Each month, I hold a Winemaker's Workshop with our Hospitality Team. These tasting and discussion sessions are valuable for everyone involved. It's a monthly opportunity for us to share information about our wines and the purpose and stories behind each wine. I've found that I learn by teaching, and because we promote these sessions as open dialogues, we tend towards transparent discussions of our winegrowing and winemaking activities. Sharing the stories behind the wines is important, because it gives the hospitality team deeper and broader insight into the wines, which they can then share with our guests.
Last month, our Winemaker's Workshop focus was on our Estate Grown Pinot Noir. Whenever we talk about our Estate Grown Pinot Noirs, an early question is ‘Why are you growing Pinot Noir in Napa Valley? Isn’t that Cabernet Sauvignon country?’ This is a good question … Napa Valley has grown to be synonymous with Cabernet Sauvignon. While that’s easy to see in 2019, our dad came here almost 50 years ago, and what lured him to Napa Valley was the desire to grow world class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Pinot Noir will always be dear to us. It’s the varietal that brought us to Napa Valley 50 years ago, and as a family, we are fiercely loyal, even with our grapes!
By definition, all of our Pinot Noir offerings are single vineyard wines, meaning all of the grapes in the blend were grown on a single vineyard. Of our five vineyards spanning the length of Napa Valley, we grow our Pinot Noir on the Monticello Vineyard, located in the cooler, southern end of the valley, in the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley. The daily breezes that come in from San Pablo Bay are critical for us to maintain the necessary acidity to make a world class Pinot Noir. (More on our Oak Knoll District weather patterns in an upcoming post!). On the Monticello Vineyard, we grow three different clones of Pinot Noir in two separate blocks. Each of these clones has subtle differences in aroma, flavor, and texture which we take into consideration in making and blending these wines. The two different blocks have soil and slight slope differences which ultimately impact the nuances of the final wines.
In our recent Winemaker’s Workshop, we tasted through about 8 different barrel samples of 2018 Pinot Noir which represented different combinations of blocks and clones. For example, the ‘Block 2, Clone 777’ tends towards a fuller-bodied style, with notes of strawberry, blackberry and cola. The ‘Block 3, Clone 113’ is a little more elegant in style, with notes of raspberry and blueberry. These nuances are fascinating to explore, and make the barrel selection and blending process so enjoyable. The 2018 Pinot Noir samples are so vibrant right now, so full of life, vim and vigor! The color of the wines is electric, and they have an energy that is just bursting from the glass. The wines are like genies released from the barrels. I’m very excited about Vintage 2018 Pinot Noir, and I anticipate that these wines will age gracefully for 10-12 years after bottling.
‘Wait! Did he just say that their Napa Valley Pinot Noir will age gracefully for 10-12 years?’ Absolutely! It has a lot do with our location, and being able to maintain the acidity in the grapes. We also tend towards a little more extraction with our Pinot Noir, so the wines have a slightly fuller character in their youth, but with this comes the substance to age long enough to develop those wonderful tertiary characteristics that only be created with time.
After our Winemaker’s Workshop, we opened a bottle of our Monticello Vineyards ‘Estate Grown’ 2009 Pinot Noir. This single vineyard wine is a blend of two blocks and four clones. (In 2009, we were growing four clones … 777, 667, 113, 115). The color of the wine was excellent, with hues of light purple, magenta, just lightly fading on the edges, but still fresh and robust. The wine had primary notes of slightly fresh, slightly dried berries, strawberries, raspberry. Secondary notes of clove, cola, nutmeg, cinnamon. As the wine opened up in the glass with some airtime, we found underlying tertiary notes of mushroom and earth. On the palate the wine is smooth as silk, and still has several years of life left.
If you’re interested to taste our Monticello Vineyards ‘Estate Grown’ 2009 Pinot Noir, or any of our extensive collection of library wines … please come visit us at the winery, or visit us at www.CorleyFamilyNapaValley.com/Wine-Shop/Library-Wines. You can also call us at (707) 253-2802.
Chris Corley, Winemaker
Joining a winery's wine club can sometimes take some thought. Other times, not so much. You might want to evaluate the different options the winery has provided to you. If the winery makes a lot of different wines, they might be able to provide you a lot of different club options. Depending on your perspective, lots of options will either strike you as thrilling or overwhelming.
Here are four top reasons you can keep in mind when deciding if you want to join a winery's wine club ...
This seems so obvious, but it has to be at the top of the list Of course, you must like the winery's wines because you're going to be drinking a fair bit of them. You should consider whether the winery provides a wide range of styles that will keep you engaged over time. Do they make both reds and whites? Multiple varietals? Do they have big, ageworthy reds, but also more moderate fruit-forward offerings? Perhaps they make a crisp rose that you can enjoy in the summertime? Sparkling wine for the holidays? Full Disclosure : Monticello makes all these types of wines.
Many wineries encourage their club members to come to the winery, to enjoy everything that the winery has to offer, in addition to the wines. This means you might be spending time with many of the hospitality staff, production staff, or perhaps the family. If you're first visit was to the winery, you likely knew right away how the people made you feel. If you're considering signing up from a distance, you might want to spend some time on their website, or call in and have a conversation with a hospitality team member to get a feel for the tone of the winery. Full Disclosure : Monticello's got a great team with many years of collective experience and warm smiles.
Joining a wine club can also give you access to great library and small-production wines that the general public doesn't even know about. These wines are usually very high quality, and because of their small production size, can sometimes give unique insights into the winemaking, farming and history of the winery. Estate-grown, single-block, or single-clone bottlings of different varietals would be an example of these types of limited access wines. Full Disclosure : Monticello enthusiastically produces small-batch wines like this for club members.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of being part of the wine club, is actually being part of a club! Typically this means having a special place, or room, at the winery that you and your guests can access. Or being able to attend the club events, which are generally lots of fun. These could include lobster boils, paella, themed dinners, croquet tournaments, etc ... You'll want to determine if the club events appeal to you. Full Disclosure : Monticello loves throwing a Spring and Harvest event for our members each year!
Hopefully you find wine clubs that appeal to you. For more information about our Monticello Wine Clubs, please visit our website at www.corleyfamilynapavalley.com/wine-club
All of our enthusiastic fans and supporters of our MONTICELLO and CORLEY wines intuitively understand the single most important thing about tasting and enjoying wine.
They know what they like, and what they don't like. Everything beyond that first intuitive questions is just a variation of 'Why?'
Most everyone can quickly and intuitively determine whether or not they like music when they hear it. Many of those same people don't have a deep understanding of musical theory, or whether the song is composed in 4/4 or 7/8 time, or if the primary chords are minor or major, or if it's being played in the key of E, A or C. They just feel, they know if they like it or not.
In an instant, you'll know whether the music of bagpipes is inspiring to you and makes you want to don a kilt, paint your face and charge down a mountainside into battle ... or its a wail that makes you want to run and hide in a highland cave. The first question is answered intuitively ... Do I like it or not? How does it make me feel? ... You don't need to understand how the bagpipes work, when or why they were invented or how they are used in battle or ceremony.
You'll know intuitively whether or not the sounds of distorted heavy metal guitar, conga drums, mandolins or pan flutes appeal to you without understanding anything about the instruments or how they are played. You'll know whether you prefer the rhythm of Metallica or Mozart, without needing to understand the technical complexities of the compositions.
It's the same with wine. You'll know intuitively whether or not you like a wine when you first taste it. You don't need to understand the dynamics of yeast fermentation, the soil composition of a vineyard block, or whether the wine was aged in French oak for 22 months or 28 months to determine if you like the wine. That information answers the questions 'why?'.
Do I like it? How does it make me feel? This is intuitive, primary, tangible and visceral. Deeper levels of understanding can generate deeper levels of enjoyment ... enhanced, enlightened and intellectual ... they come from all of the secondary and teritary 'whys?'.
On a primary level, every one of us is qualified to answer the visceral questions ... Do I like it? How does it make me feel?
We hope that you enjoy our MONTICELLO and CORLEY wines, and that we'll have opportunities to help you answer the 'Whys?'
There are fourteen rows of grapevines on the southernmost side of Block 3 in The Monticello Vineyard. Originally planted about 20 years ago, these Pinot Noir vines were a primary component in our Monticello ‘Estate Grown’ Pinot Noir bottlings for many years. Specifically, they were a sub-designation of Pinot Noir known as Clone 115. Over the years, we always enjoyed the slightly darker berry aromas and flavors and fuller body that the wines displayed from these grapes.
As these things tend to do over decades, our vineyard blocks have evolved. With additional Pinot Noir planted in another block, we set our eyes on the aforementioned fourteen rows as a nice location for a wonderful new source of Chardonnay. Rather than tear out our beloved Pinot Noir vines for replanting, we chose to keep them in service. We cut the trunks and grafted the new Chardonnay Clone 95 onto the Pinot Noir trunks.
Grafting is a fairly straightforward viticultural technique, employed when the grower is interested in a varietal shift with minimal downtime. It requires a skilled grafter, and good seasonal timing. When done properly there is a high percentage of success.
Perhaps straightforward, and with a high rate of success, it is nonetheless really amazing. I walk through these fourteen rows regularly. I spend enough time in these vines, I should be jaded to this kind of stuff, but I’m not. I still find it incredible.
In these fourteen rows, we have vines that are themselves a mélange of plant material. The rootstocks in the ground are of American origin, so that they can resist the natural soil pests. The trunks are French, Pinot Noir Clone 115. The top of the vine, bearing the fruit, is now Chardonnay Clone 95.
Over time, these three plants have coalesced, they are now one. It takes a seasoned eye to see the graft unions. While the graft unions may be difficult to see, the quality of the wine is easy to understand.
Chardonnay Clone 95 has long been one of our favorites. We grew this clone in Block 6 towards the back of the property for years. It was an easy choice for these fourteen rows in Block 3. We love the rich texture that is counterbalanced with fresh acidity. We love the tropical fruit character that is framed with nuances of citrus tones.
This month, we’re excited to be releasing our CORLEY 2017 Chardonnay ‘Block 3, Clone 95’. This wine is made entirely from these fourteen rows of vines. From this batch, we selected six specific barrels for the final bottling that we felt best represented this special section. The grapes were crushed and soaked on the skins for eight hours prior to pressing into barrels for fermentation. The skin soak is an old-school nod to our winemaking techniques that were in place in 1990 when I started working in the cellar. Soaking the skins helps us to extract more aromas, flavors and textures prior to pressing the juice for fermentation. Fermented and aged in barrels for 10 months prior to bottling, we’re very excited to be releasing and sharing this wine with you.
This wine has wonderful and expressive aromas of tropical fruits like mango, melon and fig. These are balanced with light citrus tones. There is a light creaminess and a hint of butterscotch from the French oak barrels and partial malolactic fermentation. On the palate the wine is rich, with a light beam of fesh acidity.
Chris Corley, Proprietor | Winemaker
We had a great time celebrating Harvest on September 22, 2018. Thank you to everyone who came out to support us! A BIG thanks to our Club Members.
We previewed two new wines at our Reception: 2015 CORLEY 'State Lane Vineyard' Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2016 Monticello Vineyards Estate Grown Chardonnay. These two wines were released to Wine Club Members at the event. Release date to the General Public will be in a few months.
To pair with our new release of the 2015 CORLEY 'State Lane Vineyard' Cabernet Sauvignon, we brought out our 2017 CORLEY 'State Lane Vineyard' Cabernet Sauvignon in the barrel to give our guests a vertical sampling of our State Lane Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.
Additionally, we had a barrel of newly harvested 2018 Chardonnay juice for sampling as we released the 2016 vintage of Monticello Vineyards Chardonnay.
For dinner we featured a lobster boil that included succulent fresh Maine lobster, prawns, Italian sausage, artichokes, corn on the cob, red potatoes, and baguettes.
We featured our Monticello Vineyards Estate Grown Chardonnay, Monticello Vineyards Estate Grown Pinot Noir and our Monticello Vineyards Estate Grown Syrah with our lobster feast.
We had a blast! We hope to see everyone at our Holiday Reception in December. CHEERS!
Thank you to everyone who came out and supported us at our 2018 Spring Party.
We had two new wine releases: CORLEY Chardonnay, Block III, Clone 95 & CORLEY Pinot Noir, Block II, Clone 777.
We had Spanish tapas and paella artfully prepared before our eyes.
Happy Club Members and new friends eagerly waiting for lunch.
We brought in a Croquet Pro to facilitate games.
We had a wine ring toss game!
Premiere Napa Valley 2015 ended with another record breaking year at $6 million!
I spent an eventful week with Stephen and Chris Corley at five trade tastings representing the State Lane Vineyard in Yountville, Tietjen Vineyard in Rutherford, Yewell Vineyard in St. Helena, the two vineyards in the Oak Knoll District and Next Generation in Wine. Each of these prepared our visiting trade for where to bid on Saturday's big auction day at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone.
Monticello Vineyards entered The French Connection under Lot 83 (our lucky number for Jay Corley's age).
Notes from Chris Corley about this wine:
This 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the 2013 vintage currently ages in a custom designed barrel with a French and Virginian barrel head on each side and alternating staves.
We congratuate Gary's Wine & Marketplace for the winning bid at $28K!
Every February, we look forward to attending the Premiere Napa Valley wine auction. PNV is a trade-only wine auction that celebrates the uniqueness of small lot, hand crafted Napa Valley wines. Each winery creates a truly unique blend between 5-20 cases. The lots produced for PNV are one of a kind. They won't be availabel anywhere else. We enjoy tasting through other vintner's lots as much as we enjoy sharing our own with the attendees.
This year we are offering our State Lane Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, aging in a custom designed hybrid barrel, which has alternating staves of French and Virginian oak. This deep, rich and well extracted wine celebrates the travels and experiences of Thomas Jefferson between his native Virginia and France
PNV is always a lively event, always well-attended, with plenty of top quality, unique wines to be tasted. The event is a primary fundraiser for the Napa Valley Vintners, which works hard to promote the Napa Valley appellation. Here is an excerpt from the Napa Valley Vintners website : Proceeds from Premiere Napa Valley support the Napa Valley Vintner's mission to promote, protect and enhance the Napa Valley appellation. Learn more at www.napavintners.com.
In the days leading up to the Premiere Napa Valley auction, there are a number of appellation tastings, which provide winery members an opportunity to showcase the differences of the sub-appellations of Napa Valley to the trade that has come to Napa Valley for this auction weekend. Our family makes wine from four sub-appellations within Napa Valley ...
From south to north ...
OAK KNOLL DISTRICT : In the Oak Knoll District, we have our Monticello Estate Vineyard and Knollwood Vineyard. The winery and Jefferson House are located on the Monticello Estate Vineyard. On these vineyards we grow Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Syrah. We will be pouring a selection of our Oak Knoll District wines at Southbridge in St. Helena on Friday, February 20 from 1:00-4:00. www.oakknolldistrictofnapavalley.com
YOUNTVILLE : In the Yountville appellation, we grow Cabernet Sauvignon on our certified organic State Lane Vineyard. We will be pouring our State Lane Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon at First Taste of Yountville at The Barrel Room at Vintage 1870 on Thursday, February 19, from 11:00-2:00. www.yountvillewines.com
RUTHERFORD : In Rutherford, we source Cabernet Sauvignon from the Tietjen Vineyard on Niebaum Lane. We will be pouring our Tietjen Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon at the Rutherford Dust Society Tasting at Peju Winery, Rutherford on Friday, February 20 from 10:00-2:00. www.rutherforddust.org
ST. HELENA : From our most northern appellation, we source Cabernet Sauvignon from the Yewell Vineyard on Ehlers Lane. We will be pouring our Yewell Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon at the Appellation St. Helena Tasting at The Crystal Room at Raymond Winery, St. Helena on Thursday, February 19, from 2:00-5:00. www.appellationsthelena.com
Maybe we'll see you at one or more of these tastings!