Recently I had the pleasure of once again participating in Protocol Wine Studio’s Wednesday night #Winechat at 8pm CST on Twitter. It was an extra special event for me because it featured a winery and two lovely people who are near and dear to my heart: Cairdean Estate and its owners Edwin and Stacia (also winemaker) Williams. Before I officially launched my blog this past May I was still finishing up my master’s degree when Edwin sent me two Cairdean wines to review for #Winechat. He and Stacia trusted me before I had even proven myself and for that I am truly thankful. Furthermore, what a treat it is for me now to once again be blessed with the opportunity to write about Cairdean Estate and their exceptional wines.
Friends, let me offer a word of advice: the next time you visit Napa Valley you simply MUST visit Cairdean Estate. Cairdean is located at the base of Spring Mountain in the St. Helena AVA off of Highway 29. Allow me to plan your afternoon and evening at Cairdean: After a morning of visiting other Napa Valley wineries you will arrive at Cairdean hungry and ready for lunch, you will enjoy a selection of house made fresh pastries, sandwiches, soups and salads at Butterscots Bakery, Deli and Culinary Market; you will take your lunch to the terrace and dine overlooking the lovely courtyard; after a relaxing lunch you will go to the tasting room, this is the heart of the winery, a wide open, welcoming space where you will enjoy a leisurely tasting of all the high quality wines crafted by Cairdean winery; after enjoying a lovely tasting and purchasing several bottles of wine (and joining the Cairdean wine club) you will stroll Rosgal Mercantile to explore all the “highly curated collection of hand made and rare finds from cashmere throws to artisanal Scotches;” finally, after lunch, wine tasting and shopping, you will enjoy a lovely dinner on site at The Farmer and the Fox, a full service restaurant and bar offering a northern California take on the classic British gastropub. It will be a spectacular afternoon and evening at Cairdean Estate.
At Cairdean you will experience the hospitality of friendship. “Cairdean is Scottish Gaelic for friends, which reflects their belief that wine is meant to be shared by those held close to your heart. The Cairdean symbol is a representation of that belief with the four hearts always present and brought together in the center by friendship.” Furthermore, when asked by Melanie (@vinogger) “What has been the most fun part of owning operating a winery,” the Williams’ responded “Seeing a wine from dirt to the smile on a friend’s face!” At Cairdean you are that friend!
Cairdean 2011 Oak Knoll Merlot: This wine was crafted of 100% Merlot grapes and poured a bright garnet with slight viscosity into the glass. On the nose this wine offered a bright bouquet of red fruit, spice, vanilla and toasted almonds. On the palate the Cairdean Merlot delivered great fruit flavors of red cherries, plums and black raspberries wrapped around subtle characteristics of white pepper and baking spices with a hint of oak, earthiness and cinnamon on the back of the palate. It was medium in body and well balanced between tannins and acidity with a clean finish. It was not a complex Merlot but it was a delicious Merlot! This Merlot was fermented in stainless steel and fermented in 50% new French oak barrels. It contained 13.5% alcohol. I recommend this wine!
I paired this food friendly Merlot with a delicious beef hamburger topped with peppered smoked bacon, sautéed onions and blue cheese crumbles on a toasted whole wheat bun and sweet potato fries. It was an excellent pairing! The pepper on the bacon and the sharp yet creaminess of the blue cheese was a perfect balance to the wine. For dessert I paired the Cairdean Merlot with a Mexican Chocolate Brownie. If you are not familiar with Mexican chocolate it is simply chocolate with cinnamon (and sometimes cayenne pepper). The cinnamon in the chocolate brownie was an amazing pairing with the Merlot; really pulling out the cinnamon finish on the wine.
Cairdean Carneros Napa Valley 2011 Pinot Noir: This wine poured a translucent ruby with medium viscosity into the glass. After being opened for one hour it offered inviting aromas of red fruit, violets, vanilla, tobacco and spice. This powerful Pinot Noir dazzled the palate with an array of flavors: ripe red cherries, strawberries and cranberries, along with smoke, toasted oak, vanilla, mineral notes on the back of the tongue and cinnamon that lingered on the palate after swallowing the wine. This is what would call a “Cab lovers Pinot.” It was fuller in the mouth than some pinots with grippy tannins that did not overwhelm; with refined acidity it made for a great pairing with food. This big Pinot Noir contained 15.2% alcohol, which is something not often seen in a Pinot Noir. It was aged in 50% new oak barrels that were mostly French; the oak treatment was evident in the complex texture of the Cairdean Pinot Noir. SRP $52. I recommend this wine.
My son had been bugging me for weeks to make pulled pork sandwiches so I paired this wine with pulled pork that I cooked all day in a crock pot per the directions of the McCormick slower cooker pulled pork seasoning package. This particularly preparation style of pulled pork is always easy and delicious. I served homemade broccoli coleslaw along with the pull pork, which we all decided to put on top of the pulled pork; it makes for a delicious combination. Pulled pork topped with coleslaw is a fairly sweet dinner; I was a concerned I was forcing a bad pairing with the wine. I was wrong! The Cairdean Carneros Pinot Noir was an outstanding pairing because the full body, smoky complexity of the wine really balanced out the sweetness of the dish, resulting in a more palate pleasing experience. Furthermore, the Cairdean Carneros Pinot Noir makes an excellent meditation wine to enjoy without food, contemplating all the textures and finesse it has to offer!
My Song Selection: The song I have chosen to pair with these two high quality Cairdean Estate wines is Mystify by Inxs. Great song: sexy, sultry, great beat, toe tapping, a little r&b mixed with modern late 80’s alternative rock from one of the best bands of that era. Both of these Cairdean wines pair well with this song. Furthermore, what Stacia and Edwin are creating at Cairdean Estate is also mystifying. I encourage you to visit their web site to see all the excitement at Cairdean Estate and plan your next visit! AND if you are an INXS fan this is a great video to watch….
Get your own bottles of Cairdean Estate 2011 Oak Knoll Merlot and 2011 Carneros Napa Valley Pinot Noir and let me know what song you would pair with them. Cheers!