The Wagners come from a long line of grape growers and winemakers in Napa Valley, with a farming tradition dating back to the 1850s. Chuck Wagner’s parents, Lorna Belle Glos and Charlie Wagner Sr., 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 paternal 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 fourth being Lorna Belle Glos, who was born in 1915.
~ 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 did not end until 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. Catching the attention of wine critics, it earned them recognition and acclaim. That was the day the phone started to ring and it hasn’t stopped since.
Charlie, Chuck and the next generation
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 them under a new label called “Special Selection.” In 1989, Wine Spectator awarded the prestigious “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, the Wagners did not stop there – it motivated them to keep striving to make better and better wines each and every year.
It’s been over 45 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 premier winegrowing regions of California and beyond. 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 is thankful to have two of his four children, Charlie and Jenny, farming the land alongside him and carrying on the family legacy.
One of the family’s fond memories is of Chuck’s dad, Charlie Sr., sitting at the dinner table at the end of each work day, blending wines from one glass into another to create the perfect pairing for 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 the family named “Conundrum.” From the very first vintage in 1989, they were determined to make a wine that was uniquely Californian and would seamlessly pair with a wide array of cuisines and dishes.
Charlie also produces coastal Mer Soleil Chardonnays, whose distinct character can be traced to the dramatic growing conditions of the Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County and Santa Barbara County. He recently introduced Mer Soleil Pinot Noir from the Santa Lucia Highlands. Charlie’s latest endeavor is Red Schooner, a rich, dark Malbec made from grapes grown in the Andes Mountains of Argentina, shipped chilled to Napa Valley and produced in the supple Caymus style.