by Fred McMillin
for April 16, 1998

Raising Cain


Cain Cellars has the ultimate mountain vineyards, precariously established on Spring Mountain in small terraced patches between 1,400 and 2,100 feet, with typically meager mountain soils.

...J. Halliday, "Wine Atlas of California"

Cain Cellars' star is their Meritage "Cain Five," intense, complex, packed with rich, lush flavors and smooth, polished tannins.

...J. Laube, "California Wine"

The Rest of the Story

Twenty years ago when electrical engineer Jerry Cain left Palm Springs to become a Napa Valley vintner, he knew the noble Bordeaux varietals produced the best wine under lean, mean conditions. So, he bought some 540 acres of the 1840 McCormick Ranch high in the hills west of St. Helena. And as if growing conditions weren't difficult enough, General Manager-Winemaker Christopher Howell later added many more vines on the same sites, increasing the competition for nourishment.

When investment partners Jim and Nancy Meadlock took over full ownership in 1991, the first two vintages of Cain Five had been released, drawing words like "classy" and "elegant" from the critics. So, they decided that wine would be their flagship. "Cain Five is where our heart is. We are striving to create the ultimate blend of depth and richness." The latest release is the 1994.

The Wine

1994 Cain Five, Napa Valley
The Five Varietals—63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, 4% Malbec, 2% Petit Verdot
Selecting the Best—32 lots were harvested by hand and made into wine separately. Only half of them, 16, made the cut to become the '94 Cain Five.
Contact—Director of Marketing Kerry Manahan-Ehlow.
Phone—(707) 963-1616.
Price—$50 range


Jerry Cain's wisdom in selecting Spring Mountain as the site for his vineyard-winery was verified in 1993. That year the federal government declared it an official viticultural area with its own distinctive characteristics. Note—For more about Cain Cellars, see the Feb. 3,1998 WineDay titled "A Musque to Remember."

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


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