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If the Wagner family wanted to, they could simply coast on the legacy of their family-owned Caymus winery and call it a day. Thankfully, they don’t, and this bodacious Cab Sauv provides sufficient reason why the wine world is grateful for their gumption. Winemaking stud Charlie Wagner II’s 2012 take on the Special Selection series is a densely concentrated explosion of juicy fruit coddled in voluptuous texture and exquisite structure. Pronounced dark berry fruit is caressed by nuanced notes of creme de cassis, spice, and vanilla-infused oak. High tannins provide decadent roundness before guiding to a lengthy finish of wood and spice.
About the wine
When a new bottle of Caymus Special Selection is about to hit the shelves, the wine world stops in breathless anticipation. Such hyper-focus might equate to crushing pressure for an average winemaker. Yet superstar Charlie Wagner II constantly uses it as an opportunity to showcase the kind of superb viticultural skills that make him a high 90+ point critical darling. This densely purple bombshell of pure Cab Sauv expression is a prime display of his drinkable genius; a sassy, fruit-forward study in bosomy texture and intense concentration. Exuberant notes of practically dripping dark berry provide a backbone sturdy enough to support elegantly concentrated notes of vanilla-kissed oak, black licorice, creme de cassis, and spice along with a gentle nudge of graphite. High tannin levels allow the notes to seductively unfurl upon the palate with opulent roundness, leading to a lush, everlasting finish marked by spice, glycerin, and wood. This is a label poised to make even longtime Caymus Special Selection enthusiasts gush with unprecedented zeal.
Winemaker: Charlie Wagner II
Appellation: Napa Valley
- 98 pts, Wilfred Wong of Wine.com
- 96 pts, The Wine Advocate
- 94 pts, Wine Spectator
Grapes: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
About the winery
Ask anyone in the know about legendary Napa winemaking families, and the Wagners will most likely be mentioned in the same breath as the Mondavis.
It’s this way because the Wagner family refuses to allow Caymus to rest on their surname’s legend. They could if they wanted to; legendary labels like their Special Selection series has practically sold itself for decades. Yet they don’t, which is terrific news for the wine world. Each mind-blowing bottle produced by the family-owned winery serves as testimony to their tireless commitment to push their legacy forward honestly, driven by winemaker Charlie Wagner II’s deep passion to create drinkable art from the choicest grapes each Napa harvest can possibly produce. This relentless pursuit of viticultural excellence is strong enough to make critics and oenophiles alike jump for joy when a new bottle of Caymus is released. It also assures the family name will continue to be uttered in reverent tones for generations to come.
About the vineyard
The precise vineyards Caymus uses to pluck their grapes is a mystery.
This clandestine approach to sourcing is hardly cause for alarm, since Charlie Wagner II’s the guy who’s sourcing the grapes, wherever they may originate. The winemaking impresario has built a career on the dogged pursuit of searching and finding the absolute best grapes the harvest produces. It’s a chase whose pathway shifts with each passing year, but Wagner always manages to re-route his coordinates to letter-perfect precision. Considering his illustrious list of mind-bending, high 90+ bottles he’s crafted throughout the years, it’s safe to stay he hasn’t traversed the wrong road yet.
About the winemaker
Charlie Wagner II’s very name seemingly made him destined for a life among Napa vines. After all, the winemaker and owner of Mer Soleil vineyard was named after his grandfather, who just so happened to be Caymus Vineyards co-founder Charles F. Wagner. And after years of watching his dad and grandpa create singular blends for dinner, it wasn’t long before the vineyards young Charlie drove his dirt bike through turned into a literal classroom. Indeed, he nabbed high school credit for occasionally doing work at his family’s Mer Soleil vineyard during the school year. He certainly didn’t waste this educational gift; he planted himself at the foot of Conundrum co-founder Jon Bolta upon graduation, where he soaked up viticultural knowhow like a fresh chamois. This passionate zeal for knowledge continues to have a perpetually positive influence on the wine world today, as Charlie’s expert hand and near-intuitive acumen for the winemaking process can be experienced through a broad range of massively innovative selections, from the incredible unoaked Chardonnay SILVER to the epic proprietary red blend Conundrum Red.
98 points, Wilfred Wong of Wine.com
"I have been tasting the Caymus Special Selection Cabernet since the winery's first vintage in 1975 and this is their best ever! The super fine 2012 Caymus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon, from a superior year in the North Coast of California, shows incredible synergy of the elements: fruit, earth and wood. Everything here works so well, the wines high tannin levels are wrapped nicely with the wine's nicely extracted fruit. Make no mistake this wine represents Napa Valley royalty at its best. (Tasted: April 23, 2015. San Francisco, CA)"
96 points, The Wine Advocate
94 points, Wine Spectator