The 2016 Calla Lily ‘Ultimate Red’ is comprised of nearly all Cabernet Sauvignon (84%) sourced from the 20 acre estate vineyard located in the Pope Valley and is a really good effort by winemaker Cary Gott. Aged for 22 months in 40% new French oak, the toasty oak tones neatly combine with layers of dark fruits, fresh thyme and chocolate that all come together aromatically. The palate is velvety with light tannins that frame the core of downright delicious dark fruits with chocolate tones. Fantastic to savor in its youth, this beautiful wine will cellar well for more than a decade. Drink 2020-2032.
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In The Tasting Panel Magazine, March 2019, p. 52:
The grapes for this big red from winemaker Cary Gott come from a 95-acre vineyard planted in 1995 on the eastern side of Howell Mountain. A blend of 89.2% Cabernet Sauvignon with 5.2% Cabernet Franc and 5.6% Merlot, the wine spent 27 months in 50% new French oak. Plum, olives and pea tendrils emerge as the initial scents before the palate dives into powdery tannins and balanced acidity. With a red-fruited elegance, a core of blackberry and vanilla, and a mocha-oak finish, it takes you on a lengthy journey that’s truly multi-dimensional.
A little brother of sorts to the Audax bottlings. Close your eyes and think dark, luxe cabernet made expertly in a classic Napa style. That’s this.
Lovely, statuesque, and well-made. A Napa Valley body wrapped in Burgundian structure.
Rich Cook reviews the 2013 Audax at WineReviewOnline on April 2, 2019:
A pleasure to be able to recommend the second vintage of this bottling from winemaker Cary Gott. A heralded vintage in Napa Valley is put on brilliant display here, with layered varietally correct aromas and flavors presented in bold style without going into the overripe zone. It finishes long with depth and good integration of all the elements. The packaging makes this a top-notch gift bottle for the aficionado in your circle, and it comes in on the low side of the price spectrum for a wine of its quality. Well done, two years running!
2013 Audax is reviewed in the February 6, 2019 Nittany Epicurean:
AUDAX, meaning “bold” in Latin, is Calla Lily Estate’s barrel-selection reserve wine made as a tribute to the pioneers of Napa Valley, many of whom settled in Pope Valley, by its fourth generation winemaker, Cary Gott. This wine is mostly cabernet sauvignon (86.6%) blended with small amounts of merlot (13.2%) and cabernet franc (0.2%). Following fermentation, the wine was aged for 27 months in French oak barrels (50% new). It comes in at 14.5% ABV. The wine showed a dark ruby color. Black cherry, vanilla, eucalyptus, licorice, raspberry preserves and oak all arrived on the nose. Black cherry, vanilla, eucalyptus, raspberry, licorice, cassis and oak followed on a palate that lead off with the perfect balance of cherry and vanilla. The wine exhibited great structure and length, along with big, chewy tannins. This wine could cellar for 5-6 years. It can also be enjoyed now after decanting paired with a seared dry-aged ribeye.
2014 Audax is reviewed in the February 2019 issue of California Grapevine:
Medium ruby; attractive, ripe, cassis and blackberry fruit aroma with spicy notes and hints of cedar, dried herbs, and vanilla; full body; forward, rich, ripe, fleshy, dark fruit flavors with undertones of toasty oak, and a full, plush mouthfeel; full tannin; lingering aftertaste. Shows good depth and some complexity as it developed with airing, and while enjoyable to taste now, it deserve several more year of bottle aging. Very highly recommended.
Winethropology tastes the two wines:
What do oligarchs drink on the weekend? Probably this. If they’re lucky, that is. Calla Lily is a relatively young, small production winery founded in 2010 in the Pope Valley, a quiet valley in the northeast corner of Napa county. And Audax is their top tier cabernet label. Packaged in polished, dark, bunker-buster bottles (more than twice the weight of typical 750ml bottles) finished with raised gold lettering and an ancient looking coin emblem, these bottles just look expensive. With that as an introduction, you might expect a viscous, syrupy juice to ease into the glass. Instead, both vintages offered gleaming ruby splashing with confidence. Could the color indicate what was to come in the palate? Both vintages are in possession of unmistakable classic Napa Valley characteristics: prominent nose showcasing the brooding side of cabernet, prodigious fruit, broad shouldered framing from a French oak regimen, and elegant mouth-puckering tannins. Cassis, date, and plum dominate, while suggestions of eucalyptus, vanillin, cedar and dust round out the complex flavor experience. These wines are so clearly siblings, but the 2014 is everything the 2013 is, plus-plus. All the desirable attributes of the 2013 are amplified in the 2014. It’s a more intense version of its slightly older sibling and bangs a strong tannic drum. These sublime wines will go some distance in the bottle stored under the right conditions. Not that I am one to score wine on points, but these are solid 95+ pointers just in case you are looking for a relative gauge of quality.
Winemaker Cary Gott is profiled:
Pope Valley’s Calla Lily Winery targets China with reds
By Jessica Zimmer, St. Helena Star, January 23, 2019
Pope Valley may be a little more remote than other AVAs in Napa Valley, but that hasn’t stopped one winemaker in the region from gaining an audience.
By focusing on the refinement of red wines, Calla Lily Estate & Winery in Pope Valley is meeting the demands of the Chinese market by focusing on red wines, particularly Bordeaux varietals.
“In China and Hong Kong, customers prefer red wines. They see Napa Valley as an important wine-producing region of these wines after Bordeaux and Australia, among others,” said Calla Lily’s winemaker Cary Gott.
Hong Kong-based entrepreneurs Anthony Fung and Andy Chui bought the property formerly known as Cleavage Creek Winery from the Brown family in 2011.
Calla Lily produced its first vintage that year and since, it has sent two to three containers of wine per year to China. That leaves only a small percentage of the crop to market in the U.S.
“We are now seeing these luscious wines that are elegant and represent the hillside terroir of the Calla Lily Estate vineyard in Pope Valley. Most of our wines are shipped to and distributed in China and Hong Kong. We have been selling some cases in (other parts of) California and at our tasting room (in Pope Valley). We just started distributing in Ohio and Michigan. Soon we’ll open up Texas,” said Gott.
The wines can also be found locally.
“Our Ultimate Red Pinot Noir is now the house pairing of Pinot Noir at Copia. You can find us at V Wine Cellar in Yountville and Sunshine Foods in St. Helena. We’re also selling a small amount of wine to restaurants and wine shops in Los Angeles. One of our vendors is Vendome Wine & Spirits. We’re looking at expanding Southern California sales,” said Gott.
Chui and Fung market Calla Lily wines in Asia.
“There, people rely on word of mouth and our beautiful packaging,” said Gott.
Calla Lily’s signature wines, made with grapes grown on the estate, include the Ultimate Red Cabernet Sauvignon at $65 a bottle and Audax Cabernet Sauvignon, “a tribute to all the audacious people who created the first vineyards and wines in Napa Valley,” at $125 a bottle.
“We’ve created very beautiful packages and we’ve got the wine to match them,” said Gott.
Both reds have a deep, delicious taste and complex aromas.
“Audax is built on a bigger, stronger frame. The package is more masculine-looking. It celebrates the vineyard and winery pioneers in Napa Valley in the 1800s. It has a coin on the chest and a silkscreened package surrounding it. The Ultimate Red Cabernet Sauvignon looks very elegant, with a calla lily drawn on the label.” said Gott.
Calla Lily also makes the Ultimate Red Pinot Noir at $39 a bottle. Gott said the “weight, mass, and style” of the wines make Calla Lily’s wines ideal gifts.
“In China, gifts make a statement about the giver,” said Gott.
Gott is a fourth-generation winemaker from Modesto, who has worked for Sterling Vineyards and Mumm. He was hired to assemble a team for Calla Lily in 2012.
“The winery had no wine or barrels in it but all of the equipment and tanks needed to make great wines. Andy Chui named it after the English translation of his wife’s first name,” said Gott.
Gott started off by replacing stainless steel tanks and fixing an electrical problem. He soon assembled a strong team, which includes assistant winemaker Kelley Deianni, senior cellar master Emilio Torres, and vineyard manager Alejandro Maldonado. Gott works with Maldonado, who has been vineyard manager since 1998, on the viticulture in the estate vineyard.
The Calla Lily Estate grows the five key varieties that make a proper Bordeaux blend, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. Gott and Deianni blend the grapes in a unique manner to make Ultimate Red Cabernet Sauvignon and Audax. Audax is a Cabernet Sauvignon aged for additional half year in French Oak.
The vines grow on the foothills at the base of Howell Mountain, mostly in well-drained, fine-grained sandstone and shale soil. At the beginning, Gott and Maldonado had a lot of changes to make.
“The vineyard had been farmed for production of a large tonnage of grapes. That’s not the way you make great Napa Valley wines. This year’s crop produced about 3-½ tons per acre. That’s a good balance between getting a proper sized crop and superior quality,” said Gott.
One of the vineyard blocks is Old Clone Napa Cabernet Sauvignon on AxR1 rootstock, a cross between two American grape species. It is easy to propagate and has good vigor.
“The vines are very healthy and make a unique wine. It is old-fashioned and complex but (light) in weight,” said Gott.
The 2018 wines look to be stunners, he said, “They have high natural acidity, lower than usual pH, and are soft, round, and rich. Although they’ve only been in the barrel two to three months, they have good color and taste excellent.”
Gott said Calla Lily hosts visitors on a limited basis.
“We open (our tasting room) when we get requests for tours and tastings…through our website. We don’t get limousines out in Pope Valley. Hopefully as other wineries open in Pope Valley and Aetna Springs has its planned revival, there will be more wine tourism for (this) beautiful viticultural area,” said Gott.
Although Calla Lily gets “great point scores” on its wines, Gott sees it as a challenge to build a following without foot traffic and years of Napa Valley wine history.
“Our focus will remain on the wines going to China. But for local residents, we are a hidden gem,” said Gott.
93 points: Deep purple color. Concentrated fruit on the nose (black currant, blackberries and blueberries), with deep violets, spiced black tea, earth, cocoa and mint. Full-bodied, a bit more powerful in its presence than the 2013, but still vibrant acidity, and the tannins are sturdy but show rounded edges. Pretty depth of fruit (currants, blackberries, plums), but it’s still nice and fresh. Notes of anise, cocoa, earth, mint and cedar. Plush and forward but lively. This could use five to eight years in the cellar, but it’s a lovely wine. 14.7% alcohol.
93 points: Deep purple color. Nose shows tart black currant, juicy blackberries (gorgeous depth of fruit), with complex notes of mint, scorched earth, cocoa nibs, violets, deep but vibrant scents in here. Full but not heavy (14.5% alcohol), held together with sturdy tannins and surprisingly fresh acidity. Deep, concentrated but tangy black currants and dark plums, the fruit is juicy but really vibrant, and laced with a nice mix of earth, mint, dark chocolate and cedar. Fresh enough to be enjoyed now, but strength for the cellar, surely.
In the October 29, 2018 issue of The Wine Advocate, the 2016 Ultimate Cabernet Sauvignon is reviewed:
Composed of 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc, 6% Merlot and 4% Petit Verdot, the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Ultimate (a barrel sample) is deep purple-black in color and opens with notions of crushed black cherries, blackberry pie and warm cassis plus suggestions of lavender, black tea, bouquet garni and unsmoked cigars. Medium to full-bodied, the palate has a very firm, chewy backbone supporting the red, black and blue fruit layers, finishing on a compelling herbal note.
In the March 2018 issue of Vinous, Anthonio Galloni reviews the 2016 Ultimate Cabernet Sauvignon:
88-91 points: Dark, pliant and rich, with lovely mid-palate richness, the 2016 has quite a bit to offer. Hints of lavender, spice and new leather add nuance to the textured finish. The 2016 points to a very bright direction here.
The Wine Advocate reviewed the 2015 Audax in its December 2017 issue:
92-94 points: A barrel sample composed of 92.3% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3.6% Merlot, 3.5% Cabernet Franc and 0.6% Malbec, the deep garnet-purple colored 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Audax has a complex nose of exotic spices, baked cherries and blackberries plus mulberries, baking spices, fallen leaves and pencil shavings hints. Full-bodied, rich and lively in the mouth, it has a firm backbone and a long finish with layers of herbs and spices.
The Wine Advocate reviewed the 2016 Ultimate Cabernet Sauvignon in its December 2017 issue:
90-92 points: A barrel sample with a blend of 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc, 6% Merlot and 4% Petit Verdot, the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Ultimate shows a deep garnet-purple color and nose of cassis, blueberry coulis and black forest cake with hints of dried herbs and vanilla. Big, full, rich and fruity in the mouth with a nice frame of grainy tannins, it finishes long and refreshing.