Cairdean Estate Winery | The Complete Package in Napa?
I have driven past the Cairdean Estate Winery several times yet never fully appreciated the scale and quality of the project. The modern structure that’s visible appears relatively understated and unassuming from Highway 29. Simply passing by you would never guess that newly completed Cairdean Estate Winery is actually a fairly expansive compound replete with one of the more complete, all-encompassing visitor experiences in Napa Valley.
Sure, you could come just to taste their award-winning estate-grown Cabernet Franc, or to grab a gourmet coffee (or bloody mary for that matter) at Butterscots Cafe, where the warm, welcoming aesthetic draws inspiration from a European kitchen. You could also do your best to resist the carefully curated, luxurious, checkbook-draining temptations on display at the Redolent Mercantile.
Or perhaps you’ve been invited to an event hosted in the spacious Rosgal Gallery to feast on epicurean delights from their simply excellent on-site restaurant: The Farmer & the Fox. I could go on, but if you’re not rubbing shoulders with John Travolta in the gallery’s VIP section during this weekends Napa Valley Film Festival then you would be excused for getting lost in all that Cairdean Estate Winery has to offer.
Located only a mile North of bustling downtown St. Helena, Cairdean Estate Winery is a welcome reprieve offering ample parking and a relaxed, almost resort-like setting. This recently completed food and wine village is a testament to the drive and passion of proprietors Edwin and Stacia Williams, whose backgrounds in aerospace and software engineering, respectively, did not previously include food or hospitality. That lack of experience makes the experience all the more impressive.
And let’s face it, you came for the food and wine, right? Make sure to make time for lunch (or dinner) during your visit to Cairdean Estate Winery. While The Farmer & the Fox initially struggled to find its identity, it is now thriving under the leadership of chef Ben Davies who has skillfully executed a menu that’s more in sync with The Farmer & the Fox’s cozy gastropub ambiance.
Over lunch I had the opportunity to sample several dishes as well as a selection of their own wines on tap. Brimming in personality and inspired by Stacia’s Scottish descent was the incredibly popular Scotch Egg which is slow cooked then wrapped in pork sausage before being filled with brioche stuffing and deep fried. The subtle spice from the sausage was perfectly quelled by the delicate undercurrent of minerality and fragrant notes of white peach and orange peel of the Cairdean Vineyards Dry Riesling.
Also not to be missed were the rarely seen and notoriously tough-to-get-right Smoked Duck Wings. Sprinkled with blue cheese and marinated in a sugar cane dressing, they paired quite nicely with the Cairdean Vineyards Caidrich Proprietary Red, a plush, approachable red blend of Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet bursting with creamy, vanilla-spice tinged blackberries accented by subtle hints of white pepper.
After savoring everything The Farmer & the Fox has to offer, make sure to stop by Cairdean Winery’s tasting room to sample a few more of Cairdean Winery’s offerings – including my favorite: The Cairdean Acquaintance Vineyard Cabernet Franc!
Cairdean Acquaintance Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2012: Sourced entirely from Cairdean Estate’s Acquaintance Vineyard in Coombsville and produced from 79% Cabernet Franc, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Petit Verdot. Aged 24 months in 60% new French oak, only 225 cases were produced. It pours a vivid garnet red in the glass. The nose offers an alluring medley of strawberry, tart cherry, smoke, fresh herbs and star anise. It’s medium-bodied with a silken, juicy texture and a lengthy, slightly smoky finish that’s enlivened by zesty acidity and mint. Elegant and expressive, it’s immensely drinkable and frankly tough to put down.
Score: 90 | Price: $84
Cairdean Acquaintance Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012: Sourced entirely from Cairdean Estate’s Acquaintance Vineyard in Coombsville and produced from 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, 4.5% Petit Verdot, 1.3% Malbec and 1.2% Merlot. Aged in 100% new French oak with only 182 cases produced. Pours a deep ruby red in the glass and reveals aromas of candied black cherry and black currant laced with coffee, molasses, camphor and cinnamon spice. The medium to full-bodied mouthfeel delivers generous black fruit flavors supported by coffee, toast, cocoa, dusty tannins and lingering cinnamon spice. Displays the opulence of the vintage but would benefit from just a bit more refinement on the finish.
Score: 89 | Price: $98
The Specifics | Cairdean Estate Winery
Location: 3111 St. Helena Hwy. N, St. Helena, CA 94574
Tasting Fee: $25 for the standard tasting, $50 for the winemakers den tasting, and $75 for the cave tour and tasting.
Included in the Tasting: Each tasting includes 5 wines while the winemakers den tasting and cave tour include reserve level wines.
Wine Prices: $22-$98
Winemaker: Stacia Williams
Appointment Required? No, the tasting room is open 7 days a week from 11am til 8pm.
Time to Allot: Approximately 30-90 minutes, depending on which tasting you elect to do.
Recommended Wines: Haley Margaret White Wine, Dry Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Caidrich Red Blend, Estate Cabernet Franc
Should You Go? Offering a compelling food & wine village experience, Cairdean Estate Winery is sure to become a hit with Napa Valley visitors looking for something more than your typical wine tasting. There’s something for everybody to indulge in at this epicurean playground.
Fun Facts | Cairdean Estate Winery
- Cairdean means friends in Scottish Gaelic and reflects the owners philosophy that wine is meant to be shared with friends.
- Cairdean Estate is seriously advantaged by the fact that it is situated on two separate parcels. While Cairdean Winery is located on a parcel with agricultural zoning limitations, the remaining section with the tasting room and restaurants is zoned Commercial Limited, a rare zoning that allows for much of its non-winery related activities.
- The Press Democrat raves about the burger at The Farmer & the Fox in this article.
- Chef Ben Davies previously honed his culinary skills at Mirepoix in Windsor and then Napa Valley’s celebrated Meadowood before signing on at The Farmer & the Fox.
- In addition to one of the best burgers in Napa, owner Edwin Williams is also proud of having “…best scotch list in the valley.”
- Cairdean Estate Winery actually sells craft liquors in its Redolent Mercantile.
- Butterscots Cafe opens at 7am has become as popular for its breakfast items as it has for its cocktails and fried chicken. Locals call it the boozy bakery.
- The Cairdean Estate Winery sits on a 50 acre parcel at the foot of Spring Mountain. Cairdean has two estate vineyards:
- Acquaintance Vineyard comprises 10 acres in the Coombsville AVA and is planted to Cabernet Sauvignon (7.43 acres) , Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Merlot.
- Confidant Vineyard comprises 28 acres in the Russian River Valley AVA planted to Pinot Noir.
For more information about Cairdean Estate Winery, click here.
**Wines provided as samples for purposes of review. No consideration was received for writing this article.