Most wineries in the valley are easily accessible and just a short drive. Going to Cain we turn off onto a pleasant mountain road and drove, and drove, and drove. I felt like the little kid “are we there yet?” We are steadily going uphill and uphill, to the point that I thought we were going to go over the mountain into another valley or worse yet another state. We finally see a small sign up the road, and I figured it would say “Cain” instead it read “End of county maintenance of the road.” All of a sudden this country mountain lane went from two lanes to one and a half gravel road. Then to give us a scare this big truck is coming down hill and we actually pulled over to the edge of our side of the lane and stopped hoping that there would be enough room for the truck to maneuver by. Thank God, it did not end up a stand-off. We continued up the road and eventually we came to Cain Vineyard and Winery.
Now I have to say that I had the pleasure of drinking both the Cain Five and the Cain Cuvee at different restaurants prior to our even making our decision to go to Napa Valley. This winery was one of the first that I made reservations for, and is it turned out that was the only way that one could do a tasting. We arrived just moments before our group was to begin the tour of the grounds, facilities and then back for the tasting.
We toured the grounds and looked out at beautiful but difficult mountain terrain. Hence the need for hand harvesting, as there was no way for big machines even to get up there, let alone to work the land. They stressed how proud, that they were a hand harvested winery, so that not all the grapes had to be removed at the same time.
As we entered into the winery from the outside rather than doors, they had these big rubber panels that you walked through, like a beaded curtain. There were a lot of bees around, and I believe that they mentioned that there was an apiary nearby. These big rubber panels were effective in keeping the bees outside.
In one part of the winery was a huge array of barrels stacked and aging for prior vintages that were not ready for bottling. There was another section where they had stack barrels waiting to be filled when the time was right. One thing that I did notice is that even though this was harvest time, nobody was frantic or scurrying about, and how very neat and orderly everything was.
We then entered the tasting room, all in polished wood with a very solemn atmosphere. One felt that this tasting session was to be educational experience, and not a loud and carefree environment. They had crystal goblets and pitchers of water, as well as three crystal wine glasses per seating. They also had wonderful crackers to cleanse the palette after each tasting of the wine poured.
The first wine offered was a 1998 Cain Musque (a clone of the Sauvignon Blanc) and this was grown and hand harvested at the Ventana Vineyard in the Monterey area. This was an experimental wine for them, as they felt that most Sauvignon Blanc grapes were harvested at the wrong time. The Cain Musque is longer offered. It was a very aromatic and crisp Sauvignon Blanc and is this wine that my brain always recalls whenever I have this type of wine.
Next was served the 1996 Cain Cuvee. This was a blended wine of grapes and areas of the valley (not all the varieties were mountain grown). This is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. This wine is blended not to be big oak and drying tannins, it has been made to be a silky and satiny finish. It was created with the lighter and spicier cuisine that was just trending in California, and later around the country.
Finally the third glass was tried, and this was the 1995 Cain Five, their Bordeaux style blend. I did ask why they don’t refer to the wines as a Meritage; they informed me that they were doing this prior to the creation of the Meritage association, and that they felt there was no reason for them to be a member. This wine was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. As a side note, I have noticed that the percentages of the grapes change per vintage. This is a full bodied, lush, over the top wine to be savored; and to be paired with a big meal.
Another side note, to mention is that about a year later, my Bride and I were having dinner and discovered another wine from Cain. It was a 1996 Cain Concept which was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Even though it was a ’96, the wine master at Cain must have felt that it needed more barrel time. Another smooth and thoughtful blended wine that I have found it pair with any “red” entrée that I have tossed at it.
As we were getting ready to place our order for all of the wines we tried, I was willing to wreck havoc on our budget by asking for a case of the Cain Five. I was stopped dead in my foot steps, as I was informed that there was an allocation of two bottles, so I said that I would buy two bottles and my Bride would buy two bottles. This was also nixed; thankfully the other two wines were not allocated. I do know that now, all the wines at Cain are on an allocation, and you must sign up. I guess the secret of how great their wines are, is not a secret anymore.