Showcased in one of our most popular luxury wine gift baskets, Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon is often said to be a wine that needs no introduction. While this may be true, there certainly is a rich history behind the wine and it all starts with one word: Charles.
Before there was Caymus, there was the Wagner family farm, which was a small plot of land in Napa that Charles Wagner purchased with his life savings after fleeing the devastating San Francisco earthquake of 1906. An immigrant from Alsace, this first Charles planted the crops that everyone planted in those days to survive: a bit of everything. Napa Valley had not yet come to the prestigious prominence that it enjoys today as a top American Viticultural Area, but lucky for Charles, he planted some grapes for good measure and decided to give winemaking a shot. Unfortunately for Charles, this was just in time for Prohibition, which put a damper on the first Charles’ dreams of winemaking.
In 1943, another Charles (Charlie) Wagner shared the foresight of his namesake and purchased some additional orchard land in the very heart of the Napa Valley. As the first Charles did, Charlie also planted edible crops like plums and walnuts, but by the early 60s, it looked like wine grapes might be able to sell more profitably. So Charlie followed the trend of many of the early pioneers in the Valley and planted his vineyards with Pinot Noir and Riesling.
Luck steps into this story again when a good friend up the road was making some pretty good wine out of Cabernet Sauvignon. When Charlie was offered some cuttings from the vineyard, he leaped at the chance.
Enter the third Charles in this story: Charlie’s son, Chuck. Up until about 1971 when Chuck was 20 and Charlie was 60, the family had been selling the grapes and not producing wines except for home consumption. Charlie made his son an offer to start a family business making wine and they named its winery “Caymus,” which was the name of a group of American Indians that lived in the area.
Their beginnings were modest. The two men and a single helper farmed 55 acres of vineyard by themselves. It took them four months just to prune. All winemaking procedures were done by hand, including pumping thousands of gallons of wine into 600 gallon tanks. In 1972, they released their first Cabernet Sauvignon. In 1975, a famous wine critic named Wilfred Wong tried the Caymus 2003 and said it was the best Cabernet he’d ever tasted. The telephone began to ring in the Wagner farmhouse, and everything else, as they say, is history.