Steven McKenzie talks about the Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon
Steven McKenzie speaking Friday night at Wine World

[dropcap style=”font-size 60px; color: #9b9b9b;”] T he Wine World staff were trying to put away the chairs at the end of the “Caymus Plus” seminar Friday night but they couldn’t because people wouldn’t leave. After seven great wines they wanted to stay and chat with the evening’s presenter, Steven McKenzie.

Steven McKenzie, Upstate fine wine manager for Ben Arnold Beverage, is a most entertaining presenter but it doesn’t hurt when you are presenting wines from one of the most consistently great producers of wines in California.

It was called a Caymus Plus seminar in homage to the well-known Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon produced by Chuck Wagner, one of the pioneers of the modern California wine industry.

According to McKenzie, the Wagners (they are 5 generations deep in the winemaking business) decided not to capitalize on the iconic Caymus name for the many varietals they produce but chose rather to create separate label brands for each varietal (each have their own distinctive websites).

All of the Pinot Noirs are under the Belle Glos label. (There is actually a second label for Belle Glos: Meiomi run by fifth generation Joseph J. Wagner). The Chardonnays are produced under the Mer Soleil label and their famous white blend is under the Conundrum label. Not only are the labels varietal based but they are site specific… except Conundrum which is from everywhere. All stand alone as separate brands.

McKenzie was pleased to report that they are releasing a Red Conundrum, which will be just as mysterious as the White in that the Wagners never reveal from year to year what  percentage of varietals are used to make Conundrum.

Conundrum, says McKenzie is an iconic wine that has been produced since 1987. “People thought ‘What the hell is he doing.’ It was so untraditional people knew it would be a failure. It wasn’t.  It’s their number one selling wine now, about 30,000 cases. It’s this  ungodly blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay,  Muscat and Viognier but they won’t say what the exact formula is.”  It has been popular for years as an introductory wine, a wine that will introduce non-wine drinkers to how great wines can be. They start out with this easy to drink white that has nice citrus notes and some obvious Muscat sweetness that makes it very easy to drink.  “It has a bit of residual sugar. Lot of us broke into wine drinking with sweeter wines. My generation was Riesling, the next generation was White Zinfandel and now it’s Moscato.”

Usually seminars at Wine World will feature up to 11 wines. But tonight 7 were plenty considering the price range was $23 to $79. For those attending the discount on the Caymus ($64 instead of the usual $79) easily made up for the $17 to attend.

(The rest of the coverage will be updated shortly).

Where: Wine World, 133 Georgia Ave., North Augusta, SC
803-279-9522

When: Friday, Nov. 18, 2011, 7 to 9pm
Cost: Paid reservations are $17 per person.

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Here are the wines in the order of  presentation (click to see their tasting notes):

  1. Conundrum
  2. Mer Soleil “Silver” Chardonnay (unoaked)
  3. Mer Soleil Chardonnay (the classic)
  4. Meiomi Pinot Noir
  5. Belle Glos Clark & Telephone Pinot Noir
  6. Belle Glos Las Alturus Pinot Noir
  7. Caymus Napa Cabernet Sauvignon

Here are the detailed wine notes:

Conundrum
  The mysterious white blend everyone loves. This wine won a Gold medal at the recent CoCo Wine Festival in the $20 and up Chardonnay division.

Mer Soleil “Silver” Chardonnay (unoaked)
 Silver captures the crisp, pure, mineral essence of the classic Chablis style with the tropical elements found in Chardonnays of the Pacific coastline. Using Chardonnay grown in special blocks of the Mer Soleil Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands of Monterey County, we harvest the grapes when just fully ripe, their gold color hued with green, expressing clean aromas of Chardonnay fruit and firm acidity.

Mer Soleil Chardonnay (the classic)
A rich, buttery, barrel fermented Chardonnay with a sunny California profile. Citrus driven nose. Hints of matchstick, pineapple, banana and coconut. Soft and round entry. Oak is apparent but not defining. Mid-palate goes on to reveal other layers of flavors—vanilla, lemon meringue pie, and again coconut. Finish is rich with viscosity that coats the mouth for minutes after your last sip.

Meiomi Pinot Noir
This wine won Gold at the 6th Annual CoCo Wine Festival for $20 & up PInot Noir. (You see a pattern here? These wines are good).

Belle Glos Las Alturus Pinot Noir
Dense, dark garnet color. Aromas of juicy dark fruit, moist soil, vanilla and coco burst out of the glass. The palate is so rich that it can almost be chewed on. Flavors of pie filling, plum, cured meats and root beer enliven the senses. This wine has structural integrity with great depth. The balanced acidity leads to a provocatively supple finish.

Belle Glos Clark & Telephone Pinot Noir
 Scarlet in color; bursting with aromas of cinnamon, caramel and hints of ginger-spiced tea. On the palate, the plush weight coats the mouth with more brown spice and sweet oak flavors, layered into the deep blueberry and strawberry base. The viscosity paired with the flavors and lively acidity lead into a long finish with supple tannins.

Caymus Napa Cabernet Sauvignon
Scarlet color and brackish edges. Nose is sweet fruit and smoked meats. This wine already has some bouquet− truffle mushrooms, vanilla style oak. The palate is creamy richness with nuances of leather and a cocoa-style fine grain tannin. The flavors and structure of this vintage are consistent with the Caymus style − spice, toast, cassis − fully rich, yet supple. –Chuck Wagner–From their Website
From: Napa, California

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