Chris Corley
 
June 14, 2013 | Chris Corley

A Grape Liaison of Promiscuous and Forbidden Fruits

"Posted By : Chris Corley

Can we be enlightened on interpersonal relationships and social mores by a promiscuous 17th century grape? I propose that we can. Some time ago, perhaps in the late 1600s, probably in the southwest of France, and maybe under the light veil of a moonlit night, a dark-skinned grape called Cabernet Franc had an intimate liaison with a fair-skinned grape by the name of Sauvignon Blanc.

CABERNET FRANC

A relationship of this nature likely would be frowned upon at that time by many, so this was a daring rendezvous for these two grapes. Cabernet Franc was bold, masculine and well-endowed with a spicy demeanor. Sauvignon Blanc was alluring, feminine and tantalizingly fragrant. How could they resist one another? They couldn't. The offspring of that romantic intermingling was called Cabernet Sauvignon, certainly a personality that we are all familiar with here in the Napa Valley.

SAUVIGNON BLANC

Today, I am enjoying a glass of our newly released 2010 Estate Grown Cabernet Franc, and as I revel in its dark, spicy fruit, bold texture and long finish, I am thinking to myself ... Has Cabernet Franc tamed his libidinous ways? Should I be worried about our own Cabernet Franc that is planted right next to our Chardonnay in Block 4? What romantic adventures are going on in our vineyard when the afternoon breeze picks up, the sun begins to fade into the Mayacamas, and the shoots and tendrils begin to intertwine? Ahh, too much to think about ... I'll have another glass of Monticello 2010 Estate Grown Cabernet Franc!  "

Time Posted: Jun 14, 2013 at 11:37 AM
Chris Corley
 
June 12, 2013 | Chris Corley

A Virginian in France ...

"Posted By : Chris Corley

Considering that our family winery and vineyard is named Monticello and that our father built a beautiful representation of Jefferson's Charlottesville home at the winery, one might correctly presume that we have an affinity for Thomas Jefferson.

Thomas Jefferson's many accomplishments and brilliant mind have been well documented over the last 300 years, and we'll leave the details of many of those for future discussions. Today, I'm thinking about his time spent from 1784-1789 as Ambassador to France. He accomplished a great deal for our country during those years, and he also developed and refined his love of architecture, gardening and his appreciation for wine while there.

He was well ahead of his time when he determined that America would need to import vine cuttings from France to make truly world-class wines. Unfortunately, they did not have the knowledge of the phyloxerra root louse that we now have, so it took some time for his foresite to ring true. Today, much of Napa Valley is planted to cuttings originated in France. His efforts in growing French winegrapes at Monticello in Charlottesville were met with difficulty, largely due to phyloxerra, but his conceptual forward thinking was brilliant. The years this well-educated man from the forests of Virginia spent in France were very impressionable on him in many ways.

 

As I write this,  I'm enjoying a glass of our newly released 2010 Estate Grown Syrah. Interestingly, this is a wine made from French cuttings Syrah 470 & Syrah 174 , a portion of which was aged in Virginian oak barrels. The wine is dark, rich, brooding and has a finish as long as the Appalachians. The years this well-balanced wine from the fields of Napa spent in a Virginian barrel were very impressionable on it in many ways.

I'm enjoying this new release today, not just hedonistically, but also with a subtle nod to history and a good man. Here's to TJ and to our new release of Monticello Vineyards 2010 Estate Grown Syrah!"

Leslie McCain
 
May 29, 2013 | Leslie McCain

New Releases Bring Friendly Faces

"With only a few days remaining before the official release of the 2010 Estate Grown Syrah and the 2010 Estate Grown Cabernet Franc, several wine club members spent an afternoon at Monticello Vineyards sampling their newest wine club shipments before their arrival in the tasting room this Friday.

Guests started the afternoon with a taste of the NV Montreaux Brut on the lovely Terrace of the Jefferson House. Jay Corley, himself, briefly joined the wine club members with smiles and memorable stories of the family and winery. It was a beautiful day to relax surrounded by friends, a garden of roses and delicious sparkling wine.

After savoring a last sip of bubbly, the party passed through a room of barrels and candlelight on their way to the Reserve Tasting Room. Chris Corley guided everyone through a tasting of four Monticello Vineyard wines while sharing his wealth of knowledge and passion for the art of making wine for his family's estate.

Following the tasting, the group headed to the Jefferson House dining room for appetizers and the opportunity to revisit wines from the tasting.  Each guest had a unique story to share about their connection with the Corley family and their estate wines and walked away with an experience beyond expectation.

Both the 2010 Estate Grown Syrah and 2010 Estate Grown Cabernet Franc already show great potential with intense aromas and layers of flavor that you don't want to miss! For more information, check out the tasting notes for each.

See you in the tasting room at the official release of these fantastic new vintages on Friday, May 31, 2013 just before Auction Napa Valley!"

Chris Corley
 
May 14, 2011 | Chris Corley

My Piano is a Babel Fish

Posted By : Chris Corley

We spend a lot of time talking about wine in our family. We talk about how certain wines taste, how they tasted in the past, how they’ll taste in the future, what foods they taste best with. Wine runs through our blood to the point that my son, Jackson, wrote the following Mothers Day note to my wife, Julianna, in his first grade class – “Happy Mothers Day. My mom is soft like a dog and ruff like a lion. Thank you for makin good wine …”. I wonder what his first grade teacher thought of his poem when he turned that in.

In talking about wine, we use a pretty diverse vocabulary. We speak of wines in every metaphorical means imaginable. We refer to wines in terms of colors – ‘black, blue, purple, red, golden’. We speak of wines in terms of textures – ‘smooth, rough, rich, grippy’. We converse about wines in terms of weight – ‘fat, thin, heavy, light’. We debate wines in terms of numbers – ’96, 91, 89, 92′. We revel in wines in terms of sensuality – ‘elegant, sexy, voluptuous, alluring’.

In every instance we use language to convey the message. We discuss, with words, the emotions or feelings that the wine has invigorated within us. Most of us in the professional wine tasting world understand each other when we’re in the midst of a winespeak tasting session. I imagine that it might sound like a load of gibberish to someone who is not immersed in this metaphorical world of winejaw.

When I’m presenting wines to visitors at Monticello, one of the first things I try to glean is their understanding of wine and more directly, at what level do they engage in winespeak. We don’t have a babel fish to put in our customers ears to translate my enological ramblings, so it’s important to communicate in language that everyone feels comfortable with. Note : A babel fish is a small fish that when placed in the ear will translate any language in the galaxy for the listener (from ‘The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy).

Today we are hosting our Spring Release party, and will be releasing our 2008 Corley Proprietary Red Wine. The festivities will include a wine component / blending presentation that will be largely conveyed via my piano (my babel fish). I’ve deconstructed a song I wrote on the piano and matched the three main preliminary components of our 2009 Proprietary Red Wine to three main components of the song – the bass line, the melody, and the chorus. We’ll taste each of the wines while listening to the musical component. We’ll taste the blend while listening to the song as a whole. The goal is to convey one art form by using another, to minimize the words and revel in the emotion of the blend. Most everyone can feel music. You don’t need to have perfect pitch or be able to snap your fingers to a complex 7/8 rhythm. Most of us can tell when a note is out of tune, or a basic rhythm skipped. Music is a wonderful means of communication. Its inside of all of us.


A Babel Fish Composition

Today, I want to share that visceral pleasure that I enjoy when blending our Monticello wines. At the blending table, I like to close my eyes and savor the wine, to instinctively feel and experience its pleasures or faults. I like to clear my mind of titratable acidities and tannins, and focus on the ethereal and sublime that can be found in the glass. The intellectual aspect of winemaking is done before and after the blending table. The blending table is where art is created, where the paint wets the canvas, the pen hits the paper, and the fingers strike the keys. I’d like our wine club members to experience this today. And I’d like to share it today through music

Chris Corley
 
March 4, 2009 | Chris Corley

Burst Your Bubble !

Posted By : Chris Corley

A few of the wines that we pulled for tasting and analysis today are destined for our Domaine Montreaux sparkling wine program. In 2008, we crushed small amounts of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to be used for bubbly. We're considering doing a rose this year. Our sister Carolyn is no doubt already getting her popcorn maker dusted off as she hears that good news!

Making sparkling wines can be a little tricky. Beginning the secondary 'methode champenoise' fermentation in the bottle is one of the more helpless feelings I've had as a winemaker. With still wine fermentations, you can sniff and taste, and plunge your hands into the juice and, for lack of a better term, really get intimate with your fermentations. With secondary sparkler ferments, it's different. Once the re-fermenting wine is bottled and the crown cap gets secured, you're on the outside looking in. The bottles are stacked away neatly in the old wooden bins that Uncle Brian built in the late 1900s, and you dust them off and crack one open every so often to see how they're coming along. The fermentations usually go along just fine, but it's a winemaker's responsibility to avoid issues, not just identify them, so we're always trying to remain vigilante with our sparkling wines (like a mix of Charles Bronson and Don Ho). Sorry, I take that back, I meant 'vigilant'.

Sparkling wines are fun for everyone. In the picture to the right, Brother Kevin reacts to a taste of young brut. Young sparklers can be fun to drink, with their apply, pear bright fruit aromas and flavors and crisp, refreshing acidity. Older sparkling wines can be a real treat as well. We've recently opened up some of our Domaine Montreaux from 1983, which was an amazing bottling of wine. Most people don't think of sparkling wines in terms of aging, but well made bubblies have all the right components for aging well - high acid, low alcohol, low pH, CO2, and pressure in the bottle to keep air from getting in and oxidizing the wine. That being said, they've got to have great fruit in the first place if they're going to go the distance.

This year, we'll make just a small amount of Domaine Montreaux, and we'll likely start preparing the secondary fermentation in the next couple of weeks. I'm looking forward to bursting some bubbles !

Chris Corley
 
January 17, 2009 | Chris Corley

Monticello Vineyards on Facebook !

Posted By : Chris Corley

Monticello Vineyards is now on Facebook! If you’re a member of Facebook, search through ‘groups’ and join “Fans of Monticello Vineyards”. It’s an open group and you’ll be able to share photos and comments about your visits to Monticello and wines of ours that you’ve enjoyed. You’ll also be able to keep up to date with events and news at Monticello !

Chris Corley
 
November 12, 2008 | Chris Corley

It takes a lot of good beer to make great wine ...

"It takes a lot of good beer to make great wine" ... a primitive cellar hand likely coined this phrase several thousand years ago shortly after the discovery of fermented bevereages. We certainly enjoy a cold beer at the end of a long hot harvest workday. In the cellar, we have varied tastes for beer. Most of the cellarmen enjoy the lighter styles of lagers, while I prefer a little heavier beer, pale ale. Our lab guy, Mark, tends towards the thick stouts, which I enjoy as well, particularly in the colder winter months.

This year, with some help from the guys, I'm going to home-brew batches through the winter. Yesterday was the first brew, an India Pale Ale. Given time and more familiarity with the process, we'll get increasingly creative with the recipes. I'm looking forward to home-brewing all different types of beers, but likely will gravitate towards ales, porters and stouts through the winter. I'm hopeful that the first batch will be ready by Thanksgiving so all the guys can take a bottle or two home.

In some ways the process is not all that different from making sparkling wine in the traditional bottle-fermented "Methode Champenoise", which we've used for our 'Domaine Montreaux' sparkling wines since 1983. Over the last 25 years of making Napa Valley sparkling wines, we've come to appreciate the beauty of the bubble. In both sparkling libations, the secondary fermentation within the bottle generates the effervescence.

We love growing things as well. It's in our nature to grow our own raw materials, as we've grown most all of our own grapes for our wines since day one. So it goes with beer. In the spring of 2009, we'll plant a small amount of hops so we can learn about these fragrant vines. I've ordered 10 organic rhizomes for next season. The rhizome is the root mass from which the plant develops in the spring. For this first season, we'll plant 5 different varieties of bittering and aromatic hops - Northern Brewer, Cascade, Fuggle, Perle and Willamette. As hops can grow to lengths of 20' tall, we'll grow these organically in used wine barrels along the west side of the winery building, with the trellis system supported from the roof of the building. They'll get plenty of afternoon sun and will provide some shade for that end of the winery in the summer. They'll also provide us some excellent home-brews next winter !

Chris Corley
 
September 26, 2008 | Chris Corley

If You Love Something, Set it Free ...

Posted By : Chris Corley

Tomorrow, we''ll be celebrating our annual Harvest Party. This party is always a great time, and an opportunity for us to gather with many of our friends and enthusiasts. The event also doubles each year as the release and first tasting of our 'Big Reds'.

This year, we're releasing our 2005 CORLEY RESERVE Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005 CORLEY State Lane Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2005 MONTICELLO Tietjen Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. I'm very excited about this vintage and particularly these wines. All three of these wines are produced in small quantities and represent the ripe, rich fruit and balanced tannins that we find so attractive about each vineyard site.

These 2005 vintage Cabernets were all bottled in June 2007. With 15 months aging in the bottle prior to release, we are excited to set these wines free! The tannins have evolved beautifully and the fruit is very expressive at this time. I anticipate that these wines will age gracefully for the next 9-10 years, perhaps longer. All three of these Cabernet bottlings will reward proper decanting, even in their youth. Tomorrow, we'll plan to decant the wines an hour or so prior to serving them to our guests.

It's always a pleasure to release our wines and pour them for our guests. You can think of the pleasure you might get from organizing and preparing a special meal at your home for friends or family. There is a deep satisfaction in taking the time to select the ingredients, prepare the food and select appropriate wines to make the meal memorable and enjoyable. This is the same feeling we have each year at our harvest party. Although we won't be preparing the dinner ourselves tomorrow night, we have spent years growing, making and aging the wines we will be serving - and we are extremely proud to be sharing them ...

Chris Corley
 
August 19, 2008 | Chris Corley

You Never Forget Your First ...

We had a lot of fun with our kids this weekend. We took both Jackson and Ruby to the Ringling Brothers Circus at the Oakland Coliseum on Friday night, and Jackson and I went to the 49ers-Green Bay preseason game on Saturday night at Candlestick ("we" the 49ers won 34-6). As I was driving home on Saturday night and Jackson was snoozing away in the back seat, I got to thinking about how much fun they had at their first circus and Jackson's first big NFL football game.

That got me to thinking how much fun we're having with some of our firsts at the winery. Our family has been growing grapes for nearly 40 years, and we've been making our own wine for 28 of those years. We've had our share of successes and pitfalls along the way, but for 40 years we've avoided the worst scourge of all - complacency. We are constantly reaching out for new goals and keeping things fresh. We're still getting excited about 'firsts' ...

This week, we celebrated our first few days of harvest, bringing in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to be used for sparkling wine. We also brought in some Syrah, which we'll use for a Rose, to be made in a dry, crisp, low alcohol style. We're looking forward to making a sparkling Rose, which will be a first in a long time.

This year, we celebrated the bottling of three new wines. Earlier this summer we released our 2007 ROSE. Although we've bottled Roses in the past, this was the first that we've blended multiple varietals to create a non-varietal 'Rose'. It is dry, crisp in acid, bright in fruit and is great for a warm summers evening. We also bottled a CORLEY PINOT NOIR from the 2006 vintage. This is the first 'specialty' Pinot Noir we've bottled since the 1999 vintage. The Pinot noir is dense in raspberry, strawberry and cola flavors and has a beautiful integration of seductive new oak. Last, but not least - we bottled our 2006 YEWELL VINEYARD CABERNET SAUVIGNON, the first bottling under the Yewell moniker and the first off that vineyard to be bottled since we replanted the site after the 2000 vintage. This 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from St. Helena is rich in texture and dark fruits and has a long finish that won't quit. Appropriately, the first magnum of this wine to leave the winery building went to the Yewell Family themselves.

Over the last few years, we've released our first ever 100% Cabernet Franc and 100% Syrah bottlings, both of which have been exceptionally well received.

A multi-generational family business like ours is steeped in important and meaningful traditions, but it also requires the freshness of 'firsts' to thrive. It requires stability from a solid foundation of traditions and vibrancy from active and creative minds. In a word - balance ... but that's a word for another blog post ...

Chris Corley
 
July 28, 2008 | Chris Corley

"That which we call a rose..."

Posted By : Chris Corley

Juliet :

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
Romeo and Juliet

As a refreshing finish to a warm day or midsummers night, I've been enjoying our 2007 Rose with some frequency over the last couple of months. Clearly I have a natural bias, but I really like it. It's got a nice light pink color, vibrant acidity, and a long fruity finish.

In the past, our Rose has always been varietal specific - for instance ""Rose of Pinot Noir"" and ""Rose of Syrah"". In 2007, I did 'saignee' on a fair amount of our red fermentations. No, saignee is not a form of voodoo, although I have been known to use a little mojo in certain vintages. Saignee is a french term for bleeding juice from the fermentation almost immediately after crushing the red grapes. The juice that is bled from the tank is generally clear to light pink, as it is removed from the tank before it has a chance to extract much, if any, color from the skins. This pink juice is then treated much like a white wine, fermented at cool temperatures and protected from the air.

In 2007, we had several varietals of rose which we had produced by saignee, which all tasted great individually - Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Syrah. Not really inclined to bottle four separate Roses for the vintage, I started playing around with blends, and ultimately arrived at the current bottling, which includes all four varietals and even a splash of Chardonnay, which added a very nice textural component with its naturally high acidity.

Clearly, we couldn't call this wine ""Rose of ..."", so we casually kicked around a few ideas. One name that sticks with me is ""Rose de Sangre Fresca"" because its fun to say and translates (in a somewhat macabre way) into ""Rose of Fresh Blood"", tying into the winemaking technique. Ultimately, we decided to simply identify the wine as ""Rose"". It's elegant if you ponder the word a bit and let it linger ...

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.” 

 
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