A First Family of California Wine

Wagner Family Wines

Wagner Family Wines

The Wagner family not only created Caymus, one of the most iconic wine brands of all time but has a fascinating history and deep roots in both grapegrowing and winemaking in the Napa Valley, as well as a broad portfolio of wonderful wines beloved by generations.

it all started when Carl Wagner came to the Napa Valley in 1906, immigrating from Alsace and purchasing 70 acres in Rutherford to plant grapes. Carl’s son, Charles F. Wagner, known as Charlie, the only boy of his five children, was born on the family farm in 1912.

Only a few years later, inspired by the valley’s perfect climatic conditions for growing wine grapes, the Wagners built a winery on site to produce bulk wines, growing to an impressive 30,000 gallons per year before Prohibition.

They persevered through America’s dry days, finding hope for the future when Charlie Wagner married his high school sweetheart Lorna Belle Glos in 1934, a day that brought together multiple families of Napa Valley wine.

Lorna’s ancestors on both sides were longstanding winemakers and grapegrowers in the Napa Valley. On her father’s side, Charles and Mary Glos had emigrated from Germany to San Francisco in the 1870s, coming north to homestead 150 acres of high-elevation land on Howell Mountain in 1885.

Charles’ Glos’s son Charlie married Mabel Stice in 1910 on a property near Rutherford and Oakville, where Glos Lane exists today. The Stices hailed from Missouri, having come out to California on wagon train in 1857. Among Charlie Glos and Mabel Stice’s seven children was Lorna Belle Glos, born in 1915, Charlie Wagner’s future wife and the matriarch of what would become a legacy of California wine, beginning with Caymus.

Together, Charlie and Lorna bought 73 acres near the family farm in Rutherford in 1941, where they planted orchards and wine grapes. Decades later, Charlie would pull out those orchards to plant Pinot Noir, Johannisberg Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Out of that foresight Caymus Vineyards was born in 1972, named for a 19th century Mexican land grant called “Rancho Caymus.” The 1973 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon put the family on the map beyond their well-earned reputation for grapegrowing and home winemaking. In 1975, Caymus “Special Selection” Cabernet Sauvignon was introduced to the world.

Nearly a decade later Charlie and Lorna’s son Chuck Wagner took over as director of viticulture and winemaking, the same year the Special Selection Cabernet was named Wine of the Year by “Wine Spectator,” an honor it would receive again in 1990, making it the only wine ever named twice.

The year 2001 was another leap forward for the storied family, as the second generation passed some of the reins over to the third generation. It is the year Chuck’s son Charlie took over the family’s Mer Soleil operation in the Santa Lucia Highlands, known for its unoaked Chardonnay, and also the launch of the Belle Glos brand, made by Charlie’s brother Joe.

Mer Soleil and Belle Glos are just two of the wines within the Wagner Family of Wine. Daughter Jenny, sister to Charlie and Joe, makes Emmolo Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and sparkling wine, an homage to her mother Cheryl Emmolo’s side of the family, also longtime farmers in the Napa Valley. Jenny made her first vintage in 2011 and was able to share it with great emotion and excitement with her grandparents, Frank and Annie.

Conundrum is the result of a dinner-table experiment when Chuck would mix wines with his parents Charlie and Lorna to find the perfect glass of wine for each meal, playing around with the art of blending. In 1989 Conundrum White was released as the embodiment of this spirit. Conundrum Red followed in 2011, both sourced from throughout California.

Leaving California, the Red Schooner wines are an international exploration of great grapes and winegrowing regions. The Red Schooner Voyage 10 is Malbec from the Andes Mountains of Argentina, chilled and transported by sea to Caymus in the Napa Valley. The same is true of Red Schooner Transit 1, a red wine from Australia’s Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale, made from mostly Shiraz with a complementary amount of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Closer to home is Bonanza Lot 5, a California Cabernet Sauvignon created by Chuck to be delicious and accessible, sourced from vineyard sites across the state, a celebration of discovery.

The Wagner Family of Wines represents and celebrates this beloved collection of pioneers and risk takers. Enjoy them one and all.

Yiannis

Published on May 24, 2022