What is the most American fruit

Caymus Vineyards: Chuck Wagner in Germany

Chuck Wagner, owner of Caymus Vineyards in Napa Valley, was on tour in Germany at the beginning of September. His wines are the "most American" Cabernet Sauvignons in California. In Germany they still have a small, loyal fan base. His Chardonnays and Pinots may also look exotic to European palates. But one thing is certain: you have a clear handwriting. From Jens Priewe

It was getting tight in Alfons Schubeck's wine cellar on Münchener Platzl. Restaurateurs, wine lovers and wine merchants had to move together so that everyone got something. Occasion: the presentation of the new vintages of Caymus Vineyards by Chuck Wagner, the amiable and shirt-sleeved owner of the famous winery from the Napa Valley. Even the Dutch head coach of the local football club wasn't too keen to get in touch with the other wine enthusiasts.

The two Cabernet Sauvignon that Chuck Wagner had brought with him turned out to be opulent wines, almost bursting with fruit, with sweet, fine-grained tannins. The standard Cabernet Sauvignon, Caymus ’" bread and butter wine ", of which over 600,000 bottles are produced, looked a bit fresher than the Special Selection, which is richer in extracts and tannins. Caymus produces around 100,000 bottles from him. At 149 euros it is priced appropriately for a luxury wine.

To this day, the Wagner Family holds on to pure varietalism for their Cabernets. However, Chuck Wagner is of the opinion that the perfect balance can only be achieved through a mixture of bottom valley fruit and mountain fruit. As a result, both Caymus wines are a blend of warm valleys and cooler slopes.

The vineyards owned by Caymus in Napa Valley are almost exclusively in Rutherford around the old winery. However, owning is limited to around 28 hectares. The majority of the grapes come from leased vineyards that Caymus cultivates in-house.

“We are famous for the fruit and tannin formula,” Chuck Wagner made clear to the guests. "The acid is not that important to us."

The Special Selection, in particular, focuses entirely on fullness and fruit. "In order to express the fruit optimally, we are fully ripe," said Wagner and added: "With all the consequences."

For example, the Special Selection in the great 2007 vintage weighs 15.2% by volume - an extreme wine that quickly tires the papillae in the mouth. To prevent this, it took a rare rib eye steak with green pepper sauce, like the one Schubeck served with it.

The American palate seems to be more sensitive to tannins than to alcohol. It is not enough that the tannin is ripe. Since 2004, Caymus has been the only winery in the Napa Valley to remove grape seeds from the mash. “We don't love astringency, we find it bitter. Therefore this measure. "

This Caymus style, which is in contrast to the "European" style, such as Opus One and Ridge Montebello practice, is also reflected in the simple Cabernet Sauvignon. It is also permeated by soft, barely noticeable, sweet tannin.

Caymus ’success over the last 20 years has meant that the Wagner Family (which incidentally comes from Alsace) has expanded to other areas of California and has acquired vineyards there or made investments. In the Salinas Valley in Monterey near the Pacific, the family owns more vineyards than in the Napa Valley. This is where the Mer Soleil comes from, a powerful, distinguished Chardonnay fermented in small wooden barrels, which is rightly very popular in Germany. Pinot Noir is also grown there.

Chuck Wagner's premium pinots, however, come from Santa Barbara County. The single vineyard wines that are being launched under the Belle Glos brand also aim for abundance and opulence and have few playful elements: Taylor Lane, Las Alturas and Clark & ​​Telephone. (The latter will soon be launched in Germany as well). The second wine, Meiomi, is lighter and has more Pinot elements.

Overall, the guests were impressed by Chuck Wagner and his wines - even if one or the other crop has remained unfamiliar to them. In any case, Helmut Ahollinger and Michael Freislederer, the two German importers, were extremely satisfied with the response.

Finally, one more remark: The USA ranks sixth in the German wine import statistics. If you subtract the wines from Gallo and Constellation, the import volume quickly melts by half. That means: The high-class Californian plants that restaurants and wine drinkers vie for in the USA only arrive in Germany in homeopathic quantities. This is certainly due to the fact that wine in the USA is not just a luxury item, but a status symbol and lifestyle product and the price is accordingly generously calculated. But it is also due to the style of the wines, which for the European understanding of wine are often too powerful, too rich in alcohol, too ripe to permanently irritate the palate of local wine drinkers. Caymus is an example of this.

Jens Priewe worked for many years as a political and business journalist before switching to the subject of wine. He writes columns for the gourmet and for the Swiss wine magazine Merum. For the wine connoisseur, of which he is a partner, he has contributed over 200 articles since it was founded. He is also the author of several successful wine books (including "Wine - the great school", "Basic course in wine"). He comes from Schleswig-Holstein, but has lived in Munich for almost 40 years.