Caymus, Wagner and Napa Cabernet
As I say farewell to my Wine Spectator blog, I can say that I am happy to have had a chance to explain some personal beliefs abut Napa wines. There does not seem to be such a professional venue elsewhere, and I thank Wine Spectator for giving me such an opportunity.
I love the wines of Napa and am proud to be part of this most exciting time in our valley's history. I can honestly say that I love wines from many areas of the world, but my favorite wines are currently produced in the Napa Valley. However, I am a bit put off by the expense of it all—our land, our grape prices, etc.—not to mention the costs created by authoritarian demands from the local and state bureaucracies. I do fear that we (Napa) may price ourselves out of the marketplace, although that is still in the future. But for now I believe that we are experiencing a quality heyday.
I am not finished with the work of building our business. The goal is to produce top wines consistently over many vintages, to build an image of longevity. To me this means enhancing the name Caymus, not the name Wagner. Taking the ego out of our business will help create an image that the wineries of France (particularly Bordeaux) enjoy and that is rare or nonexistent here in California.
The quality and character of our Cabernet, the image of what a Cabernet should be, is a moving target, and I can't help but feel that we are always about to miss it. This is the reason that we have continually changed the character of our wines since our first vintage, 1972. I didn't expect this to be the case way back when. I would say that critical acclaim and personal taste are equal motivation for such changes. We have tried to be pragmatic and cautious along our way.
I am most grateful to have family working in and loving the wine business. I hopefully will have many days ahead, but find my current place and occupation feel more secure and meaningful knowing that I have that family support and that our wine business may exist for many more generations!
Most folks don't know that my paternal grandfather, Carl Wagner, an immigrant from Alsace, started in the California wine business in 1915 (on a neighboring property now owned by Honig winery). Prohibition ran him out of business. And I do believe that my great-grandfather on my mother's side made the very first wine for Beaulieu Vineyards, and trained the next in line. He is also the man who worked as winemaker for the Inglenook winery under Gustave Niebaum. And my father! He had such fortitude at the age of 60, risking what he and my mother had, to start a winery called Caymus! A private side of me hopes that we are making those forefathers proud—and that we are here to stay.