Calla Lily Winery: Review And Tasting Notes

Let’s dive in and taste some wine as we explore the history of the Calla Lily Estate and Winery, the significance of the Calla Lily.

China is one of the fastest growing global markets for wine today.  Based on OIV (International Organization for Vine and Wine) data for 2016, China is now the fifth largest consumer and importer of wines worldwide.

And, China is now the second largest country (behind Spain) in terms of surface area under vines.

I know, that kind of blew my mind, too.

Historically, the Chinese have had a fairly strong attachment to the prestige and status of French wines, Bordeaux in particular.  

A great deal of consumption was once focused on large official events, where Bordeaux was used more to impress than anything else.  With the rise of the middle class in China (and young professionals especially keen to learn more about wine), expensive Bordeaux imports have been waning, as Chinese wine drinkers seek out quality wines at more affordable prices.

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Calla Lily Winery

The History Of Calla Lily Estate And Winery

What does all this have to do with Calla Lily Estate and Winery?

In 2016, Hong Kong was the third largest importer of US wines; China the fifth.  

Napa Valley wines have made particular inroads with the Chinese palate, and, during the past decade, Napa has seen a tremendous increase in the number of foreign investors, specifically from Hong Kong and mainland China.

Which brings me to Calla Lily Estate and Winery.

Founded by Hong Kong based entrepreneurs, Anthony Fung and Andy Chui, Calla Lily Winery is located on site of the former Budge Brown Winery in Pope Valley (you might recall Napa vintner, Budge Brown died in a plane crash in 2011), which is on the east side of Napa Valley, northeast of Howell Mountain.

Calla Lily Winery Vineyards And Sales

First planted in 1995, the estate vineyard consists of twelve acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, five acres of Petite Sirah and one acre each of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petite Verdot.  

With the exception of direct winery and website sales, Calla Lily Estate wines are exported and sold in Hong Kong and China.

The calla lily was selected as the symbol for the winery because of its deep significance in China, where it is prized as a symbol of elegance, beauty, and purity.

Interesting:  The calla lily has its origins in southern Africa, but the calla lily isn’t really a lily, it’s actually a cousin to the philodendron.  

I’ve always liked calla lilies, but I’ve never tried to grow them, but that’s about to change.  

I especially love that calla lilies are blissfully unscented.  Regular lilies make me sneeze.

The Significance Of The Calla Lily

In western culture, white flowers represent innocence and purity, but in China, white flowers represent death, and are mostly found at funerals.  

Red and pink are the colors life and of celebration.  I like that.

All parts of the calla lily are poisonous — they contain insoluble calcium oxalate crystals.  What that means is that if you get the sap on your skin or decide to taste one, you’ll be sorry.  

Calcium oxalate causes a painful burning sensation on the skin, and a whole pile of fun stuff like nausea, vomiting, and swelling of the tongue when ingested.

Calla Lily Estate And Winery Review

At the helm of Calla Lily Winery is consulting winemaker, Cary Gott, a fourth-generation fixture in Napa Valley, with over 40 years of experience.

I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to taste Mr. Gott’s Calla Lilies.

Calla Lily Winery Ultimate Red 2014 Pinot Noir  /90 points

100% Pinot Noir sourced from Carneros.  Aged for 10 months in French oak.  A beautiful ruby color.

Graceful aromas of roses, cranberry, pomegranate, vanilla, clove, and earth.  Dry and medium-bodied with flavors of cranberry, cola, earth, red plum, kirsch, and toast.  

Slightly acidic, but balanced by a soft, structured mouthfeel.  The alcohol skews a little high at 14.5% ABV, but doesn’t pull focus.  

Calla Lily Winery Ultimate Red 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon  /92 points

A precise blend of 81.6% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10.8% Merlot and 7.6% Cabernet Franc.  Sourced from Napa Valley.  

Aged for 22 months in 43% new French oak.  Deep, opulent ruby color.  

Vivid nose of violets, black currant, black cherry, tarragon, sage, vanilla, clove and butterscotch.  I could go on — there’s so much happening in this glass.  

Dry, with high but balanced acid and tannins.  Flavors of black currant, white pepper, butterscotch, lavender, and sage.  Keenly balanced.  The finish is delightful.  14.1% ABV.

Side note: I love the slight variation in calla lily color between the Pinot Noir label and the Cabernet Sauvignon label.  Nicely done!

Calla Lily Winery 2012 Audax  /91 points

The name, Audax, which is Latin for brave, bold, or daring, is a nod to the audacity of Napa Valley’s early wine pioneers.

Another precise blend of 89.3% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6.5% Petit Verdot, 4.1% Merlot and 0.1% Malbec.  The percentages read like a recipe to me, and I was momentarily amused (distracted) by imagining what the cooking measurement equivalent of 0.1% Malbec would be.  

Aged for 26 months in 55% new French oak.  Deep ruby color.  Generous nose of black plum, black currant, vanilla, clove, toast, violet, and lavender.  I love it when I find lavender in a wine!  

Dry with high acid, high tannins and high alcohol.  All in balance, and full, full bodied.  Flavors of violets, white pepper, bramble, kirsch, and nutmeg.  Will undoubtedly benefit from more time in bottle.  15.3% ABV.  

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