2005 Axios Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
Expert Rating
RP 95 points
(Read the full review below)
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Winemaker Bob Egelhoff Parker's 95 points: "Locked and Loaded"

When word leaked out that importer Gus Kalaris had convinced Bob Egelhoff to join him at Axios, there was plenty of head scratching in the valley. The project called for a 20-barrel production of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, barely enough to merit a line item on Kalaris's import company P&L. In 2005, following a brilliant performance with the 2004 Axios, Kalaris finally swung for the fences, giving Bob a blank check for grape contracts. Egelhoff, who credits his time with flying winemaker, Michel Rolland, for his full-throttle Cabernet protocol, had spent years at the helm of Robert Craig and David Arthur. He wouldn't need any help figuring out how to invest Kalaris's money.

If 2007 would provide for the most voluptuous Cabernets of the decade, it was 2005 that would give birth to the new millennium's most compact, age-worthy bottles. Following three consecutive torrid vintages, each punctuated by severe heat spikes, 2005 was a wonderfully cool, drawn-out affair. In places where growers sold by the ton, quality often suffered, as crop levels were unusually high. But in the case of the rockiest, naturally stressed sites in the valley -- where growers were paid by the acre, not by the ton -- a green harvest thinned the crop by as much as 30%, providing Egelhoff with some of the most pristine, small-berry Cabernet Sauvignon clusters of his storied career.

In the fall of 2009, when Robert Parker came knocking on the importer's door, not a bottle of Egelhoff's lavish 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon had yet been sold. For decades, Kalaris had watched as Parker made or scuttled brands in a few hundred words. Parker seemed enthusiastic at the tasting table, but as always, the world's most influential critic wouldn't show his cards until he went to print. In December 2009, RP did just that, sending Axios's stock into orbit.

Parker went wild, calling Egelhoff's 2005 "a brilliant success for the vintage," describing "opaque purple color, terrific density, richness, and concentration," before saying the '05 Axios was "locked and loaded," set for a TWO decade ride into the Oakville sunset.

The 95-point addendum -- the equal of Vineyard 29, O'Shaugnessy and Schrader, and point ahead of Dunn Howell Mountain -- seemed all that Gus Kalaris needed. But it was then that this story took the strangest of turns. When it comes to Parker press, it's best to strike while the iron is hot. Retailers have notoriously short memories, always looking for the "next big thing." No one knew this better than Gus. But Kalaris and Egelhoff knew something else. The 2005, as Parker pointed out, was built for the long haul. Kalaris politely dodged the calls of the Parker readership. The 500-case production of 2005 Axios wouldn't be leaving Napa any time soon.

Eight years after that stupendous harvest, and almost six since bottling, the 2005 Axios is finally -- as Parker put it -- "locked and loaded." The baby fat's been trimmed and sleekly honed, deep, dark, creme-de-cassis core, splashed with licorice and violets has stolen center stage. The tannins are now soft, sumptuous and fully resolved but still, the 2005 Axios remains locked in suspended animation -- fabulously primary and youthful. Delicious now, but handsome dividends will be doled out to the patient.

Tasting Notes

2005 Axios Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
"One-hundred percent Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine is concentrated, still young, but with terrific density, richness, and concentration, although still playing it close to the vest. Opaque purple in color, with plenty of creme de cassis, licorice, and subtle smoke and earth, the wine is full-bodied, beautifully pure and layered, but one can sense that most of the nuances and complexity have still not emerged. This wine is "locked and loaded," as they say, and 2-3 more years of bottle age will be enormously beneficial for it. It should drink well for two decades. A brilliant success in the vintage!"
95 points -- Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate

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