Caymus History

Back in the late sixties, a crusty old prune farmer-turned grape grower, named Charlie Wagner, who once sold wine as a bootlegger, was a grower of some of the best cabernet grapes in the Napa Valley. He planted twenty-six acres of cabernet on the eastern floor of the Napa Valley in the Rutherford area. Sensing the impending California wine boom and finding himself seduced by the lure of making his own Cabernet, he founded Caymus Vineyards in 1972 and built the winery next to his prime cabernet vineyard in Rutherford.

For the first three years (1972, 1973, and 1974) Caymus made only one "Estate" Cabernet. The very first vintage was a star in an otherwise miserable year. Throughout the 1970's and into the late 1980's, the Caymus "Estate" Cabernets were among the leading wines of the vintage in their price class. Caymus released its first "Special Selection" Cabernet from the 1975 vintage. The "Special Selection" Cabernets are held in small oak cooperage for almost four years; as a result they are practically the last wines of the vintage to be released. Every single vintage has been a benchmark wine: 1976 and the 1978 were among the top five or six wines of their respective vintages; the 1979 and the 1980 were probably the best Cabernets of the vintage. The Wine Spectator scored the 1984 "Special Selection" a (98) - the highest mark it gave any Cabernet of that superb vintage. Although production had increased to almost 4000 cases in the 1988 and 1989 vintages, the wine was still very difficult to find. The production dropped in 1990 to 2000 cases and has been there ever since, making this wine even more coveted by collectors.

The winemaker at Caymus from 1975 through 1985 was a talented young Cabernet wizard named Randy Dunn. Since 1979 Dunn also made wine at his own winery, Dunn Vineyards, on Howell Mountain on the east side of the Napa Valley. Since 1982, Dunn's Cabernets have rivaled those of Caymus. The winemaking duties at Caymus were assumed by Charles Wagner Jr., who had worked at Dunn's side for years. However, the vast improvement in the Caymus Sauvignon Blanc and the phenomenal reception of the "Conundrum" must be attributed to Jon Bolta, who directs the white side of the winemaking. Caymus has also decided to remove its name from the Conundrum and this wine is now made at a separate facility along with Mer Soleil Chardonnay, Caymus has decided to market all of its wines under separate labels rather than making Caymus Chardonnay and Caymus Pinot Noir. Which brings us to the newest venture by the Wagner family, Belle Glos, a Pinot Noir label representing some prime Pinto Noir vineyards in Santa Maria Valley and along the Sonoma Coast, made by Charles Wagner Jr.

Of course, the Caymus "Special Selection" has continues its long, unblemished run of outstanding Cabernets; in our opinion it is one of the best Cabernet Sauvignons made in California! According to the Wine Spectator, Caymus’s Special Selection is the highest rated wine of all time, scoring an average of (95) points in the 23 vintages of this wine made to date. This 2002 vintage looks to be outstanding from California, many of the nations top wine critics are raving about the quality of this vintage, here is what Robert Parker Jr. had to say about the 2001 & 2002 vintage in the Wine Advocate from issue #150 (12-23-03): “2001 is the finest year for North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot since 1994 and 1991. Many examples have closed down considerably now that they have been in bottle for over a year, but for the top producers, these are wines of considerable depth, power, richness, and impressive aging potential. 2002 may be an even better vintage, but for different reasons. A classic California vintage, it offers ripe, rich, exuberant, full-throttle, intensely forward wines. The big Cabernet Sauvignons and Bordeaux variety blends possess plenty of tannin, but it is sweet and largely concealed by the extraordinary wealth of fruit and extravagant richness. They are top-notch examples of what California does best.”

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