Joe Wagner: 5 Things You Need To Know About The 5th Generation Winemaker

Joe Wagner: 5 Things You Need To Know About The 5th Generation Winemaker

Copper Cane Wines & Provisions founder Joe Wagner is pushing the next generation of Napa Valley winemakers to the next level.

At 34, he understands that his peers want good wine at reasonable prices and more hands-on experiences. So he’s making affordable wines and experimenting with freezing grapes so people can participate in the wine-making process year-round, as opposed to just during the October harvest. He also thinks Zinfandel is going to make a comeback and wants to create an empire for his six — yes six — kids.

Here are five other things you need to know about the fifth generation winemaker, who was recently named a Top 40 Under 40 Tastemaker for 2016 by Wine Enthusiast.

1. His Dad made him pick a grape.

Joe’s father is the Napa Valley legend. Chuck Wagner, who founded Caymus Vineyards with his grandparents over 40 years ago, make been making wines that have received critical acclaim over the years.

Chuck wanted his kids to take ownership of the family business so he made each kid pick a grape and produce their own wines. His oldest son Charlie got Chardonnay, his daughter Jenny took Merlot and Joe wanted Pinot Noir.

The first Pinot Noir Joe produced on his own — at 19 — was the Belle Glos, named after his grandmother, and it’s still one of the most respected higher-end Pinot’s out there

But Joe wanted something for the masses. He created Meiomi [may-OH-mee], a $20 bottle that he first took to restaurants because he believed if you liked a wine in a restaurant, you would then buy it at home.

He was right.

2. He had to sell Meiomi — for $315 million.

“At one point, we were making 2.3 million gallons [of Meiomi] on the property and its numbers alone equaled the entire production of all the family’s other wines,” says Joe.

It was just getting too expensive to produce that much wine on their property.

In 2014, Joe first took Meiomi from the family umbrella and created his own company, Copper Cane Wines & Provisions.

But Meiomi was on fire and the offers started coming. It had become one of the U. S. wine market’s hottest brands ever. So when Constellation Brands came knocking, their final offer of $315 million was one he couldn’t refuse.

Now he’s using the money to purchase land, make wine for the masses and to create a legacy for his kids (even though his oldest twins are only 11).

3. He makes bourbon and bathing suits too.

While his heart is in Pinot, Wagner has expanded his interests outside of wine. He has a premium line of cigars called Avrae, a luxurious swimwear collection Mia Marcelle, started by his ex-wife. Christie Brinkley actually wore one of his Mia Marcelle suits in the recent Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue.

He is also dabbling in the brown liquors so a whiskey and Cognac-style brandy will be available soon.

4. Even though he’s young, his favorite wine pairing is old-school.

His Quilt Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon with some charcuterie (shahr-cute-uh-ree), which is a French word for any smoked, dry-cured or cooked meat, is his favorite wine-pairing right now. “It’s full bodied and rich and plays well with the smoked duck breast and some dry-cured pork sausage,” he says.

5. It’s Always Nice to Go Back to Your First.

After a long day, his first choice would be California bubbles, especially since there are great sparkling wines coming out of California these days. Otherwise, he’d pour a glass of Belle Glos Clark & Telephone Pinot Noir.  “It was one of my first wines and it’s still a favorite. I find it comforting to revisit after a long day,” Wagner says.

We agree.

Tracy Byrnes, former FOX Business Network anchor and host of “Wine with Me” for, is editor-in-chief and chief contributor of The Sip.

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