Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Caymus Vineyards

Caymus is one of Napa Valleys older, classic, wineries, and you should visit them at least once in your lifetime if you love wine.  They are famous for their great Cabernet Sauvignon, but all of their wines are very good and well worth trying.  They also have a very lovely garden.  We recommend an appointment and sit down tasting unless you want to drop in without an appointment and don't mind dealing with crowds.  (This is applicable to any famous Napa Valley winery, especially during the summer, the Fall crush or on weekends,  but not all wineries offer an alternative.)  It is nice that Caymus offers the option of making an appointment for a more intimate and personal experience.  They should be on any serious wine lovers list of "must visit" Napa Valley wineries.

Caymus grounds

Caymus Vineyards is a classic Napa Valley winery and one with which I was familiar back in the early 1970s when I first began visiting wineries.  It is owned by the Wagner family who have been  involved with wine since 1906 when the they moved to Napa Valley and planted vineyards in the Rutherford area, eventually selling grapes to bulk wine makers.  In 1941 the Wagner family purchased 73 prime acres of vineyard in the Rutherford AVA and eventually began to focus on more premium wines.  Until 1972 they sold their grapes to other wineries, but in 1972 they founded Caymus Vineyards.  Their first release was 240 cases of 1972 Cabernet Sauvignon.  In 1975 they produced their first Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon, that remains the only wine to have twice been named Wine Spectator's "Wine of the Year" (1984 and 1990 vintages).  In 2013 they purchased an additional 178 acres of California vineyards outside Napa Valley, including Dairyman in Russian River, Las Alturas in the Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey and Clark and Telephone in Santa Barbara County. The word "Caymus" refers to the Mexican land grant called Rancho Caymus that George Yount obtained in 1936.

Entry to tasting room

Caymus offers a drop in Tasting Flight for $25 that consists of four samples from the "Wagner Family of Wine" which includes Caymus, Mer Soleil, and Belle Glos.  They offer a special sit down tasting that requires advance reservations by phone or over the Internet.  See below for details.  They also recently began participating in the Napa Neighbor Program.  We opted for the drop in tasting this time but will partake of the special tasting on our next visit. Caymus can be very busy so the private tasting is recommended. The least busy times to visit without an appointment are on weekdays before noon. Much thanks to Jeff, our host, for his very friendly and courteous assistance.

Flower garden

Our tasting began with the Mer Soleil 2010 Chardonnay at $32.  From Monterey with about 20,000 to 25,000 cases produced each year. A very pleasant aroma of lemon, green apple and a hint of oak was followed by a soft, round, rich, intensely fruity presentation of pineapple and tropical fruits, fairly well balanced with a medium length finish.  It is a smooth Chardonnay but not overly buttery, showing some oak but rather reserved on the malolactic conversion which was 30%.  Pleasant and easy to drink.

Patio outside tasting room

The second pour was the Belle Glos 2012 Dairyman Pinot Noir at $44.  A Russian River Pinot with about 3,000 cases produced.  A lovely purple in color followed by a light red cherry nose, this Pinot opens up on the palate with rich, lush, raspberry, red cherry, vanilla and spices complemented with good acid and tannin to make a substantial statement followed by a long finish. We both really liked this one even though it will improve in time, becoming even better integrated and layered.  Very nice.

Patio tasting area

Next up was the Caymus 2010 Zinfandel at $38. About 3,000 cases were produced with the grapes coming from St. Helena and Calistoga.  It has 15% Petit Sirah added. A deep purple color, the aroma was light blackberry with some forest floor. On the palate it was fairly fruit forward but relatively dry for a wine this intense in fruit.  It is certainly not a fruit bomb.  I got mostly black cherry and blackberry with great spiciness.  The finish was fairly long and fruity with some mushroom notes.  The fruit on this is very well balanced with the spice, bright acid and pleasant tannins.  Although pleasant and easy to drink, it is more layered and complex than many Zins.  Caymus might be famous for their Cabs, but they also make a very nice Zin and this one is very good.  Solidly recommended.

Walking area

Our fourth pour was the Caymus 2011 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon at $72.  This is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and is made from grapes from 8 Napa Valley appellations, with about 75% from the valley floor and the rest from the mountains.  It was a lovely deep purple in color.  The aroma was primarily black currant.  On the palate it was a rich, lush, Cabernet with ripe black cherry, black currant, vanilla, mocha and silky tannins, with a good pleasantly chalky finish that hinted of blueberries and baking spices.  For such a full bodied, lush, ripe, concentrated Cab, this is very drinkable now.  A classic and very good Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

Picnic tables

Our host took us back for a taste of the Caymus 2010 Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon at $130.  9,600 cases were produced. This a voluptuous, very classy premium Cabernet.  It had a great aroma of black cherry, mushrooms and forest floor.  On the palate it was smooth, silky, lush, very well balanced and decadently delicious with ripe black cherry, vanilla and blueberry followed by a very long finish.  An exceptional Napa Valley Cab and very highly recommended.

Lovely grounds

I did not read any reviews of the Caymus 2010 Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon until several days after visiting Caymus but was curious to see what others had to say about this wonderful Cab. The Wine Spectator scored the 2010 Special Selection at 96 points and commented, "A seductive style that’s openly fruity, showing supple plum and black cherry notes, with floral scents and spices, turning creamy and gaining a mocha-espresso-vanilla scent that’s enticing. Finishes with a smooth texture, fine-grained tannins and then another burst of fruit. Drink now through 2025."  Robert Parker rated it 93 stating, "The 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Special Selection is, big, rich, voluptuous and totally sexy. Mocha, chocolate, plums, sweet spices and black cherries jump from the glass in this full-bodied, intense wine." 

Flower garden

8700 Conn Creek Rd
Rutherford, CA 94573
(707) 967-3010
Date of visit: September 4, 2013

Retail Sales: 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. In addition to drop in tastings, Caymus offers a more personal tasting experience that is described on their website: "Caymus Vineyards offers an intimate sit-down tasting in a private setting hosted by our wine educator – maximum 10 people. This tasting lasts approximately 45 minutes, and features four Caymus Vineyards wines, including the current release of Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon. Fee is $30 per person and includes a complimentary signature wine glass." Please see their website for more up to date information.

Directions per the Caymus website: "From Napa, proceed north on HWY 29 to HWY 128/Rutherford Road and turn right. Go east on Rutherford Road for 1-1/2 miles. At T-intersection (Conn Creek Road), turn right. The tasting room is on your left."


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