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Several brands of wine by Caymus Vineyards, including Caymus-Suisun, Emmolo and Mer Soileil. Photo courtesy of Caymus Vineyards
Several brands of wine by Caymus Vineyards, including Caymus-Suisun, Emmolo and Mer Soileil. Photo courtesy of Caymus Vineyards
ColumnsFood & WineTaste of Wine

Taste of Wine: Napa Valley’s iconic Caymus at Flora Kitchen & Bar

When Sal Ercolano, proprietor of Flora Bar & Kitchen, shared his 2021 Wine Dinner schedule with Taste of Wine & Food, we immediately put a star next to the Wagner Family/Caymus Wine Dinner. Stars translate as a must-attend wine dinner event!

Before dinner started, I interviewed Mary Gavin, SoCal market manager at Caymus Vineyards, to hear the latest on Wagner family happenings and I am glad I did.  As I had figured, lots were going on.

The most exciting was the new Caymus winery in Suisun Valley near Atlas Peak, about 45 minutes away from Napa Valley. Fruit trees and nuts have been replaced with estate vineyards. Head Winemaker Chuck Wagner likes to tout, “See you soon in Suisun,” where grapes are grown for his “Caymus-Suisun Grand Durif” (Durif is another name for petite sirah).

“Wagner Family of Wine” is the perfect name for the two generations of Wagners currently contributing to the winemaking industry. Chuck Wagner is father to siblings Charlie and Jenny Wagner. Each family member has their own projects and is always brainstorming the next brand and varietal. Chuck oversees the Caymus line, one of Napa Valley’s most well-known brands.

He also oversees the Caymus Suisun label, as well as his new “Bonanza” cabernet sauvignon, which he says, it’s made from the ‘bonanza’ of our great state – vineyard sites that hold potential to produce good Cabernet but are often overlooked.”

Mary Gavin, SoCal market manager at Caymus Vineyards, and Sal Ercolano, proprietor of Flora Bar & Kitchen hold a 1.5L magnum raffle prize, “Caymus Suisun Grand Durif.” Photo by Rico Cassoni

Jenny heads up the Emmolo brand. The Emmolo Sparkling Wine, a blend of chardonnay (56%) and pinot noir (44%), was the first wine poured along with Chef Hilario’s mini bites.

The sparkling wine is fermented in stainless steel and new French oak and aged en tirage (fermented a second time in the bottle) for 40 months before disgorging. Jenny’s newest project is the Walking Fool Zinfandel blend honoring Jenny’s great-great-grandfather Charles Glos, who homesteaded her mom’s side of the family in Napa Valley in 1881. Glos walked to work at Bell and Greystone wineries, the latter being five miles from his home, which is why family and friends affectionately nicknamed him “The Walking Fool.”

Charlie runs the Mer Soleil, Red Schooner and new Sea Sun Brands. Sea Sun is a sister brand to Mer Soleil, which translates from French to mean “Sea Sun.” Charlie wanted to create the Sea Sun family that honors the beauty of California wines from the counties of Sonoma, Monterey and Santa Barbara.

Charlie’s “Mer Soleil Reserve Chardonnay” (2019) from Santa Lucia Highlands delighted guests in the second course with a fresh seafood salad with mussels, clams, calamari and shrimp.

Guests enjoying Emmolo sparkling wine included former CBS News 8 reporter Sandra Maas (second from left). Photo by Rico Cassoni
Guests enjoying Emmolo sparkling wine included former CBS News 8 reporter Sandra Maas (second from left). Photo by Rico Cassoni

The third course paired a delicious lamb cannelloni made from fresh ground lamb ragout and a creamy bechamel sauce with another Charlie wine, “Red Schooner,” a malbec by Caymus Voyage 9.

“Schooner” is sourced from Argentina’s Uco Valley mountains. The fruit is semi-frozen to preserve freshness for shipping and processed using Caymus’ signature techniques reverse season with would-be dormant equipment.

The main course featured slow-cooked short ribs alongside creamy polenta and root vegetables. This was served with Caymus’ signature cabernet sauvignon blend created using Chuck Wagner’s coveted secret crushing techniques producing richness, complexity, and a hedonistic experience with the short ribs.

On the nose, the 2019 Caymus had notes of oak, vanilla, and cassis with blackberry, plum, and dark fruit on the palate ending in soft, supple tannins and hints of cocoa.

The evening concluded with Chuck’s “Grand Durif” (or petite sirah) paired with an artisanal cheese platter with nuts, honey, and crostinis.

See the full lineup of these wines and more at

Ercolano shared with guests that seats are still available for December’s “A Royal Night at Flora” featuring Schramsberg sparkling wines and J. Davies still wines over a five-course wine dinner featuring beef wellington for the main course. Dinner starts at 6 p.m. each night on Dec. 15 &16. The cost is $95 per person, plus tax and tips. RSVP at 858-461-0622.

— Story by Rico Cassoni

Wine Bytes

— The De Portola Wine Trail of wineries in Temecula is celebrating its annual Harvest wine tastings event Sun. Nov. 7 from 10 to 5 pm. Travel the 5-mile journey to each of the 10 participating wineries with a different wine style and varietal. Meet the owners and winemakers at the completion of their harvest. Cost is $79.99, Designated Driver $39.99. An appetizer is served for each guest. For more information, email [email protected]

— Liberty Station’s North Promenade at 2875 Dewey St. in San Diego’s Pt. Loma district has Halloween at the Station, from 12 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 31. This free family-friendly event includes live music, crafts, entertainers, and an all-ages costume contest. Select station stores will open their doors for attendees to enjoy trick-or-treating. Learn more at

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. Reach him at [email protected]