When I saw Caymus-Wagner Family Wines on Sal Ercolano’s 2023 Wine Series at The Butcher Shop, I immediately put it on my schedule as a must-attend.
There is a dedicated event space at The Butcher Shop’s Copa Cabana room, where owners Ercolano and Gil Frank hold wine dinner events for 80-plus guests. Offset from the main dining rooms, there is always a special vibe and energy for wine events in the Copa Cabana room.
Ercolano and the team changed things with tray-passed salmon tartar on toasted points along with Moroccan spiced lamb meatballs with tzatziki sauce in lieu of table-served appetizers. The salmon and lamb appetizers were paired with Mer Soleil Reserve Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, with fruit coming from the Santa Lucia Highlands area near Monterey.
Charlie Wagner, son of Chuck Wagner, is the winemaker and lead for Mer Soleil along with Red Schooner which now includes two “Red Wines of the World,” a malbec made from grapes grown in Argentina and a red blend made from grapes grown in Australia.
The relaxed start provided me a few minutes to catch up with Mary Gavin, Wagner Family Wines SoCal Market Mgr. Gavin had several items to share with me, the biggest being the new Wagner Family of Wine Caymus-Suisan winery located in the Suisun Valley American Viticultural Area, 30 minutes from Napa Valley, that opened in May.
“The undiscovered feel of Suisan Valley reminds Chuck (Wagner) of the old days of Napa Valley with small family mom-and-pop wineries,” Gavin said. “The Wagners are finding Suisun Valley perfect for growing durif (synonymous with petite sirah) along with zinfandel.”
Visitors booking wine tastings at Suisun Valley Winery get to enjoy Grand Durif and The Walking Fool Red Wine Blend (durif and zinfandel) wines along with three other Wagner wines. Chuck Wagner oversees winemaking for Grand Durif and daughter Jenny Wagner oversees winemaking for The Walking Fool.
The Walking Fool is named after a long-ago relative who was often seen traveling by foot – thus earning this affectionate moniker.
Dinner started off with California sturgeon caviar with dill and chive Yukon gold potato salad paired with Emmolo No. 5 Methode Traditionnelle Sparkling Wine. This wine is also under Jenny’s purview. The non-vintage blend (60% chardonnay, 40% pinot noir) had soft bubbles and a creamy mouthfeel for sparkling wine, that complemented the caviar.
The second course was charred beef carpaccio topped with citrus-dressed arugula, extra virgin olive oil, and shaved Parmesan cheese served with non-vintage Red Schooner Voyage 10 Malbec. Instead of recognizing Red Schooner by the year, it is labeled with the voyage number.
Voyage 10 lines up with the 2020 vintage. The dense, dark fruit nose and flavor profile matched well with the richness of the carpaccio.
The main course was braised beef cheeks in a red wine reduction served with three varietals of roasted carrots and a carrot puree along with crispy fried onions. This was served with the 2020 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon — the 48th vintage of Caymus — with the upcoming 2022 vintage being the 50-year Golden Anniversary.
Chuck Wagner has masterminded all 48 vintages to date and is a consistent leader in the production of premium Napa Valley Cabernet. He creates diversification using fruit from Napa’s sub-appellations ranging from Coombsville to Calistoga to create layers of luscious aromas and flavor profiles, including ripe berries with hints of cocoa and cassis. Caymus is ready to enjoy at release and ages beautifully over time.
Like the carpaccio, executive chef Brian Gist created a great combo with the beef cheek and Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon pairing. The richness of the Caymus was a perfect companion for the equally decadent beef cheeks. Dinner concluded with a chocolate strawberry tart alongside The Walking Fool blend. Get more information at wagnerfamilyofwine.com.
Ercolano shared that he has 10 more wine dinners on his 2023 Wine Series. This includes Penfolds at 6 p.m. on May 5 at The Butcher Shop. The main course is Moroccan spiced lamb chops paired with Penfolds Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. The cost is $105 per person. RSVP at butchershopsandiego.com.
Another wine dinner is Daou Family Estates at 6 p.m. on May 18 at West End. The main course is duck confit with mashed potatoes and garden vegetables paired with Daou’s flagship Soul of a Lion. At $85 per person plus tax/gratuity, this is an amazing price and will sell out quickly! RSVP at 858-259-5878.
— Story by Rico Cassoni
Temecula’s South Coast Winery is hosting a Blessing of the Vines Food & Wine Festival from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on April 23. Join South Coast as they celebrate a new growing season. Guests will enjoy an assortment of food, wine & dessert pairings curated by our Culinary & Winemaking teams along with a sparkling wine toast, live music featuring Fear of Phobias, and event-exclusive wine discounts. The cost is $110 (General Admission) and $95 (Carter Resort & Wine Club). The price is inclusive of taxes and service charges. RSVP at (951) 587-9463.
Rico Cassoni is the executive producer for Taste of Wine and Food. He and Founder/Advisor Frank Mangio, a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator, are two of the leading reviewers on the web. View their columns at tasteofwineandfood.com. Go to recent columns. Reach them at [email protected].