The Wagners produced their first Cabernet Sauvignon – “Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon” -- from the 1972 vintage. Their first Special Selection, from outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon lots given extended barrel aging, was made from the 1975 vintage.
The Wagners’ 60 acres of estate vineyard remain at the core of Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon, but Chuck Wagner believes that much is gained in complexity and layering of flavors by not restricting fruit sources to a single site. As a result, Caymus has taken over farming control of selected other vineyards within the Napa Valley, some on the valley floor and some in mountain locations as high as 1,600 feet in elevation. Each vineyard block is farmed according to the specific needs of its soil type, climate, slope and orientation. The Wagners also have long-term relationships with several Napa Valley growers whose location and viticultural practices produce grapes of the quality Caymus requires.
"Every growing season involves chance, but setting aside certain grapes from among our lots to make the year’s Special Selection is very much a matter of choice. With luck, planting decisions are met by a cooperative climate to produce the superb grapes that go into all our wines. From there, we identify which vineyard blocks were particularly favored with grapes eligible for the Special Selection designation." - Chuck Wagner
The goal in Caymus Vineyard is a balanced wine that tastes delicious when bottled but can improve with age. Chuck Wagner attributes the quality of the wines to farming and winemaking techniques developed over the decades. These techniques are open to change if improvements can be made, even if doing so requires replanting a vineyard.
Caymus Cabernets are the result of Napa Valley’s very special climate and soil conditions. The Valley is actually an agricultural preserve located just an hour north of San Francisco where Cabernet wine grapes reign as king─ and where little to no land is left to plant.
The 2010 growing season held some surprises. A wet spring, followed by an abnormally cool summer delayed full fruit maturity into mid-October. Just as we were preparing for the harvest, two significant rains visited the Valley. We waited through both rains for warm conditions to return to continue ripening the fruit. Due to this trying year, the 2010 Napa Valley harvest in general will go down as a vintage that produced a short quantity of high quality wine, and Caymus was no exception.
For us, more than half of our grapes ripened sufficiently so that we could produce a special wine this vintage. I can confirm that this bottling of our “Napa Valley” Cabernet still expresses our house character of high texture and tannin balanced by cassis, chocolate and ripe fruit impressions with a rich, dark color. While there is a certain style to our winemaking, the soils are most responsible for our wine’s goodness. Persistent diligence in farming to make good wine is a given, but the key is the earth. Most of the soils where our Cabernet is grown would make poor garden soil – they are not rich enough for garden crops. Generally we seek out soils that are gravelly, rocky and well drained where the vines must struggle to exist, producing a concentrated and rich style of red wine.
Most local winemakers would generalize that Napa Valley cabernets are comprised of two styles − the mountain expressing more brawny tannic structure and the valley floor producing more supple wine of generosity. Caymus Cabernets rely on both mountain and valley fruit, where we try to show the best of these two worlds by blending about 75% valley floor with 25% grown in mountain locations.
The nose of this wine is especially interesting to me. There’s the presence of a well-cared for, clean farmstead. Possibly the aroma of a freshly opened bale of hay or the combine dust during the summer harvest at my cousins wheat farm in St. John, Washington. This is layered with the fruit components─ ripe cherries crushed in a snifter, a subtle smell of ripeness. And a bit of grape pumice at fermentation, rustic. Other nuances come to mind─ smoke in a forest cabin, earth, spice and cola. The flavors in this wine are genuinely good, but the textural elements are its most exceptional feature. The entry wanders, deliberating, then evolves and expands to cocoa- like fine tannins in
harmony with oak, fruit and acidity. A balanced and harmonious wine with a long evolution.
~Chuck Wagner, Winemaker June, 2012