Today I continue my story about California wines with one of my favorite Cabernets, Caymus.

I am pretty sure many of my readers have tried this wine at least once. It is usually presented in almost every wine list, and is a “must” have wine for any steakhouse. From the first sip, you fall in love with this Cabernet, and I am not alone in this opinion.

It has won every single award in the business.

It was named “Best Winery for Cabernet” by Wine Spectator magazine, which also put Caymus in its Hall of Fame; it gets 5 stars from Decanter and Quarterly Review of Wines just about every year, and consistently is rated between 91-98 points by Wine Spectator.

In addition, Caymus Special Selection is the only wine in history to be named “Wine of the Year” by Wine Spectator magazine more than once.

So, what is the story behind this wine?


The gift of the making this world class wine has been passed over the centuries from generation to generation by Wagner family, who emigrated from the winegrowing regions of Alsace, France and Rheinpfalz, Germany. They they been farmers in Napa Valley from the mid-1850s.

The Caymus winery story began in 1940s, when Charlie Wagner and Lorna Glos purchased 73 acres just a few hundred yards from the Wagner “home ranch,” where they planted fruit orchards.

One of their first acts on their new land was to also plant 10 acres of wine grapes. In the 1960s, Charlie and Lorna foresaw a bleak future for the family’s prune and walnut crops, so they decided to pull out their trees and devote their property entirely to wine grapes, including Pinot Noir, Johannisberg Riesling and a special clone of Cabernet Sauvignon that Charlie had acquired from Stags Leap grower Nathan Fay.

The Wagners sold their grapes to Inglenook winery and Sonoma Vineyards, among others, and were highly regarded grape growers and home winemakers.


In 1972, Chuck and his parents decided to go “all in” and formalize the family’s long-standing tradition of winemaking when they recognized they could make a better living by selling the great quality “home” wines they had been making from grapes they were growing on their property.

They established their own winery and decided to name it “Caymus Vineyards,” after Rancho Caymus which was an 11,887-acre Mexican land grant in present-day Napa County, California given in 1836 by acting Governor Nicolás Gutiérrez to George C. Yount.

Caymus was the name of a sub group of Mishewal-Wappo Indians.

This wine is California Cabernet style: it is big, dark, rich and fruity, the kind of wine that goes great with red meat, but in the case of Caymus, it is so delicious and so well structured it is equally good on its own.

Deep red in color with the vibrant scent of dark cherry and blackberry, subtly layered with warm notes of vanilla, it is bright and balanced with cassis at the center, with flourishes of cocoa and sweet tobacco. This wine pairs perfectly with a leg of lamb, a juicy filet, or roasted duck.

Buon Apettito and salute.

Adamo Serravalle is co-owner of Marco Prime and DaVinci’s and is a wine connoisseur. Along with Laura Owen of CJ’s on the Bay and Marco Porto of chop239, he is a regular contributor to this column.

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