"Posted On Behalf of Kevin Corley
My brother, Chris, got you caught up on what's been happening in the winery with Pinot Noir, our only early red, so now it's my turn to give you an update on how things went in the vineyard in October. http://corleyfamilynapavalley.com/blog/2011/11/pinot-noir-ebulliometry-the-science-of-vim-vigor/
I guess the two words that best describe this harvest are œlate and œsmall.
Actually, the last three harvests have been late. The three main influences on maturation are heat, light and moisture and these last three years have been noticeably cool, which explains why the grapes have taken their time ripening rather than rushing to the finish line. Kind of like trying to get your tomatoes to ripen on a San Francisco rooftop. The long œhangtime is terrific for flavor development but a little hard on the nerves.
There are various causes for the low yields but the main influence was ill-timed rain last spring when many varieties were flowering. The rain doesn't necessarily affect quality, but pollination is impaired which, essentially, thins the crop before it's even on the vine. Bloom time varies by variety and location so damage was site specific. Our late-to-flower Cabernet Sauvignon yielded just slightly less than normal while we really took a hit in the Chardonnay and Merlot.
Our Knollwood Vineyard Merlot, here in the Oak Knoll District, was late which was no great surprise and yielded just a hair over two tons per acre. The vines are twenty years old, now, so we don't really expect them to reach the valley average of about four tons per acre, but this is the smallest crop we've seen in the last decade. The fruit showed everything you love about Merlot “ great texture “ so rich and supple with nice, bright flavors.
Our two blocks of Cab Franc are always interesting to watch develop between the differences in soil and the four different clones we planted “ five individual blocks in all. Each has its own personality and they show a range of expression from medium bodied with bright fruit to bigger, deeper and more tannic. It gives the wine extra layers of complexity.
We grow Cabernet Sauvignon in three different locations where Cabernet does best: Yountville, Rutherford and St. Helena. The story with Cabernet this year is really great flavor development early on, especially in our Tietjen vineyard in west Rutherford. These are mature vines, planted in the early 80s, the Tietjen vineyard in 1987.
Our Cabernet harvest began on October 20th, one of our latest starts ever, and finished November 2nd. The yields were off just slightly in these vineyards, around 2.5 tons per acre.
After such a challenging vintage it feels good to have all the grapes safely œin the barn. My job's done and now the ball is in Chris' court! More from him soon."
Posted By : Chris Corley
This past weekend, we had the pleasure of hosting the VIP guests of the 'Live In The Vineyard' event that congregated in Napa for a long weekend of Music, Wine and Food. What a great time. Billed as 'An Intimate Pairing of Music, Wine and Food', 'Live in the Vineyard' is the brainchild of the ebullient pair of friends Claire Parr and Bobbii Hach-Jacobs. Its a unique semi-annual event that brings fans from across the country out to Napa Valley for a weekend of live music, winery visits and food & wine presentations. Check out the official website at www.liveinthevineyard.com .
We have had the pleasure of hosting two events this year at Monticello. In April, we had our guests come out to Monticello for a livefire barbeque, live winemaking demonstrations and live music. It was a wonderful experience. The smiles and enthusiasm of the guests, many who had not been to Napa Valley before was infectious and a thrill for us as hosts. The weekends concerts in April at The Uptown were also fantastic, as we got to see Lenny Kravitz, Michael Franti and Colbie Caillat among others.
The Fairchilds Warming Up in The Jefferson House at Monticello
This past weekend, we hosted a wonderful group of people as well, VIP winners of the radio contest that brough people from afar. Chef Lisa presented seasonal 'superfood' recipes in our winery cellar oriented towards awareness of 'City of Hope' www.cityofhope.org , which is an NCI-recognized cancer research and treatment organization. In addition to our wine presentation on the crush pad, we enjoyed a live concert in the cellar from 'The Fairchilds' www.thefairchildsmusic.com , headed by Cyril Niccolai www.cyrilniccolai.com . The music sounded really great in the cellar, and it was a nice exclamation point towards the end of harvest to have a concert in the cellar. This past weekends concerts at The Uptown included Daughtry, Christina Perri and Safety Suit.
We've been presented with two Fender Squier guitars signed by all the artists from the last two LITV events ... Lenny Kravitz, Colbie Caillat, Michael Franti, Hanson, Default, Parachute, Cyril Niccolai just to name a handful. What a totally cool and unexpected treat for us at Monticello!
Ruby Corley, Future Wine Rock Goddess
It was lot of fun to have all the guests in from out of town. Their enthusiasm spread and was a reminder to us how fortunate we are to live in such a beautiful place, which was brightened even more by all the smiles and laughter over the weekend.
"Posted By : Chris Corley
1. overflowing with fervor, enthusiasm, or excitement; high-spirited.
2. bubbling up like a boiling liquid.
We drained and pressed our Pinot Noir lots in mid-October. Now three weeks into their barrel aging, the wines are starting to shake off their youthful exuberance and are embarking on their graceful transitions into wine. In addition to continually tasting through all of the different lots, this is a time for us to run preliminary analysis on the wines. One of the numbers we run at this time is the alcohol. To do this, we use technology that is hundreds of years old and based on a simple concept. We use an ebulliometer. We boil water and record the temperature to within a tenth of a degree. Then we boil the wine sample and record to a tenth of a degree as well. The difference in the boiling points is an accurate gauge of the alcohol in the wine in almost all cases. The science of ebulliometry is appropriately named ... you might think of the results as a measure of the happy units in the wine.
We learn from teachers and books that yeast convert sugars to alcohol at a ratio of 0.595. My observations in the cellar have been that the conversion is generally closer to 0.610, so thats the number I use for my pre-harvest calculations. For example, I would expect a batch of grapes at 24.0 brix to produce a wine around 14.6% alcohol. Tracking metrics like this is helpful for us to make projections about our wines, as most of a winemakers decisions are oriented towards how a wine will taste in the future, not how it tastes right now.
That said, and with the caveat that we constantly generate an unbelievable amount of numerical data about our wines, what really makes me ebullient is tasting them and getting to know our wines on a personal level. With the primary fermentations complete and the Pinot Noir settled down a little bit, we can begin to see the personality of the different lots express themselves a little more clearly.
We grow four different clones of Pinot Noir on the Home Ranch vineyard which surrounds the winery grounds. Clones are sub-designations of a given varietal, generally selected for specific and positive attributes and propagated (cloned) from cuttings. Our Pinot Noir clones are 777, 667, 113, and 115. While they ripen similarly, each of these clones has a subtly different tone that is appealing and complementary. I find 777 to be ripe in redberry flavors and round on the palate. 667 tends more towards floral tones on the nose and has a lighter body. 113 generally has lighter berry tones and a little more midpalate. 115 tends to have the darkest berry flavors and a little more tannin than the others. I don't have a favorite. I like the differences in all four clones. In most vintages, I prefer the blend of the clones over any individual one.
Most of our Pinot Noir this year was picked between September 27-30 this year, almost three weeks later than what we consider 'normal'. 2011 was a wonderful year for Pinot Noir for us. We grow our Pinot Noir in a reasonably warm area for the varietal. The cooler, longer season our Pinot Noir experienced this year allowed the fruit to ripen fully, but more importantly slowly, and without the typical fast rise in sugars that we would usually experience were we to let the fruit hang that long in a warmer vintage.
In 2011, I've isolated 4 small batches of clonally designated free run Pinot Noir from Block 3 and a small batch from Block 2 as well. These wines are tasting fantastic in barrel right now, displaying loads of berry fruit and taking on the some of the nice toasty tones from the new french oak barrels that they are settling down in. I'm not sure if we'll bottle these clonal designates separately, but we might. It would be fun for our Monticello Faithful to experience these distinctive components that are the building blocks of our wines. Stay tuned ..."