A medley of fresh fruits including plum and a hint of nectarine; semi-sweet baking chocolate, damp earth and a backdrop of toasted oak aromas. Flavors of chocolate cake with coconut shavings, crème de cassis, stone fruit, nutmeg and clove, smooth tannins. Dry yet rich, with lavish fruit and a smooth texture. Be daring and drink slightly chilled to reveal an unexpectedly refreshing red wine.
Pair with Asian or Indian cuisine; Mexican tacos and fajitas; smoked meats or anything that fits on a grill.
It all began at the dinner table. Charlie Wagner Sr. – who co-founded Caymus Vineyards in 1972 with wife Lorna and son Chuck – would mix wines to find the perfect glass to pair with his meal. No one blended wines back then, so his experiment was pretty radical. Fast forward to 1989, when Conundrum White was born, quickly taking off with its mysterious, tropical notes and amazing versatility.
Today it’s Charlie Sr.’s grandson and namesake, Charlie Wagner, who keeps Conundrum as inventive as ever. He launched Conundrum Red, a wine that is both lighthearted and serious. Charlie loves how there are no single-varietal rules when it comes to making these wines, and each has a unique style. They also showcase some of the best wine regions California has to offer, from Napa Valley to Santa Barbara County and many places in between.
California is a winemaking colossus; by itself it is the fourth largest producer in the world. Red wine accounts for 56% of the total by volume, and red grapes 63% of total acres planted. In addition, a number of California red wines are heralded as being among the most prestigious and sought-after wines in the world.
While the state’s incredibly diverse geography, soils and microclimates allow for a wide array of styles, the key factor unifying California red wine is the abundance of sunshine and a long, consistent growing season. This leads to well-developed fruit marked both by impressive ripeness and balancing acidity.
The state’s most famous red wine region, of course, is Napa Valley, where Cabernet Sauvignon reigns as king. But California boasts a wealth of other impressive appellations. The much larger and climatically varied Sonoma County also produces world class California Cabernet, along with wonderful examples of California Pinot Noir and Zinfandel.
Fine versions of Cabernet and Zinfandel hail from Paso Robles as well, which is also gaining fame with Rhone varietals like Syrah and Grenache. As for Pinot Noir, terrific examples can be found from AVA’s such as Anderson Valley, Carneros, Santa Lucia Highlands and Sta. Rita Hills. Wineries in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties are making wonderful Syrahs, and the Sierra Foothill appellations are proving to be an experimental hotbed, with Italian and Spanish varietals employed to great effect.
This of course is a mere sketch. The subject of California red wine is as deep and broad as an ocean, and absolutely a joy to explore!