Charles F. Wagner was one of the now legendary generation which established the new wave of Napa wineries in the 1970’s (along with Warren Winiarski, Joe Phelps, Dan and Margaret Duckhorn et al). At the ripe age of sixty after a career as a grape farmer he founded Caymus on his family’s Rutherford property with his wife, Lorna Belle Glos and their son, Charles J. (Chuck), then just 21. The estate was named after the title “Rancho Caymus” that General Vallejo gave to the land in 1836. Even before they founded Caymus they had planted Cabernet Sauvignon there using budwood from Nathan Fay (see Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars). For Charlie, the taste and the quality of the fruit really stood out.
The Wagners produced their first Cabernet Sauvignon in the 1972 vintage. The first Special Selection (from outstanding Cabernet lots given extended barrel ageing) was made from the 1975 vintage. They have experimented with many varietals but now focus entirely on Cabernet Sauvignon. The winery's sixty plus acres of estate Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards in the Napa Valley's Rutherford District still form the foundation of their wines, though the family also farm several other vineyards in the Napa Valley ranging in location from the valley floor to mountain slopes.
Charles passed away in 2002 at the age of ninety and his son, Chuck Wagner now directs all the viticultural, winemaking and business operations. His own sons Charlie (see Mer Soleil) and Joseph (see Belle Glos) are also very much involved. Between them they are continuing Charlie’s legacy and Caymus remains firmly in the vanguard of Napa Valley wineries.
Caymus has not once but twice been awarded the Wine Spectator’s ultimate accolade of No.1 best wine in the world (with Special Selection 1984 and 1990) and twice second best. Both Charlie and Chuck were nominated to the same magazine’s “Hall of Fame” in 2001. In Decanter Magazine’s recent tasting of 2004 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon both wines came in the top four with the Napa Valley designate wine rated above the top wine of most other estates. It is therefore heart-warming that the Wagner family should be so modest and unfazed by their extraordinary success which is perfectly summed up by this quote of Charlie’s and a perfect way to conclude: “We don’t like to brag about it, but we think we do a good job here. And if people like the wine, well, that’s great.”