Best known for producing Caymus — a Napa Cab which gained a massive following over the last 10 years, especially with its “Special Selection” bottling (tragically not reviewed here) — the Wagner family actually produces wine under a multitude of labels. We tried six, courtesy of a TastingPanel.com kit of minis sent our way. Notes follow.
2009 Mer Soleil “Silver” Unoaked Chardonnay Santa Lucia Highlands – A fresh white with big pineapple, fig, and some lemon notes. More buttery than you’d expect from an unoaked Chardonnay, but still lively. B+ / $22
2008 Mer Soleil Chardonnay Santa Lucia Highlands – Now, the barrel-fermented version, an oaky bomb that feels quite heavy on the alcohol. Surprising fruit flavor is a bit at odds with some green, unripened notes, but overall it’s a reasonably well-balanced and drinkable, modern Chardonnay. B / $32
2009 Conundrum California – One of my perennial favorite white wines (a blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Muscat, and another mystery grape, all sourced from all over the state), the former Caymus-branded Conundrum in 2009 is a bit on the medicinal side, heavy with what tastes like a lot of Chenin Blanc character. Opens up and balances itself a bit as you drink it, but it’s not Conundrum’s greatest hit. B+ / $22
2009 Meiomi Pinot Noir (not pictured) – Quite thin and overly fruited, this Pinot, from a blend of grapes all over California, doesn’t really gel. Tastes very young and undercooked. Clearly a value play. C+ / $22
2009 Belle Glos Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley – A much better Pinot for not a huge investment, this So Cal wine offers traditional, vibrant and lightly tart cherry notes, and a clean finish. A- / $44
2008 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley – This is the wine which I owe my oenophilia to, having downed many a bottle back in the mid-’90s, when Caymus was readily available for $20 a bottle. Now a minor cult classic, it’s showing its age a bit, with ruddy, lightly raisiny notes, and a slightly flabby body. Still a winner, though. B+ / $68