bounds; it has picked up some complexity and focus and stopped being just a Cab. Keep in mind I am liking a 2011 over the 2010 counterpart— no, replace that with loving. At a price point of about $60, I would recommend this one all day long.

2011 Myriad Cabernet Sauvignon Dr Crane- The Dr. Crane bottling is just a half beat behind the Reserve above. It has the cream and lift with a feeling of completeness. Just a great wine all around.

2011 Carter Cabernet Sauvignon Three Kings- I loved this one but again my notes go sparse. I was probably getting signatures for the November ballot……

2010 Pruett Cabernet Sauvignon- A new one for Mike. This is reminiscent of the Scarlett above with a bit more tannic grip. Focused and round with many layers of red and black fruits. When you have 14 amazing wines in a row and go with the swallow method over spit, something’s gotta give and had this been in the 1-8 position it would have grabbed lots more attention, but make no mistake, this is fantastic and it garnered a WOTN from Mr. Ormand. I would purchase this on in a heartbeat and I believe the price is within that $60ish range. I could be wrong.

All in all I can happily report that this whole line-up ROCKS. Mike has made his passion and attention to detail really work for him (and us!) and for a second year in a row I can easily and unequivocally tell you that he is one of the most exciting winemakers in the valley and unless you live under a rock and have not tasted his wines, I can only ask you why not? I will now clear my inbox for all the thank you emails I will be receiving—but don’t thank me, thank Mike Smith, and whatever you do, don’t ever forget Leah.

Thank you for sharing with the group!! I had seen McCartney in concert on Monday and you guys on Tuesday; my week is so full of Rockstars!

Great write up Mike, thank you. Always enjoy the read. Figured I had much to look forward to when my 2011 Myriads arrive and you confirmed it.

Very interested in the 2012 Crane Reserve and the upcoming Quivet release so I can get my hands on some of those Keneficks. Sounds like I may need to seek out the Scarlett…

Is there a ‘jealous’ smilie that I could use.
Actually, I don’t feel too bad. We’re going to be tasting at Envy with Mike on July 30th.
It can’t come soon enough!!!

Thanks for the notes Mike, they always make me envious :slight_smile:

Ah, me, that was enjoyment. Very glad you gave Mike and Leah such a warm welcome, two of my favourite people. Mike was excited back in the summer about the chance to work with Pellett Vineyard fruit. And you’re right—the stuff, all of it, more or less falls into the “can’t miss” category.

For financial constraint reasons, I’ve had to shave back on Myriad and Quivet purchases the last couple of years, but these notes are coming at a good financial time for me, will be excited to see the bottled results.

Thanks for such a comprehensive review.


You’re welcome.

I just had a small sampling of some left-overs from last night.
RE: The 2011 Myriad Napa- If you bought, you did very well indeed. WOW, this explodes from the glass 24 hours later. I believe these are sold out. Look for them next year.

RE: The 2011 Quivet Kenefick - This has so much complexity and character. I am buying all offered.

RE: The 2011 Scarlett- This is plushy and round with vibrancy. I love the streak of cardamom, soy and sassafras in the middle. Red fruits control the ride, and what a ride it be. This is a sleeper. A very special bottle of wine indeed.

one more: WOW [cheers.gif]

Yet another CLONYC I would have loved to have attended. Robust night indeed. What makes the 12 Myriad Dr Crane a “reserve”? Barrel program, block, blend???

I think it’s selection.

Wow I am jealous.

Overall, how would you compare the 2011 wines to those from 2009 and 2010?

Thanks for the enthusiastic notes. I look forward to trying these myself with Mike next Friday. Can’t wait!

A night to remember. I never dreamed that I would taste an ethereal Pinot at a CLONYC event.

Mike, I only have one word to add to your detailed notes–voluptuous. Mike S used it while talking about what he is trying to achieve and I think the word applies to everything we tasted last night.

Halfway through the event I sent my wife a one word text: “Unbelieveable.” And it got better from there.

The Pruett, by the way, is $100. That makes the Myriad Napa Cabernet the best value with the Scarlett right behind it.

Thanks Mike, Mike and Leah.

King Cab, thank you - excellent notes. I’m very excited about these wines!

Hi Curtis, never one to avoid a critical eye or two, I remember commenting something along the lines that these 2011s are everything many 2007 are not, in a good way.
I guess the best ones, like these which will certainly be in that group, will show focus, structure and verve while retaining an amazing level of ‘sense of place’ where-as most 2007s are more generically good to a wider audience (many not really being ‘die-hard’ Cabernet fans btw) while not really drawing their own google map of the valley in their taste profiles (obviously there will always be exceptions, so forgive my wide brush). I myself have not been a fan and always found them lacking backbone. To hit your target question better, I think these 2011s lean a bit to 2009. I sense 2010s being slightly ‘fatter’, closer to what I think could be 2012. The even years always hold the fatness, albeit in different levels: 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012?(too soon to really say). I could be wrong and have been before, but thats my take and I’m sticking to it.


Loving the report Mike! In the short time I have known Mike Smith I have amassed a profound appreciation for him and what he is accomplishing while at the same time being the guy next door that you just want to hang out with.

Had the opportunity to taste that Crane #2 from barrel back in March and it was already incredible. Can’t wait to see how it evolves.
I’m starting separate fund for purchasing 2012 Myriad/Quivet so I don’t have to pass on anything. Just astounding wines.

You may be onto somethere there. Great idea… [cheers.gif]

Mike - my comment on your “take” is not in regards to Mike’s wines, but to the Napa Valley Cabernet vintages in general. And I would say I agree with you. And the even years have tended to be smaller grower’s yields, until the 2012. That was “fat” and “large.”

2012: Great year all around then…


So much fruit - in every sense of the word: from the vines and in the wines (in barrel, of course).

Which accords with what you—and I think others—thought it would look like near harvest, doesn’t it Merrill? I still remember tasting the grapes out in your vineyard and thinking—wow, how sweet and rich…

Spoke to Mike a few hours ago (trying to set up a visit with him on my upcoming annual trip to Napa). Everytime I interact with him I come away thinking that he is likely the nicest and most approachable winemaker in Napa.