Wine Grower Chris Howell in the cellar of Cain Vineyard and Winery. Photograph by Charles O'Rear.

The success of Cain depends on the combination of an incredible site, an inspired vision, patient, persevering, and tenacious ownership, and the unending hard work of the Cain team. Take any of these key elements away, and you would not be reading this—nor would we even be writing it.

Each year, our work on Spring Mountain is marked by a few almost sacred moments in both the vineyard and the cellar: the beginning of pruning, the end of pruning, budbreak, flowering, veraison, bottling, the arrival of harvest interns, the beginning of harvest, the making of the wine, the end of harvest. Some of these events we acknowledge with ceremony, others we quietly observe.

What follows are our thoughts and observations, our questions and curiosity about this endlessly fascinating alchemy and its history that begins in the vineyard and results in the beautiful, complex, nuanced, refined glass of wine in your hand.

It is so simple, yet, at the same time,
infinitely complex.


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The McCormick Ranch era barn

In 1980, Jerry and Joyce Cain purchased 550 acres, part of the historic McCormick Ranch, on Spring Mountain. Five generations of a family have grown up on the McCormick Ranch. Much of the ranch is still in the hands of that founding family. The tradition of the homestead is embodied today in the McCormick Sanctuary, which, through the generosity of the founding family, has become part of the California State Park System.

The planting of the Cain Mountain Vineyard began shortly after the Cains purchased the property. This initial phase continued through 1988, followed by replanting from 1996 through 2006 onto phylloxera-resistant rootstocks. Replanting has begun again after the 2020 Glass Fire burned directly through the bowl of the Cain Vineyard, taking most of the vines and all of the buildings.

The first crush at the new winery, christened “Cain Cellars,” was in the fall of 1982, at the newly constructed winery. Jim and Nancy Meadlock joined the Cains in 1986, and, in 1991, assumed sole ownership of the property. Chris Howell, who began consulting to the Cains in 1990, took over direction in 1991.

Since then, the entire project has been known as Cain Vineyard & Winery. 1990 saw first vintage of estate-grown Cain Five, continuing through 1994, and beginning again in 2007, as the replanted vineyard matured.

Cain Vineyard & Winery could only have developed as it did through the continuity of more than three decades of ownership and the very long term stewardship of a core group of the Cain team.


Pruning in the Cain Vineyard

Take sunlight, add water, and you have wine. It is so simple, yet, at the same time, it is infinitely complex. As everyone knows, it all begins in the vineyard. The beauty and fascination that wine can offer are integral to its beginnings in nature. Vineyard work is one of the most highly developed forms of interplay between human beings and nature. Undoubtedly, the most compelling wines are born in the vineyard. And not just any vineyard, but always a specific vineyard: the result of years of cultivation and discovery. Our quest at Cain, and that of all of our true friends in wine, must be to seek out the sources of individuality of each vineyard with which we work.


“Les Vendanges,” Tapestry, Musée de Cluny, Paris
The barrel room at Cain Vineyard & Winery. Photograph by Mitch Rice.
The Cain Cellar

…our constant goal is to create wines of complexity, balance, harmony, and grace that are timeless

The transformation from grape to wine is magical. 1,000 years ago, alchemists called this process “fermentation.” Although much is understood, much is also misunderstood, and much more still remains a mystery. This is exactly as we would have it.

Nothing that we do at Cain could be called unique—in fact, it could be called classical winemaking. Nevertheless, we believe that the sum of all our choices could still yield a wine that is uniquely Cain. Making red wine can be reduced to the most elemental, timeless recipe—and this is how we approach it. Our winemaking program is simple, and it follows the same path for all our wines: hand picking, gentle destemming, native-yeast fermentation, thoughtful maceration, and intentional élevage.


The People of Cain Vineyards at La Piedra, 2022
The People of Cain at La Piedra in the Cain Vineyards, Harvest 2022

Over forty years, the threads of all those who have worked at Cain have been deeply woven into the vinicultural fabric of the Napa Valley. Through the years, many people have contributed to the Cain wines. While some have continued to work at Cain for more than ten years, others have gone on to plant other vineyards, make other wines, and to sell other wines: some are working for other vineyards and wineries, and others have begun their own projects. We can count literally dozens of wines that have been touched by those who also touched the wines of Cain.

Jim and Cindy Meadlock, Owners
Ashley Anderson-Bennett, Vineyard Manager
Alberto Avila, Vineyardist
Enrique Cortes, Vineyardist
Leopoldo Espinoza, Vineyardist
Mandy Heldt Donovan, Winemaker/Sales Rep
Christopher Howell, Wine-Grower/Co-General Manager

Katie Lazar, Director of Sales and Marketing/Co-General Manager
Alberto Ramos-Amezcua, Vineyard Supervisor
Lupe Ramos, Vineyardist
Brooke Sinnes, Direct to Consumer Manager
Matt Strayer, Operations Manager
Jose Antonio Torres Ayala, Vineyardist

More About Cain

Beckmann Image Gallery

Select one of the images directly above to view a photo gallery of Cain Vineyard & Winery by Olaf Beckmann

Cain Vineyard & Winery Facts

Founded:1980 by Jerry and Joyce Cain
Cain Vineyard:500 acre ranch, 90 acres planted, Spring Mountain District
Production:12,000 cases
Owners:Jim and Cindy Meadlock
Wines:Cain Five—Cain Vineyard, Estate Grown & Bottled
Cain Concept—The Benchland
Cain Cuvée—Napa Valley
Wine-Grower/GM:Christopher Howell
Vineyard Manager:Ashley Anderson-Bennett