Posted By : Chris Corley
I cut off my beard a couple of days ago. Normally the previous years harvest beard would come off the following spring, but this summer has been so cool that the beard remained nearly until this years harvest. Many vintners gauge the growing season by the development of their tomatos in the garden. Seeing how the tomatos grow and ripen can give some an easy visual sense of how the growing season is developing. I'm developing a hypothesis that the degree days of the growing season can be determined by the lifespan of my previous year's Harvest Beard. On the years that I grow a long harvest beard, I find that I can roughly gauge the following growing season by how long the beard lasts into the summer.
My 2009 Vintage Beard lasted until August 2010. This late shearing indicates a cool growing season and a potentially later harvest. The same was true for the 2004 Vintage Beard which came off late in the summer of 2005. This was a late season as well, and coincided with the birth of my daughter Ruby, who along with her one-year old brother Jack, perceived the beard as a plaything and grabbed at it every chance they could. This prompted me to shear perhaps earlier than I normally would have, and perhaps nulls the scientific approach I'd been taking to linking grape development to beard longevity, but it still applies as anecdotal evidence.
My wife and kids have never seen my chin. For that matter, neither have I for the last 18 or so years. I think it's still there. My sons got a dimpled chin, but we're not sure if that came from me or not. I've always had a beard of some length. I've never thought much about why. I guess I'm just enjoying the hair on my head while I've still got it. Gravity affects men too as we age. For me the effect has been that the hair used to grow vigorously upward out of the top of my head, and now grows downward out of my face. My beard tends to grow long in the winter and get sheared in the spring. We've never saved the shearings or tried to fashion textiles out of them, although I suppose that may be the green thing to do. Maybe some day.
Earlier this year I was in Houston doing some wine events and was at a dinner in which some great Spanish wines were shared. At the close of the evening, I gave one of the guests a parting hug. She realized shortly afterward that she had lost one of her rather dangly earrings. We searched briefly for the missing accoutrement, until she realized that her rather dangly earring was hanging in the underbrush of my 2009 Vintage Beard. I thought it looked pretty good, but she wanted it back, so I acquiesced.
We shear the growth in the vineyard as well. We pull lateral shoots and leaves that block the sun and air from getting into the middle of the canopy. We trim excess fruit that may prevent the vine from fully ripening the crop. We trim the weeds and vegetation in the rows and under the vines, so they don't suck up too much of the groundwater or nutrients or create havens for pests.
Sometimes we hack back the vines themselves. This year, we sawed off the tops of a small portion of Cabernet Franc vines in the front block. We grafted Cabernet Sauvignon buds on to these vines. Just two small dormant buds were grafted on to the top of each hacked trunk. They were gooped, taped and we crossed our fingers. This will be the first Cabernet Sauvignon we've grown on the property in about 30 years. We're all pretty excited about the potential. We're hopeful to have a modest crop of Cabernet Sauvignon from this block in 2011, and be fully enagaged in 2012. As a family, we tend to get excited about things that are still years away. Many of these new buds have shown very strong growth in their first season. These two buds per vine have the full force of the already established root system behind them. With this explosive growth, we've already been able to lay down the early shoots to set the cordons for next season.
The root system for the 2010 Vintage Beard is already established as well. I'll need to order a new tub of Bluebeard's Original so I'll be ready for the potentially explosive whisker development this harvest
Posted By : Chris Corley
Every season as we prepare for harvest, we go through a lot of routine maintenance. It's one of the least romantic aspects of winegrowing, but perhaps one of the most critical aspects with the biggest benefit at harvest. For all the excitement of the harvest season, and the culinary pleasure and enological thrill derived at countless dinner tables from ours and others wines - it's amazing how dependent we winegrowers can be on relatively inexpensive thermostats, solenoid valves, little nuts and bolts and other seemingly insignificant items. A faulty thermostat in the middle of the night during the peak of fermentation could result in big fermentation problems. A loose nut could result in gondola of fruit being dropped from a forklift.
I'm pretty excited about the insulation and think it looks pretty cool too. I'm kind of thinking of wrapping everything at the winery in this silver bubble wrap. Kind of like the artist Christo who does the wrapping installations of major architecture. Maybe. Maybe not. Probably we'll just enjoy our warm tanks in the winter and the cool ones in the summer, and enjoy Christo's art from afar.
Posted By : Chris Corley
There are lots of ways to pair wines. Most wine drinkers are familiar with matching up wines with different foods. Matching up a rich Cabernet Sauvignon with juicy grilled ribeye, a crisp Sauvignon Blanc with some Thai food, or even enjoying a glass of sparkling wine with a morning brunch are all pleasures for the palate and the soul. Over the last few years, there have been magazines that have promoted the idea of pairing wine with music and websites that pair wine with art. On the surface, these may seem like gimmicky ideas, but I say ‘Why not?’. Food, music, art, conversation all appeal to our senses and if a bottle of wine enhances that experience, then its a good match in my book.
We enjoyed the fireworks show on Shelter Island, NY over the 4th of July holiday with family and friends. We laid out blankets on the beach and got all the kids organized with snacks and drinks. We opened up a bottle of 2000 CORLEY RESERVE Cabernet Sauvignon to pair with the opening fireworks. The wine started off slowly, but after it opened up a bit in the glass it exploded with bright aromas and flavors. The tannins were smooth and dusty and there was a hint of gunpowder on the finish. The wine was a nice complementary match with the show. We also had a bottle of 1999 MONTICELLO Jefferson Cuvee Cabernet Sauvignon as we dug our toes into the warm night sand for the big finale. This wine is tasting fantastic right now, after 10 years in the bottle, probably the best its ever been. From head to sandy toe, the wine was warm and rich, smooth in texture, exciting in flavor and had a great finish to go with the fireworks finale.
I ordered a glass of Long Island wine every chance I got and was pleased with the quality of the white wines in the region. There were some very nice renditions of Chardonnays, Viogniers, and Sauvignon Blancs. Given the humid heat and the propensity for summer rain, I can imagine that growing winegrapes could be a little challenging in that area, but I enjoyed most every wine I tried. Over the course of the week, we enjoyed New England clam chowders at every opportunity. One of our restaurant favorites was at Claudio’s in Greenport. On our last day, we were treated to a homemade chowder with herbs from the house garden and freshly dug clams. This chowder eclipsed all that came before it, and it was doubly enjoyable because we knew that the clams had just been dug up by our friends. We pulled out a bottle of 2005 CORLEY RESERVE Chardonnay, and it was a perfect fit. Rich, lush textures with a streak of acidity and long creamy finish. Man, I could live on that wine and chowder.
Throughout the week we enjoyed fresh caught crabs with various wines, which was a real treat for my wife, Julianna. Julianna grew up in southern Maryland and spreading fresh caught crabs out on a newspaper covered table for an afternoon of crab-cracking, cold drinks and conversation is one of her great life pleasures. I thought she was going to shed a tear when our daughter Ruby showed great interest in learning how to crack the crabs!
Of all the wine pairings we shared over the course of our trip to New York, I think the most important, meaningful and lasting were the wines we had while spending time with our family and friends there. We owe a special thanks to Joy and ‘Uncle Oredine’, Gil, Kerry, Fisher, Miles and ‘Uncle Matt’ and everyone else we were fortunate enough to spend time with back on Shelter Island and in NYC. We’ll raise a glass to all of you tonight. Another great wine pairing with all of you in our thoughts.
- See more at: http://www.corleyfamilynapavalley.com/blog/category/about-us/page/2/#sthash.lu6BYaFD.dpuf
Posted By : Chris Corley
This week we're out in New York visiting family and friends. We've had a great few days in Brooklyn and and are now out at Shelter Island for the next week or so. Shelter Island is out on the North Fork of Long Island and this is New York wine Country so we're looking forward to enjoying some of the local wines. It's going to be hot and we're looking forward to cooling off with some of the roses and whites.
Julianna's sister Joy and her husband Noureddine have been wonderful hosts. The food they have prepared has been fantastic, and we've had a lot of fun matching up our homemade wines with their homemade food. They have a great urban garden in their backyard, and the tomatos and herbs that have come out of there are tasting great. It was my first salad with a Brooklyn accent (terroir)! There's something kind of like a sixth sense, beyond umami, when your'e eating and drinking homegrown fare. Something soulful that you can't even taste but you can feel. The vegetables that they have grown in the middle of Brooklyn are as flavorful and juicy as I've had from California. Really nice.
JACKSON KEEPING AN EYE ON THINGS
We shipped a bunch of wine out ahead of time. I'm sure we put more thought into what wines we wanted to have on the trip as we did what clothes to pack. That's just the way we roll. Half the stash was wines that we made, and the other half were friend's wines that we like. I always enjoy drinking our wines away from the winery. In some ways, I put less thought into the wine, and take more pleasure from it when I'm out of the office so to speak.
JULIANNA AND RUBY WATERING THE TOMATOS
Julianna's been pushing for some raised veggie beds at the vineyard and after visiting the urban garden in Brooklyn and some of the farmstands in Long Island, I'm motivated to to help get those beds started at the vineyard. We've planted a small amount of hops last year and are ready to grow some fruit trees and veggies next year.
"This past weekend, we flew out to College Station, TX to host a series of wine events at the George H.W. Presidential Library and Museum. Mark Burns, a family friend and wine broker for Monticello, has recently put together a fantastic wine exhibit which is on display at the library. It's called ""The Culture of Wine"", and represents the California / Napa Valley wine industry in the 1980s, shortly after the famous 1976 Paris Tasting that put California, and specifically Napa Valley, on the global stage in terms of winemaking excellence.
""The Culture of Wine"" - The Original Monticello Lab (1981-2009)
We donated a lot of equipment to the exhibit, which Mark painstakingly refurbished to be put on display. The press in the exhibit is the actual Bucher RPM250 that we used at Monticello from 1981 until 2006, when we replaced it with a current model. I've spent the better part of 15-16 years crawling around in that press, pulling seeds and grapeskins out of my beard and hair. I hardly recognized it after Mark had spent so much time preparing it for the show. The lab equipment, the pumps, and even some of the grapevines in the show are the real deal from Monticello. We're very proud of what Mark Burns accomplished with this exhibit and are proud to have been able to contribute to his efforts. You can see more of the exhibit, including video and photos at www.thecultureofwine.com.
""The Culture of Wine"" - The Original Monticello Press (1981-2006)
We had a couple of opportunities to host seminars as well. On Thursday evening, I had the wonderful experience of addressing a group in the auditorium at the Library. In addition to the general audience in attendance, we had faculty and students from Texas A&M University that joined us for the evening. I particularly enjoyed speaking to and with the staff and students from the Viticulture/Enology and Mechanical Engineering departments. As I never really went to college, the irony of me speaking to a 'degreed' group of teachers and students was not lost on me.
On Friday morning, we had a really great experience in visiting President George H.W. Bush in his private offices in Houston. After checking in with the Secret Service (they didn't even make me check my beard at the door!) we toured his private offices and visited with his staff and then visited with the President for about a half-hour in his private office. It was an absolute honor to spend personal time with the President. He even gave us a Presidential seal of approval on the wine that we had blended specifically for his Library and Museum foundation - the 2006 Monticello Vineyards Presidential Red Wine - Bush Library Designation. The 2006 PresRed is a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc and was tasting great throughout the weekend in my unbiased opinion.
Chris Corley and President George H.W. Bush (left to right)
Saturday evening was a lot of fun as well. My brother Stephen and I led a wine-tasting seminar of 8 of our 2006 vintage Monticello wines at the Library and then wrapped up the evening with a tasty dinner in the rotunda of the museum. It was a treat for us to honor two past Presidents at the dinner we hosted - Thomas Jefferson and George H.W. Bush. And I personally was very excited to see the Saints win the following afternoon!"
Posted By : Chris Corley
Earlier this week we lost a dear friend to a tragic plane accident. Diego Garcia was a friend, a devoted husband and father, and a talented winemaker. His family had a long tradition of farming grapes and other crops in the Colchagua Valley of Chile. They recently had developed part of their property into a winery and hotel project that was making waves and showcasing this valley in Chile as an upcoming winemaking region on the world scene. You can read more about what Diego and his family has accomplished with their winery and hotel project at their website www.laplayawine.com.
Julianna had met Diego in 1998 when she was working at Robert Mondavi Winery, whom Diego's family had been doing some business with in Chile. In 2000, my wife Julianna and I and a couple of friends from Napa visited and stayed with Diego and his family in Chile. Diego and his family were the most warm and welcoming hosts imaginable. I proposed to Julianna in the Colhagua Valley while we were staying with them and we celebrated that evening with Diego and our friends.
COLCHAGUA VALLEY, CHILE (2000) - Lara, Chris, Julianna, Diego, Lee
He and his family are already leaders within the Chilean wine industry and, had his life not been cut short so tragically and suddenly, he would have been at the forefront of Chiles wine rising prominence on the world stage. Diego was young and charismatic, and although he is no longer with us, Diego Garcia de la Huerta Sutil will remain a shining light over the Colchagua Valley.
A SHINING LIGHT OVER COLCHAGUA VALLEY
Our deepest sympathies and love go out to Diego's family, his wife and children. Although we did not know the other three victims in the accident, we'll be sending our thoughts and prayers to their families as well.
For those readers who knew Diego or his family, you can link to the article posted today in the Santiago Times at www.santiagotimes.cl
During his recent visit to Napa Valley, Robert Parker tasted through some of our current releases of what we call our ‘Big Reds’. Here are some of his notes from the tasting …
2006 CORLEY RESERVE Cabernet Sauvignon (92) Napa Valley
2006 CORLEY Proprietary Red Wine (89) Oak Knoll District
2006 CORLEY Cabernet Sauvignon – Yewell Vineyard (90+) Saint Helena
2006 CORLEY Cabernet Sauvignon – State Lane Vineyard (89+) Yountville
2006 MONTICELLO Cabernet Sauvignon – Tietjen Vineyard (88+) Rutherford
One of the finest offerings in this portfolio is the 2006 CORLEY Cabernet Sauvignon Yewell Vineyard (90+) from St. Helena. It offers plenty of spice box, chocolate, new saddle leather, cassis, and black cherry aromas and flavors as well as some serious tannins buried beneath all the fruit. However, this is a deep, rich, convincing wine that will benefit from 3-4 years of cellaring, and last for 15+20 years.
Even better is the 2006 CORLEY RESERVE Cabernet Sauvignon (92), probably the best wine I have tasted from Monticello in many years. Its opaque purple hue is accompanied by abundant aromas of charcoal, licorice, black currants, graphite, and a hint of new oak. Full-bodied, layered, expressive, and pure, the copious tannins are well balanced by the richness of the fruit and level of concentration. It needs 2-4 years of cellaring, and should keep for two decades.
I liked the potential of the deep ruby/purple-tinged 2006 CORLEY Cabernet Sauvignon State Lane Vineyard (89+). Lots of spicy oak, blue and black fruits, camphor, licorice, and underbrush characteristics emerge from this medium-bodied, more elegant, graceful, less concentrated effort. It should drink well for 12-15 years.
I had some reservations about the 2006 MONTICELLO Cabernet Sauvignon Tietjen Vineyard (88+). The fruit intermixed with earth and lead pencil notes, but the wine reveals aggressive, rustic tannins, and the narrow, rugged finish could turn out to be problematic.
The 2006 CORLEY Proprietary Red (89) has sweet fruit, some charcoal, toast, cassis notes, medium to full body, and silky tannins. Drink it over the next 12-15 years.
Posted By : Chris Corley
This past harvest, we had an opportunity to host some of the editorial staff at Monticello as they harvested their own grapes of our vineyard and crushed the fruit at Monticello. We all had a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to tasting the finished wine. Following is the recent article in Wines and Vines written by the editor Jim Gordon. You can link directly to the article at www.winesandvines.com.
by Jim Gordon
San Rafael, Calif. -- Wines & Vines staff members had a chance to put themselves in their readers' boots during the harvest of 2009, thanks to a generous Napa Valley vineyard family, a patient Marin County winemaker and a barrel-refurbisher. A small crew of people normally more comfortable with computer mouses than grape knives harvested half a ton of Merlot to make a 60-gallon barrel of wine.
Along the way we experienced the same anxiety and excitement that most Northern California winemakers felt during a harvest rudely interrupted by cold, torrential rains Oct. 13 just as the grapes were nearing peak ripeness.
The Knollwood vineyard from which we harvested the Merlot is a 31-acre property on Big Ranch Road about two miles north of the city of Napa, the same parcel where Lewis Cellars sits. The Corley Family, who operate Monticello winery nearby, own the Knollwood property. The Corleys bought the first 19 acres of what is now Knollwood in 1984, said Kevin Corley, and later purchased another 12 acres.
The vineyard was in its second year of organic farming. The location is in the Oak Knoll District, with Coombs gravelly loam soil and the AVA's typically cool microclimate on nearly flat terrain. Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Merlot vines grow on a few different trellis setups here. The row of 9-year-old Merlot that we picked from was clone 181 planted on 3309 rootstock and trained on a lyre system with vines spaced 10 feet by 4 feet, trained onto wires held by 36-inch cross-arms at the bottom and 52-inch cross-arms at the top. Kevin Corley said the yield is typically 4 tons per acre.
We harvested on Oct. 23, having waited about as long as possible for the vineyard to dry out and hoping for the fruit to increase in sugar after the rain. Some evidence of white mold was beginning to show here and there, and berries were beginning to fall off the clusters when a vine was shaken. But the skins were intact and the flavors tasted fresh, so when Kevin Corley advised that waiting any longer would not help we harvested.
Under the watchful eye of the Corleys' long-time vineyard manager, Angel Avina, we picked into lug boxes and dumped the grapes into a macro bin on a flatbed truck at the end of the row. It was a quick trip to the Monticello winery across the road, where we processed the fruit on a new, efficient sorting setup that winemaker Chris Corley was trying out.
We pitch-forked the fruit onto a conveyor, which then released it into a gentle destemmer and sorting operation that enabled five people at a time to sort out all jacks and material other than grapes. The final sugar reading was 22.9 degrees Brix, and the fruit was very clean, smelled fresh and didn't appear to have suffered from the wet spell and late harvest. With the help of ropes, a tarp and plenty of duct tape, we secured our must in a macro bin in the back of a pickup, and drove it to about 35 miles to San Anselmo in Marin County, where the owner and winemaker of Ross Valley Winery, Paul Kreider, accepted it for fermentation. About two weeks later the wine had gone dry and was successfully pressed into a small tank to let the gross lees settle before racking into a five-year French barrel refurbished by Cryo Clean Barrel Blasting and outfitted with a stave insert array designed to give the effect of 40% new oak. Wines & Vines thanks our partners in this winemaking venture. We hope to provide readers an update on the quality of the wine later as it ages.
We've been spending the holidays in New Mexico, enjoying a fresh fall of powdery snow just a couple of days before Christmas. Santa Fe is a wonderful place to be for the holidays. We've enjoyed spending time in the plaza and seeing all the beautiful luminarias that are put out on the sidewalks and rooftops for the holidays. These are small brown paper bags by the thousands with candles that are traditionally put out all over the city for Christmas Eve. What a great Christmas spirit this old and historic city has within its thick adobe walls.
ROOFTOP LUMINARIAS - SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO
We've also enjoyed having local beers in the local watering holes downtown and drinking Chilean Carmenere and Brazilian Pinot Noir at the oldest restaurant in the city, El Farol, on Canyon Road. I think a couple of glasses of Carmenere even enhanced my appreciation of the beautiful and eclectic artwork that fills the galleries of Canyon Road. El Farol is a very popular place with live entertainment, great tapas, and an interesting South American based wine list. It can be a tough place to get into for dinner, so much so that it even prompted a problem in Game Theory called the El Farol Bar Problem. Game Theory apparently is popular among professional poker players and people who want to have dinner at El Farol during the holidays.
ONE OF THE WALL MURALS IN EL FAROL - SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO
So far, I've really enjoyed the beers from Santa Fe Brewing Company, delving into their Pale Ale and ""State Pen Porter"". From a little further north, in Fort Collins CO, I had a nice ""Cutthroat Porter"" from the Odell Brewing Company and ""Seco Stout"" from Eske's Brewery in Taos. I've really been enjoying porters this winter with their thick texture and dark smoky, chocolaty malty flavors. I have a 5 gallon batch of porter brewing at home that I hope will be okay until I get back, so have been keen to try as many porters as I can find. I'm going to crack open a bottle of local bubbly this afternoon from the Gruet family winery, and have even seen some locally produced and bottled mimosas and kir imperial, which are variations on the theme of sparkling wines, and something that I've thought would be fun to tinker with in our cellar back at Monticello someday.
In life as in wine, I love to expand my palate and relish every opportunity to engage in new experiences, whether edible, potable, tactile, intellectual or emotional. New experiences are one of the ways to make your dynamo hum, as Frank Zappa would have said. Sometimes you can just make that dynamo hum with a little Brazilian Pinot Noir! Yesterday we visited the Vivac Winery tasting room on Highway 68 on our way back to Santa Fe from Taos. They had a nice big line-up of wines to taste from many different varietals - Sangiovese, Barbera, Nebbiolo, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon to name a few. They had some nice blends as well - Divino and Diavolo. The winery is run by two brothers, who grew up in Dixon, NM and they built the tasting room themselves, which is pretty cool in and of itself. The lady in the tasting room (unfortunately I can't recall her name) was an excellent hostess and even gave me a couple of homemade sugar cookies for the kids. Great little winery to check out. www.vivacwinery.com .
I'm looking forward to visiting some more of the local wineries here in New Mexico while we're out here. I'm interested not just in the technical aspects of the local grapegrowing and winemaking techniques but also to get a glimpse of the people behind the barrels, which is sometimes as much fun as the wines themselves."
Our family spends a lot of time thinking about what goes into our wines. From the planting of the vines all the way through to bottling, theres no end of decisions to be made which will ultimately result in the quality of the final product. Varietal and clonal selection, trellising technique, viticultural practices, fermentation vessel, yeast, skin contact time, barrel selection and aging regime, and on and on. Thats just the tip of the enological iceberg when it comes to putting wines together from a patch of dirt.
Spending all this time thinking about what goes into each wine requires us to spend time thinking about what comes out of each wine as well. After all, we're making wines that will be enjoyed by families around dinner tables, by couples under candlelight, and by someone who just wants to throw their feet up and wind down (wine down?) after a long day. To this end, we do our best to describe what we get out of the wines by writing tasting notes - including descriptions of textures, flavors, aromas, ageability predictions, and suggested food pairings. Winemakers tasting notes can't always sum up or predict what will come out of each bottle. I can tell you what went into each bottle, and what I get out of it. What you get out of your wine experience is all you, and there are no wrong answers.
Tonight we had a bottle of 2000 Jefferson Cuvee Cabernet Sauvignon, one of the first blends I put together as head winemaker at Monticello. The 2000 Jefferson Cuvee was a special wine for me, being one of my first blends as the main dude in the cellar. In addition to having a great texture, deep berry flavors, nice tannin structure and just the right balance of oak - this wine had mojo. I made sure it was in there. We got a lot of snow today in Santa Fe, big fluffy flakes floating down from the sky like miniature parasols. With the snow falling outside, the fire crackling in the fireplace and a big pot of homemade chili on the stove, we had mojo in spades.
It got me thinking about how external factors can shape our internal experiences and vice versa. The wine tasted great tonight but I've been emotionally invested in it for nearly ten years. Plus, I'm sitting with my wife by the fireplace in the middle of a snowy evening, and the kids are behaving themselves. How could life and taste anything less than perfect right then? I've revisited this same wine recently at my tasting table in my office and it tasted great there as well, but I think it had a little extra mojo this evening. And the more I think about mojo, the more I think its in each of us. We just need to find that place within to let it free. And when we bottle up that mojo at the winery, you can be sure to find it when you pull that cork!
As the holiday season is here, I hope we can all find our place within and let our bottled up mojo fly free. Happy Holidays to everyone!