"Posted By : Chris Corley
BARREL TASTING : Tasting through the new vintage in barrel is always a treat. The wines are typically bursting with juicy fruit and have a youthful vibrancy that is, more often than not, replaced by deeper layers of complexity by the time the wine is bottled, perhaps 1-2 years down the road, depending on the varietal. Tasting wines just after harvest is a great portal into that raw and exuberant youth of the wine ...
BLOCK 1, HEIRLOOM CLONE, ROWS 1-23 : The Heirloom Clone in Block 1 is an isolation of selected vines out of Block 4. These wines from these plants have a very distinctive melon and tropical fruit characteristic that is almost Muscat-like in its personality. In 2008, these aromas are very intense with papaya, mango, and other tropical fruits. The texture of the wine is ripe and rich yet maintains a very nice balance of vibrant acidity. Barrel-Fermented with Native Yeasts. 50% New Oak.
BLOCK 1, 'DIJON' CLONE 96, ROWS 24-28 : These rows are short, so this section has typically produced just a small amount of barrels. Although its not a large quantitative contributor to the blends, I've always enjoyed the purity of the fruit from this section. In 2008, the wine has a nice honey and floral aspect to the aromas and very well balanced richness and acidity. Barrel-Fermented with Isolated Yeast Strain D254. 0% New Oak. Malo-Lactic Lot.
BLOCK 4, OLD MONTICELLO CLONE, ROWS 21-27 : We isolated these rows this year to experiment a bit with pre-fermentation skin contact. These grapes were crushed together with their skins and cold-soaked like red grapes for 30 hours prior to pressing. This is a bit of a return to an old-school style of California Chardonnay, skin contact for whites being popular when our dad built the winery in 1981. My initial observations are that the aromas are intensified and the wine has a heavier weight in the mouthfeel. I like it so far, and am inclined to pursue this line a little further next vintage. Barrel-Fermented with Isolated Yeast Strain CY3079. 0% New Oak.
BLOCK 4, OLD MONTICELLO CLONE, ROWS 28-46 : This section has consistently produced crisp, vibrant wines with hints of pear and citrus that have contributed structure and vibrancy to our MONTICELLO ESTATE Chardonnays. This year, these flavors are very intense. The mouthfeel has a slight grip on the finish, but this will pass after a few months of lees stirring. Barrel-Fermented with Isolated Yeast Strain CY3079. 35% New Oak.
BLOCK 4, 'DIJON' CLONE 96, ROWS 47-55 : This section has been a favorite of ours for many years, and typically contributes to the CORLEY RESERVE Chardonnay. This year it is showing it's classic fruit qualities - fig, pear along with some beautiful early oak influence from the new barrels in the lot. Very well balanced with vibrant acidity, this wine should develop very nicely. Barrel-Fermented with Native Yeasts. 21% New Oak.
BLOCK 6, 'DIJON' CLONES 76/95/96, ROWS 15-85 : This is a fairly large section of fruit. It is a core contributor, like Block 4, to our MONTICELLO ESTATE Chardonnay. These sub-sections of different clones are co-fermented and provide a nice complexity to the finished wine. It is a field blend in some senses. The 2008 wine from this block is very expressive, showing banana, fig, and pear aromas. The wine is very well balanced ans will maintain a nice acidity. We won't pursue malo-lactic fermentation with this lot in order to favor the expression of its fruit. Stainless Steel Tank-Fermented with Isolated Yeast Strain CY3079."
"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 !
Posted By : Chris Corley
Anticipation is defined by Merriam-Webster as the "act of looking forward; a pleasurable expectation". Anticipation is an important aspect of our lives. We all have moments of anticipation. These moments excite us and send thrills down our spines. They make us feel alive. For me, anticipation is the thrilling blend of love and excitement that I felt standing at the altar in my clan kilt, watching my future wife walk up the aisle. For me, anticipation is the exhiliration of joy and nervousness as you await the birth of your children, holding tightly your wife's hand and sharing tears of happiness and disbelief of this magical journey of life and this beautiful little person that you're about to meet for the first time. Anticipation can be intoxicating, and always enhances the following act.
Growing grapes and making wine is full of anticipation. We get very excited at certain times of the year. Pruning in January and February inevitably leads to all sorts of wonderment of how the growing season will shape up. As the vines flower, and the berries are pollinated and develop throughout the season, we are constantly abuzz thinking about how the vintage will turn out. When the grapes are harvested, the bins are not just full of sticky grapes - they're filled with hope and future memories and celebratory occasions. When I taste wines from the barrel, which I do nearly every day, I'm not tasting today's wine. I'm tasting tomorrow's wine. I'm reveling not just in the wine as it comes out of the barrel, but also in its beauty that will be realized in time, perhaps years away.
Anticipation is what makes it exciting to hold on to a bottle for 10 years and then open it on a special occasion. Anticipation makes the wine taste just that much better ...