Two of California's most point-less wines

Two of California's most point-less wines
That’s Parker Points of course, nothing to do with their raison d’etre.

Indeed, these are wines that definitely matter. The fact is, for differing reasons neither Heitz Cellars nor Cain Vineyard submit their wines to the Wine Advocate for review. Both prefer to sell their wines to their loyal fans on the merits of their wine alone. It is an admirable decision that is underscored by the oft forgotten premise that wine, when all is said and done, is for drinking, and not for tasting.

Last night the Justerini & Brooks team and a small group of customers took it upon themselves to open and taste variety of wines from these two great estates, culminating in some very fine and mature vintages of Heitz Martha’s Vineyard and Cain Five. In many respects the wines in the glass could not have been more different, Martha’s is pure Cabernet Sauvignon for starters, Cain Five a classic Bordeaux blend, yet they share a very important belief with regards Napa Wine making; that great wine is made in the vineyard and a great bottle should speak clearly of the place from whence it comes. Both shy away from any sort of artificial manipulation, adding nothing nor taking anything away (rarer than you would imagine in certain Napa circles). They age slowly and gently, as indeed do the wines.

Martha’s Vineyard 2005 is undoubtedly a special wine. Tasters were stuck by how youthful it seemed, with bright clear fruit, lovely, bright acidity and a taut yet fine tannic structure keeping everything in place. Martha’s classic notes of eucalyptus were present, alongside complex almost crunchy pure cassis and blackberry notes. This is classical Napa Valley Cabernet, the product of very traditional winemaking and highly advanced vineyard management. At ten, it looks beautiful, at twenty it should be magnificent. Napa’s very first designated single vineyard bottling quite evidently still has the magic.

Cain Five 2004 provided a thrilling contrast. From the very singular Cain Vineyard perched high up on Spring mountain, Chris Howell has produced a wine that at a decade old is utterly compelling. Gloriously resolved tannins support a palate that continues to wield a core of beautifully pure fruit alongside periphery notes of flowers, briar, earth and leather. Entirely unforced, yet beautifully fluid and magnificently persistent, it is a wine definitely not for those looking for the Big Napa Flavour Experience. If it’s subtlety and complexity you’re after, not to mention the most wonderful texture, herein lies a commanding wine that really could only ever be from Cain.

Julian Campbell – US wine buyer