By Steve Jacobson –
There are a lot of great wine values to be had. And I find it to be fun when you find a great fair-priced wine that is made by a “high-end” wine producer. This entry will reveal some very tasty affordable wines that are owned by “high-end” wine companies – Caymus and Duckhorn.
• Caymus – “If you have a wine that you enjoy and appeals to your palate, then that’s your wine.” – Caymus Founder Charlie Wagner
Forty years ago, Charlie & Lorna Wagner, along with their son Chuck, started Caymus Vineyards. Over that time, Caymus has become one of the premiere producers of Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel in Napa Valley. The company expanded and now owns Conundrum, Mer Soleil, Belle Glos and Meiomi. We will focus on Conundrum and Meiomi in this post.
Fun Fact: The Wagners took the name “Caymus” from the Mexican land grant known as Rancho Caymus, given to George Yount in 1836, which encompassed what eventually became the town of Rutherford and much of the surrounding area.
Conundrum is a California white table wine that is blended with five white grape varietals – Chardonnay/Sauvignon Blanc/Muscat Canelli/Viognier/ Semillon – that come from Monterey, Napa, Santa Barbara and Tulare counties. Stainless steel tanks are used as well as seasoned and new French oak barrels. The Conundrum recipe changes from year to year, depending on how the weather and growing conditions have been during any given vintage. But the beauty of this wine is that in spite of its different make-up each year, it is consistently a good white wine that pairs well with a variety of food including Asian cuisine as well as spicy dishes. It is recommended to serve this slightly chilled – which simply means pull it out of the refrigerator 20 minutes before you drink. By letting the temperature go up a little, you will taste a lot more of what the wine has to offer. Retail – $22
There is also a red Conundrum, but it appears not to be as readily available as the white. Actually, I have been drinking white Conundrum for years and was taken by surprise when I saw the red for the first time. This is its second vintage and according to winemaker Charlie Wagner II, “Conundrum Red is a non-traditional blend of California red grapes. What are the varietals used? It’s proprietary and we believe the fun is exploring this intriguing wine. This truly is a Conundrum in style which is unlike any other red blended wine.” Once you taste it, you will know that it is a really nice blend. If you do see it on the shelves, be sure to pick up a few bottles. It’s worth it. Retail – $22
Meiomi is a wonderful Pinot Noir that comes from several vineyards located in Sonoma, Monterey and Santa Barbara counties. The wine is stored in French oak for about 9 months. The word “Meiomi” means “coast”, coming from the language of the native, coastal dwelling Wappo and Yuki tribes. This Pinot Noir goes really well with barbecue meats such as lamb chops, sweet Italian sausages and bacon, as well as salmon. (Yes, Pinot Noir and salmon can work so beautifully together!) Or break out your favorite cheeses and go to town. Retail – $18
• Duckhorn – Located in Napa Valley, and founded by Dan and Margaret Duckhorn in 1976, Duckhorn Vineyards has established itself as a premiere producer of Bordeaux style wines. Over the years, they have expanded their brands to include Paraduxx, Goldeneye, Migration and Decoy. This post will focus on the value-priced wines of Decoy.
Decoy touts itself as “the everyday wine for the well-informed”. I couldn’t agree more. Started more than twenty years ago, this line of wines offers great value utilizing the expertise of the various winemakers involved with the creation of Duckhorn’s prized wines. Each of the winemakers specializes in their own areas of focus including Bordeaux varietals, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. The grapes used in the various wines are from a mix of Estate vineyards and top growers located primarily in Napa, Sonoma and Anderson Valleys. Decoy focuses on “ready-upon-release” wines – highly consumable as soon as you buy them. Retail: Sauvignon Blanc $18/Chardonnay $18/Pinot Noir $20/Merlot $20/Cabernet Sauvignon $25/Red Wine Blend $25/Zinfandel $22
It’s always very rewarding to find value-priced wines. You can certainly drink them more often than the $70 Caymus Cab or the $68 Duckhorn Cab. I’m not saying to not drink the pricier wines, as there is a lot more that goes into those bottles. But knowing that the premiere winemakers are also producing wines that are more affordable for the everyday palate makes it just that more enjoyable to experience.