Calla Lily Estate and Winery: Bloomed from a Dream in the Napa Valley

By Published On: March 19, 2024

Credit: Calla Lily Estate & Winery

Located in the serene Pope Valley of Napa Valley, Calla Lily Estate & Winery showcases a unique origin story. Unlike the planned ventures that dot the region, Calla Lily emerged from a chance encounter. Winemaker Cary Gott stumbled upon a complete, state-of-the-art winery with established vineyards – a hidden diamond in the rough just waiting to be unearthed.

This unexpected discovery ignited a spark in Andy Chui, SW Cheung & Anthony Fung, founders with a vision.  Their initial dream? To craft exceptional California Cabernet Sauvignon specifically for the burgeoning Chinese market. However, changing import laws necessitated a shift in plans, leading Calla Lily to blossom into a winery producing exquisite, limited-production wines coveted by discerning palates across the U.S.

Cary Gott. Credit: Calla Lily Estate & Winery

The very name of the winery reflects a personal touch. Inspired by the flower’s elegance and purity, Andy chose “Calla Lily” as a tribute to his wife, a testament to the winery’s heart. Yet, the path to success wasn’t without its hurdles. The vineyards, previously focused on high yields, required a two-year transformation. Cary Gott, the man entrusted with this task, comes from a family steeped in four generations of winemaking tradition. Though his initial path led him to architecture, a pivotal wine course at UC Davis rekindled his passion for the vine. This passion propelled him from the fertile fields of the Central Valley to the esteemed cellars of Napa Valley, where he honed his craft at renowned wineries like Inglenook and Sterling Vineyards. Throughout his journey, mentors like Gerald Asher and Darrell Corti instilled in him the importance of dedication and attention to detail – qualities that would become the hallmarks of his winemaking philosophy. This passion culminated in Amador County when Cary, alongside his wife Vicki, established Montevina Winery in their basement in 1973.

Calla Lily thrives in the unique microclimate of Pope Valley. Warmer days and consistent sunshine, free from coastal fog, create the perfect environment for late-ripening grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon. The meticulously chosen hillside vineyards offer not only ideal sun exposure and drainage but also a natural irrigation system thanks to their eastern orientation. These factors, combined with the well-drained soils from the nearby Howell Mountain foothills, contribute significantly to the distinctive character of Calla Lily’s wines.

In the face of an ever-changing climate,they are producing two flagship wines: the “Audax” Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and the “Ultimate” Cabernet Sauvignon. The Audax, known for its bold style, is a result of extended aging, setting it apart from the more softer, approachable Ultimate.  The winemaking duo, Cary and assistant Kelly Deianni, are leveraging their well-matched palates to meticulously craft these wines. Their efforts are not without challenges. The winery grapples with yearly climate variations, from scorching heat waves to unpredictable rainfall patterns.

Unlike the bustling wineries of Stags Leap and Oakville, Pope Valley offers a serene escape. Rolling vineyards and picturesque landscapes replace the crowds, creating a haven for those seeking a taste of Napa Valley’s quieter side. While Calla Lily Estate & Winery doesn’t currently offer public tastings, Pope Valley caters to a different kind of visitor – one who appreciates a slower pace and a chance to truly immerse themselves in the beauty of Napa Valley’s wine country. 

The wines featured in the Wine Recommendations section were provided by the winery for the purpose of review. The selection and tasting of these wines were independently conducted. No compensation or incentives were provided for inclusion in the story. As always, the top priority is to provide readers with informative reporting.

Wine Recommendations

2017 “Audax” Estate Cabernet Sauvignon- on the nose vanilla and tobacco. The palate follows suit with flavors of blackberry and dark chocolate with a robust structure that promises longevity, while the tannins, though assertive, are polished and well-integrated.

2017 “Ultimate Red” Cabernet Sauvignon – it greets the senses with an alluring amalgamation of cassis, cedar, vanilla, and spice on the nose. The palate is robust, while the tannins, of medium intensity, hint at a wine that is inviting in its current state, yet could potentially flourish even further with some time in the cellar. 

2019 “Ultimate Red” Cabernet Sauvignon – subtle undertones of cinnamon and cloves intermingled with an essence of espresso.  The palate is greeted with a silky texture that carries flavors of dark fruit with nuances of mocha and vanilla.  The fine-grained tannins provide a structure without overshadowing the wine’s inherent plushness in its youth.

About the Author: Joe Campbell

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Located out of the Sierra Foothills of California, Joe Campbell provides color commentary as well as insight within the wine industry both from the lifestyle consumer and business segments of the industry. He can be reached via email at : joe@winebulletin.net .