Charlie Wagner is owner and winemaker for Mer Soleil winery in the Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey County. Making both Chardonnay and a recently released Pinot Noir under the Mer Soleil label, he is passionate about how these wines reflect the drama and rugged beauty of the California coast.
Charlie grew up in Rutherford and is named after his grandfather, Charles F. (Charlie) Wagner Sr., 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 in Monterey County.
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 Chardonnays. He not only oversees winemaking, but also continues the Wagner love of vineyard development and farming in California.
Charlie is also Director of Winemaking for Conundrum and has overseen the launch of multiple Conundrum wines, which now include White, Red, Rosé, Sparkling Blanc de Blanc and Sparkling Rosé. Like his grandfather, he is passionate about breaking into new territory. He leads Red Schooner, a “Red Wine of the World.” This rich, dark Malbec is made from grapes grown in the Andes Mountains, shipped chilled to Napa Valley and produced with the same techniques as Caymus Cabernet. Charlie also recently introduced Sea Sun, a California Chardonnay whose layered, balanced character reflects the premier coastal regions where it is sourced.
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.