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More than a case of the Wagner Family Wine Conundrum Red 2014 fills a serving table at La Gran Terraza, the fine dining restaurant at the University of San Diego. Photo by Frank Mangio
CommunityTaste of Wine

Taste of Wine: Conundrum is no mystery: it’s a clear winner

If you look up the meaning of the word conundrum, you will see it’s described as baffling or perplexing, at the very least confusing.

The wine business can be that way. The Wagner Family of Napa Valley started making wine in 1972. After gaining fame with the famous Caymus Cabernet “Special Selection,” a red wine you would be happy paying $200 a bottle for depending on the vintage, they felt it was time to break new ground.

Some 25 years ago, the Conundrum name was born as a blended white.  Charlie Wagner Senior would mix wines long before that to find the perfect blend to pair with his meal, a radical thing back in the day.

It was successful from day one, with its mysterious, tropical notes.  Sourced from nearby vineyards, you will taste Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Muscat Canelli and Viognier, my favorite white wine.

In 2011, it was time for a red wine, along a similar style breakthrough as the Conundrum White. Welcome in Conundrum Red. Charlie Wagner II is winemaker, and comments on his current 2014 vintage.

“We believe in being both serious and playful and we kept it approachable with a value price for the 2014 ($25). It’s created from dark red varietals, including Zinfandel and Petite Sirah to give us a textured but smooth mouth feel.”

At La Gran Terraza, the fine dining restaurant on the campus at the University of San Diego, a full house was drawn to the family of wines presented by Filippo Reitano, the Wagner representative, and Emma Van Dusen, the restaurant’s manager. Reitano revealed the best way to drink Conundrum Red was to chill it further than most other reds.  In my TASTE OF WINE March 24 edition, lauding the “Great

Eight “wines from the first few months of 2017, Conundrum Red was a feature wine with plenty of traditional chocolate and candy cherry flavor.”

The next La Gran Terraza wine dinners will be May 9 with 14 Hands, a prominent Washington wine, and Buena Vista Winery from Napa Valley May 23. All dinners begin at 6 p.m. and are $75 each. For reservations, call (619) 849-8205.

2Plank Vineyards celebrates wine, cheese, travel and good cheer

With all the excitement over craft beers in San Diego, wine continues to be growing and many more choice locations can be found in the county. Introducing 2Plank Vineyards in San Diego and now in Vista. The two founders grew up and were college buddies in Santa Barbara where they started making wine.

Wanting seriously to get into the business, they purchased a vineyard in Fallbrook in 2010, and made their wine at the established Fallbrook Winery.

2Plank Vineyards Assistant winemaker Mike Syzmaczak, travel expert Tamara Golden and cheese consultant Cetin Barlas. Photo by Frank Mangio
2Plank Vineyards Assistant winemaker Mike Syzmaczak, travel expert Tamara Golden and cheese consultant Cetin Barlas. Photo by Frank Mangio

Eventually they rented a wine space in San Diego’s Sorrento Valley, then a second larger facility in Vista last year, where there is a full tasting and barrel room. 2Plank is the only urban winery in San Diego growing their own grapes for wine production, specializing in the Rhone valley varietals of France.

On the day of our visit, 2Plank had a major cheese and travel program at the Vista site, featuring Peynir International Cheese with expert Cetin Barlas.  From pasteurized sheep’s milk from the Netherlands, to raw cow’s Milk from Canada, all were paired perfectly with 2Plank wines.

My favorite wines are: the 2014 Zinfandel ($28.) and the 2014 Fallbrook Cabernet Sauvignon ($45.)

Tamara Golden of Golden Journeys Travel masterfully presented the travel portion of the show.

2Plank also offers a full service vineyard installation, management and custom crush in San Diego. It includes site and soil assessment, varietal recommendation and working with county agencies.

Learn more at


Wine Bytes

The San Diego County Vintners Association has their 22nd annual Wine & Food Festival, April 30 from 1 to 4 p.m. at Bernardo Winery in Rancho Bernardo.  Cost is $55 for unlimited tasting and food sampling. Call (760) 230-2424 for details and tickets.

A five-course dinner and Pine Ridge wines of Napa Valley are planned for Capri Blu restaurant in 4S Ranch, Rancho Bernardo May 3 at 6 p.m. Phone (858) 673-5100 for the menu and price.

Firenze Trattoria in Encinitas presents a five-course Italian dinner and an equal number of wines from Prisoner Wine Company May 4 at 6:30 p.m. Cost is $90 per person. To RSVP, call (760) 944-9000.

Downtown Cardiff has its annual Taste of Cardiff, May 4 from 5 to 8:30 p.m. Breweries, wineries and local restaurants will all participate. Cost for a Taste & Sip ticket is $40. Access or call (760) 436-0431 to obtain tickets.

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator.  He is one of the leading commentators on the web.  View his columns at  And reach him at [email protected].