Tag Archives: Celebrity Chef Dinner

An Afternoon with the Wagner Family of Wines

ErinI never get tired of the perks of this job, especially because it allows me to meet people like Joe Wagner. The fifth generation winemaker is in town this week for Savor Nashvillethe Wagner Family of Wines is sponsoring Saturday’s Celebrity Chef Dinner at The Hutton Hotel—and set up a special tasting for the staff of Nashville Lifestyles at the Hermitage Hotel yesterday afternoon.

Belle Glos

After introducing us to his family through a video, Joe gave us a comprehensive tasting of the wines. And while most of us were already familiar with his most popular labels (bottles of the Caymus, Conundrum White and Meiomi pinot noir are currently sitting in several of our home wine fridges), tasting through them with the winemaker himself is one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments that will forever shape my personal enjoyment of his wines going forward (especially his stories about discovering and guzzling a bottle of sauvignon blanc at the age of five).

Joe is a farmer, first and foremost. Like his grandfather, Charlie Wagner, he was raised in the vineyards. And that farmer comes through when he talks about sugar content, ripeness, harvest times, structure, and cryo-extraction. But when it comes to what’s in the bottle, he puts it plainly, saying, “I just love those rich pinots.” His father and a few of his siblings are also part of the business: brother Charlie II is the winemaker of Mer Soleil and Mer Soleil Silver (Joe says they rib each other constantly about the virtues of red versus white wine); both sisters Erin and Jenny are coming up as winemakers; his father Chuck is the winemaker and viticulturist for Caymus. But the heart of the family today is Joe’s grandmother, Lorna Belle Glos Wagner, the namesake for the family’s fantastic line of pinot noir. Joe says the 97-year-old had her hand in the process from the very beginning, whether it was working on the bottling line or making lunch for the crew. She, her husband, Charlie, and Joe’s father Chuck founded the winery in 1972 and though Charlie passed away over a decade ago, his and Lorna’s legacy will likely keep the winery running for generations to come. In fact, Joe and his wife have five kids of their own—he told us that he’s hoping that at least one (but not all) of them chooses to carry on the family business.

Joe Wagner

Now on to those wines. We tasted through nine, including a bottle that will hit the market in a few weeks, the Belle Glos Dairyman Pinot Noir: It was named for the Portuguese dairy farming family from who Joe purchased the land. Like the other Belle Glos Russian River Valley pinots, this one is affable, well-balanced, berry-heavy, and rich—definitely a staff favorite (you can taste for yourself if you have tickets to Saturday night). I appreciated tasting the Mer Soleil and Mer Soleil Silver side-by-side. Both are Chardonnays with grapes grown and harvested from the same lots but with two different applications: the Silver is kept on the lees in an egg-shaped concrete tank (which inspires the opaque grey bottle) while the regular Mer Soleil is barrel fermented. Meanwhile, the Belle Glos Oeil de Pedrix rose is a lovely presentation of low acidity pinot noir rose and will surely make an appearance this summer on my back deck. The showstopper though had to have been the 2010 Caymus Special Selection, a cream of the crop vintage that produces a beautiful, classic Napa Cabernet.


It’s not everyday that you get up-close with a talent like this—but if you have tickets to Saturday night’s Savor dinner, I recommend introducing yourself to Joe and raising a glass to say thanks.

—Erin B. Murray, Managing Editor

New Book “Rock and Vine” Features A Nashville Wine Group

ErinThis week, our office is buzzing as we prep for our biggest event of the year, Savor Nashville. The event takes place Friday and Saturday this weekend—and while the Friday night Chefs Challenge Cook-off is sold out, you still have time to score tickets to Saturday’s Celebrity Chef  dinner. If I had to choose between the two, this would be my pick namely for the wines: All seven courses at Saturday’s dinner will be paired with wines from the Wagner Family of Wines stellar collection.

Joseph WagnerTasting Wagner’s amazing lineup (Caymus, Mer Soleil, Belle Glos, and my personal fave, Meiomi) is a treat, but so is rubbing elbows with hot-shot winemaker Joseph Wagner himself, who is coming to Nashville for his first-ever visit to be at this event.

Keep an eye here for more details about Joseph and his wines later this week. But in the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about him, as well as a few other rock star vintners, pick up a copy of the book Rock and Vine: Next Generation Changemakers in America’s Wine Country by author Chelsea Prince. This beautiful, easy to read primer takes a look at some of the most innovative young minds in the wine business today, including Joseph Wagner, as well as Nashville-based BNA Wine Group founder Tony Leonardini. Leonardini is a volunteer-firefighter-slash-winemaker who started bottling his Napa Valley Volunteer Cabernet Sauvignon in 2006 and immediately found a following in Tennessee (the name fits!). He then partnered with two TN-based wine pros to create the BNA Wine Group, which according to the book, is on track to sell 1.2 million bottles this year.Rock adn Vine

Enter to WIN a copy of Rock and Vine at NashvilleLifestyles.com/contests

Get to know BNA and Joseph Wagner by grabbing a copy of the book, which you can do during a signing with author Chelsea Prince this Sunday, April 14 at Parnassus Books. What’s more, a portion of the book’s proceeds will benefit the non-profit organization Wine to Water, which provides clean water to people around the world. Great wine supporting great causes? We think it’s a win-win.

Rock and Vine author signing, Sunday April 14 at 2 p.m. For more information go to parnassusbooks.net.

— Erin Byers Murray, Managing Editor