Caymus Vineyards Winemaker Dinner You’ll Love | Esteemed Caymus Winery

I was fortunate to have already booked a cruise onboard Discovery Princess when Princess Cruises announced a wine-themed ‘sip and sail’ with a winemaker dinner on MY sail dates! You can imagine my excitement when I learned the acclaimed Caymus winery would be the host!


If you don’t have time to read this whole cruise with winemaker dinner article, then simply jump to Pacific Coast Wine and Food Experience cruises onboard Discovery Princess and Sapphire Princess.

This article below describes the winemaker dinner I experienced while sailing the Princess Discovery.

Although you’ll find other stories about the elevated event on the internet, the story you are about to read is one of the few that is actually written by someone who tasted the food and enjoyed the astutely paired wines.

I think you’ll enjoy the food photos, too! So let’s get started…

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Winemaker Dinner: A Private Luxury Dining Experience for Couples or Groups

middle agd man and woman sit at winemaker dinner table and raise glasses of red wine to the viewer
Cruise with winemaker dinner elevates your onboard experience | Princess Cruise courtesy photo

Wine enthusiasts know that Caymus Vineyards’ Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most sought-after wines to pour and share around the table for special celebrations.

My Hosts: The ‘Kings of Cabernet’

Wine Spectator called winery founders Chuck Wagner and his dad the “Kings of Cabernet” in the 80s. Yet I was first introduced to the world-renowned Cab at this superb winemaker dinner last fall.

That is one of the benefits of reserving a place at the winemaker dinner table: you’ll taste wines you’ve never experienced before. With the vintner leading you through the parings and tastings, you will surely share something new with your taste buds. Like I did!

The exclusive Caymus Vineyards Winemaker Dinner is available on Princess ships sailing North America itineraries now, including all Alaska voyages, and across all ships fleetwide.

Our group reserved a table in the popular Crown Grill specialty restaurant for the Caymus Vineyards Winemaker Dinner. That’s how we celebrated our farewell dinner, and what a grand celebration it was! (You might find the winemaker dinner on other ships at the Winemaker Table.)

Pre-Dinner Drinks and Time to Fellowship

Attentive staff welcomed us to Crown Grill’s lounge at the entry area with fabulous pre-dinner drinks. Served in champagne coupes, the spirited drink was topped with a red wine float!

Winemaker Dinner Pleasingly Slow Pace 

Our group, the International Food Wine and Travel Writers Association lingered over our cocktails and caught up with old friends and new ones we’d gotten to know during the Princess Cruise.

I loved the slow pace of this winemaker dinner, which really hadn’t even begun.

Soon, we would be introduced to Katie Kenney Smith and Janet Thomas of Caymus winery, who would steer us through the five-course pairings personally matched up by winemaker Chuck. I was excited that wines made by his daughter, Jenny, were also included in the pairings. Chuck’s son Charlie, also a winemaker, helped shape the pairings!

UNSTOPPABLE Stacey photo

Key Element to a Successful Winemaker Dinner: The Ambiance

Besides the pace, another key element to a standout winemaker dinner is the ambiance. We were escorted to our circular table—perfect for conversation—decked in fine table linen, Riedel stemware and candlelight.

The lighting was appropriately low, and the room had a cozy temperature. The menu was presented in a two-page barrel wood menu cover.

close up of large menu in fancy leather-bound book which reads: Caymus Vineyards Winemaker Dinner on the left page and the 5-course menu on the right page - wine glasses stand ready behind
Two-page barrel wood menu cover encapsulates the winemaker dinner menu | UNSTOPPABLE Stacey photo

So I invite you to step into this winemaker dinner experience as I guide you through the courses! Here we go:

Amuse Bouche

Slow-braised beef short ribs, broccoli tartare and grated horseradish


Beef carpaccio, celeriac, arugula, shaved parmesan, orange zest, balsamic glaze

 – or –

Marinated fresh oyster mushrooms and wood ear mushrooms, green pea granita, roasted hearts of romaine lettuce, smoked citrus dressing

Mer Soleil Chardonnay Reserve, Monterey County, CA
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UNSTOPPABLE Stacey invites you to let her be your guide

I chose the carpaccio with shredded turnips and arugula. I love arugula, especially since I picked it wild during my walking pilgrimage across southern Italy. And carpaccio has been a favorite since I learned to make it at a cooking school in Turin, Italy.

I enjoyed the Mer Soleil Chardonnay Reserve, which was not totally buttery, typical of California chards. During this opening course, I learned that Charlie Wagner makes it with all Monterey fruit grown in the Santa Lucia Highlands, 40 miles south of Monterey, California.

Turns out the cool breezes off Monterey Bay slow the ripening for the complex and intense flavors I tasted in this chard. Of course, being aged in a mix of new and used French oak for about eleven months helped it stand up to the raw beef.

“The Santa Lucia Highlands has a drama and beauty all its own—we aim to capture this unique character in every bottle of our Reserve Chardonnay,” said Charlie Wagner, third-generation owner and winemaker, in a media release.

white bowl with wide sides cradles finely chopped red beef sprinkled with field greens and cheese flakes
My beef carpaccio, celeriac, arugula, shaved parmesan, orange zest, balsamic glaze | UNSTOPPABLE photo

First Course

Fresh summer black truffle risotto, Parmigiano Reggiano, aged 36 months

Caymus Suisun The Walking Fool Red Blend, Suisun Valley, CA

“California is a beautiful sight and a beautiful place. I like to think its unique character can be found in a glass,” said Charlie Wagner, third-generation owner and winemaker. He suggests that you pair this wine with, among other things, wild mushroom risotto.

Caymus Winery Family Story

I enjoyed the family backstory of The Walking Fool Red Blend. The label features Jenny’s great-great-great-grandfather. It’s taken from an actual picture of him walking with a yoke. He’s jolly, happy and foolish… “We still have the yoke,” told Katie during the winemaker dinner. “And it fits Jenny, the third-generation winemaker.”

server's hand patiently holds bottle from Caymus winery for camera
Server holds bottle of The Walking Fool Red Blend | UNSTOPPABLE Stacey photo
Seared King salmon and giant prawn, Peruvian potatoes, one of the choices for Main course of Winemakers Dinner

Main Course

Tournedos Rossini beef tenderloin, blossom artichokes

Caymus Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, CA

– or –

Seared King salmon and giant prawn, Peruvian potatoes, green courgettes, lemon beurre blanc

Sea Sun Pinot Noir, California
14.7 %


I wanted to order the salmon but was worried that the giant prawn might stir up my lobster allergy. Once I saw the prawn on my tablemate’s plate, I knew I would not have had a problem with it.

However, the beef tenderloin was paired with the Caymus Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, so I got my first taste of the acclaimed wine.

Cheeses Course

Charcuterie and cheese selection

Paired with your wine of choice from the evening’s dinner*

The cheese course reminded me so much of eating at my French friend’s homes in southern France. In Provence, cheese was the dessert course! My hosts would proudly present an array of cheeses on the charcuterie board.

*I chose the Caymus Napa Valley Cab to accompany the cheeses, of course!

white plate with cheese sliced in triangles with prosciutto water glass and wine glass stand behind on white table cloth
Caymus vineyards wine making dinner dessert with round red ball and chocolate sprinkles on a white plate
Camuns Vineyards Winemaker Dinner dessert on Discovery Princess | UNSTOPPABLE Stacey photo


Chocolate Raspberry Dream, an intense dark chocolate mousse, chocolate raspberry cream, raspberry compote, chocolate-apricot with Sacher-torte, dark chocolate cornflake crisp

Emmolo Sparkling Wine, California

Just so you know, the bubbly is a small allocation wine, only available on Princess Cruise ships. 

Emmolo is made by Jenny Wagner using the traditional method with naturally occurring tiny bubbles. 

Its name, Emmolo, is a nod to her mother’s side of the family, her mother’s maiden name.

The five-course dinner, available for 12 guests per seating, will be offered 2-3 times per cruise, based on voyage length, of course. You can reserve your spot once on board. The winemaker dinner is $140 per person.

Read more about Discovery Princess secret menus here.


We’ve secured exclusive UNSTOPPABLE travel discounts on select vacations and cruises. Our partners at Dunhill Travel Deals update the list almost daily! So be sure to check out today’s top travel deals.

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Hi, I’m Stacey

UNSTOPPABLE Stacey Travel is a travel blog focused on immersive travel that highlights food, wine and the spirituality of place. I also occasionally write about life as a Camino de Santiago pilgrim. I hope you enjoy what I post here. Feel free to leave comments! Read more…


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As is common in the travel industry, UNSTOPPABLE Stacey was provided with accommodations, meals, and other compensation for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review,  the author believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.

In addition, this blog, UNSTOPPABLE Stacey Travel, contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, Stacey earns a commission at no extra cost to you. These commissions help reduce the costs of keeping this travel blog active. 

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We’ve secured exclusive UNSTOPPABLE travel discounts on select vacations and cruises. Our partners at Dunhill Travel Deals update the list almost daily! So be sure to check out today’s top travel deals.

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