Uncorked: Wine family dynasty still turning out mysterious blends
by Pat Kettles
Special to The Star
Feb 13, 2013 | 2212 views |  0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
After the California gold rush, many nationalities came to farm California lands, planting fruits, nuts and vast expanses of grain. For most early agrarian settlers, growing grapes for wine was secondary to other agricultural pursuits.

One such immigrant was Carl Wagner, who came to San Francisco in 1885 from the Alsace region of France and settled in Napa in 1906 on land that now makes up Caymus Vineyards. In addition to growing fruits and nuts, he planted vines and established a small winery.

Carl’s son Charlie grew up on Rancho Caymus and would later marry Lorna Bell Glos settling on property adjoining the Rancho. Charlie was a farmer and grew fruits and nuts but did not take up serious grape growing until the 1960s when he pulled out his fruit trees to plant vinifera grapes, including cabernet sauvignon that would become the backbone of his famous Caymus wines.

Charlie and Lorna first grew grapes for others, but in 1972 the pair, along with their son Chuck, established Caymus Vineyard and launched their own wine brand. Charlie Wagner died in 2002 at the age of 89.

The Wagner winemaking dynasty is now headed by Chuck Wagner. Three of his four children have joined the family business, branching out into other areas and adding additional labels to the Wagner portfolio.

Caymus is best known for their two Cabernets, Caymus Special Selection, their flagship wine, and Caymus Napa Valley Cabernet. But the first Caymus wine to catch my attention was their white blend, Conundrum. Readily available in all wine outlets today, Conundrum, when first introduced, was available only in Atlanta, and one had to place their name on a waiting list to secure a few bottles.

Conundrum is overseen by Chuck Wagner. The white Conundrum blend is made by Jon Bolta who admits to sometimes including muscat, sauvignon blanc, semillon, chardonnay and viognier in the blend. The percentage of these varietals and the exact blend remains a conundrum.

Charles II, the eldest Wagner grandchild, is winemaker for the new Conundrum red blend. He also oversees winemaking for the Wagner’s Mer Soleil and Silver labels. His sister Jenny has joined him at Mer Soleil.

Patriarch Chuck Wagner continues to head up winemaking for Caymus Vineyards Special Selection and Caymus Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet along with a Caymus Vineyards Zinfandel. Caymus Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet was recently ranked 14th in the top 50 restaurant wine survey conducted by Wine and Spirits Magazine. The wine in 15th place in that survey is Belle Glos Pinot by Joseph Wagner, another grandchild of the founder and son of the CEO.

Try these wines from the Wagner Family of Wine, all available at Tyson Fine Wines and Things in Golden Springs.

Bell Gloss Pinot Noir Clark and Telegraph Vineyard 2011

$29. Named Bell Glos in homage to the winemaker’s grandmother, Lorna Bell Glos Wagner and getting a lot of wine press buzz, this wine epitomizes California-style pinot noir. Substantive. Brimming with plush fruit. Enrobed in a unique glob of red sealing wax that slithers down the side of the bottle.

Meiomi Belle Glos

$15.75 Meiomi (may oh me) means “coast” in the language of the Wappo and Yuki tribes native to the Pacific Coast. This is somewhat the baby sister of Bell Gloss. Some of the same fruit used in the pricier Bell Gloss is also used in Meiomi. Perhaps a bit lighter than Bell Gloss but a pleasant quaff that pairs well with an array of food.

Conundrum 2010 California White Wine

$16. Local perennial favorite, easy drinking, white blend made from an array of puzzling white varietals. Good as an aperitif but also good with fried chicken and catfish.

Conundrum 2010 California Red Wine

$16. From a mystery blend of non-traditional red grapes is all winemaker Charlie Wagner II has to say about his blend. Medium-bodied, floral-nosed fruit driven wine. A good summer red.

Pat Kettles may be reached at pkettles@annistonstar.com.
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