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News

Wagner earns wine group top honor - Charles J. “Chuck” Wagner helped turn a few grape vines behind a barn into a leading Napa Valley winery and an expanding California wine empire.

Mr. Wagner was just 19 in 1972, when he helped form Caymus Vineyards with his parents. In a decade or so, the Rutherford winery emerged as one of the most coveted Napa cabernet sauvignon and today is the cornerstone of the Wagner Family of Wines. The company is, literally, a family. Mr. Wagner’s children head up other brands.

Mr. Wagner was honored at the American Wine Society national conference this month in Tysons Corner, Va., with the organization’s Award of Merit, the group’s top award for a wine professional in recognition of a lifetime of contributions to the industry. Hearing his acceptance speech about his family’s farming roots going back 160 years, it’s clear Mr. Wagner represents this era of Napa’s transition from diverse farming region to world renowned wine region.

Caymus is cab royalty, a favorite of collectors and cab hounds that can be had for about $80. I would avoid the mediocre 2010 and 2011 vintages. At the awards banquet, 650 attendees had the opportunity to try Caymus’ 2009 Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon which weighs in at about $160.

Wagner earns wine group top honor

For as good as Caymus cab is, the special selection takes your breath away. Only made in great years, it combines an intensity of fruit with chocolate notes, and cedar and balanced tannins.

Just as Caymus is an archetypal Napa Valley cab, the Wagner family is great at making other types, or categories, of wines consumers love. For example, purists say Belle Glos Pinot Noir isn’t an accurate example of pinot noir. But the silky, luscious wine goes down like cherry pie filling for $40.

Mer Soleil is an over-the-top buttery, oaky chardonnay, the sort that still commands a large audience. Mer Soleil Silver is unoaked and comes in a gray ceramic bottle. Then there is Conundrum, the mysterious white blend. (The Wagner family is tight-lipped about what grapes they use.) Conundrum is well-made wine, sweet for my taste, but delicious in small doses. It’s a deal compared to other Wagner wines at about $25.

Emmolo is another line made from Napa Valley’s non-signature grapes such as sauvignon blanc and merlot at about $40.

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History

In 1971 Charles F. (Charlie) Wagner and his wife Lorna Belle Glos Wagner asked their son Charles J. (Chuck) Wagner, who had just graduated from high school, if he would be interested in joining them in starting up a winery. If Chuck declined the offer, Charlie and Lorna were planning to sell out of their ranch in Napa Valley and move to Australia. Chuck accepted his parents’ offer to launch the winery, Caymus Vineyards.

The Wagners produced their first vintage in 1972, consisting of 240 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon. Since then, Caymus has focused their efforts in the production of quality Cabernet Sauvignon. Today’s production is 65,000 cases.

Caymus Vineyards remains 100% family-owned by the Wagners. Charlie, Lorna Belle, and Chuck worked together as a remarkable team for over 30 years building Caymus Cabernet. Today, Chuck, his two sons, Charlie and Joe, and one daughter, Jenny, have joined the family team. Farming grapes remain the priority with the family farming about 350 acres of choice Napa Valley land.

The Wagners took the name Caymus from the Mexican land grant known as Rancho Caymus, given to George Yount in 1836, which encompassed what eventually became the town of Rutherford and much of the surrounding area.

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Winemaking

Caymus Vineyards produces two Cabernets Sauvignons – a “Napa Valley” and the venerable “Special Selection”. Both Cabernet bottlings have aromas and flavors which can only be achieved through “hang time” – a technique which chances the loss of crop if early winter sets in. Leaving the fruit to “hang” on the vine unusually long develops suppleness, increases color, and matures the tannins of the grapes. The wines are abundant in textural tannins yet soft as velvet. Crop thinning, allowing measured sunlight to reach the vine’s fruit zone, and waiting for increased ripeness are all part of our viticultural practices. Caymus Cabernets offer a wide array of aromas and flavors including cocoa, cassis and vanilla.

Caymus Special Selection is the flagship wine of the Wagner family and is comprised of the very best barrels of the vintage. This wine is not produced in difficult years. Caymus Napa Valley is more representative of a standard Cabernet of Napa Valley, as it is a bit less precocious than the Special Selection, but still delivers big. Caymus prides itself on producing wines that are as approachable in youth as well at maturity. Both the “Napa Valley” and “Special Selection” Cabernets are produced under the winemaking hand of Chuck Wagner.

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4 different wines with 55 vintages

Highlights

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Wine Moments

Here you can see wine moments from tastingbook users.    or    to see wine moments from your world.

 Achim Becker / Wineterminator.com, Wine Writer (Germany)  tasted  1 wines  from  Caymus Vineyards . In a tasting of  11 wines 

Tasting wines like Haut-Brion 1953, Dom Pérignon 1971, Harlan 1999 etc.

6m 13d ago

 Christer Byklum , Wine Writer (Norway)  tasted  1 wines  from  Caymus Vineyards . In a tasting of  11 wines 

Krug Grande Cuvée 169th edition / Pale lemon yellow. Apples, brioche, fruit driven, intense, citrus, candied lemons, layered nose. Fresh acidity, apples, minerals, fruit driven, detailed and intense, layered and long. Long. 95 

6m 20d ago

 Juha Lihtonen / The Best Scandinavian Sommelier 2003, Pro (Finland)  tasted  1 wines  from  Caymus Vineyards . In a tasting of  8 wines 

It's truly amazing how big Napa cabs can deliver full enjoyment at their very young stage. In a blind tasting I was sure that the wines were from late 2000s, not late 2010s! So smooth and well-integrated and harmonous. Pure pleasure!    

11m 25d ago

 Richard Hemming MW, Wine Writer (United Kingdom)  tasted  1 wines  from  Caymus Vineyards . In a tasting of  17 wines 

Penfolds 802-A Superblend 2018 / Not made in 2019 and 2020. Made to celebrate Cabernet/Shiraz blends. Makes use of the A1-grade fruit that isn't suitable for Grange, similarly to Quantum – so that top-end grower fruit has more options. Cabernet and Shiraz matured separately for 18 months, then blended. Matured 22 months in American oak.
Black fruit, lots of floral perfume – really quite different to the 389 style, and perhaps less typically Penfolds. Still delicious with black cherry, rounded tannins, a touch of tarmac – this is almost Piedmont in aromatic profile. A little less integrated than the 802-B. (RH)

1y 6d ago

 Shun Lâu / Wine dealer, Wine Merchant (China)  tasted  1 wines  from  Caymus Vineyards . In a tasting of  12 wines 

This 2015 vintage's Harlan Estate leads with notes of red and black plum, vanilla, dried herbs and pencil shavings; the prelude to a supple, open-knit palate with a good core of juicy fruit and tangy acids. There is a touch of oak tannin which will need some time to integrate further.

1y 9m ago

 Mario Sculatti / Sleeping Lady Vineyard, Wine Maker (United States)  tasted  1 wines  from  Caymus Vineyards . In a tasting of  19 wines 

Tasting wines from 1980's like Sassicaia 1985, Mouton 1985, Hill of Grace 1989, Opus One 1984 etc.

1y 10m ago

 Achim Becker / Wineterminator.com, Wine Writer (Germany)  tasted  1 wines  from  Caymus Vineyards . In a tasting of  22 wines 

American Beauty -tasting with Dominus, Dana Estate, Ovid, Caymus, Colgin etc.

1y 10m ago

 Christer Byklum , Wine Writer (Norway)  tasted  1 wines  from  Caymus Vineyards . In a tasting of  51 wines 

1998 Château Cheval Blanc; Ruby, pink rim, floral, violets, mint, layered, again impossible to describe fully. Close to perfect balance, playfull and stil relaxed acidity. tannins soft, stunning texture, mouthwatering, just ads and ads with air, incredible length, never ending, I keep raising the score on this as it keeps unlocking more and more secrets. I wish I had cases of this one. 98


Served blind, I was sure it was Petrus, as was most of the table. Wine of the evening!

2y 6m ago

 Stephen Tanzer, Wine Writer (United States)  tasted  1 wines  from  Caymus Vineyards . In a tasting of  24 wines 

Maya 1991 / Saturated dark red. Wonderfully polished, complex aromas of black raspberry, plum, truffle, smoky oak and caramel, plus a hint of black olive (this wine actually reminded me of some of the earlier vintages of Harlan Estate). At once plush and vibrant, offering terrific retention of sweet berry fruit complicated by tobacco and smoky oak. Firm acidity (natural?) turned slightly tart with aeration but this wonderfully long, saline wine finishes with serious but well-integrated tannins and outstanding verve. While it does not have quite the give of the 2008 I tasted alongside it for my '08 horizontal, it has guts of steel and should go on for years. (13.5% alcohol)

2y 9m ago

 Achim Becker / Wineterminator.com, Wine Writer (Germany)  tasted  1 wines  from  Caymus Vineyards . In a tasting of  11 wines 

Ein fantastisches Geburtstagsfest war das, was der liebe Bernd da veranstaltete. Leckere Schweinereien aus der Küche von Gerd Dehnen und dazu großartige Weine aus großen Formaten am laufenden Band. So blieb kein Glas leer, und von jedem dieser Weine kam zumindest ein anständiger Schluck ins Glas.

3y 2m ago

 Christer Byklum , Wine Writer (Norway)  tasted  1 wines  from  Caymus Vineyards . In a tasting of  80 wines 

OK, the first five Champagne's was Friday evening, the rest of these wines was Saturday, from morning until night. This was a day and a weekend I will remember for the rest of my life! Nearly all were served blind.

3y 3m ago

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