First a few words about Cain Vineyards & Winery. It is located on the crest of the picturesque Spring Mountain District overlooking Napa Valley. The drive up the mountain can be harrowing, so allow plenty of time. The reception at the winery can be no less than frigid if you have not done your homework and made a reservation confirmed by email well in advance of your arrival. Cain is not a winery on the “party bus” tour of Napa. But serious wine explorers will be well rewarded by getting to know this winery and their exceptional three Cabernet Blends – Cain Cuvee, Cain Concept and their flagship Cain Five.
It was winter but Ashley headed west to Napa with her precious orchids in the back of her car and only one contact. One important contact who proved to be her mentor on a new career path – Mary Hall Maher, pioneer vineyard manager for Harlan Estates and Napa Valley Reserve. The first new person she met while transferring her blanketed orchids indoors was Ben Falk, vineyard manager at Cain. Both were instrumental on her career path to growing grapes.
Her first job working in the lab at Charles Krug only lasted a few months. Ben Falk remembered the determined woman and her orchids. He admired her love of those plants and thought that dedication would make her ideal to work in the vineyards at Cain. She instantly felt at home and 2011 will be her 12th harvest here.
When asked about the Cain philosophy, Ashley was eager to cite minimal intervention and low input pest control, resulting in the expression of the terroir in every vintage of Cain grapes. Cain is dedicated to sustainable farming practices and employment practices. All employees are provided with medical/dental insurance and a living wage. Ashley stressed the importance and benefits of her permanant, stable crew. “Four crew members have been here longer than me. They know the vineyards and have a strong sense of ownership and pride.”
She also has high praise for the entire team at Cain, especially general manager/winemaker, Chris Howell. “He is interested in global climate change, sustainability, supporting local businesses – a real spiritual connection in what we do,” she enthusiastically recounted.
Not that Ashley is any slouch in the connection department. She and her husband, Trinchero chef, Matt Bennett, live in a cottage amid the Cain Estate vineyards. She loves raising chickens, growing vegetables and strives to grow more of their own food. Her connection to her vineyards at Cain is apparant and inspiring.
By no means an afterthought but an adjunct to a remarkable interview, here is a brief description of the wines we tasted:
2007 – Cain Concept: 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Franc 12% Petit Verdot. This wine is called “The Benchland” with all fruit sourced from the classical benchlands of Napa Valley. The taste is interesting and well-blended – a big wine with smooth tannins made in the classic style.
2006 – Cain Five: 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 13% Petit Verdot, 9% Cabernet Franc, 6% Malbec. With all estate grown fruit, Cain Five is the winery’s flagship wine. This wine was probably my favorite with a subtle fruity yet cedar-fresh nose, full tannins and pleasant ripe taste.
Cain Vineyard & Winery – 3800 Langtry Road – Saint Helena, CA – (707) 963-1616