Caymus Vineyards at the 2012 Vancouver International Wine Festival

Caymus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon glass

Caymus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon vertical tasting at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival Feb 29 2012.

Caymus Special Selection wine tasting at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival Feb 29 2012

– by Shawn Conner

Caymus Vineyards‘ Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon bears the distinction of having been the only wine chosen Wine of the Year twice by Wine Spectator magazine.

As part of the 2012 Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival, head winemaker Chuck Wagner came up to Vancouver from Napa Valley to talk about the vineyard, its history, changes in the area (10 vintners when he founded the winery with his parents in 1973; over 300 now) and viticultural techniques, and to lead us through a tasting of the Special Selection with seven vintages; 1994, 1997, 1999, 2002, 2005, 2008 and 2009.

I don’t have the words or expertise of many of my fellow wine-tasters – such as the fellow beside me, who called the earlier years “leather-y” – but the sweet spot for me were the 99, 02 and 05 wines, the middle range. The balance between sweet and savoury was what struck me most, though if I had to borrow some terms from Wagner, I would agree that these wines were more complex, chocolate-y, tannin-rich. Wine expert Robert Parker awarded the 2002 Special Selection, by the way, with 96 points, which I take it is quite an impressive score.

Caymus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon wine in glasses

Caymus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon vertical tasting at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival Feb 29 2012.

This was my first “vertical tasting” – tasting the same wine year-by-year – and I have to admit I was a little intimidated. The formal setting (white tablecloths!), the knowledgeable air of my fellow-tasters (some of whom had paid $150 to swish a little wine around their mouths and spit it out for 90 minutes) and the sterile Vancouver Convention Centre room stood out in stark contrast to the casual, fun atmosphere of last month’s Tales of the Cocktail. It made me wonder if it’s not time to take some of the stuffiness out of the wine festival, or if all this folderol is necessary to keep the well-heeled paying.

Nevertheless, the wine itself was delicious and Wagner was a down-to-earth and engaging presenter. I might even take him up on his offer and pay a visit to Caymus Vineyards, if I’m ever back in the Napa Valley.

Caymus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon wine

Caymus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon vertical tasting at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival Feb 29 2012.

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