Caymus Celebrates 40 Years of Making Cab

Here’s the deal:  Winery-priced at $60 per bottle, purchase six or more bottles of 40th Anniversary Cabernet Sauvignon for $54.95 each

Caymus_40annivCabI’ve been selling wine for nearly a dozen years now, and the longer this goes on the more I understand how much I have yet to learn. . .or even comprehend.  I always get excited learning something new, and that’s happened twice in the last week (too bad it doesn’t happen every day!).

First, I’m reading Rajat Parr’s 2010 insider’s tome titled “Secrets of the Sommeliers,” and it is one of the finest books I’ve encountered when it comes to demystifying the process of tasting wine.  If you are confused about malolactic fermentation or don’t understand how tannins influence wine, this is a must read.  And, you’ll understand why sommeliers are challenging chefs in the personality-driven world of fine dining.

I purchased this book and then, oddly enough, was invited to an industry tasting for a dozen people, mostly somms—at Michael Mina, one of San Francisco’s hottest restaurants and part of a group of top joints around the country.  Rajat Parr is wine director for Michael Mina Restaurants, and he is a partner in Sandhi, a Santa Barbara winery from which we have sourced a recent Wine Club selection.  With those intersections, I had to go.

Lunch was predictably awesome, but what was monumentally remarkable was the four glasses in front of me containing wine awarded a total of 393 points from Steve Heimoff, former California wine critic for Wine Enthusiast magazine.  In more than 25 years with WE, he awarded only five wines perfect scores of 100 points, and two of them were on the table:  the 2006 Cardinale (a Bordeaux blend) and the 2007 Véritén (mostly merlot).  Two others were 96 and 97 points.  For once, I didn’t spit. . .I enjoyed every drop.

Heimoff was at the luncheon, and when asked about what makes a perfect wine, his opinion is the key is structure. . .a near perfect harmony of fruit, tannins and acid.   Parr concurred in his book, saying”  “Structure which is sensed in the mouth, on the tongue and in the back of the throat, is the architecture of wine.”


This is the long way to the point of my pitch today. . .that few California wineries have had as much experience as Napa’s Caymus Vineyards in mastering the component of structure through its Napa Cabernet Sauvignon and Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon.  This vintage, Caymus is marking its 40th anniversary with a celebratory label for its Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, and, because of bumper yield, case production is up slightly.

Caymus is just one of the brands produced by the Wagner family, starting in 1972 with 240 cases of cabernet sauvignon.  Chuck Wagner, whose family has farmed in Napa for five generations, is the patriarch responsible for Caymus; his three children are also winemakers:  Charlie is responsible for Mer Soleil and Silver; Joe handles Belle Glos (a top-selling line of pinot noir in Carpe Vino); and Jenny oversees Emmolo.  The winemaker for Conundrum, a blend of five white varietals, is Jon Bolta.

Winery Tasting Notes:  “This wine exemplifies our style of
cabernet out of a great vintage—deep
color, rich, concentrated and balanced.
 2012 celebrates 40 years of producing
our pride and joy, Caymus Vineyards
Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.”

Chuck Wagner

In his book, Rajat Parr offers this advice for learning how to judge wines:  it is essential to “. . .begin and end with the classics.  If you want to be a good taster, you must have reference points.  You must know the Old World wine regions backward and forward.  Most great wine being made elsewhere in the world—from Napa to New Zealand—gets its style and its identity from the wines that came before it.”

It is Parr’s opinion (shared by many of the elite Master Sommeliers) is that the only wines being made in the United States that exhibit Old World classic identities are Napa cabs and Oregon pinot noir.  And included in the heady realm of a classic cab is my Gary’s Wine Deal of the Week, Caymus Vineyards 40th Anniversary Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  This wine is consistently among the top performers in the region based on critical reviews, and this hallmark vintage will surely please as well.

Gary’s Impression:  I opened a bottle and tasted it over two days, and I’ve got to say it blossomed overnight.  It’s classic cab in every respect, and for a ’12, remarkably approachable.  The nose is assertive; flavors bright and forward.  Tannins are silky slick; fruit and acid have reached an accord that could serve as a model for the Ukraine.  And the finish just doesn’t know when to call it a night.  Just be patient and let this wine limber up before you start sipping.  This wine would be a welcome bedfellow with Chef Alexander’s braised beef cheeks.

Best advice from your senior taster at Carpe Vino is to purchase six and open over time.  And don’t delay jumping on the “Buy Now” button because this wine won’t stay in stock forever.



“Under the Tuscan Sun” In a Bottle

PROSECCO_DOC_Blue_VDOHow often has a sip of wine triggered a memory or summoned an emotion for you?  Our very special offer today, six bottles of Val D’Ora Prosecco for $10.99 each, does it for me.  It transports me to two places:  two weeks in Umbria spent hanging out with Gary Capps—a co-owner of Auburn’s Tres Pazzi—and attending a dinner during a writer’s symposium at Meadowood in Napa a few years ago when I had the good fortune to be seated next to Frances Mayes, the author of Under the Tuscan Sun.

My visit to Italy was in 2007 on the heels of a divorce, and I relished the opportunity to escape my reality in a distant place.  It was pivotal sequence for me of being immersed in a remote village culture and being welcomed at Gary’s annual retreat with great food and rustic wine.  The villa was always full of wine lovers, and I know we drank a bit of Prosecco.

And then chatting with Ms. Mapes for almost two hours is a random experience I won’t forget.  She spoke to a group of wine writers in the afternoon and then joined us for dinner.  She arrived late and sat next to me at the end of the table, where we consumed a magnificent meal paired with an ocean of Napa’s finest wine.  We didn’t drink prosecco that evening, but I bought her book and rented the movie (with Diane Lane and Sandra Oh) and in my mind’s eye, I can see myself seated outdoors with a huge Italian family consuming liters of the stuff.

Val D’Ora Prosecco has been absent from the racks at Carpe Vino for a very long time, but it’s back and you’ll want to stock up for summer, starting with our Memorial Day weekend kickoff.  It is the perfect beverage for enjoying near your pool, during any kind of cookout or camping, as an aperitif welcome toast or just to pop open after a tough day slogging in the mines.

The thing that makes prosecco so appealing and friendly is it is a frizzante wine—a semi sparkler with millions (perhaps billions) of tiny bubbles that coat your tongue with a tickle and leave it refreshed and begging for food.  It is a fabulous palate cleanser and unlike traditional Champagne with the big bubbles, you’re in little danger of risking a head trip.  It is only 11% alcohol, about the same as a Triple IPA.

Winery Tasting Notes:
  “This wine is made from 100% of the most Superior Prosecco di Valdobbiadene D.O.C.G. fruit after careful selection and pressing of the best grapes of the year, the must is carefully fermented at controlled temperatures to obtain an elegant straw colored sparkling wine with aromas of white wild flowers and notes of green apple. It has tiny bubbles with a frothy feel on the palate. Enjoy chilled.  Suggested serving temperature: 6-8 °C (42 to 46 °F)
Suggested food to accompany: as aperitif, during whole meal, in particular with fish or shellfish.”

Serving chilled, and keeping it cold, is the key with this wine.  If it starts to warm up, it just isn’t the same, so keep it on ice or in the refrigerator after you open.

This wine is retails for $12.99 per bottle and we’ve got 28 cases that arrived yesterday on offer for $10.99 when you purchase six or more.  That’s a modest 15% savings, but at this low price point there just isn’t much room.

Besides, we’re the only joint in the region currently stocking this just-released juice.  So take off your shoes off and crush the




. . .or you may just want to come in and pick up a case.



Stop the Presses! Gary’s Back in the Auburn Journal

aj_logo.150044We must have entered a parallel reality because I’ve been welcomed back as a weekly columnist with the Auburn Journal.  Look for my column, “The Other Side of Auburn,” every Friday.  It is also available online at (select “Opinion” then “Columnists”).

For those familiar with my dicey relationship with the newspaper, it would be charitable to label it as “contentious.”  Things change, though, and with an entirely new management team at the newspaper, there is little institutional memory of my dust-ups with former editors and staff.  Plus people tell me I’ve mellowed over the last few years, so the stars aligned.

This will be my third column in an Auburn newspaper. I first wrote for the Journal for about 2 ½ years, starting in July 2003. Then I accepted an offer from the late Janice Forbes to write a column for her newspaper, the Placer Sentinel. I wrote there from 2007 until 2010 when the paper went belly up.

My first v2.0 column in the Auburn Journal was published May 16.  This Friday, I answer the question I’m asked most often:  “Are you running again for city council?”



Brainstorm a Prix-Fixe Theme and Win Dinner for 4

Brainstorm.145455Carpe Vino’s monthly prix-fixe program has been cruising along for something like three years now, and each event has been pretty darned special.  Though we occasionally repeat some themes—such as our French dinner and our celebration of tomatoes—we try to create something new every month.  And though it may appear to you that our building is a breeding site for genius, it’s getting tougher and tougher to get the ball over the fence.

So, we’d like to turn the tables and offer our customers the opportunity to submit their own ideas for a themed extravaganza.  You must suggest a theme that can be translated into a four-course menu.  The best entries will have a title, not just the germ of an idea (but let Chef Alexander worry about designing the full menu).  For example, our recent French dinner was titled “Paris in April”.  Get it?

Enter as many times as you wish by sending your suggestions to  Deadline for entries is July 1, 2014, and the winner will be announced in a Window on Old Town report.

The winner (or winners if we receive multiple Mensa-level entries) will receive a dinner for four and two bottles of wine (that Drew selects) to pair with their dinner theme.  The winning theme will be produced sometime this fall.

So, if you think you’ve got a tasty idea, send it in stat.  We’d love to make you a culinary star.

Spanning the Globe to Create a World Cup Menu

WorldCup.145733Speaking of prix-fixe concepts, our next event is taking shape.  Drew is a huge futbol fan (soccer to the rest of us), and he gets a little crazy every four years when the World Cup rolls around.  This year, Brazil is hosting, so Chef Alexander is crafting an international prix-fixe menu that will focus on the cuisine of the top competitors, including the home team.

Menu and title are still in the works, but the dates are set:  June 24 to 29, starting at 5 p.m. each night.  In line with our M.O., we’ll be serving four courses with choices for $59 per person plus tax and tip.  To score a reservation (recommended!) call the restaurant at 530-823-0320 or go online to

Will Give Wine for Food…$500 Worth

PrintIt’s finally here. . .The Big Day of Giving, a 24-hour opportunity to donate just for the heck of it. . .no reason, just pure altruism.  And if you participate, you’ll get more than just a good feeling.

Carpe Vino’s favorite charitable organization is the Auburn Interfaith Food Closet because it fits our contributions policy so precisely.  We prefer to give locally and to organizations that have the greatest reach.  The AIFC fills the most basic of needs: helping fill empty bellies.  There is nothing more important than helping make sure those in our community in need can get assistance in putting food on the table. . .especially for the young children and the elderly.

So here’s the deal all day Tuesday, May 6:  If you give at least $25 at, and indicate the Auburn Interfaith Food Closet as the recipient, we’ll match all contributions from our customers up to $500.

And, if you bring in your printed donation receipt to Carpe Vino on Tuesday evening between 5 p.m. and closing, we’ll trade you for a complimentary glass of red or white wine (that we select).

So, here’s “cheers” to you for participating in The Big Day of Giving.  What a simple, yet compelling idea. . .so find your credit card and log on to!



Hi, My Pen Name is Marsha White

tajmahal.205432We get spammed with tons of solicitations every week, ranging from restaurant reservation services to marketing companies promising to move Carpe Vino to the top of Google searches.  Recently, we received the email below from an unsolicited correspondent in India, pitching us on purchasing some of this grandmother’s recipes.  The only thing I was “keen” on was learning Madhavi’s pen name (boldface and italics added), as noted in the sign-off below!


I’m an author and write recipes too as books and articles. Some are on Yahoo voices!  Recently got some grandmother’s recipes for snacks that have medicinal benefits like preventing backache!  So it’s snacking while healing.   Do you want to make them in your restaurant too?

If you are keen, I can sell them to you.

Madhavi C Vasanta
Senior VP – Pagwon Ltd.
Pen name – Marsha White

F-302, Majestic Mansion,
Bhd Shoppers stop, Begumpet,
Hyderabad, India – 500016

Mystery of Saloonkeeper’s Home is Solved


William Black Patrick

A year ago I wrote a piece about Thomas Patrick, a former owner of the Union Saloon, the predecessor to Carpe Vino.  Thomas stood behind the bar on Lincoln Way from September 1908 until his death at 38 years of age on June 6, 1912.  I was introduced to his story by his grandson, Doug Patrick of Santa Cruz.

Doug stopped by several times unannounced to Carpe Vino and dropped off photos, legal documents and other information that I used in tell Thomas Patrick’s story, now posted on our web site.  While we’ve had telephone conversations, I finally met him when I stopped by his home on a recent trip to Santa Cruz.

What a nice man!  We had a great chat, and I learned even more about a man whose legacy we continue on Lincoln way, especially where he and his family actually lived:


patrickhouse.064259Based on probate documents Doug gave me, I suspected that Thomas, his wife and eight children may have lived in the stone building behind the bar—the Wine Mine.  There was a mention of a lease for a separate “shophouse” building that got me thinking but, thankfully, I was wrong.  It was difficult to imagine such a large group living in our “cave,” but those were different times. . .

The Patrick family actually lived in a house on Buena Vista Street, on the other side of the Auburn-splitting I-80 freeway, just a short distance from the Nevada Street home of Placer County Deputy Sheriff Frank “Big Dip” Dependener (who worked at the Union Saloon some time after Thomas’ death).   Thomas’ father, William Black Patrick (pictured) and an uncle built the house that still stands and is now occupied by a family member.

Just One More Week Till “Big Day of Giving:

PrintCarpe Vino has joined with the Placer County Community Foundation to participate in a very special event:  On May 6, for 24 hours only, everyone everywhere is invited to make a cash contribution to the non-profit of their choice. It’s all about 24 hours of giving where you live through the web site,  For our region, the Placer County Community Foundation is coordinating the program.

It works like this: go to and make your donation of $25 or more to the organization of your choice, and, according to the organizers, “Each donation will be matched on a prorated basis, thus making every donation go farther.  Then print out the receipt you are provided.

Bring the receipt into Carpe Vino between 5 p.m. and closing, and we’ll pour you a glass of either red or white wine (of our choice!).  Other businesses in our area are also providing incentives; go to for more details.

So step up and donate. . .you don’t need a reason, but I promise it will make you feel good!

Still a Few Seats in the Jeep for Pisoni Vineyards Trip

images.120457Wine Club perks don’t get any better than this:  We’re traveling to Pisoni Vineyards on Saturday, May 10, for a full day of hanging out with one of the most talented wine-making families anywhere in California.  Gary, Mark and Jeff Pisoni create some of the best pinots in America, and they are pretty cool cats, too.

This ain’t our first Pisoni rodeo, and that’s why we’re so excited about a return trip for a day that will focus on wine tasting in Gary’s cave, a ranch lunch comprised mostly of components sourced from the family’s fields and a relaxing day of hanging out.  I shouldn’t forget Jeep rides through the vineyards with Gary. . .better than any E-ticket at Disneyland. . .I guarantee!

This is a Wine Club-only event—first-come, first-served—with a cap of 50 participants.  We’ll rally in Salinas (a three- to four-our drive) and take a bus to the vineyard and wine cave.  Cost is $125 per person, and we recommend everyone plan on staying overnight locally.  We have hotel recommendations and full details posted online here.  If you would like to join us for this very special day among the vines, email or

More information
Carpe Vino (Find Us) 1568 Lincoln Way Auburn, CA 95603
Phone Number: 530-823-0320
Get Directions to Carpe Vino
Retail/Wine Bar Hours Tuesday - Saturday
Noon - 10:00 p.m.
Closed: Sunday and Monday
Dining Hours Tuesday - Saturday
5:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.
Closed: Sunday and Monday
Make A Reservation Guests must be 21 years of age or older.
Reservations are suggested for preferred seating, especially on weekends.