We're winding up Founder's Month here at the winery, and there is no better way to celebrate it than on our dad's birthday. Jay Corley was born on July 30, 1931, and today is his 90th birthday!
Happy Birthday Pop!
Of all of his interests, Jay was most driven by his love of Burgundian wines, which is what originally enticed him to Napa Valley in the late 1960s to establish our family winery in the Oak Knoll District. He had many other interests as well, and had a particular penchant for combining his interests with business. In business, he was a deeply strategic thinker; although on a personal level, he was a pretty straightforward guy, generally valuing simplicity over complexity. He had some simple pleasures in life, one in particular was enjoying a bowl of fresh popcorn.
With a strong business gene in his DNA, it was inevitable that Jay's enjoyment of popcorn would eventually manifest itself into some sort of business, and in the 1980s, the Napa Valley Popcorn Company was born. He procured gourmet kernels, and packaged them very elegantly in a flint burgundy bottle (of course, a burgundy bottle!). Capped with a gold capsule, and an image of a fully 'ripened' cluster of popcorn, these bottles were great additions to family movie night! Napa Valley Popcorn Company was based out of his old office at Vintage 1870, and I remember the popcorn bottle sitting on his desk for years as a kid. We would go with him to work plenty of times, and I spent a lot of time roaming around there, visiting the Connecticut Yankee, the toy store, having lunch at the Chutney Kitchen (now Bottega is in that space).
Even as a kid, I always admired how our dad seemed to find enjoyment in the things that he did and pursued. When I got older, I started to realize that he wasn't finding enjoyment, he was making it happen. That made me admire him even more.
Those bottles of popcorn always tasted better to me because I knew who stood behind them, and I believe the same can be said for our wines. Popcorn and wine might seem like an unusual pairing, but the further I make my way through life, the more firmly I believe that its the 'unusual pairings', and the people that identify them, that actually make life interesting!
Today is our Pop's birthday, and to celebrate, we bought a classic popcorn cart to keep at the winery. We'll start serving up some complimentary popcorn on special occasions for our guests in celebration and honor of our Founder and Dear Ol' Dad.
Happy Birthday Pop!
As we celebrate Founder's Month this July, we're pulling some wonderful wines from the library. Tasting back through these older wines truly reflects our long-thinking commitments to our stewardship of the land that our Founder Jay Corley started more than 50 years ago. These library selections were specifically made to improve over time, and to age gracefully for +20 years.
This week, we're focusing on the 2014 vintage, specifically our CORLEY selections bottled in magnums. Here is some additional information on this terrific vintage, including vintage commentary, general tasting notes, and some thoughts about aging wine in magnums.
VINTAGE 2014 NOTES : The 2013/2014 winter was one of the driest on record in California and rainfall totals in the Napa Valley were approximately half of normal. However, the timing could not have been better : heavy rains in late February and early March gave a much-needed drink of water to the vines as they were emerging from dormancy and about to begin bud break. Furthermore, the spring was warm allowing vintners and growers to save water if needed for irrigation rather than using it for frost protection. And finally, while the vines used for high-quality wine production generally don’t need much water, a benefit of the drought is that berry sizes are typically smaller and have more concentrated flavors, which contributed to the overall quality of this year’s harvest. As it relates to Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux-inspired blends, our wines from 2014 are some of the best of the last decade, deep in complexity, texture, flavor and aroma. In general, the wines have an appropriate balance of tannin which allows them to be approachable in their youth, but will enable them to age gracefully for 20+ years.
The Napa earthquake on August 24 was an exciting prelude for the vintage! While it created a lot of cleanup work for us leading into the harvest, it had no direct impact on the quality of the wines from 2014. This picture is the actual barrel room where we stored our barrels in 2014. Our barrels are not in this picture, we were fortunate to have had our barrels stored next to the wall on the north end of the building ... when the earthquake struck, most of our barrels were prevented from falling by the northern walls.
In upcoming posts, we're excited to share some more details about specific wines from the terrific 2014 vintage. In the meantime, for more information on availability of any of these special wines, please visit CORLEY Library Wines | Vintage 2014.
CORLEY | Cabernet Sauvignon 'Reserve' 1999
When our dad first set eyes on our property in the late 1960s, he saw a dusty old prune orchard, with a tall stand of black walnut trees in the back down by the river. He was 39 years old. He was 39 my whole life ... '39 and holding' he used to say! Where many might have simply seen a dried up old orchard, he envisioned an opportunity for a world class vineyard. He loved the wines from Burgundy, and settling into the southern end of the Napa Valley made a lot of sense for a guy that wanted to grow the best Chardonnay and Pinot Noir he could in California. Carneros and the Coastal regions hadn't really established themselves yet in the late 1960s, so he landed in what is now the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley.
We grew all of our Cabernet Sauvignon upvalley back then, working with vineyards on Spring Mountain, and in St. Helena, Rutherford and Yountville. We still grow Cabernet Sauvignon upvalley, but have also expanded our varietals in Oak Knoll District to include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Syrah.
July is a special month for us each year, as July 1970 is when things started happening on the main estate. It was an exciting time for him, and all of us seven kids are grateful for his vision and foresight. Although Napa Valley has a winegrowing history dating back to the late 1800s, Prohibition really cut thhings off at the knees. Many of the terrific vineyards that were planted here in the valley were torn out, as winegrapes lost much of their value during Prohibition. Large swaths of Napa Valley were planted to what were more viable commercial crops at that time, largely figs, pruned and walnuts ... which is what our property was planted to in the late 1960s when our dad selected this site!
This July, we're celebrating our dad's vision and foresight by going back into The Library to pull out some gems. This week, we're enjoying the CORLEY Cabernet Sauvignon 'Reserve' 1999. This wine is a very personal favorite of mine. 1999 was my 10th year anniversary working full-time at the winery, and it was a great vintage. When the wine was released, I recall the tannins were a little rough around the edges, but we could see that the wine was so full on the midpalate, that it just needed some time to 'resolve the edges'. This wine was bottled in 2001, now at 20 years in the bottle, this wine is really in a wonderful space! The fruit is dark and ripe, with secondary and teritary layers coming in. The texture is smooth and the finish is long and lingering. I recommend decanting this wine for about 45 minutes to leave some slight sediments behind, and to give the wine an opportunity to open up.
We'll be raising a glass of 1999, and many others, to 'Dear Ole Dad' this month! Enjoy!
In past years, I've posted the full text of The Declaration of Independence on July 4. For broader perspective, this year I'd like to also include an excerpt from freed slave Frederick Douglass' address to Congress on July 5, 1852. For context, Douglass' speech was given 26 years after the death of Thomas Jefferson (1826), and 9 years beofre the start of the American Civil War.
Declaration of Independence - Thomas Jefferson. July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
What to the Slave is the Fourth of July? (An Excerpt) - Freed Slave Frederick Douglass' Speech to The President and Congress. July 5, 1852.
What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.
Summer Solstice coincided with Fathers Day this year, and we enjoyed the late sunset at the end of a very enjoyable day. Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year, and is generally considered the beginning of summer.
The word 'Solstice' has Latin roots, deriving from the words 'sol' (sun), and 'sistere' (to stand still). At the solstices, the Sun's declination appears to 'stand still' ... the seasonal movement of the Sun's daily path (as seen from Earth) pauses at a northern or southern limit before reversing direction.
From a symbolistic perspective, the Summer Solstice represents the transition from action to nourishment. The days become longer in the summer, and we embark on journey from darkness to light. In the vineyard, we see a transition from action to nourishment at this time as welUp to this time, the vines have been growing aggressively in a vegetative state, producing long green shoots, wispy tendrils, lush green leaves. The clusters have flowered and developed into small, hard, acidic, green grapes. Now with the longer summer days ahead, the vegetative growth will slow and the nourishment of the grapes will begin, as they will start to get bigger, softer and will eventually begin the softening and ripening process known as veraison. This is when the grapes start to soften and turn color (if they are red varietals).
I've always enjoyed this time of year. The days get longer, the sunrises and sunsets are beautiful. The vineyards are an absolute pleasure to walk through right now, and we can start to really get a fell for how the vintage is developing. So far, so good.
Our Summer Solstice wine recommendations are for easy drinking afternoon wines ... MONTICELLO Rose of Pinot Noir 'Estate Grown' is a wonderfully refreshing, dry, aromatic wine that pairs well with a solstice sunset. MONTICELLO Chardonnay 'Estate Grown' is an elegant style of Chardonnay, well-balanced with bright acidity and a subtle background of oak. MONTICELLO Pinot Noir 'Estate Grown' is the grape that lured our dad here fifty years ago. This wine pairs perfectly with a Summer Solstice Sunset, a quite evening to reflect on all that is important in life.
Cheers to you and, thank you for visiting our blog, and we look forward to seeing you at the winery sometime soon!
As Fathers Day approached, we’ve been thinking a lot about the Founder of our winery, Jay Corley. To seven of us, he is Dear Ol’ Dad. To twelve others, he is Grandad, although there are a few more that refer to him that way, from their hearts. He had a gregarious personality, a big heart, and vision.
In the late 1960s, his love for the wines of Burgundy sparked something in him. He became very interested in growing grapes, making wine, specifically Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. In the late 1960s, if you wanted to grow world class Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in California, you would probably look to establish yourself in the southern end of the Napa Valley. At least you would if you were Jay Corley!
Please enjoy this short video greeting from one of Jay’s sons, Winemaker Chris Corley.
Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the two primary varietals that lured our dad to establish his vineyard in what is now known as the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley. When he first saw the land, it was a declining prune orchard, with a stand of black walnut trees down by the river. The neighbors were growing figs. Grapevines were just making a comeback as a commercial (legal) crop in the late 1960s. This was a long-standing effect from Prohibition … when alcohol was outlawed, the winegrapes of Napa Valley lost almost all of their value, since winegrapes don’t have much commercial value other than being a raw product to make wine.
Dear Ol’ Dad planted primarily Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, with small amounts of Chenin Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. The Cabernet Sauvignon was all grown upvalley, as was the conventional wisdom of the time. That was fifty years ago, and we’ve learned a lot in the meantime. ‘We’ being our family, our winery, our friends, colleagues, the whole wine industry.
Now, in addition to our Chardonnay and Pinot Noir … we proudly grow Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Syrah in Oak Knoll District. That said, it was Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that originally lured us here, so we have a special place in our hearts for these two.
This week, we’re honoring our Founder, Father, Grandfather, ‘Dear Ol Dad’ by offering two very special wines that we know he would love … CORLEY Chardonnay ‘Block 3, Clone 95’ 2018 and CORLEY Pinot Noir ‘Block 2, Clone 777’ 2018. Both of these wines are Estate Grown, Produced and Bottled.
They are 100% varietal, and speak to the unique soil, climate and topography of our estate vineyard. If you hold the empty bottle to your ear, you might hear the daily afternoon Oak Knoll District breeze, and the subtle footsteps in the vineyard.
We hope that you’ll consider joining us in celebrating Fathers Day with these two special wines. For more information, please visit www.corleyfamilynapavalley.com, call us at (707) 253-2802, or email us at email@example.com.
Back in the mid-late 1900s, our dad was a successful entrepreneur in Southern California. He was ahead of the game, 'they' hadn't even come up with the word entrepreneur back then, but he was doing it anyway. He was a big fan of the wines from Burgundy, both red and white. He was a member of various tasting groups, including the Chevaliers du Tastevin. In the mid 1960s, he attended Pepperdine University to get his MBA. He wrote his thesis on how to start a winery in the Napa Valley. It was accepted, he received his MBA, and that thesis is the foundation of the business plan that Monticello Vineyards has operated under for 50+ years.
I remember him enjoying his wine at dinner, always in moderation, but smiles and laughter. As a kid, something about the crystal decanters and the importance and discussion surrounding wine struck me as appealing, even though I didn't really understand why at the time. I could see at a very young age, it was a beverage that was different than any other on the table. Over the years, I grew to understand why wine holds such a spell over us, and admittedly, I myself am now deeply entranced.
In the late 1960s, our dad was venturing up to Napa Valley, and now he had in his mind that he wanted to coalesce two of his interests ... his deep appreciation of wine, and an internal sense of getting back to the earth, this latter interest largely driven by a history of farming in our family that dates back many generations to Virginia, and later in Illinois.
What pop saw in 1969 that made him think his dreams of growing world class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in Napa Valley could be realized.
Around 1969, he came across an old prune orchard for sale in the southern end of Napa Valley, now known as the Oak Knoll District. It was a dry, dusty old prune orchard, but he had vision and a plan, and he could see not just what it was, but what it could be. This old prune orchard was about as far south in Napa Valley as anyone would consider planting winegrapes in 1969. Cerneros and Coombsville were not yet established as winegrowing regions. He wanted to be in the souther end of the valley, because it was cooler, enjoyed the daily breezes from the bay, and gave him the best opportunity to grow world class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in Napa Valley. The property was situated next to the river, which was appealing as well. In the early years, we grew Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Gewurtraminer on the estate. All of the Cabernet Sauvignon back then was grown upvalley in St. Helena, Rutherford, Spring Mountain, Yountville.
Dear Ol' Dad ... although not so old, sometime around 1970ish.
Our varietal plantings have shifted over the course of 50 years, we now grow Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot on our vineyards in Oak Knoll District. We don't have any Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc or Gewurztraminer planted, but I would certainly love to put in a few rows of each on our next planting cycle! Being true to Dear Ol' Dad, we still grow a pretty good amount of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay on the estate. We have multiple clones of each in different blocks, and bottle a small amount of isolated block and clonal offerings each vintage, for example our Corley Chardonnay 'Block 1, Clone 96', or our Corley Pinot Noir 'Block 2, Clone 777'. When people politely ask why we're growing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in 'Cab Country' ... well, some things matter more than others, and our dad's vision is one of those things. Cheers to Dear Ol' Dad on this Throwback Thursday!
If you'd like to enjoy a glass of our single vineyard, single block, single clone offerings, please call us at (707) 253-2802, or visit us at www.corleyfamilynapavalley.com
It's always enlightening to look back and see where we've been, in life and in winegrowing. We're fortunate as family winegrowers that we've been able to work with the same vineyards across Napa Valley for decades. It allows for a perspective of a single vineyard over a long period of time. We've worked with the same five vineyards, that span almost the length of Napa Valley, for most of the last 50 years. Working with a vineyard year in and year out provides perspective, as we inevitably will have better and worse vintages than others.
The 2011 vintage was one that stood out this millenium. It was a challenging growing season, in large part due to untimely rains close to harvest. This had many winegrowers working a little harder that season than usual. The vintage took a little of bit from the media at the time, and while it was indeed a difficult vintage, I think it was painted with too broad a critical stroke.
At Monticello, we like to focus on destination, not navigation. In 2011, our destination remained the same ... to make wonderful wines. That vintage made the path a little more difficult to navigate, but we embrace the journey! In winemaking, as in life, sometimes removing the negatives is the first step towards finding the positives. This was certainly the case in 2011. We sorted the fruit in the vineyard, we sorted the clusters on the crush pad, we sorted the grapes after they were destemmed. After we were done sorting, we sorted some more! All sorts of sorting! Removing the negatives to get to the positive core, which was the clean ripe, plump berries within the clusters.
We've been enjoying a lot of the wines from 2011 this year, as it's fun to look back 10 years to see how the wines are doing, especially with our single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon bottlings. Over the last month or so, we've been enjoying a fair bit of the 2011 Tietjen Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. This vineyard is on Niebaum Lane in Rutherford, and has been hallmark single vineyard bottling for us for decades. At ten years, and with about 30 minutes in a decanter, this wine is singing! The aromas are deep, with blackberry, plum and a nice beam of vanillin oak in the background. On the palate, the wine is smooth as silk, as the tannins have evolved wonderfully over the last 10 years.
We've always been very good about setting aside some wines, and we do have some of the Tietjen Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 still available. If you're interested in trying this wonderful vineyard at 10 years, please call us at the winery (707) 253-2802, or check in with us online at www.corleyfamilynapavalley.com/wines
When we were kids, I used to love going to the vineyard with our dad. With the winery under construction, and the young vineyards in their resplendent California Sprawl, it was an exciting time for the 'grown-ups', and a fun place for us kids. I was 10 years old when the winery was built, and wine and grapes didn't mean much to me at that time, although I had a great admiration for our dad ... he was a builder, visionary, and creator, and even my young eyes could see and appreciate that.
The land had been cleared of the old prune trees and black walnut trees back in 1970, and the vineyard was established and thriving. I think I recall hearing when I was young that the largest black walnut tree in California was just a little north of us, a bit further up Big Ranch Road. Big Ranch Road was a fairly quiet country lane back then, and our dad knew all the neighbors up and down the road, and by extension, so did we.
Back then, vineyards didn't look like they do now. They used to grow more wildly, in what was known as 'California Sprawl'. The spacing between vines was much broader, sometimes planted 8' x 12' apart. The tractors were big, and the valley bins that the grapes were picked into were also big, holding 2+ tons of grapes each, and they were usually tipped into a big grape hopper off of the back of a flatbed. It was very different than the typical vineyard in Napa Valley now, which is usually highly manicured, with much more fruit exposure, and a wall of leaves rather than a true canopy.
As a kid roaming around in the vineyard back then, it was fun hanging out under a California Sprawl. Since the vines were spaced so far apart and planted on pretty aggressive rootstocks, the vines would grow very aggressively, the shoots growing thick and strong across the wide rows, their tendrils ensnaring each other and creating a true canopy that you would go under. In the old days, you need to fight your way through the vineyard rows sometimes. The grapes were entirely underneath the canopy, with little to no actual sun exposure.
Over the years, viticulture has progressed towards tighter spacing in vineyards, smaller tractors, increasingly manicured vines, greatly increased fruit exposure. This all lends itself towards clean, wonderfully ripe California wines, which we love. I wonder, though, as we observe naturally increasing heat and less rain, if we might see a slight shift back towards more natural canopies to protect our fruit from the sun. We can see many vineyards protecting their fruit from the sun by hanging shadecloth over the grapes, but I remember seeing the old growers on our vineyard accomplish that with training and vine leaves.
As we celebrate fifty years of winegrowing in the Napa Valley, we are looking forward, but it is fun to reminisce about being a kid, hanging out under the sprawling grapevines 40 years ago.