Final Piece for The Daily Meal – ‘The Long and Winding Road’

Here it is…the final piece to my Napa puzzle.  There were so many other things I could have written about, and perhaps I may do so in the future, but for now, this is it.  I had a wonderful time, am so thankful to both Jarvis Communications and The Daily Meal for making it all possible and hope I was able to capture at least a fraction of the magic to share with you all.

For the Daily Meal edited version, please click HERE.


The Long and Winding Road


It was my first day in Napa Valley, the motion sickness
pills still in my system from the long day of travel.  I had been up since 4 a.m., east coast
time and was currently running on pure excitement.  We loaded into the small cars that would take us up the
mountain to Cain Vineyards.  Having
never been to a Napa winery before, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Cain Winery produces fabulous wines,
some of them quite pricey, so surely I was about to enter something fancy…
Chris Howell and his wife, Katie greeted us at the top of the
long and winding road that led us to them.  They accepted us with casual warmth, smiles and hugs wrapped
in loose cotton clothing, and took us on a short tour of the winery.  We then loaded into Chris and Katie’s
old SUV’s and again headed up the long and winding road that would lead us to
the vineyard, and to the famous Cain rock.  The bumpy ride up the mountain knocked around old water
bottles and shoes that littered the floors of their car, just like in the car
of any normal person.  Where’s
the glitz?,
I asked myself.
I rode with Katie on the way up and with Chris on the way
down.  Katie, her brown hair
blowing in the wind through the open car windows, spoke like a painter, wild
eyed and colorful, gesturing with her hands like they were stroking a canvas.   And Chris, presumably the more
reserved of the two, appeared to be two parts farmer, one part scientist.  In fact, when you talk to Chris about
his work at Cain, he refers to himself as a farmer, with a very grassroots take
on winemaking.  If you look at
their website, a quote reads, ‘Take
sunlight, add water, and you have wine.
It’s so simple, yet, at the same time, it is infinitely complex.’
  He told me how he likes to assign one
person (another farmer, I would presume) to one row of vines and that person is
forever attached to those plants.  In
doing this, he believes a delicate relationship grows between person and plant,
producing better fruit and subsequently better wines.
Chris says he doesn’t like the new approach to wine tasting
– the many steps taken to distinguish certain flavors and smells; the
dissecting and the analyzing.  He
says drinking wine is not an intellectual sport, but rather a sensual sport.  He really seems to enjoy his wines, and
the process of making them.  As we
tasted the wines later that evening he said, ‘Wine shouldn’t always be about the separate, distinct flavors, but
instead about how they blend to become one.’ 
And what’s unbelievable about the Cain wines is that he
accomplishes just that.  Instead of
detecting what the Malbec brought to the wine, or how much Petit Verdot can be
detected in the blend; you simply taste one delicately harmonious wine.
For the four-course dinner, we all sat around a large, oval
table with floor to wall windows overlooking the mountains, bottles and bottles
of open wines scattered about, and listened to Chris talk about his love affair
with wine.  We toasted our first
sip to Chris saying, ‘Wine can be about
  We drank the 2000
Cain Five (a Bordeaux-style red blend) with our first course of Sake-Marinated
Black Cod in Shiso Broth and it is uncanny how beautifully the strong fish
paired with the cabernet blend.  But the wine, surprisingly so, was light and delicate, a mere
breath of a cabernet, and just what the dish needed.
We continued to dine on a simple, yet delicious Roasted Chicken
with Golden Potatoes, Romano Beans, Vine Ripened Tomatoes and Basil, which we
ate with the 2005 and 2008 Cain Five, a lightly dressed Mixed Green Salad and
various cheeses with the Cain Concept and a beautifully restrained Italian
Prune-Plum Crostada with the Cain Cuvee.
Everything was perfection.
As the server cleared my final plate, and I let the
remaining juice from my glass trickle down my tired throat, I sat back and
marveled at what was before me.  So, this is Napa, I thought.  I never found the fancy, never noticed
the glitz, but that long and winding road that led me to Cain was worth every
twist and turn.
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