What’s a Cabernet specialist doing making Pinot Noir? Some fans of California wine were scratching their heads in 2001 when Caymus vineyards released Belle Glos, their Pinot Noir label. The reality is that the Wagner family, owners of Caymus, are well diversified in the Golden State---they make Mer Soleil Chardonnay from vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation of Monterey County, in addition to Conundrum, a blended, off-dry white wine. In the early days of Caymus, the Wagners even produced some Pinot from Rutherford as a sideline.
Winemaking at Belle Glos is under the direction of Joseph Wagner, a fifth-generation vintner who is also the grandson of the Caymus founder. The label is named for his grandmother, Lorna Belle Glos Wagner. The stars of the lineup are the three single-vineyard wines---Clark & Telephone, Los Alturas and Taylor Lane---which are packaged in long, elegant bottles with the necks dipped in Burgundy-colored wax. They retail around the country in the $40-45 range. There’s also an entry-level Pinot Noir, Meiomi, which is a blend of declassified fruit from all three vineyards and sells for $20.
Clark & Telephone 2010 comes from grapes planted in 1972, in the coastal zone of the Santa Maria Valley. Aromas of fresh herbs, minerals and meaty black fruits rise from the glass. The wine is surprisingly lean and focused in the mouth, with tart flavors of red and black berries, soft tannins and a firm mineral backbone. Mouthwatering berry fruit lingers on the long finish.
The 2010 Los Alturas, sourced from the southern part of the Santa Lucia Highlands, offers a tighter nose with recessed hints of spice. The wine is more restrained in the mouth as well---a large-scaled Pinot Noir that has yet to fully open up, but gives the promise of rich, structured black fruit and bright acidity. If you’re drinking this wine now, aerate it for at least an hour.
Taylor Lane 2010 comes from high-altitude vineyards in the Sonoma Coast. The classy nose yields scents of black cherry, earth and smoke reminiscent of Nuits St-Georges. The wine is succulent in the mouth, the most seductive of the three. Concentrated black cherry flavors mingle with earth notes on the palate, and the finish is long, assertive and memorable. Drink this with lamb, stews or an assortment of game dishes.