Charles Wagner’s famous Caymus Vineyards was bonded in 1971 with the first successful vintage a year later in 1972. Wagner would develop a reputation during the 1970s for producing some of California’s best wines. These early vintages still command a premium to this day. The shifting nature of the California wine boom left some winemakers with more wine than they could sell. Liberty School, Wagner’s second label, made its debut, born of surplus wine, in 1976.
Nathan Chroman, of the Los Angeles Times, was skeptical of the first release of the bicentennial named Liberty School. Though the origins of subsequent releases are not known, Chroman sheds some light on the first. It is a 1974 Cabernet Sauvignon that a grower could not market. The wine was produced by a large winery in Dry Creek Valley then finished by Wagner at Caymus Vineyards. First released at $3.50, Chroman found it “laden with tannin but with enough flavor” to suggest it would age. A year later, Frank Prial of the New York Times reported that often “very good wine” shows up in second labels including Liberty School. He found these wines quite good and a bargain.