A viticultural choice we made years ago at Caymus-to deliberately reduce our crop yields in order to increase concentration and intensity of flavors-put us well ahead of the curve going into the 1998 growing season. This vintage saw quite cool overall weather patterns for our region, and many vintners addressed that challenge by thinning their crops during the summer to give the grapes left on the vines their best chance to reach maturity. Our own crop reduction measures started at fruit set and continued through the season. As a result, while our yields were low even by our standards, we were very pleased with the quality of the fruit and especially its maturity level.
For even more selectivity, we picked our Cabernet in several passes through the vineyards. For example, we harvested Cabernet from one of our small estate blocks on October 1, 3, 13, 14 and 23. We were rewarded with the dark color and deep, lush flavors that we always seek in our wine. Following fermentation, we aged the lots separately, selecting primarily new French oak barrels, for 24 months before blending. I'm very proud of this bottling, truly the result of pro-active farming throughout a season of difficult weather conditions.
Color: Deep black-purple.
Nose: Spicy, layered aromas mingling black currants (cassis) with rich blackberry liqueur-the classic identifiers of deeply ripe Cabernet. These fruit aromas mesh seamlessly with notes of roasted espresso beans as well as vanillin from the toasted oak.
Mouth: The wine continues to evoke the ripe Cabernet flavors promised in the aroma, adding abundant, multi-dimensional flavors of blackberries and black licorice. The texture is dense, thick and mouth-coating, the tannins firm but sweet. Restrained notes of smoky oak enhance the flavor and texture without dominating. This is a generous wine with an exceptionally long finish. It should drink well for several decades.
As the Wagner family celebrated the 40th anniversary of Caymus Vineyards in 2012, they thought back to 1972 which Charlie Wagner, Lorna Belle Glos Wagner and their son, Chuck, built their winery among the vines planted on the family's ranch in Rutherford, California - the center of the Napa Valley. In 1975, the Wagners produced their first Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon, which remains the only wine to have twice been named Wine Spectator's "Wine of the Year" (1984 and 1990 vintage).
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It's hard not to think of Napa Valley when thinking of California wines. The region is, after all, the one that brought world recognition to California wine making. The area was settled by a few choice wine families in the 1960's who bet that the wines of the area would grow and flourish. They were right. The Napa wine industry really took off in the 1980's, when vineyard lands were scooped up and vines were planted throughout the county. A number of wineries emerged, from large conglomerates to small boutiques to cult classics. Cabernet Sauvignon is definitely the grape of choice here, with many winemakers also focusing on Bordeaux Blends. Whites are usually Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Within the Napa Valley lie smaller sub-AVAs that lend even more character specifics to the wines. Furthest south is Carneros, followed by Yountville, Oakville & Rutherford. Above those two is St.-Helena and finally, just granted an AVA, Calistoga. These areas are situated on the valley floor and are known for creating rich, smooth Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay. There are a few mountain regions as well, nestled on the slopes overlooking the valley AVAs. Those include Howell Mountain, Stags Leap and Mount Veeder. Wines from the mountain regions are often more structured and firm, benefiting from more time in the bottle to evolve and soften.
It's not rare to see a wine's country of origin listed as "California." A country into itself in the wine world, California makes enough varieties and styles to match many European wine countries. It produces a diverse range of wines that span the quality spectrum.
The most famous of the California wine regions is Napa Valley, and these wines are certainly outstanding – but it's not as broad and diverse as its larger neighbor, Sonoma County. Down south, Santa Barbara's Santa Maria Valley is well-known for its Rhône blends, as well as cool-climate varieties like Pinot and Chardonnay. The Central Coast, the largest California AVA, has many different microclimates that lead to a wide range of wines with many sub-AVAs.
Most wine ranges from 10-16% alcohol by volume. Some varietals tend to have higher (for example Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon) or lower alcohol levels (Pinot Noir and many white varietals), but there is always some variation from producer to producer. Some wine falls outside of this range, for instance Port weighs in closer to 20%, while Muscat and Riesling are usually a bit below 10%.
Wine Style Guide
Light & Crisp
Light to medium bodied wines that are high in acid and light to medium fruit. Typically no oak.
Fruity & Smooth
Light to medium bodied wines with lots of juicy fruit, typically medium acid and medium oak.
Rich & Creamy
Full bodied wines that have typically undergone malo-lactic fermentation and/or spent time in oak.