In 1972, the Wagner family, Charles, Lorna, and their son, Chuck, founded Caymus Vineyards. Specializing in Cabernet Sauvignon, the Wagner's first vintage produced 240 cases. Today they produce 65,000 cases annually from about 350 acres of Napa Valley farmland. Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon grapes come from a variety of sites in Napa Valley including Howell Mountain, Atlas Peak, Oak Knoll, Yountville, Rutherford, St. Helena, Wooden Valley and Calistoga. Grapes from vines which are systematically replanted every 15 years end up in two varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, the 'Special Selection' and 'Napa Valley'. Both are rich, lavishly oaked wines with bold cassis, black cherry, loam and spice flavors that often verge on sweet. These wines offer lush texture along with considerable early appeal. The 'Special Selection', made from the best lots of Cabernet Sauvignon is aged for 16 months in favored French barrels.
Chuck Wagner, son of founder Charles Wagner, is the head winemaker at Caymus. He began working in wine after high school when his parents founded Caymus and took over as winemaker in 1984. In 2002 he was awarded the Wine Spectator Distinguished Service Award for his contribution to viticulture in the Napa Valley. Working closely alongside Chuck is Jon Bolta. Formerly Chuck's assistant, Jon now oversees the production of Conundrum, a popular white blend produced from Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Muscat, Semillon and Viognier grapes in a separate facility in Monterey County.
Cabernet Franc Facts
Less weight and more aromatic intensity than Cabernet Sauvignon
Stews and braised meats
The Loire Valley's most renowned red wines, Bourgueil and Chinon, are made from Cabernet Franc, as are the mostly lighter, friendlier wines of Anjou and the somewhat more serious wines of Saumur-Champigny. Until recently, the aroma and flavor profile of Cabernet Franc had been decidedly out of step with the tastes of modern wine drinkers: herbal and peppery, with notes of tobacco leaf, menthol, and licorice, and often rather dry-edged tannins. But thanks to a recent string of favorable growing seasons , and to considerable work in the vineyards to reduce vine yields and promote greater ripeness of the grapes, today's Loire Valley Cabernet Francs possess more flesh and sweetness of fruit than ever before. These Cabernet Francs are also wonderfully flexible at the table. (Incidentally, when it was discovered that a compound called resveratrol, which is found in the skins of many red grapes, offers cardiovascular and anticarcinogenic benefits, the Cabernet Franc variety was found to be particularly high in this substance.)
There are also ample plantings of Cabernet Franc in the New World where the grape is used as it is in Bordeaux, in blends with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. In the Napa Valley, there are excellent examples, particularly in the cooler mountain settings where Cabernet Sauvignon struggles to reach optimum ripeness. Some worthwhile single varietal bottlings are being produced by Pride Mountain, Chappellet, and La Jota, among other producers.
Surprisingly, Cabernet Franc is also showing some success elsewhere in North America, including in Virginia, near Monticello, where Thomas Jefferson first attempted to produce fine wine. Pay attention to current efforts, as these are proving more successful than Jefferson's early endeavors.