Owner/Winemaker, Caymus Vineyards
Napa Valley native Chuck Wagner didn’t have to travel far to find his calling in life. Raised on the family farm in Rutherford, Calif., Chuck joined his parents, Charlie and Lorna, in 1972 when they decided to bring their home winemaking talents into the world of professional vintners. The Wagners established Caymus Vineyards on their property, taking the name from the area’s history as a Mexican land grant known as Rancho Caymus, and began turning their good idea into some great wines. Chuck went to work full-time at Caymus after graduating from high school.
The Wagners' first production of just 240 cases came from their 1972 harvest. Caymus Vineyards has released a Napa Valley Cabernet in every vintage since. In 1975, the Wagners produced their first Special Selection, made from the outstanding Cabernet lots of that vintage. In 2006, Wine Spectator magazine rated Caymus Vineyards' Special Selection as Napa Valley’s best Cabernet Sauvignon – having the highest average score of 94.6 since the 1990 vintage. Special Selection is also the only wine to have twice been named Wine Spectator’s Wine of the Year.
Chuck and his his late father, Charlie, shaped the reputation of Caymus by always keeping the focus on quality – in both the vineyard and winery. Caymus continues to be a hands-on, family-owned and -operated winery, and now another generation is expanding the legacy of artisan winemaking. Caymus set in motion what is now the Wagner Family of Wine – a portfolio of brands personally farmed and crafted by members of the Wagner family.
In 1988, the Wagners planted their first Chardonnay vines in Monterey County near the bay. This relatively undiscovered area soon became known by the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation, featuring a cool climate and maritime influence that produces classic "early to ripen" grape varieties. Since 1992, this has been the home of Mer Soleil Winery, a brand managed by Chuck’s son, Charlie Wagner II. It produces two noteworthy Chardonnays.
Chuck’s younger son, Joseph, is building a reputation with the label Belle Glos, an effort exclusively dedicated to the production of Pinot Noir. The winery has vineyards in California’s three top Pinot Noir zones – the Sonoma Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands, and Santa Maria Valley of Santa Barbara County. In particular, Pinot Noir vines produce wines that are a unique expression of the terroir where they are grown. The brand is named as a tribute to Chuck’s mother, Lorna Belle Glos Wagner, who turned 96 years of age in December 2011.
A well-loved wine from the Wagner family is the blended white wine, Conundrum, whose name attests to the puzzle of its five grape varietals. All of the Wagner family of wines are distributed and sold throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, and parts of Europe and Asia.
At the 2007 Wine Experience hosted by Wine Spectator magazine, Chuck received the Distinguished Service Award, given to individuals who have made significant and long-lasting contributions to the wine industry. To date, only 30 luminaries, such as Robert Mondavi, Angelo Gaja, Julia Child, Emeril Lagasse, Bob Trinchero, Piero Antinori, and Philippine de Rothschild, have received this honor.