It’s Time to Talk About Caymus, America’s Most Loved — and Loathed — Fine Wine (2023)

On first read, the2022 breakdownof CellarTracker’s user-generated data offers little in the way of surprises. Every year, roughly850,000(and growing) users manage their personal wine collections using the website, collectively cataloging millions of bottles of wine (13.8 million in 2022) and generating hundreds of thousands of tasting notes (and tens of millions of data points) along the way. Taken together, those data offer a glimpse into the kinds of wines a certain kind of consumer — the kind that would use a cellar management tool like CellarTracker — is collecting, consuming, and obsessing over.

The results, for the most part, register as predictable. For instance, in 2022 CellarTracker users purchased most of their bottles from California (the entire state; CellarTracker doesn’t break U.S. data down by AVA or specific region) followed byBurgundy,Bordeaux, and Tuscany. In a development that should shock absolutely no one, red wines — specifically red Bordeaux blends — command CellarTracker’s list of most added wines AND its list of most consumed wines, suggesting consumers still enjoy collecting and drinking noteworthy red wines from prestigious European wine regions. If it weren’t for one specificChampagnelabel (if you already guessed it wasDom Pérignon, you guessed correctly) breaking the monotony, the reds of Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Bolgheri would dominate these lists almost entirely.

And then there’s Caymus. Arguably the United States’ best-known fine wine, CaymusCabernet Sauvignonembodies what many consumers think of as the definitive Napa Cab — fruit-forward, rich, velvety, and round. It’s also the only American wine among CellarTracker’s top 10 most added wines of 2022, ranking seventh. Among the year’s most consumed wines it ranks an undisputed No. 1 despite the fact that almost nothing about Caymus is undisputed.

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The winery is in fact a magnet for hot takes within the wine industry, drawing both praise and criticism (and sometimes both at the same time) depending on who’s speaking. For many, Caymus epitomizes “special- occasion wine,” representing a sumptuous expression of California Cabernet made in a way that clearly resonates with its legion of devotees. It’s also something of a lightning rod for criticism, drawing fire — fairly or not — from a cohort of (mostly younger) wine professionals and enthusiasts for its winemaking style and ubiquity, which happen to represent two of the keys to its persistent commercial success.

America’s Favorite Fine Wine

Chuck Wagner founded Caymus Vineyards with his parents in 1972, converting the family’s grove in the Rutherford area of Napa Valley into a 73-acre vineyard and winery. Over the course of half a century, the winery has built a reputation around its luxury (but still relatively affordable) Cabernet Sauvignon. That initial 1972 vintage yielded just 250 cases of wine, and it was slow to move. “The wine didn’t sell quickly,” Wagner, now Caymus’s principal winemaker, says. “It was a very quiet period for us. Aside fromRobert Mondavi Winery, I would say that all of Napa was very quiet.”

The tranquility didn’t last. Helped along by a positive write-up by pioneering California wine critic Robert Finigan and buoyed by the growing esteem of Mondavi and others in the region, Caymus’s phone soon began ringing with interested buyers. Fast-forward five decades, and Caymus regularly churns out 200,000 cases of wine annually, according to Wagner. Over time the winery has scaled to keep up with demand, growing its winemaking operations and sourcing a good deal of fruit from beyond its original estate in Rutherford.

The wine has also evolved a riper, more generous profile, keeping pace with a broader stylistic shift that took root in Napa Valley during the late 1990s. These days, Wagner describes Caymus as “supple, round, dark, rich, tannic but not bitter, and picked ripe so the acidity is not in-your-face in terms of being tart.”

“I want to believe that people want to drink good wine with a meal,” he says. “And that’s where Caymus plays.”

That profile has proved desirable to a whole lot of drinkers who eagerly shell out nearly $80 at retail (and potentially a few hundred bucks at a restaurant or wine bar) for current-vintage Caymus wines. Back vintages and “Special Select” bottlings can fetch much more. The wines have found a sweet spot between luxury and approachability, requiring little of the drinker but cash — almost no one describes Caymus as a “challenging” wine — and offering a familiar, recognizable fine-wine option for those intimidated by sprawling restaurant wine lists.

“I don’t really know where our success came from,” Wagner says. “But as a winemaker, I want to believe that our style of wine represents our success. And I think to a large degree it does.”

You can now find Caymus in the cellars of clubby Manhattan power lunch venues like Michael’s and on various Four Seasons menus in cities across the U.S. It’s a fixture on the wine lists of major restaurant groups and upmarket nationwide chains (particularly steakhouses) like Capital Grille or Ruth’s Chris. Plug “Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon” into the online databaseWine-Searcherand it returns nearly 400 retail options in the U.S. alone — a lot for a luxury wine with a high double-digit price tag. It’s the rare bottle that maintains a regular presence on both fine-dining restaurant lists and grocery store shelves, breezily selling through cases in both venues.

“It makes sense why people come to that wine early,” says Brahm Callahan, master sommelier and CEO of wine-focused venture capital fund Faucet. “It’s big, it’s forward, it has a lot of generosity, it’s approachable, and also it’s everywhere. It’s not like some gray ghost/unicorn that you can only find in the storybooks sommeliers read to themselves at night. It’s an actual product consumers can buy.”

And they do buy it, enthusiastically, to the tune of hundreds of thousands of bottles per year. Caymus’s approachability and availability make it an easy wine to ask for by name, and that demand prompts beverage professionals to ensure it’s always available. “Is it my absolute favorite wine?” says Zach Kameron, beverage director for RHC, a hospitality group whose properties include Peak Restaurant in Manhattan’s Hudson Yards. “No it isn’t. But I understand why it’s other peoples’ favorite wine, and I fully respect that, and that’s why I have it on the list. And to a certain degree they’re disappointed if I don’t have it.”

Why Won’t Industry Pros Talk About Caymus?

There are others who don’t count Caymus as their favorite wine. A vocal cohort of younger wine professionals in particular — especially those who have enthusiastically taken up the mantle of the natural/biodynamic wine movements — regularly hold up Caymus as an example of everything they dislike about “boomer wine.” And Caymus, with its signature rich, round, dark-fruit profile and discernible residual sugar, provides “low-intervention” wine obsessives with a very visible target at which to hurl their critiques.

Search just about any thread involving Caymus on the subredditr/wine, for instance, and what often starts as a straightforward question about a particular vintage devolves into a pile-on of disparaging comments, many from users with “Wine Pro” badges affixed directly under their anonymous screen names. Complaints center on price, alcohol levels, residual sugar, and/or additives (and sometimes all of these things at once). To maintain its signature flavor profile harvest-to-harvest, one prominent line of criticism goes, Caymus has no choice but to manipulate its wine in various ways. The term “Mega Purple” — referring to a grape-based additive used (extremely widely) across the global wine industry to provide deeper color and additional sweetness to red wines — surfaces a lot.

Caymus doesn’t publicize its specific winemaking practices just as most wineries don’t, and many of these criticisms are speculative. It’s also important to note that the introduction of additives to wine to adjust things like sugar levels,acidity, and overall flavor is not only perfectly legal but incredibly widespread. Manipulating wine to achieve a desired profile isn’t just allowed, it’s essentially tradition for a lot of winemakers. The criticisms often leveled at America’s favorite Napa Cab could be aimed at countless other producers of fine wine, but they’re not. For whatever reason, Caymus — specifically Caymus — inspires passion in both its fans and its detractors.

Caymus occupies such a peculiar place in American wine culture that many beverage professionals refuse to even discuss it — or at least not on the record. VinePair reached out to dozens of sommeliers, beverage directors, retailers, and wine distributor reps, finding only two who agreed to talk about the wine and the winery on the record. Many refused out of caution, fearing they might damage relationships with distributors, offering off-the-record comments instead. In declining to speak, one referred to the entire subject matter as a “loaded gun.”

All that points to a certain disconnect between wine professionals and wine consumers, one that perhaps says less about Caymus and more about the state of the American wine industry. Caymus, no matter how any one person feels about big velvety California Cabernets, is a wildly successful product. And while the industry complains that younger drinkers aren’t gravitating toward wine the way previous generations did, to Callahan’s point, Caymus offers an incredibly accessible on-ramp into the category from a flavor — if not financial — perspective. Whether the industry’s gatekeepers view this as the preferred route to do so is another question entirely.

Where, then, does that leave America’s most loved and hated Cabernet as the industry stares down an uncertain future? Wagner acknowledges a generational shift underway among wine consumers, and that Caymus’s rich, fruit-forward style might not be the wine for all eras. “I think a lot millennials were primarily driven by their own sommeliers and wine critics, and they clearly wanted something different than what their parents drank,” he says of the movement toward leaner, drier styles of winemaking. But for now the wine-buying public remains large, and if younger drinkers aren’t drinking Caymus — or drinking wine generally — it has yet to dent the brand’s popularity or its sales. Consumers are buying Caymus, drinking Caymus, and going back for more. It’s all right there in the CellarTracker data.

“They deliver a product that people like,” Kameron says. “It sounds very simple, it’s something that everybody tries to do, but they deliver a product in a style that people like.”

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Published: April 11, 2023

FAQs

Why is Caymus wine so famous? ›

Caymus Vineyards is a family-owned treasure nestled on the sunshine coast of California. The Wagner family, who owns Caymus Vineyards, has over a 100 years of history in winemaking. They are well-known for their bold, fruit-forward, award-winning Cabernet Sauvignon wines.

What year of Caymus wine is the best? ›

The best vintages of Caymus are: 1976, 1978, 1984, 1990, 1991, 1994, 1997, 2002, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Why do people love Caymus? ›

Caymus has a signature style that is dark in color, with rich fruit and ripe tannins – as approachable in youth as in maturity. Since its founding in 1972, Caymus has become renowned as a consistent leader in the production of Napa Valley Cabernet.

What is the sister wine to Caymus? ›

Today, the family's two Cabernet Sauvignons – Caymus Napa Valley and Caymus Special Selection – are among the region's most celebrated wines.

Did Caymus get bought out? ›

Napa Valley's Rancho Caymus Inn purchased by Chicago investment firm.

How long should you age Caymus? ›

Aging. Best 5-10 years from vintage date. However, the wine is produced to be enjoyed upon release or can be cellared a decade or more.

Does Caymus have a lot of sugar? ›

No, it's not sweet. Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon wine is a dry wine. Dry wine contains less than 15 g/L. Learn more about wine sweetness level here.

Should you aerate Caymus? ›

If you don't have a decanter, simply open the bottle, pour a glass, and swirl once poured, allowing the wine to aerate or breathe. Allowing the wine to come into contact with air will help the initial bite of alcohol dissipate, the aromas will open, and the tannins will soften.

How do you drink Caymus? ›

Caymus wines are best served at 15.5 degrees Celsius, 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The cool, almost cellar temperature gives the wine more freshness and lift. Young vintages of their red wine can be decanted for 1-3 hours, depending on the character of the vintage. This allows the wine to soften and open its perfume.

Why do people dislike Caymus? ›

Complaints center on price, alcohol levels, residual sugar, and/or additives (and sometimes all of these things at once). To maintain its signature flavor profile harvest-to-harvest, one prominent line of criticism goes, Caymus has no choice but to manipulate its wine in various ways.

Does Caymus add sugar to their wine? ›

A “dry” red wine technically has under 4g/l, so if you are a fan of Liano (9g/l), Caymus (9.9g/l), Apothic (16g/l) or Ménage à Trois (13/l), then you are drinking extra sugar. Most had no idea that was the case.

What does the number on the top of Caymus wine mean? ›

Once it is bottled and released, it is labeled as “Red Wine of the World” and given a release number designate, IE Voyage 1, Voyage 2 etc.

How much is the tasting fee at Caymus? ›

We really like that your tasting fee, $50, is a credit to be used to purchase wine in the shop. The one negative just has to be that, in our opinion, Caymus wines are not that good.

Is Meiomi a Caymus? ›

Meiomi Wines is a California winery established by Joe Wagner in 2007. Wagner is the son of Chuck Wagner, the proprietor of the famous Napa winery Caymus Vineyards.

Who is the owner of Caymus Vineyard? ›

Caymus Winery Owner Chuck Wagner Sues California over Tasting Room Closures. Updated June 11: The state of California began allowing wineries, including those in Napa, to reopen tasting operations this week. Chuck Wagner has dropped his lawsuit.

How much is Caymus in usa? ›

Prices and ratings of Caymus vintages
WINE NAMEVINTAGEAVERAGE PRICE IN USD
Conundrum by Caymus California white2021$14
Caymus Vineyard Napa Valley red, Cabernet Sauvignon2020$103
Caymus Vineyard Napa Valley red, Cabernet Sauvignon Special Selection2020$101
Caymus Vineyard Napa Valley red, Zinfandel2020
57 more rows

Why is it called Caymus? ›

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. It was not long before the father-son winemaking team started producing wines that were rich in character and complexity.

How many bottles of Caymus are in a case? ›

ORDER A CASE OF 12 BOTTLES!

Can you drink 10 year old Cabernet Sauvignon? ›

How Long Does Wine Typically Last? When stored properly and kept unopened, white wines can often outlive their recommended drinking window by 1-2 years, red wines by 2-3 years, and cooking wines by 3-5 years. Fine wine — as you may have guessed — can typically be consumed for decades.

How long should you wait to drink a Cabernet Sauvignon? ›

According to Fine Wine Concierge: Cabernet Sauvignon: 7-10 years. Pinot Noir: 5 years. Merlot: 3-5 years.

What is the best age to drink Cabernet Sauvignon? ›

“If you like a big bold red with a lot of juicy fruit, just a few years, say, four to six, should do,” Morris says. “If you're looking for more earth notes and smoother tannins with just a little ripe fruit, then somewhere in the eight- to 15-year range is better.

What wine has the highest sugar content? ›

On average dry red wines or dry white wines have around 2 grams of sugar per standard glass. Off-dry wines (which means slightly sweet) have around 3-5 grams, and sweeter wines like Sauternes have 10 grams. Then, there's late harvest wines which can contain a whopping 20 grams of sugar per glass.

Which color wine has the most sugar? ›

Generally speaking, red wine has the lowest sugar content, with an average of around 0.9g per serving. White wines will usually have around 1.4g of sugar per serving, although this varies by type. Given its sweet nature, it will come as no surprise to learn that a glass of rose could include a huge 21g to 72g of sugar.

What has more sugar red wine or tequila? ›

Compared to wines, beers, and ciders, tequila contains no carbohydrates, no sugar, and fewer calories.

Should you let wine breathe before drinking? ›

If it is a young wine, a longer time exposed to air will help open it up to show more complexity and soften the tannins. If it is an older wine, a little time exposed to air will wake it up from its long slumber to revive its liveliness.

Should you open red wine before drinking? ›

Allowing a wine to breathe

Exposing wine to air for a short time allows it to oxidize. This process—known as oxidation—helps to soften the flavors and releases its aromas. Most red and white wines will improve when exposed to air for at least 30 minutes.

Can you aerate red wine too much? ›

Too much exposure to air can cause your wine to taste overly astringent and vinegar-like. Also, your refrigerator acts as a mild dehumidifier and will quickly spoil your open wine. Don't bring it up if you forget to decant a bottle. Sediment may not make it into every glass and your guests may not even notice.

How long does Caymus last after opening? ›

A high-quality red wine, like one from Caymus or Daou, can keep for up to a week after opening; however, a low-quality wine will lose its freshness and fruit sooner.

What is the most expensive wine? ›

27/05/2022 Check out the 10 most expensive and vintage wine bottles in the world.
  • Chateau Lafite 1869 – Price: $230,000. ...
  • Chateau Margaux 1787 – Price: $225,000. ...
  • Ampoule from Penfolds – Price: $168,000. ...
  • Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1787 – Price: $156,450. ...
  • Henri Jayer, Vosne-Romanée Cros Parantoux 1999 – Price: $136,955.

Can you bring food to Caymus Winery? ›

All animals are prohibited except for ADA approved service animals. Unfortunately no outside food or picnicking is permitted at this time. Please note that we share an entrance with our neighbor, Village 360 at the intersection of Mankas road and Suisun Valley road.

What percent alcohol is Caymus? ›

Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon Napa has an alcohol content (ABV) of 12-15%.

Does adding sugar to wine make it taste better? ›

Using Sugar to Sweeten Wine

Yes, you can use sugar to sweeten your wine in a pinch. We don't recommend it because even with the use of metabisulphite it is possible that there are still some active yeast cells left. Sugar is easy for the yeast to ferment, so it might lead to a carbonation issue in your wine.

Why do people put sugar in wine? ›

Wines can be enhanced with added sugar.

Chaptalization is a process common for centuries, in which sugar or grape concentrate was added to fermenting grape must to boost the alcohol level in the finished wine. This used to be most prevalent in northern climes where it was difficult to ripen grapes consistently.

How many cases of Caymus are produced each year? ›

In 1972, the Wagner family, Charles, Lorna, and their son, Chuck, founded Caymus Vineyards. Specializing in Cabernet Sauvignon, the Wagner's first vintage produced 240 cases. Today they produce 65,000 cases annually from about 350 acres of Napa Valley, California farmland.

Where does Caymus get its grapes? ›

Caymus Vineyards is located in the center of the Napa Valley. Primary production is Cabernet Sauvignon grown on low-fertility soils on both the valley floor and the mountains that surround the valley.

How much do you tip at a winery tasting? ›

Use the standard 20% rule on the total price of winery cost. So if a winery is charging you $40 per person and you came in with 10 people, your total bill is $400 so a 20% tip is $80.

Can you visit Napa wineries without tasting fee? ›

No matter your preference, there is a winery tasting option for most palates and, it's worth noting that some wineries will waive or discount tasting fees with the purchase of wines during your visit.

What happened to Meiomi? ›

It turns out, Constellation Brands, a Fortune 500 International Beverage conglomerate bought Meiomi for $315 million. A hefty price for a single brand with no vineyards included in the price.

What wine is Caymus known for? ›

Although Caymus is best known for Cabernet Sauvignon, we also produce a small amount of Zinfandel, which was a favorite of late Caymus co-founder Charlie Wagner Sr.

What does Caymus taste like? ›

This regal red wine opens with notes of cassis and chocolate. Full-bodied and smooth on the palate, it unfurls further with flavors and lush aromas of black fruit, blueberry, and toasted oak.

Does Caymus own Belle Glos? ›

Belle Glos (pronounced BELL GLOS) is owned by the Wagner family of Napa Valley Caymus Vineyards fame.

Does Caymus own conundrum? ›

Conundrum is owned by the Wagner family of Caymus Vineyards, but stands on its own as a separate brand.

What does the name Caymus wine mean? ›

Caymus Vineyards is a Napa winery owned by Chuck Wagner and his family. It was named for George Yount's Rancho Caymus land grant, which in turn was named for the villages of Kaimus, the Wappo settlements previously existing in the region.

What does Caymus stand for? ›

The name Caymus is not a family name derived from the owner's last name as you commonly find used at other wineries, rather it is taken from the name of a group of Native Americans who lived in the Yountville area.

How did Caymus wine get its name? ›

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. It was not long before the father-son winemaking team started producing wines that were rich in character and complexity.

Is Caymus still good? ›

Caymus Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon is a wine that truly embodies the essence of California winemaking. With its deep, inky red color, this wine is sure to impress even the most discerning wine lovers. It's currently featured in the Top 25 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and consistently scores 90+ points.

Who owns Caymus wines? ›

Chuck Wagner was born into a family of farmers and winemakers with deep roots in Napa Valley. He was just 19 when he started Caymus Vineyards with his late parents, Charlie and Lorna, and they spent many wonderful years working side-by-side.

Are Caymus and conundrum the same? ›

Conundrum is owned by the Wagner family of Caymus Vineyards, but stands on its own as a separate brand. The Conundrum winery in Monterey County is close to the sources for most of the grape varietals that make up the wine.

Is Caymus oaky? ›

Both are rich, lavishly oaked wines with bold cassis, black cherry, loam and spice flavors that often verge on sweet. These Caymus wines offer lush texture along with considerable early appeal. The Caymus 'Special Selection', made from the best lots of Cabernet Sauvignon is aged for 16 months in favored French barrels.

Does Caymus add sugar to wine? ›

A “dry” red wine technically has under 4g/l, so if you are a fan of Liano (9g/l), Caymus (9.9g/l), Apothic (16g/l) or Ménage à Trois (13/l), then you are drinking extra sugar. Most had no idea that was the case.

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