When I first came up with the title of this column, I hesitated with putting “Wagner Family Wines” in lieu of “Caymus Vineyards” to recap a recent wine dinner at Oceanside’s Mangia e Bevi Italian restaurant.
I suspect most, if not all, readers are familiar with Caymus. However, perhaps not everyone is familiar with Wagner Family Wines, which better describes the wines at dinner.
Caymus was started in 1972 by Chuck Wagner and his late parents, Lorna and Charlie, when they decided to bottle vs. sell their fruit to others. Previous generations of Wagners have grape farming roots in Napa Valley dating back to the 1850s.
Today, Chuck now works alongside two of his children, Charlie and Jenny. Together they produce diverse wines from Napa Valley, other parts of California, and beyond, including Charlie’s Red Schooner brand.
The Schooner Voyager series sources malbec fruit from Argentina’s Andes Mountains, and the new Transit 1 obtained cabernet sauvignon and shiraz fruit from Australia’s Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale.
With dark fruit, black pepper, leather and vibrant raspberries with a hint of mint from Australian native trees, I thought Charlie hit a home run with Transit. Besides Caymus, Chuck is a winemaker for the Caymus-Suisun “Grand Durif,” or petite sirah, and the new Bonanza brand cabernet sauvignon that recognizes the “bonanza” of cabernet fruit throughout California.
Charlie oversees winemaking for Mer Soleil, Conundrum, Sea Sun brands and Schooner. Jenny is a winemaker for Emmolo and new Walking Fool brands. Hence, Wagner Family Wines.
Co-owners Ann Perham, Tore Trupiano (also a world champion pizzaiola), executive chef Phillip Sanchez and Mary Gavin of Wagner Family Wines put on a five-star event. Frank and I, along with the 40 or so other guests, were impressed. Gavin went table to table, walking through wines at dinner, answering questions, and sharing additional information about Wagner Family Wines.
The first course was a California black seabass crudo, and heirloom tomato salad served with Conundrum white blend. While the exact combinations of Conundrum white wines are not disclosed, every vintage includes chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, semillon, muscat canelli and viognier — leading to the name: Conundrum. The tropical notes, natural acidity and dry finish, created a great pairing.
Next were wood-fired prawns served with carrot and porcini mushroom risotto paired with iconic Caymus cabernet sauvignon. Again, like Conundrum, the exact makeup and sourcing are secret. However, the fruit was sourced from eight of Napa’s16 sub-appellations, creating great diversification with full aromas and ripe berry flavors with hints of cocoa and black currant.
The next course was braised Australian pork cheek with baked polenta and port wine and citrus reduction served with Red Schooner Transit 1 mentioned above. The Australian red blend well complemented the pork cheek.
The final course was Pasta Bottarga e Burrata served with the newly released Walking Fool red blend. I think I can still dream of this dish that Sanchez created with beet linguini “fini,” a thin linguini with garlic and olive oil and topped with a burrata cheese hunk — easily my favorite course.
The Walking Fool zinfandel/petit sirah blend’s raspberry palate with hints of espresso and soft tannins was perfect for the out-of-this-world beet linguini and burrata dish. Thank you, Tore, Ann, Phillip, and Mary, for a five-star evening! More at wagnerfamilyofwine.com.
Vittorio’s Hosts Beringer Wine Dinner
Frank and I had the good fortune of getting reacquainted with Beringer Wines, this time at Victor Magalhaes’ Vittorio’s Italian Trattoria.
Before going over dinner, it is probably worth reminding readers of all the firsts Beringer has racked up as California’s longest-operating winery.
With 145 years of experience, Beringer had the first gravity-fed facility; created hand-dug caves to age wine; gave public tours in 1934, and the winery was the first (and only) to have both a red and white wine named #1 Wine of the Year by Wine Spectator.
Dinner started with grilled peaches topped with mascarpone cheese and a sweet balsamic reduction served alongside 2018 Napa Valley chardonnay. The Meyer lemon and vanilla in the chardonnay paired well with the peaches and cheese. The 2nd course was homemade gnocchi with a deep rich duck ragu.
The full-bodied Knights Valley cabernet sauvignon was a great partner for the ragu’s richness, followed by roasted pork loin, mashed carrots and grilled asparagus served with a red peppercorn sauce and Quantum (Q) red blend (75% cabernet sauvignon, 10% merlot, and 5% each of cab franc, petit verdot and petite sirah).
The main course featured grilled petit filet mignon topped with a gorgonzola sauce, sauteed spinach, and baked mac & cheese. Magalhaes, along with Emily Moody and Maddie Bloom, both of Republic National Distributing Company, pulled out all stops with the 2015 Distinctions Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon aged 20 months in new French oak.
The Distinctions had deep purple color with plum and blueberry on the palate and an earthy finish perfectly matched with the filet. Dinner concluded with a light and colorful red raspberry sorbet. All told, this was another five-star dinner for Frank and me. Great work, Victor, Emily, and Maddie! Additional info at beringer.com.
Join Craftsman for a five-course wine dinner featuring Olema Wines, from rosé to cabernet sauvignon, at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 10, in Encinitas. Chef Sergio Serrano offers such entrees as Mexican shrimp, pan-seared salmon and ancho-coffee crusted steak. Thirty seats are available at $90 per person. Call 760-452-2000.
Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. Frank and Rico are two of the leading commentators on the web. Reach them at [email protected]