Mer Soleil Santa Lucia Highlands Reserve Chardonnay 2017

Medium gold color; apple, pear, vanilla, toasted almonds on the nose; yellow apple, pear, white peach, Meyer lemon, tropical fruit, oak on the palate.

Mer Soleil Santa Lucia Highlands Reserve Chardonnay 2017

Dry; smooth and buttery, flirts with the oak-butter cliché Cali chard, but pulls up just short of the line. Medium-plus body. Rich, fully ripe fruit dominate the experience of this wine. Good acidity with touch of minerality—enough to balance the oak and butter. Decadent mouthfeel. Laid-back easy drinker, reflecting winemaker Charlie Wagner’s approach to this label.

The Wagner family are the folks behind Caymus, Mer Soleil, Emmolo, Conundrum, and Copper Cane Wine & Provisions. Chuck directs the cabernet program at Caymus in Napa; Charlie makes Mer Soleil chardonnay in the Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey; Jenny makes sauvignon blanc, merlot, and sparkling at Emmolo. Chuck’s son, Joseph Wagner, is the owner of Copper Cane Wine & Provisions, home of Belle Glos Pinot Noir.

Mer Soleil combines “sea and sun” to reflect the Santa Lucia Highlands terroir. The Wagner vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands benefit from the legendary cooling breezes off Monterey Bay. The almost daily breezes engender higher phenolics and deeper, nuanced flavors. The warm days generate ripe fruit, which this certainly has. 14.5% ABV

Mer Soleil vineyard

The Wagner family has deep roots in Napa, and now in wine worldwide. The website has an excellent video story. The website notes: “The Wagners come from a long line of grape growers and winemakers in Napa Valley, with a farming tradition dating back to the 1850s. Chuck Wagner’s parents, Lorna Belle Glos and Charlie Wagner Sr., were both born to families that helped shape Napa Valley’s wine industry in the late 1800’s and beyond, through their hard work, dedication, pioneering spirit and resilience in the face of adversity. They are the Glos, Stice and Wagner families.”

Glos Family

The story has a charming aspect. From the website: “Charlie Wagner and Lorna Belle Glos grew up just one mile apart in Rutherford and their families knew each other. When Charlie and his high-school sweetheart Lorna eloped to Reno, Nevada, to marry in 1934, three Napa Valley pioneering families were brought together. In 1941, they purchased 73 acres just a few hundred yards from the Wagner ‘home ranch,’ where they planted fruit orchards. One of their first acts on their new land was to also plant 10 acres of wine grapes.”

Wagner family website

The website is well worth a visit for the entire story of the Charlie Sr. and Chuck and his children.  The saga is one of grape farmers paying attention to the vineyard and taking that into wines beginning in the early 1970s. Inspiring, heart-warming story. Caymus is the Wagner family superstar, but their move into Monterey and this effort deserve attention and certainly will bring you pleasure.

The website quotes Chuck Wagner: “I think I speak for my son and daughter when I say that we are driven by a desire to make something truly special, and we do our best to make the finest wines we can. For seven generations, our family has lived in and loved the Napa Valley. Working the land with our own hands has given us insights into grape growing and winemaking that cannot be found in any farm manual or book. We think of ourselves as farmers at heart, because that is what our family winery was founded on and it is what continues to help set us apart in both quality and innovation today.”

Chuck Wagner

Mer Soleil Santa Lucia Highlands Reserve Chardonnay 2017 is creamy, silky, very ripe fruits. Butter and oak stop short of being over-the-top. Fans of that California-style chardonnay will happily slurp this down. Achieves balance with acidity and minerality. From the same folks who bring you Caymus. Pair with poultry; pork; rich fish; vegetarian fare; movie theatre popcorn. $20-29

Mer Soleil Santa Lucia Highlands Reserve Chardonnay 2017

Mer Soleil-Wagner vineyards
Vineyard supervisor Tomas Leyva with winemaker Charlie Wagner
Charlie Wagner’s father, Chuck Wagner
Wagner barrel room (screen grab from video)