Stags Leap District AVA
In a very short time, Blacksmith Cellars had become an overwhelming success
The owner of Blacksmith Cellars is most aptly named Matt Smith and his success story is well worth relating.
The now 44-year-old Virginia native was attending Sonoma State University in the early 1990’s when he first became aware of the wine industry. Upon graduation with a chemistry degree, Smith saw a number of his fellow graduates enter the wine business. He stayed in touch and found that the group thoroughly enjoyed their jobs in wine. Somehow, the prospect of working in the wine industry beckoned to Matt Smith.
He applied and was hired by the iconic Napa Valley winery, Beaulieu Vineyards. “My job was in the retail room at first, and BV had a great tasting program. I wanted to get into the winemaking aspect of the business and was told there were no vacancies but that I would be considered when something opened up. Six months later, a position did open and I got the job,” he recounted.
At one point, he realized that a wine career was in his future. Matt decided it was time to go back to school and chose Fresno State and its highly held enology program to help his chances at making a successful wine career. He was even recognized as the school’s outstanding enology student before his graduation.
By 2003, Matt Smith was a proven veteran of the wine industry, with work stints at Dashe Cellars and JC Cellars under his belt. He credits Mike Dashe as the person who opened the door for the formation of Blacksmith Cellars.
“Mike told me if I ever wanted to do my own thing, just let him know,” Smith recalled. “I felt I had enough experience to become successful so the idea of Blacksmith Cellars became a reality.”
The first release for the new winery occurred in 2004, a whopping 150 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon.
“Money was very precious to my family so I started small,” he confessed. “I was able to utilize the facilities at Rosenblum Cellars in Alameda where I had worked for the past few years. The equipment included all the big boy toys of the trade and making a really good wine wasn’t all that difficult.”
With his first releases came a bountiful collection of medals and great reviews from the wine industry press. It seemed that in a very short time, Blacksmith Cellars had become an overwhelming success.
“Since we were doing so well, I increased our production for the next few years until Blacksmith Cellars became almost too big for me to handle. I am a one-man operation and I do all the work myself. More production meant traveling to other locations and I really didn’t enjoy that aspect of the business,” Smith added.
In the interest of controlling his quality (and his life) Matt Smith decided to downsize his winery to around its present production level of just under 2,000 cases. He still performs all the daily duties required of a winemaker and has continued to garner numerous accolades for his creations.
Blacksmith Cellars’ striking label is made to look like a woodblock print of an iconic blacksmith toiling at his trade. The foil stamping adds another distinctive look to the blackened label.
Much of Blacksmith Cellars’ success comes from the fact that Matt Smith is a master locator of top-notch fruit.
“I have a number of long term contracts for specific varietals,” he informed. “But, I always have kept my options open on the spot market. If someone calls and asks me if I want some extra fruit from the Stags Leap AVA, I would be a fool to turn it down. The fact that I make small batch wines here at Blacksmith Cellars allows me to produce a potentially remarkable wine whenever the opportunity comes along.”
Looking forward, Matt Smith has his eye on the Sierra Foothills for a possible home once the big leap into a fully functioning winery becomes a reality. He particularly enjoys the land around Murphys, California and the opportunity it presents.
“The soils around Murphys are really ideal for vineyards,” he finalized. “The land is fairly priced (as opposed to Napa Valley and Sonoma County) and the people are really first class. One of the reasons I cut back on my production was to be able to spend more time with my wife and children, and a small winery operation in Murphys would allow me to do just that.”
It is our pleasure to introduce Blacksmith Cellars to our Platinum Series members!
A Note from Matt Smith
Dear Platinum Series Members,
It is truly an honor to have had one of our wines selected for the Gold Medal Wine Club. Blacksmith Cellars is located on the Island City of Alameda which is located in San Francisco Bay. We are housed in an old airplane hangar on the former Alameda Naval Air Station. Being right at Sea Level and a scant few hundred yards from the bay we enjoy year round natural cooling that promotes the highest quality wine making. Blacksmith Cellars produces about 1500 cases annually. This has proven to be the maximum production level that we are comfortable with since every aspect of production from crushing the fruit on through to bottling is handled by myself. Our goal is to make amazing wines that will intrigue consumers in their youth and reward them down the line when properly aged. Above and beyond all else, we have always sought to produce wines that far exceed their price point.
The 2012 Stag’s Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon is a tremendous example of Napa Valley Cabernet. This is the first, and possibly the only, vintage of this wine that we have ever produced. Unique circumstances provided us the opportunity to purchase this fruit in 2012 and the temptation was irresistible.
We have produced Cabernet Sauvignon from several Napa regions including Oak Knoll, Oakville, and Spring Mountain, but the fruit from the Stag’s Leap District surpassed all expectations. 2012 was a stellar vintage with classic warm days and cool nights throughout the harvest season. The chemistry on the grapes was perfect and as soon as they began to ferment I knew that we had something special. The wine was aged in 100% French Oak which included two of the highly coveted Tarransaud T-5 barrels. We allowed the wine to age for an extended period of 32 months which brought our total volume of 5 barrels down to four due to evaporation. The resulting wine is rich and full with fine grain tannins that assure a long aging period. The quality fruit and barrels have combined to create layers of fruit and spice that unfold and complex for hours in the glass. In the end we bottled a scant 90 cases but the result was pretty much the best Cabernet Sauvignon that we have ever made. I am proud to offer this wine to you all and hope that you will find as much satisfaction in the drinking of it as I found in the making of it.