The Cain Vineyard on Spring Mountain (Courtesy of Cain Vineyard & Winery at cainfive.com)

Different Sides of the Prism: Cain and Renaissance

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There are few more satisfying wines than a bottle of California Cabernet that has been well-farmed and given a chance to sit quietly until it is truly ready to drink. After all, despite its ubiquity in the world of commodity wine, great California Cabernet is special. We forget it's a variety sensitive to site and climate, which is why a Cabernet from Napa is so different from one grown in Alexander Valley or the Santa Cruz Mountains. Cali Cab is not a monolith and today's offer is a testament to that.

The first of the wines available today needs no introduction. Cain Winery on Spring Mountain in Napa was founded in 1980 and in the forty years since it has become known as a true benchmark for mountain Cabernet. Its flagship is Cain Five (so named because it includes all five of the classic red varieties of Bordeaux. Cain Five has been farmed organically for more than twenty-five years, fermented with indigenous yeasts and the oak is always well-judged. In my early restaurant days, this was always on the wine list. I had little wine experience at the time but I remember being impressed the first time I tasted it. However, a few years afterward I tried a bottle of 1995 at a trade tasting that really stopped me in my tracks. What I've always loved about Cain Five is the sense of understatement. I had a chance to taste the 2007 with Cain's co-GM Katie Lazar and at almost fifteen years old the wine was only just starting to show maturity. It was beautiful, finely textured and stately without feeling staid.

The next wine on offer today is known as "Taken From Granite," at least according to the label. However, frequent visitors will likely know it better as Renaissance Winery. Renaissance is referred to as "the cult wine," because it was created by an actual cult. The Fellowship of Friends is a "non-denominational religious organization" based in Yuba County north of Sacramento since the 1970s and in 1982 they planted more than 150 acres of vines on their winding hillsides and began making wine. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, these wines were made by our dear friend Gideon Bienstock, who now owns and operates Clos Saron Winery just across the road from Renaissance.

Originally Swiss, Gideon is one of most brilliant and idiosyncratic winegrowers working in the United States, farming his remote vineyards biodynamically and making no adjustments except for the smallest amount of sulfur. He cut his teeth in the wine world tasting with the late Steven Spurrier at his Paris wine shop in the 1970s. (Spurrier in turn sent him off to Burgundy and the Rhône to meet and taste with such luminaries as René Lafon, Michel Lafarge and Auguste Clape and the sale of the collection Gideon built during those years would serve as his seed capital to build Clos Saron). A few years back, I had the good fortune to visit Gideon with a small group. He took us through the garish Hellenic gates of Fellowship of Friends and drove us up to the hilltop to give us a feel for the landscape. The soils in this part of Yuba are fine crumbling granite and the slopes are winding and steep. It feels very far from the manicured valley floor of Napa.

Some years ago Gideon was given the opportunity by Renaissance to purchase from their cellar the wines that he was responsible for that he loved most. It is these wines that he labeled as "Taken From Granite," and today we have two of his favorite vintages available. Along with the brilliant 2007 Cain Five, these are unique expressions of Cabernet in California. Don't miss a chance to drink these great mature wines.

Sam Ehrlich

Cain 2007 Napa Valley - Spring Mountain District "Cain Five"

The 2007 Cain Five was the first fully estate-grown Cain Five since the estate was replanted starting in 1995, to replace a great deal of inferior rootstock. It also happens to be one of the greatest vintages in northern California in the last thirty years. This wine is lovely, showing bright crisp red plum and blackberry fruit and hints of sage and dried mint in the attack. The tannins are very fine and there is good acidity despite the warmth of the vintage, lending an overall feeling of class and precision to the wine. The finish is lovely, with a pronounced saltiness to it, and the wood is well-integrated. This is terrific—my kind of Napa. Sam Ehrlich**Arrives next week**

  • red
  • 5 in stock
  • $159.99

  • Organic
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Taken From Granite 1997 North Yuba Cabernet Sauvignon "Village"

Before founding Clos Saron in the late 90s, Gideon Beinstock took his first steps in winemaking at Renaissance Vineyards in the Sierra Foothills. The same vineyards that he helped plant in the 1970s, in the 1990s yielded very classic, structured but elegant wines with great aging potential. Twenty years later, and with Clos Saron established as a front-runner of the New California wave, Gideon was able to reclaim some of the Renaissance wines of the 90s, and release them under his new label, Taken From Granite. These wines were resting undisturbed in the Renaissance cellars for the past 20 years. The 1997 Cabernet is in a beautiful spot right now, with the nose showing a core of dark fruit, cassis, blackberries and plums. There is a hint of sous-bois, dried violets, cedar, hay and a whiff of scattered pine needles on a craggy cliff side. The palate is very alive, with still-firm tannins and very fresh acidity. Red currants and raspberries intermingle with black fruit. The finish carries a slight menthol quality, along with more cedar and tobacco. Big, yet harmonious, this wine drinking beautifully now, but I wouldn't hesitate holding onto it for a further decade or more. Oskar Kostecki**Arrives next week**

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $59.99

  • Organic

Taken From Granite 1999 North Yuba Cabernet Sauvignon "Soleil"

The "Soleil" was chosen by Gideon to reflect the old Renaissance "Reserve"bottlings, forceful and structured, with the capacity to age for many years. Clearly, the wine has borne out his expectations (tasted spring 2019). This is fully mature, though not without fruit, which leans towards cooked cherry and fresh fig. There are notes of cocoa nibs, ground coffee, and dried pine needles. The tannins still have grip but any wood influence has been well absorbed at this point. These have always been deeply savory wines, with a completely distinct minerality. Excellent. Sam Ehrlich**Arrives next week**

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $79.99

  • Organic