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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.
The harvest in 2008 was very different from the norm in Napa Valley. Mother Nature turned the year into a real thriller, which held producers in its grip from the start all the way until harvest time.
The year began in stormy conditions: the valley was buffeted by downpours and storm winds. These then gave way to an agonisingly long dry period. The spring’s rainfall only reached 60 per cent of the average, and went down in history as one of the driest springs in Napa Valley. Due to the mild and dry weather, the vines’ growing season started earlier than ever. The early sprouting was fateful, however, when the month-long dry period in the spring was followed by destructive sub-zero night-time temperatures. This was not just on a few isolated nights, but went on for a whole month. The long night-time frosts had a devastating effect on the sprouting vines, cutting harvests by up to one third.
During the long frost period, producers pulled out all of their tricks to protect the vines. Some vineyards in the valley have large fans, which were in intensive use throughout the spring. Areas that did not have fans used sprinklers for watering the vines so that the water would freeze onto the buds to shield them from the icy cold. The flowering season after the frosts was irregular and, due to uneven pollination, led to below-average harvests. The summer started off cool and remained so until late August. As a result, the grapes developed slowly and became intense and concentrated. In the late summer, ripening was accelerated by a one-week heat wave, which was followed by dry weather during the harvest. Although the harvest was smaller than usual, the grape quality was excellent.