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.