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!
Posted By : Chris Corley
It's nice being on the backside of harvest. After more than my share of burritos, beer, sticky grapes, and long nights, I welcome being able to get home in time to start a fire, have dinner with the family and catch the Monday night game. Our post-crush workdays are a little more manageable as well, and I've settled back into my daily tasting routine. Mostly, I've been working through the vast amount of lots we've generated from 2009, but recently I tasted through our current releases of 2006 Cabernet Sauvignons and Proprietary Red Wine.
In addition to our CORLEY RESERVE Cabernet Sauvignon and CORLEY Proprietary Red Wine, we make 3 different vineyard designated Cabernet Sauvignons each year. These 3 small bottlings are from the State Lane Vineyard on State Lane in Yountville, the Tietjen Vineyard on Niebaum Lane in Rutherford, and the Yewell Vineyard on Ehlers Lane in St. Helena. Throw in the fruit from our Home Ramch and Knollwood Vineyards in Oak Knoll District, and we've got the valley pretty well covered!
The 2006 wines are all tasting great. These wines were all released over the last few months. All of the wines in this flight are aged in barrel for about 22-24 months, and then aged in bottle for another 12-15 months prior to release. If drinking now, I recommend decanting all of these wines about 30 minutes prior to maximum pleasure.
The 2006 CORLEY RESERVE Cabernet Sauvignon is 100% Cab blended from our 3 vineyards throughout the valley. It's a big rich dark wine that has nice chewy tannins for decanting now or 15 years from now. This wine reflects the best barrel selections of our combined Cab vineyards each vintage.
State Lane Vineyard (43%) “ Yountville Yewell Vineyard (19%) “ St Helena Tietjen Vineyard (38%) “ Rutherford
Our 2006 CORLEY Proprietary Red Wine is one of my favorite wines to blend each year. Because it is not varietally labeled, we let our imaginations guide us when assembling blends. More often than not, it is a Cabernet Franc and Merlot dominated wine, although we blend in Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah if it tastes right. The 2006 is 39% Cab Franc, 34% Merlot, 18% Cab Sauv and 9% Syrah. This wine is really tasting nice right now. Dark, spicy berry aromas, with well integrated oak. Dark chocolate and spice flavors are jammin' in a nice long finish.
Our three Single Vineyard cabs are all about barrel selection. Because they are bottled as 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from their respective vineyards, the blending trials revolve around barrel selection and seeing how the different cooperages, grains, and toast levels jive with each other. The 2006 Single Vineyard series was released this fall and all three wines are showing great depth of fruit, nice tannin structure and good aging potential, maybe 10-12 years.
MONTICELLO Tietjen Vineyard, CORLEY Yewell Vineyard, CORLEY State Lane Vineyard