Chuck Wagner and his children are proud to be continuing on a true Napa Valley family winemaking legacy that can be traced back over 150 years and eight generations. Chuck’s parents, Lorna Belle Glos and Charlie Wagner, were both born to families that helped shape Napa Valley’s wine industry in the late 1800’s and beyond, through their hard work, dedication, pioneering spirit and resilience in the face of adversity. They are the Glos, Stice and Wagner families.
~ The Glos Family ~
Lorna’s grandparents, Charles and Mary Glos, emigrated from Rhein Pfalz Germany prior to 1880, met and married in San Francisco in 1881 and began to raise a family. In true pioneering fashion, they homesteaded 150-acres at sixteen hundred feet of elevation on Howell Mountain in 1885. With their own hands, they cleared the land to build a cabin, planted a fourteen-acre vineyard and constructed a three-mile road connecting their homestead to Crystal Springs Road below. They lived there for twenty years while immigrant Charles found work as needed in the valley below. He walked to work at Bell and Greystone Wineries, the latter being five miles from his homestead, which is why family and friends affectionately nicknamed him “The Walking Fool”.
Charles Glos’ son Charlie married Mabel Stice in 1910, raising their family on a thirteen-acre property situated on the Napa River halfway between Rutherford and Oakville districts, on a road that is now named Glos Lane. Charlie Glos farmed his own land and also worked as a field laborer. He is credited with inventing the “chip bud” technique, a much-improved method of field grafting European grapevines onto pest-resistant American rootstock, which today is widely used throughout the world. Charlie and Mabel had seven children, their forth being Lorna Belle Glos, who was born in 1915.
~ The Stice Family ~
Lorna’s mother’s family, the Stices, can trace their Napa Valley roots back even further. Lorna's great, great grandfather Moses Stice, and her great grandfather Blueford Stice, arrived in California from Missouri in 1857. It was Bluford who captained the wagon train of forty-four individuals, mostly family and friends, on the journey across the country from Bible Grove, Missouri. In 1858, Bluford and his wife Martha purchased seventy acres of farmland in Napa Valley’s Oak Knoll District.
Their son (Lorna’s grandfather), Lafayette Stice, was the first Stice family member to make wine in Napa Valley in the late 1800s. He worked as a winemaker for Brun & Chaix (now Ladera Winery on Howell Mountain) and John Sutter Wine Company. He then went on to co-operate Inglenook winery and vineyard after Captain Gustave Niebaum's death. Lafayette's son Henry, also a winemaker, made the very first wines produced for George De Latour’s Beaulieu Winery label in 1900. These first Beaulieu wines were produced at the HH Harris winery, now known as Martin Estate in Rutherford. With his earnings, Lafayette was able to purchase 150-acres of land in the center of the Napa Valley, located at the end of the road now known as Stice Lane.
~ The Wagner Family ~
Carl and Catherine Wagner purchased seventy acres of land in Napa Valley’s Rutherford district in 1906 and planted grapes. Carl came from a winegrowing family in Alsace, France so it was only natural when in 1915 he started the Wagner winery on his seventy-acre ranch (where Honig Estate stands today) that would grow to become a successful operation producing 30,000 gallons of bulk wine within a few years. The Wagners raised five children, and their only son, Charlie, was born in their Rutherford home in 1912.
~ The Impact of Prohibition ~
In 1919, the Wagner, Stice and Glos families’ faced their greatest challenge yet, which threatened their livelihoods and quickly destroyed their burgeoning wine ventures. Napa Valley vintners and winemakers had only just overcome the devastation caused by the phylloxera outbreak of the 1890’s that killed most of the grapevines brought in from Europe, when they were effectively wiped out by an even more devastating force. Congress passed Prohibition on January 16, 1919 and it ended on December 5, 1933. For fourteen years, the "Volstead Act" made illegal the manufacture of wine for sale. Although Prohibition put an end to the prospering wine businesses as they stood for all three families, all was not lost as the future generations still had wine running through their veins and dreams of resurrecting what their forefathers had begun.
~ Post-Prohibition Resurgence ~
Charlie Wagner and Lorna Belle Glos grew up just one mile apart in Rutherford and their families knew each other. When Charlie and his high-school sweetheart Lorna eloped to Reno, Nevada, to marry in 1934, three Napa Valley pioneering families were brought together. In 1941, they purchased 73 acres just a few hundred yards from the Wagner “home ranch,” where they planted fruit orchards. One of their first acts on their new land was to also plant 10 acres of wine grapes.
In the 1960’s, Charlie and Lorna foresaw a bleak future for the family’s prune and walnut crops, so they decided to pull out their trees and devote their property entirely to wine grapes, including Pinot Noir, Johannisberg Riesling and a special clone of Cabernet Sauvignon that Charlie had acquired from Stags Leap grower Nathan Fay. The Wagners sold their grapes to Inglenook winery and Sonoma Vineyards, among others, and were highly regarded grape growers and home winemakers. It was in 1972 that Chuck and his parents decided to go “all in” and formalize the family’s long-standing tradition of winemaking when they recognized they could make a better living by selling the great quality ‘home’ wines they had been making from grapes they were growing on their property. They established their own winery and decided to name it “Caymus Vineyards,” after a Mexican land grant owned by George Yount that had once encompassed their land.
Charlie Wagner, Lorna Belle Glos Wagner, Chuck Wagner
It was not long before the father-son winemaking team started producing wines that were rich in character and complexity. It was their 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon that really put them on the map, because it caught the attention of wine critics, earning them recognition and acclaim. That was the day the phone started to ring and it hasn’t stopped since.
Charlie and Chuck Wagner
In 1975, Chuck and his dad noticed that there were a few barrels that tasted better than the rest, so they decided to separate them from the batch and bottle under a new label called “Special Selection.” In 1989, Wine Spectator awarded them the prestigious “Top Wine of the Year Award” for their 1984 Caymus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon, and again five years later for their 1990 vintage. While it’s true that Caymus Vineyards is the only winery in the world to have twice earned Wine Spectator’s highest accolade, they did not stop there, it simply motivated them to keep striving to make better and better wines each and every year.
It’s been over 40 years since the Wagners founded Caymus Vineyards, and today they are proud to showcase a collection of wines that have a reputation for quality and consistency, produced from the premiere winegrowing regions of California. Charlie Wagner died at his Rutherford home in February 2002, in his 90th year. His son Chuck Wagner continues to oversee the making of world-renowned Caymus Cabernets and he is thankful to have three of his four children: Charlie, Joseph and Jenny Wagner, farming the land alongside him and carrying on the family legacy.
Chuck Wagner and the next generations
One of the family’s fond memories is of Chuck’s dad Charlie, who at the end of each work day would sit at the dinner table and blend wines from one glass into another, trying to create the perfect wine to pair with his meal. It didn’t matter what the varietals were, he would just blend, taste and explore. It was this unique approach that inspired Chuck to break the norm and start making a blended white wine, which they named “Conundrum.” From the very first vintage in 1989, he was determined to make a wine that was uniquely Californian and would seamlessly pair with a wide array of different cuisines and dishes.
In 2011 the family introduced Conundrum Red, which is made by Chuck’s son Charlie Wagner. Similar to his Dad, Charlie’s approach has always been innovative, creative and quality-focused, so it was a natural fit when it came to the task of bringing the inaugural vintage of Conundrum Red to life.
Charlie also makes Mer Soleil Chardonnay from a very special appellation in Monterey County called the Santa Lucia Highlands. In their pursuit to make the finest Californian Chardonnay, the Wagners planted their first vines in 1988 in the Santa Lucia Highlands. Mer Soleil is named for the two forces of nature that strongly influence this wine: sea (mer) and sun (soleil).
Chuck’s second son, Joseph Wagner, makes Pinot Noir under the labels Belle Glos and Meiomi. In 2001, the Wagners created a Pinot Noir label, Belle Glos, which is named in honor of Lorna Belle Glos Wagner. Lorna is a true source of inspiration for the family as she co-founded Caymus Vineyards with her husband, Charlie Wagner and their son, Chuck. Lorna also happens to be very fond of Pinot Noir – and she was testament to the health benefits associated with drinking red wine – she passed away in 2013 at the young age of 97. Joseph’s goal with each of the Belle Glos single-vineyard Pinot Noirs is to express the uniqueness of each vineyard site, and to craft the most genuine style of California Pinot Noir, which is layered, complex, fruit-forward and rich.
Chuck’s oldest daughter, Jenny Wagner, joined the family business two years ago as an apprentice winemaker and is trying her hand at making Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot. In the fall of 2012, she released her first small production of Sauvignon Blanc under our new “Wagner Family of Wine” house wine label, which was only available at the Caymus Vineyards tasting room and quickly sold out.
“I think I speak for my sons and daughter when I say that we are driven by a desire to make something truly special and we do our best to make the finest wines we can. For eight generations, our family has lived in and loved the Napa Valley. Working the land with our own hands has given us insights into grape growing and winemaking that cannot be found in any farm manual or book. We think of ourselves as farmers at heart, because that is what our family winery was founded on and it is what continues to help set us apart in both quality and innovation today.”– Chuck Wagner