Log In / Join Now

Winemakers Change Posts in Napa, Sonoma and Central Coast

Chuck Wagner returns to his old job at Caymus, Greg Fowler joins Franciscan Oakville, Chuck Ortman retires from Meridian, and more.

Tim Fish
Posted: June 14, 2003

It'll be purple hands again for Chuck Wagner, who is stepping back into his old job as the hands-on winemaker at Caymus Vineyards in Napa Valley. Wagner owns the noted Rutherford house of Cabernet and was winemaker until he handed over red wine production to Chris Phelps three vintages ago.

"I'm very happy to be the 'returning winemaker,'" Wagner said.

Phelps is now winemaker at Swanson Vineyards, replacing Marco Cappelli, who had been with Swanson since the winery was founded in 1987. Cappelli will focus on administrative tasks during the next year as he phases out his involvement at the Rutherford winery. Cappelli bought a 12-year-old vineyard last year in El Dorado County, near Sacramento, and plans to start his own label within a few years.

Elsewhere in Napa Valley, winemaker Greg Fowler has joined Franciscan Estates, where he will oversee winemaking at Franciscan Oakville Estate, Mount Veeder Winery, Estancia and Simi Winery. Fowler, a 30-year industry veteran, was the former winemaker at Mumm Cuvée Napa and mostly recently was in charge of vineyard operations and grower relations for Sterling Vineyards and Beaulieu Vineyards.

In the Central Coast, Chuck Ortman is making it final at Meridian Vineyards, officially retiring as winemaker after handing over day-to-day winemaking to Signe Zoller several years ago. Ortman, who created the Meridian brand in 1984, has been overseeing reserve wines and special projects for the winery. Now he's focusing on his family's new winery, Ortman Family Vineyards, as well as a vineyard he is planting in Oregon.

In Sonoma County, Erik Olsen is the new winemaker at Clos du Bois Winery. Olsen was previously winemaker at Chateau Ste. Michelle in Washington, and he replaces Margaret Davenport who left Clos du Bois in April.

# # #

Would you like to comment? Want to join or start a discussion?

Become a WineSpectator.com member and you can!
To protect the quality of our conversations, only members may submit comments. Member benefits include access to more than 315,000 reviews in our Wine Ratings Search; a first look at ratings in our Insider, Advance and Tasting Highlights; Value Wines; the Personal Wine List/My Cellar tool, hundreds of wine-friendly recipes and more.

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.