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The recent Caymus wine dinners, a three-night series, were all sellouts at Seasalt in Del Mar. From left, owner Sal Ercolano, guest Elizabeth Shoemaker and columnist Frank Mangio.
ColumnsTaste of Wine

Caymus comes to Seasalt for historic wine dinner

You can’t get any better California wine than the historic brands at Caymus Vineyards in Napa Valley. It’s better known in winery circles as the Wagner Family of Wines, named after the iconic family that founded what is known as Caymus. Chuck Wagner, along with his parents, founded Caymus in 1971.

Chuck still is the backbone of all that is great about the winery and has allowed his three children to apply their considerable talents to help in this success story. Joe Wagner has since left the winery to strike out on his own with a fabulous story that you have read in past editions of this column. Jenny and Charlie Wagner work alongside their father and all keep writing new, wonderful chapters to the Wagner story.

A beaming Sal Ercolano has done it again with Caymus. For a third time this year he had sold out Seasalt wine dinners for three consecutive evenings.

He took Rico Cassoni and I aside and revealed that his remaining events this year, the Mondavi and Ruffino nights, were already sold out. Ercolano, ever the entrepreneur, will be assessing the possibility of extending the wine dinners, as he did with his other  “three-peats” due to the demand for tickets.

It is reported that a next door restaurant, IRIS, will become an Ercolano property, and he is planning wine dinners in that restaurant also.

The Wagner Family of Wines, as you might have figured out, goes beyond just Caymus, although many a winery would love to have just that one brand.

In the dinner that Cassoni and I attended, first course included the Emmolo Sauvignon Blanc, a surprising pleasant adventure of a summer white. Second course had the Mer Soleil Chardonnay Reserve, a dramatic and enticing white from the Monterey Highlands.  Third course, highlighting a beautifully done homemade pasta with lamb ragu, was the Red Schooner Voyage 6 Malbec from Argentina.

This Caymus wine blew me away. I wanted to move to Argentina to be close to where these wine grapes were grown! They are shipped over 1,000 miles away for authenticity, then carefully made. This vintage is 2015,  truly an “iron fisted taste in a velvet glove.”  The night concluded with the classic Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon, and a new kid, the Caymus Petite Sirah, called the Suisan Grand Durif, 2016.

I would be remiss in not mentioning the all-time great wine produced by Caymus, known worldwide as the Caymus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon. The latest vintage is 2014 ($180). It comes from the very best of the barrels on the estate winery in Rutherford. This is the only wine in the world honored twice as Wine Spectator’s “Wine of the Year!” Nothing beats it for richness and concentration. See more about Caymus and other brands at

The San Diego Bay Wine & Food festival is coming

The Grand The San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival is Nov. 11 to Nov. 18.

Make your plans now to be a part of the mighty San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival, a weeklong celebration of food, wine and the lifestyle of San Diego. Between Nov. 11 and Nov. 18, you’ll get to be in the middle of more than 40 events, celebrity chefs, hundreds of domestic and international wines, brewmasters, live music, winemakers, sommeliers and more

Tasting is where thousands of foodies and winos will gather at Embarcadero Marina Park North next to Seaport Village, from noon to 3 p.m. Cost starts at $135. The rest of the events are spread out over the city for an entire week of participation in fine dining restaurants and events venues. For more information, visit, or call (619) 312-1212.

Wine Bytes

  • Daou Vineyards, a leading winery from Paso Robles, will be spotlighted at Il Fornaio Italian restaurant, at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 8. Cost is $80 per guest. DAOU will be served with a five-course Italian feast, including braised short ribs with root vegetables. RSVP at (858) 755-8876.
  • The Barrel Room in Rancho Bernardo presents Rombauer Vineyards, cheese and Charcuterie, at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 17. Four lovely wines from this Napa Valley winery will be poured with small bites. Cost is $35 each. RSVP at
  • L’Auberge Del Mar showcases its new fall seasonal menu starting Nov. 1 inside Kitchen 1540. Plans are also in place for a legendary Thanksgiving Day Dinner from 2 to 8 p.m. Nov. 22. Three courses for $89 per adult, $25 for children. RSVP at (858) 259-1515.
  • Vigilucci’s Gourmet Market in Carlsbad Village will present its “Sagra di Vigilucci’s,” an annual dinner, from 5 to 7 p.m. Nov. 8 on State Street. The five-course outdoor dinner will include two wines, for $35 per person. RSVP at (760) 720-0188.