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  • Belle Glos’ Las Alturas vineyard in Santa Lucia Highlands is the source of one of its three single-vineyard wines
  • Chuck Wagner and Joe Wagner
 

Wagner Ways

Daenna Van Mulligen meets the family behind Caymus and Belle Glos

Napa Valley soil ruNs deep iN the VeiNs of Chuck Wagner. His father, Charles, was born on a nearby Rutherford farm and his mother’s family has a long history of winemaking and viticulture in the region.The Caymus legacy was forged in 1972 when Charles, his wife Lorna and Chuck started making wine under that label from vineyards they had begun planting in the 1960s.

“We Wagners are farmers first and proud of it,” Chuck Wagner says, referring by extension to his sons, Charlie, winemaker at the family’s Mer Soleil winery in Monterey, and Joe, who is responsible for Belle Glos, which is made at the Caymus winery. But Charlie and Joe are not the only family which he refers to — key employees who have been with the Wagners for 10, 20, even 30 years count, too.

While Wagner oversees the entire collection of the Wagner Family of Wines, including Caymus, Conundrum, Mer Soleil and Belle Glos, he relies upon people he has handpicked over the years who share his vision and passion. When visiting the vineyards and wineries, it is obvious how committed employees are to him and to his family. Assistant winemaker John Lopez hails Chuck Wagner as a visionary, explaining: “He teaches, instills, forces you to think outside of the box and push new ideas.”

When it comes to Caymus’ Napa Valley Caber-nets and Zinfandel, Wagner says simply they are made to be “round, rich and full of fruit” — just the way he likes them.

Chuck Wagner’s passion is Napa Cabernet and eldest son Charlie’s tastes run to Chardonnay, but his youngest is all about Pinot Noir. Joe Wagner’s Pinot epiphany was more organic than most. A summer job at age 15 had him planting the Taylor Lane vineyard. When he was 19, Belle Glos (pronounced Bell Gloss) was launched and Joe found himself on the road selling his family’s new project, which was named in tribute to his grandmother, Lorna Belle Glos Wagner. He recalled it was an uphill battle — “people just didn’t get Pinot.”

He turned his attention to winemaking in 2002. “It was a rush to see how Pinot works into wine,” Joe Wagner says. “Seeing how it can emulate the site and how in the cellar we can help to project those nuances.”

Belle Glos produces three single-vineyard Pinot Noirs: Taylor Lane from Sonoma Coast, Las Alturas from Santa Lucia Highlands and Clark & Telephone from Santa Maria Valley. A fourth, Meiomi, is crafted by blending declassified barrels from all three.

Joe Wagner credits his father’s insight in shaping his instincts as a winemaker. “He let me learn from mistakes and accomplishments. He always fostered independence in my practices and especially focused on out-of-the-box methods of growing and winemaking… He laid the foundation and taught me how to build on top of it.”



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