Rich, weighty, broad, and dense on the attack, filled with apple and pear compote, hints of honey and anise.
When the news hit the web, everyone from Santa Barbara to Rutherford took notice. After years of research, Chuck Wagner of Caymus purchased a swath of land on the cool hillsides of Santa Maria, just a few miles from the frigid whitecaps of the Pacific. As always, the patriarch of Napa Valley’s First Family stayed out of the limelight and said little about his plans for the property, only that he believed Santa Maria’s cool microclimate was ideal for growing world-class Chardonnay.
While delighted by the exquisite tropical-fruit highlights of his first barrel-fermented Chardonnays off the property, Chuck’s winemaker son Charlie decided his wines didn’t yet measure up to the standards of iconic Caymus. As a result, with the exception of a few experimental lots, most of the Santa Maria Chardonnay from 2000-2011 was ticketed for Caymus Conundrum. But finally, in 2012, a dozen years after Chuck Wagner’s purchase, Charlie decided it was time.
The family quietly released the 2012 Mer Soleil Chardonnay Santa Barbara Reserve in 2013 — only to learn that it’s impossible to do anything quietly when your name is Wagner and your Rutherford stronghold is called Caymus.
Over lunch in Los Olivos, Charlie Wagner explained the history of his family’s manicured Santa Maria property. Then he described his approach to the making what many believe to be the biggest, boldest, and richest Santa Barbara County Chardonnay this side of Sea Smoke.
“I have Napa Valley in my blood, so I’m always looking to maximize ripeness while paying close attention to acidity. Santa Maria is cold compared to Napa. Even in a warm year like 2014, daytime highs rarely crept over 85 degrees. On every row, we handle each side of the plants differently, opening up the canopy on the cooler side, leaving canopies intact on the hot side. Lots of people picked before me, but I measured the acids daily and waited until October 7th.” Charlie smiled as he poured the 2014 Mer Soleil Santa Barbara Reserve into three Riedel stems. “I think I made the right call.”
If you like your Santa Barbara Chardonnay on the steely side, this wine may not be in your sweet spot. But if your preference is for big, broad, weighty Chardonnay that may taste sweet but is absolutely BONE-DRY on analysis, Caymus’ 2014 Mer Soleil Reserve will knock your socks off.
The 2014 Mer Soleil Chardonnay Reserve Santa Barbara is greenish-golden in hue. Piercing aromas of ripe apple, pear, and pineapple, with a hint of coconut, very lightly touched with new-wood vanilla (while all the wine was barrel-fermented, Wagner used just 30% new French cooperage in 2014). Rich, weighty, broad, and dense on the attack, filled with apple and pear compote, hints of honey and anise, and finishing with just enough acid backbone to keep the tremendous tropical-fruit opulence of the vintage in check.
Elsewhere: $40. 75 cases are up for grabs at $27.99 per bottle. Shipping included on 6.
One of the best. On a par with Far Niente.
have not drunk yet
I found this to be thoroughly enjoyable, a supple blend of Burgundian minerality and new world oak. Four stars seems too low, but it's not quite "perfect" enough for five. Verbally I say 4.5 stars.
Good but not great
We enjoyed the wine with and without meals. We love this Chardonnay!
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