When people hear the name Caymus they immediately relate to the powerful California Cabernets of Napa Valley and a pretty blended white wine known as Conundrum. What you may not know is that the Wagner Family now produces wines under six different labels from some of the lushest vineyards in California. And it truly is a family affair with three of Chuck Wagner’s children making wine and carrying out the family tradition that began in the early ’70s.
Chuck Wagner and his parents Charlie and Lorna opened their winery in 1972. Back then there were less than 20 wineries in the Napa Valley and most restaurants served French and Italian wines. The Judgment of Paris, which catapulted the reputation of California wines onto the world stage, wouldn’t take place until 1976, so starting a winery north of San Francisco was a courageous thing to do. Of course the namesake Cabernet Sauvignon and it’s even more elegant “Special Selection” have grown into iconic wines with a befitting price tag. But the rest of the wines in the family shine on their own and are a tribute to the family’s dedication to farming fruit in the perfect location.
Conundrum was inspired by Chuck’s father Charlie as he pursued the quest for a great glass of white wine to go with dinner. He would often play with different wines, mixing them together in one glass to obtain the aromas and flavors that worked with the food. And just like a great chef, they’ll give you the general ingredients, but never tell you exactly what’s in the blend.
Mer Soliel, whose name translates to Sea Sun, comes from the scenic Monterey Coast about 90 minutes south of San Francisco. The name captures the location as the Pacific Ocean creates a cooling effect across the region, making it ideal for growing Chardonnay. Charlie Wagner II oversees the farming and winemaking and creates distinct wines. Mer Soliel is made using French oak and Silver is unoaked Chardonnay. This allows the wine to show purity of the fruit without influencing with wood. The creative Amphora packaging is a nod to the Nomblot cement tanks that they use to ferment the wine in.
Belle Glos is homage to the matriarch of the Wagner family. These are Pinot Noirs from distinctly different vineyard that are crafted into lovely wines by Chuck’s other son Joseph who also direct the winemaking at Meiomi. This is certainly in his wheelhouse since Meiomi is Pinot Noir from different vineyards in Sonoma, Monterey and Santa Barbara. By blending grapes from these unique regions Joseph can create a wine that has the best each area has to offer at a value that’s hard to beat.
If you’d like to experience the Wagner Family wines for yourself visit the Tropicana Casino and Resort for a special dinner 6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 24. For more information call 609-340-4202.
I hope you enjoy a California legend!