From Caymus to Mer Soleil, the Wagner family of wines is carrying out a legacy

Partial Caymus wine tasting line up at Total Wine & More this past weekend This past Saturday I attended the Caymus webcast tasting at Total Wine & More. For anyone else who attended, was it not an event chock-full of fantastic wines?

The Wagner family has a LOT of passion for the vine. Chuck, himself, is technically a fourth generation winemaker which makes the equally passionate and individually talented children of his fifth generation winemakers. When your kids follow in your footsteps that says a good deal about the person you are on a daily basis.

Sure, it sounds romantic to be a winemaker but there are early mornings, late nights, complete lack of control regarding weather-so many things that must take the romance out of making great wine. So Chuck had to have exemplified a character that drew his kids toward the family business instead of pushing them away from it.

The 2011 Conundrum California White Wine-a blend of five wines

Admittedly I’ve not met the patriarch, Chuck Wagner, but he seemed genuine in the webcast and had wonderful things to say about each of his children and the wine they’re making. We were started off with the 2011 Conundrum California White Wine ($18) which someone likened to Sokol Blosser's Evolution in its ability to successfully blend so many whites in one bottle. There's Chardonnay, Viognier (spice), Sauvignon Blanc (tart), Semillion (dry), and Muscat Canelli (residual sugar). Blend those all together and Conundrum has an aroma of peach, melon, soft floral and light nutmeg, toast and smoke. It'd pair well with pork was my first impression though many other food combinations (and soft cheeses) would fit nicely. Low acid, medium tannin, a nicely balanced, easy summer sipping wine.

Joseph is responsible for the Belle Glos label. Attendees tasted the 2011 “Las Alturas” Pinot Noir ($40). I noted tobacco, chocolate, root beer (more popularly referred to as cola) and deep cherry on the nose. His is a much deeper in color Pinot than is the norm and, at 14.5% alcohol, I’m pretty sure a higher alcohol content than the norm, as well. With medium tannin and high acid, this Pinot makes for a great food wine. Sharp cheeses came to mind straight away.

Jenny is the youngest of the three children. She’s been making wine for four years now and is producing a unique Sauvignon Blanc ($20) under the Emmolo label. Her goal is to stay away from herbaceous and green pepper notes typical of Sauv Blancs. As a result the 2012 Emmolo Sauvignon Blanc is steely with medium acid. This is a soft, drinkable wine that cleanses the palate and would pair well with a great deal of food that’s not overpowering (i.e. crab cakes, pasta with cream sauce, grilled chicken, pork chops, nothing overly marinated or spiced). It’d also make a wonderful aperitif.

The delight of my day-Charlie Wagn'ers 2012 Mer Soleil Reserve Chardonnay

Caymus is famous (pardon the unintentional rhyme) for their Cabernet but Charlie stole my heart with his 2012 Mer Soleil Reserve Chardonnay ($28). I am not a big Chard fan. It’s typically too buttery, oaky or acidic for me. Charlie’s Mer Soleil Reserve surprised me in the best way. From the light oak, toast and butter on the nose to the velvety mouth feel, I was seduced. His Chardonnay is perfectly balanced and elegant with a kiss of caramel. He advised that it could age up to 10 years which teeters on daring since white wines aged too long can go dark and be unpleasant but I wasn’t surprised with this suggestion. When asked what his favorite food pairing for this wine is, he answered resolutely 'lobster.'

The 40th anniversary edition of the wine that started it all - 2012 Caymus Napa Valley Cabernet

We ended with the 2012 40th Anniversary Caymus Napa Valley Cabernet. At $55/bottle, it is what put Caymus on the wine map back in 1972 when it sold for under $5/bottle. As many of you know, I am not a meat eater but one sip of this Cab and the mouth can’t help but scream 'steak.' Slightly grassy on the nose with leather, spice, green olive and blueberry is what I detected. High acid, high tannin, raspberry and green pepper in the mouth. It was an explosion quite frankly. My cheeks, tongue, the roof of my mouth, nothing can escape the boldness of this Cab. It is a Cab for Cab lovers and will make a Cab lover out of someone who is clueless. As disappointing as it may be to a red meat eater, I could just as easily pair this with a grilled Portobello mushroom drizzled with balsamic vinegar, a tuna steak or, for meat eaters, heavy cream pasta with sausage. Bold, beautiful, masterfully crafted.

Unfortunately, I had to leave the tasting during the Q & A time for another scheduled function and missed the last two ‘extra’ tastings (which I was really disappointed about) but this was such a fun class, I’m really looking forward to the next special event that Total Wine & More hosts.