Charlie Wagner is owner and winemaker for Mer Soleil winery in the Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey County. Charlie grew up in Rutherford – he is named after his grandfather, Charles F. (Charlie) Wagner, co-founder of Caymus Vineyards. Following in his grandfather’s footsteps, Charlie spent most of his spring and summer breaks working in the vineyards or the cellar at Caymus. At 16, he began his winemaking career in earnest when he was granted permission to spend some of his school days working in the family’s Mer Soleil vineyard.
After graduating from high school, Charlie worked alongside Jon Bolta, the winemaker for Conundrum White, apprenticing in every step of the vineyard and production process for the family’s white wines. With the 2003 vintage, Charlie took over full production responsibilities for Mer Soleil Chardonnay. He not only oversees winemaking, but also continues the Wagner love of vineyard development and farming in California.
In 2005, Charlie created a new wine inspired by the French Chablis-style through the process of fermenting and aging a portion of his Chardonnay in concrete and stainless steel tanks. SILVER, Mer Soleil’s popular brand of unoaked Chardonnay, is packaged in a unique bottle whose matte-gray color calls to mind the concrete vessels in which it is created. Charlie is also winemaker for Conundrum Red, a proprietary red wine blend and partner to the popular Conundrum White, and leads Red Schooner, the newest creation of Wagner Family of Wine. A “Red Wine of the World,” Red Schooner is a rich, dark Malbec made from grapes grown in the Andes Mountains, shipped chilled to Napa Valley and produced in the Caymus style.
When he’s not working, Charlie spends as much time as possible with his family, looking forward to future adventures with his two young sons, whether in the vineyard or on hiking and camping trips.