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Corley Family Napa Valley

Chris Corley
April 26, 2020 | Chris Corley

Earth Week : Wine Down With A Glass from Our Organically Certified Vineyards

We’re winding down Earth Week this weekend. Our family appreciates all of the wonderful messages we’ve received this past week celebrating our 50th anniversary, which we happily share this year with Earth Day!
Over the past week, we’ve shared some of our accomplishments over the last 50 years, and also shared some of the aspects of how we approach sustainability on our vineyards and in the winery. We used to muse with our dad that there really is no finish line when it comes to what we do … farming, making wine, running a multi-generational family business. You carry on, do what’s necessary while it’s your turn, and leave things better for the next generation that comes along. There’s no such thing as ‘being done’. There’s always something that can be done better, some system that can be improved, and in the winery, there’s always something that can be cleaned!
As I mentioned above, this is what we do, not what we’re doing. For myself, several brothers, and now the beginning of the third generation, this is what we do full time. We spend a lot of our time in our vineyards, our cellar, on the crush pad, on the bottling line. Our kids come to the vineyard and winery, we entertain family and friends. Our dogs run through the vineyards. Our dad lived on the property for many years. I mentioned this to try to share our perspective. Monticello Vineyards is not just a place where we run our family business, it’s a place where we live our lives. We’re highly motivated to protect the place where we spend so much of our collective time.
While we practice sustainable and responsible farming on all of our vineyards, two of our vineyards are currently Certified Organic, and one of those is registered in the Napa Green program.
Our State Lane Vineyard in Yountville was the first of our vineyards to be Certified Organic. This vineyard has a storied past, it was an important site in Beringer’s profile for years. We were fortunate to be able to purchase a 15 acre portion of the original vineyard in 198-. This vineyard is currently planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, and is the source for our CORLEY ‘State Lane Vineyard’ Cabernet Sauvignon. Each year this wine is a favorite with our wine club members and fans of the winery. Rich, robust, and ageworthy, and made from organically grown grapes!
Our Knollwood Vineyard in Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley is also organically certified, and has the added distinction of being a Napa Green Vineyard. On the Knollwood Vineyard, we grow the grapes for our MONTICELLO ‘Estate Grown’ Merlot, and our MONTICELLO ‘Estate Grown’ Syrah. Each of these wines are wonderful expressions of these grapes, the Merlot is round and supple, with expressive berry aromatics. Our Syrah is robust and spicy, with medium weight tannins and a long finish.
I’ll note that the wines made from these organically certified vineyards are not ‘organic wine’, but are rather classified as ‘wine made from organically grown grapes’.
I hope that you can enjoy a glass of one of these wines sometime soon, either in the comfort of your own home or someday in the future when we are able to reopen our visitor center.
Chris Corley
For more information on Earth Day, please visit
For more information on California Certified Organic Farmers, please visit :
For more information on the Napa Green program, please visit :
For information on how to sign up for one of our Wine Clubs, please visit
Time Posted: Apr 26, 2020 at 8:44 AM Permalink to Earth Week : Wine Down With A Glass from Our Organically Certified Vineyards Permalink
Chris Corley
April 24, 2020 | Chris Corley

Earth Week : Old Green & New Green

As we celebrate Earth Day this week, we’ve had a lot of good reminders and food for thought about what it means to be sustainable. All across the world, everyone has made some kind of adjustment to their lives. Many have been sheltered in place and have not been out at all, others have been continuing to do their work, if deemed ‘essential’. These last few months have been a globally experienced event, even if our individual experiences have differed. In terms of the impact on the planet as a result of the decreased activity, there have been some positive stories that have emerged. We’ve heard of air and smog clearing in typically polluted areas. With supplies not as readily available, and our access to stores reduced, we’ve all been reminded to think through how we can make things last, and how each of us can get by with less.

Our family has been growing grapes in Napa Valley for 50 years over three generations, an accomplishment we’re collectively very proud of. Our dad and founder, Jay Corley, had an old-school mentality which still pervades our thinking.

Procure quality equipment, take good care of it, and make things last. I think of this as ‘Old Green’. This way of thinking has been applied to our business since day one. We built the winery with good quality equipment, the best that was available in 1981. Good quality stainless steel tanks with thick steel stands. Permanent barrel storage racks that withstand anything that comes at them, including the 2014 Napa Earthquake. Quality John Deere tractors that still work our fields. A Healdsburg Machine Company crusher/destemmer that still works as well today as it did in 1981 when it was bolted into our crush pit. Rather than install an overhead hoist, we bought a 1950 Hyster forklift to dump the old 2 ton valley bins. It was 31 years old when our dad bought it. Now it’s 70 years old.  It still runs, and we still use it. These are all examples of ‘Old Green’. Procure quality equipment, maintain it, and make it last.

That said, we also subscribe to ‘New Green’. We converted the Monticello Estate over to solar power in 2017, and currently generate >90% of our own electricity from the sun. We’ve replaced all of the sodium-vapor lights in the cellar with low energy fluorescence. We’ve insulated all of our tanks, and put air curtains on all of the warehouse doors to conserve the refrigeration inside the cellar. We replaced our original refrigeration system with a new efficient, four-compressor system that cycles on depending on the refrigeration demand. As the refrigeration demand increases, additional compressors will cycle on. As the demand decreases, the compressors will cycle off to save energy.

In the vineyards, we’re very thoughtful with the products we use and spray. Two of our vineyards are certified organic, and one of those is certified with Napa Green. We continue to work towards organic certification on our other properties.

Like all, our motivations are complex. We care about the environment, and want to be good stewards of the land we own and tend to. We care about our business, and want to make our equipment and investments last and thrive. We care about our family and extended family (staff), and want their work environment to be safe. We care about future generations, including our own future generations that will hopefully be looking back on the decisions we’re making now.

In almost every aspect of our business and in our family philosophy, we have one foot firmly planted in tradition, and another foot stepping forward seeking progress. Our approach to sustainability is much the same … Old Green, New Green.

Chris Corley
Time Posted: Apr 24, 2020 at 9:29 AM Permalink to Earth Week : Old Green & New Green Permalink
The Corley Family
April 22, 2020 | The Corley Family

Earth Day and Monticello : Celebrating 50 Years!

Monticello Vineyards, a family-owned and family-operated winery in the Oak Knoll District of the Napa Valley, is excited to announce that Earth Day and Monticello Vineyards share the milestone of turning fifty years old in 2020.

On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans — 10% of the U.S. population at the time — took to the streets, college campuses and hundreds of cities to protest environmental ignorance and demand a new way forward for our planet. The first Earth Day is credited with launching the modern environmental movement, and is now recognized as the planet’s largest civic event.

On April 22, 1970, a 38-year-old Jay Corley surveyed a 120 acre prune orchard along the Napa River in southern Napa Valley and envisioned planting a vineyard with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Within three months the purchase was made and it would forever change the Corley Family.

Little did the first participants of Earth Day know that their first protest would became a global phenomenon. Likewise, even though it would become known as the Golden Age of the modern wine pioneers in Northern California, it wasn’t yet clear in that moment. In fact, from the vantage point of Jay Corley’s wide circle of business associates, the endeavor looked downright peculiar.

The family-owned and family-operated California wineries that started in the 1960s and 1970s, and introduced New World wines to the world, are harder to find now. Those that do remain share a devoted respect for the land and for sustainable practices. We see it in the vineyards and we see it reflected in the wines.

“As a multi-generational winegrowing family in Napa Valley we are very mindful of our environment and community,” remarked Kevin Corley, President and Winegrower. Our State Lane Vineyard and Knollwood Vineyard, where we grow Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah, are certified organic and NAPA GREEN certified. 

The most visually obvious representation of sustainability are the solar panels placed in and around many vineyard estates and winery operations of the Napa Valley. “We use a comprehensive range of practices from organic farming to the installation of solar panels to steward the land for future generations, protect the environment and wildlife, while maintaining the highest quality grape growing and winemaking. The Corley's are also committed to our community and have been active over these past 50 years in volunteering and leading many needed local nonprofit organizations.”

Monticello planted its solar array with 550 Sun Power High Efficiency silver-framed premium modules. These modules, or solar panels, are affixed to six solar arrays whose power generation is converted to DC power with six SMA TriPower Inverters. SolarCraft of Novato, CA, the 100% employee-owned and North Bay’s leading solar provider for 35 years, installed the system in 2017.

The system since its installation has produced approximately 720,000 kWh’s of energy which has reduced the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere by approximately 505 tons. That’s equal to 56,262 gallons of gasoline, or 1.2 million miles driven by an average passenger car, or the burning of 550,931 pounds of coal.

“These last 50 years, our family has pursued a commitment to estate grown wines, to the land we steward, and to passionate winemaking,” says Stephen Corley, Director of Sales and Marketing. “In 2020, the second and third generations of Corleys enter the 2nd half of our first century with the full recognition that we are borrowing the land we steward from future generations of humanity. Our stewardship is not only of the land through sustainable farming and winemaking techniques but also our business practices and our commitment to community.”

Time Posted: Apr 22, 2020 at 5:51 AM Permalink to Earth Day and Monticello : Celebrating 50 Years! Permalink
Chris Corley
April 16, 2020 | Chris Corley

Pinot Noir | Fifty Years in the Making

When our dad, Jay Corley, came to the Napa Valley 50 years ago, Pinot Noir was one of the varietals that drew him to the southern end of the valley, in what is now known as the ‘Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley’.
In 1970, our vineyards were among the most southern vineyards in the Napa Valley. Areas like Carneros and Coombsville were not really under any major development back then. For that matter, many current areas well-regarded today for Pinot Noir were not yet developed. Coastal areas and current regions in Oregon may have been sparsely developed, if at all at those times.
So, in 1970, our dad figured if he was going to grow world class Pinot Noir in California, he was going to plant his grapestakes in the cooler southern end of the Napa Valley. We planted several other varietals, and over the course of 50 years, we’ve expanded our varietal selections widely, but for this post we’re going to focus on Pinot Noir.
Pinot Noir is an alluring grape for growers, winemakers and consumers alike. It’s a delicate, thin-skinned grape which makes it a little more fickle in the vineyard. It is less forgiving in the field than some other varietals, and can require more precision and TLC throughout the growing season. It’s also more sensitive to yields (lbs grapes per vine), so we find ourselves being careful about the yields in the vineyard. It’s not unusual for us to cut fruit off early in the growing season to keep the yields at lower levels. Quality over quantity!
The seeds of the Pinot Noir grapes carry a high potential level of tannins, so during fermentation we take care in not overextracting, so that we can find the right finesse of balance between aromas, flavors, body and structure, and finish. With Pinot Noir, our guiding principle is grace and finesse, and it can be easy to overextract due to the high potential tannins, so we tend to be much more gentle in our management of the Pinot Noir fermentations relative to some of our other red varietals.
With grace and finesse as a driving factor in our Pinot Noir winegrowing, we also tend towards picking these grapes at lower sugar levels. Additionally, we have a different perspective of ripeness with Pinot Noir, preferring to pick at lower sugar levels, with brighter aromas and higher acidity than our other red varietals., which we tend to push towards higher levels of ripeness in the vineyard.
Currently, we’re growing Clones 777, 667, and 113 on our estate vineyards. I find noticeable differences between all three clones. 777 tends to be the most complete single clone, with cherry, strawberry, cola aromas and flavors, and a nice round midpalate. I find Clone 667 to display a little more razzle on the nose, with aromas and flavors like raspberry and hints of blackberry, but with little less fullness on the palate. Clone 113 has generally been a more aromatic clone for me, with lighter strawberry and floral hints of violet and roses.
Our MONTICELLO Pinot Noir is generally a blend of all three clones, while our CORLEY offering is a single vineyard (Monticello Vineyard), single block (Block 2), single clone (777) offering from the estate. Personally, I don’t have a favorite, but I do enjoy the two different wines at different times, and for different reasons.
Our MONTICELLO Pinot Noir displays a nice diversity of all three clones, and shows a wonderful balance, both aromatically and on the palate as a result. Our CORLEY showcases the appealing singularity of the Clone 777 grown in the front of the estate on Block 2. In terms of overall mouthfeel and texture, CORLEY tends to be slightly more full-bodied than the MONTICELLO, a slight ‘bigger’ wine.
We’ll be enjoying a glass of Pinot Noir this Friday night while celebrating with the Napa Vintners ‘Open that Bottle of Napa Valley Pinot Noir’ (April 17).
Chris Corley
For more information on the Napa Vintners virtual tasting programs, please visit
… and open a bottle and follow the event on Facebook ‘Open That Napa Valley Pinot Noir Night – Online Event’!
For information on how to sign up for one of our Wine Clubs, please visit
For information on how to purchase our Monticello Pinot Noir, please visit
For information on how to purchase our Corley Pinot Noir, please visit
Time Posted: Apr 16, 2020 at 11:33 AM Permalink to Pinot Noir | Fifty Years in the Making Permalink
Chris Corley
April 9, 2020 | Chris Corley

Wine Club : Corley 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon 'Yewell Vineyard'

Our Wine Club members have just received their most recent shipment. In my last post, I wrote about one of the wines … our CORLEY 2018 Chardonnay ‘Block 3, Clone 95’, a wonderful single vineyard, single block, single clone Chardonnay from our estate in Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley. This post will focus on the other primary wine in the shipment, our CORLEY 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon ‘Yewell Vineyard’ … another of our single vineyard, single block, single clone offerings.
In 1982, our family started working with a wonderful vineyard on Ehlers Lane. It was owned by Bill and Marcia Manker, a dignified and gracious couple. Bill Manker was an interior designer, and directed the design work when we built The Jefferson House at Monticello Vineyards in 1984. He made several visits to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, to ensure that we got the colors and styling correct. As a result of Mr. Manker’s dedication to detail, all of the rooms in The Jefferson House are consistent with the décor in Jefferson’s Monticello.
The Mankers were a delightful couple and fantastic stewards of the land, but eventually Bill and Marcia passed on, and the time came that the property changed hands, then another wonderful couple came into our lives. Dave and Nancy Yewell purchased the vineyard in the late 1990s, and put some TLC into the property, rebuilding the residence, and replanting the vineyard in 2000. We were thankful to be involved in many of the decisions related to the vineyard replanting. We chose Clone 337, and the row orientation was shifted to East-West, previously it had been North-South. The vineyard is trained on bilateral cordons.
After a few vintages of developing the vines, the vineyard was producing very nice wines by 2003, and 2004. A big decision came for us in determining which vintage we wanted to re-debut this vineyard with. 2004 was a hot, early season, and although the wine was very nice, we didn’t think it was representative of the best that the vineyard could produce. The 2005 was fantastic, but by the time we were ready to make a designation decision, we already had 2006 in barrel, and I felt that was even better. So we remained patient, and re-debuted the vineyard with the 2006 vintage, now known as Yewell Vineyard.
I’m proud of every vintage of Yewell Vineyard we’ve produced since 2006. All of the bottlings of this single vineyard designate have ranged between 5-10 barrels, roughly 125-250 cases. Our recent release of Vintage 2016 is a beautiful wine, and was a special club release for our Wine Clubs this month. In 2016, we produced just 5 barrels of this single vineyard designate. As is typical for this vineyard, the aromas are ripe, dark berry fruit with hints of spice. The wine is aged in French oak barrels for 26 months, roughly 50% new, imparting a moderate flair of oak aroma and flavor and a hint of creaminess. On the palate, the wine is rich but with a nice framework of tannin that will allow this wine to age gracefully for 20+ years.
For information on how to sign up for one of our Wine Clubs, please visit .
For information on how to purchase our CORLEY 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon ‘Yewell Vineyard’, please visit
Chris Corley
Time Posted: Apr 9, 2020 at 3:32 PM Permalink to Wine Club : Corley 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon 'Yewell Vineyard' Permalink
Chris Corley
March 24, 2020 | Chris Corley

Corley 2018 Chardonnay 'Block 3, Clone 95'

This week, our wine club members are going to be receiving two very special single vineyard wines. In this post, we're going to focus on the CORLEY Chardonnay 'Monticello Vineyard, Block 3, Clone 95' 2018. This is a special single vineyard, single block, single clone Chardonnay that is grown on our estate vineyard here in Oak Knoll District. The selection of Clone 95 is grown in just 14 rows, and produces a limited amount of grapes. In 2018, we employed two different pressing techniques. With half of the batch, we whole cluster pressed the grapes, resulting in lighter and fresher, more fruit forward aromas, and a softer texture on the palate. With the other half of the batch, we soaked the grapes on their skins for 12 hours before pressing, to extract deeper, richer aroma compounds and richer, more viscous texture on the palate. The two lots were both fermented with the native yeasts that came in from the vineyards. 

The juice was fermented in a medley of French Oak and Acacia barrels, Concrete Egg, and Stainless Steel. Each of these fermentation vessels imparts a different character on the resulting wine. The fermentation from the French Oak barrel has wonderful and rich oak characteristics on the nose, and also on the palate, and had excellent length on the finish. The fermentation in the Acacia barrel resulted in a complex balance of bright, blond wood aromas and slightly more lean texture on the palate than the oak. The fermentation from the Concrete Egg displayed a fantastic richness on the midpalate, more fat on the midpalate from the movement of the lees during fermentation due to the egg shaped tank, and an excellent mineral, stony tone on the finish from the interactio withthe concrete. The fermentation in Stainless Steel yielded a wine that was fresh, with more citrus notes and a brighter, leaner tone on the palate.

How, one might ask, can all of these differences be accomplished with a single batch of grapes? That is one of the beautiful aspect of Chardonnay. It is quite a malleable grape variety, and can lend itself to any number of fermentation techniques. As long as these techniques are used in balance, we find Chardonnay to be one of the most enjoyable grapes to push in different directions each year.

Our final blend of CORLEY 2018 Chardonnay 'Block 3, Clone 95' is a melange of each of these individual fermentation lots, and I find the finished wine to exhibit a little bit of each of the characteristics I've described here. I hope our wine club members enjoy tasting this unique wine, and can have some fun looking for some of the traits mentioned above in this exciting new wine!

If you are not yet a wine club member, please visit our Wine Club page at , where you can find lots of information about signing up and gaining access to some of these special wines! Or if you prefer, you can call us at (707) 253-2802 and we will be pleased to assist you!

Time Posted: Mar 24, 2020 at 12:28 PM Permalink to Corley 2018 Chardonnay 'Block 3, Clone 95' Permalink
Chris Corley
February 28, 2020 | Chris Corley

A Library of Libations

For those of you that were around in the late 1900s, you probably remember navigating the Dewey Decimal System in your library. Maybe some still do. With so many books online now, I'm guessing a lot of folks are downloading their favorite titles these days. I've nejoyed my Kindle over the years, and have ordered plenty of hardcovers online over the years, also enjoyed my share of e-books.

Until someone figures out how to make that USB wine spigot that we've all seen online a reality, you'll still need to reach into your cellar for an older wine though. Or, if you really want to go back through the vintages, you'll need to peruse our library shelves at the winery!

Our family is excited to be celebrating fifty years of winegrowing in Napa Valley! It's been a great opportunity to look both forwards and backwards. The fun part of looking forwards is the planning, growth, dreaming and optimism. The fun part of looking backwards is tasting through (drinking) all of our older wines!

We've been very good over the decades about stowing away select wines in our library, and now we are excited about tasting through a lot of them, and sharing them with our fans and friends. We've got wines going all the way back to 1980 (we were growers for 10 years before making our first family wine). With such a robust selection of vintages, there is a very good chance we have a special reserve, single vineyard, or estate grown wine from a year that is special to you. 

Wine is such an integral part of all of our lives, we tend to remember the special places and events that we were experiencing when we had a special wine. In turn, it's also a lot of fun to enjoy a wine that shares the same year as a special event. Personally, I've been blessed that my marriage year (2001), and the birth years of my kids (2004, 2005) are all good vintages. That said, even when the wine from a personally memorable year wasn't also a great vintage, the wine is still very rewarding. That's because when you drink a 'memory wine', it's not just aromas, flavors and textures ... you're imbibing memories and evoking emotions.

1989 wasn't one of the great vintages in Napa history, although we remain proud of the wines we made that year. It was a cool season with some rain at harvest. Although, as I pull the cork from a bottle of our Corley 'Reserve' 1989 Cabernet Sauvignon, it's like an ether of wonderful memories for me ... graduating from high school, long hair on my head instead of my chin, and summertime (cue the George Gershwin or Sublime). Drinking the wine from that vintage takes us back to that time, and I loved that year. 1989 vintage is good for me, because the 1989 wine is firing more synapses for me than just my taste buds.

Hopefully, you have some special years that hold wonderful memories for you. Odds are we have a bottle of wine just for you. If nothing memorable has happened in your life in the last 40 years, come on by anyway. We've got wine for that situation too, and we can talk about it over a glass!

In the meantime, please visit us at , or call us at the winery and we can help you find your special year in our library!

Time Posted: Feb 28, 2020 at 1:31 PM Permalink to A Library of Libations Permalink
Chris Corley
January 29, 2020 | Chris Corley

Check Out our Library Wines!

Our family has been in the winegrowing business in Napa Valley for 50 years. As you might imagine, we've assembled a pretty thorough wine library over the last five decades. One of the great pleasures of wine is to be able to go back through the years and taste the wines, reliving the vintage and experiencing it through fresh eyes and current palates.

A current tasting that we're offering in our tasting room provides this unique opportunity for everyone. We've held back some of our best estate grown library wines, and are sharing these wonderful wines with you!


Our Corley 'Proprietary' Red Wine is a wine that we first produced in 1999. in the mid 1990s, we planted a fairly wide range of Cabernet Franc clones on our properties in the Oak Knoll District. We planted and are currently growing 4 distinct Clones  ... Clones 312, 332, 327 and Clone X. Each of these clones has a distinct flavor, aroma and texture profile that we utilize differently in the cellar. For example, Clone X tends towards darker fruit and bolder textures. Clone 332 has brighter fruit and is more round in body on the palate. Clone 327 tends to be more aromatic than the others, and fills in a nice elegance and suppleness when used in a blend. Cabernet Franc is a varietal we love, and it has been an influential and primary blending varietal in our Corley 'Proprietary' Red Wines for the last 20 years. While the blends vary for each vintage, in the early vintages, Cabernet Franc was typically a driving varietal in the blends.

We're featuring four vintages of Corley 'Proprietary' Red Wine from our library with this current tasting. Going back about 15 years, this flight is in a wonderful place. The wines are still showing great fruit, both aromatically and on the palate, and are also taking on some beautiful tertiary characteristics that only time and patience can provide ...

VINTAGE 2004. Cabernet Franc 61%, Merlot 21%, Cabernet Sauvignon 12%, Syrah 6%. This wine was one of the first vintages that included the non-traditional Syrah in the blend. A short, hot vintage, the wine reflects the ripe ebullience of the growing season, yet remains balanced and refined. Its vim and vigor is a testament as to why cooler regions like Oak Knoll District can shine in warmer vintages. The wine retains a nice acidity and balance. 

VINTAGE 2005. Cabernet Franc 56%, Merlot 28%, Syrah 10%, Cabernet Sauvignon 6%. This wine hails from a longer, cooler growing season. The varietal percentages are fairly similar between Vintage 2004 and 2005. The growing seasons were very different though. The fun contrast here is in tasting the vintage differences side by side, and seeing how the contrasting seasons affect the wines over time. I find that in the generally cooler Oak Knoll District region of Napa Valley, this southern appellation is more flexible in reacting to the varying growing seasons. The wines from these two very different seasons are no as different as you might imagine, another testament to the  consistency of our winegrowing, and the flexibility of this region.

VINTAGE 2006. Cabernet Franc 39%, Merlot 34%, Cabernet Sauvignon 18%, Syrah 9%. 2006 was a longer growing season, similar to 2005, although not quite as cool. This vintage blend expresses less Cabernet Franc and less Cabernet Sauvignon. The fun part about tasting through verticals, especially from the library, is that you can see the trends of the artistry behind the blend. As winemakers, like all artists, we evolve and transition. This is most easily understood when enjoying a body of work as a whole.

VINTAGE 2007. Cabernet Franc 54%, Merlot 35%, Syrah 11%. 2007 was another wonderful vintage in Napa Valley. I've been loving the 2007s over the last couple of years. Bottled in 2009, they are at about 10-11 years in the bottle and are in a beautifully balanced sweet spot. This 'Proprietary' is no exception. Wonderfully balanced, and the only wine in this flight that does not have any Cabernet Sauvignon included. It is interesting to taste the 2006 and 2007 side by side here, and see the impact that the Cabernet Sauvignon imparts on the final blend.

I hope that you can join us at the winery to enjoy this special tasting with us. Please call our hospitality team at (707) 253-2802 to make an appointment. You can also peruse our selection of library wines, including these, at

Time Posted: Jan 29, 2020 at 8:33 AM Permalink to Check Out our Library Wines! Permalink
Chris Corley
January 11, 2020 | Chris Corley

In Memoriam : Jay Corley (1931-2016)

Jay Corley, a Napa Valley standard-bearer for nearly 50 years and founder of Monticello Vineyards, passed away on January 11, 2016 in Napa, surrounded by family. The causes were complications from cancer. He was 84 years old.

Jay was born on July 30, 1931 in Chicago, to John and Helen Corley. After graduating from Cranbrook high school in Detroit, Jay moved west to attend Arizona State and Stanford University. He later attended Pepperdine, where he received his MBA. His thesis was based on how to start a vineyard and winery business in the Napa Valley. Jay's interest in culture and languages also led him to serve as an Italian linguist with the NSA.

An entrepreneur at his core, Jay founded and managed a number of successful business ventures in Southern California in the 1960s. His family's long history of farming was always on his mind, and he felt himself drawn towards the reemerging wine regions in Northern California. When the post-prohibition reincarnation of Napa Valley's winegrowing industry began to germinate in the 1960s, Jay was quick to recognize the region's potential for growing world-class wine, and he made the decision to move north and follow his dream.

He established his vineyard in 1969 in the cooler southern end of the Napa Valley, now known as the Oak Knoll District. When he first surveyed his land, he stood in a tired and gnarly prune orchard peppered with black walnut trees, but what he saw was a world-class vineyard with the potential to make classic wines. In 1981, after more than a decade of growing and selling his grapes to other wineries, he built the winery at Monticello Vineyards and began to produce his own estate-grown wines. Jay took great pride that the winery he founded has entered into its second generation, with its third generation showing early interest in the family wine business.

Jay nurtured a strong sense of civic duty, and served on several boards and foundations, including Queen of the Valley Hospital and Napa Valley Planning Commission. He served twice as Chairman of the Napa Valley Wine Auction, served on the Napa Valley Grand Jury, and was longtime and active member of Napa Rotary. He enjoyed his affiliations with the Chevalier du Tastevin, and with his fellow GONADS (The Gastronomical Order for Nonsensical and Dissipatory Society), a group of fun-loving yet dedicated friends and fellow Napa Valley wine industry pioneers.

Jay was a life-long and devoted Chicago Cubs fan, rooting for his beloved Cubbies since he was a kid at Wrigley Field in the 1930s. Jay also cheered for the Stanford Cardinal, and loved to spend weekends tailgating at the eucalyptus grove at Stanford stadium, and cheering on his alma mater from the old wooden benches.

He had a wonderful sense of humor, and would light up a room with his smile and wit. His love of swing music lifted the spirits, and was frequently playing in the background. He was a well-traveled man, familiar with international cultures, yet was most comfortable at home with family.




Time Posted: Jan 11, 2020 at 7:08 AM Permalink to In Memoriam : Jay Corley (1931-2016) Permalink Comments for In Memoriam : Jay Corley (1931-2016) Comments (2054)
Chris Corley
January 6, 2020 | Chris Corley

The Golden Broom and Dustpan

I've been working at Monticello Vineyards my whole life. I started working for the winery during summers in high school, and with the exception of a brief time at Humboldt State University to pursue studies in Marine Biology, I've been working steadily at the winery since 1989. It's interesting to be able to see your workplace through your own 18 year old eyes, and also those same 48 year old eyes 30 years later.


"Would you tell me please, which way I ought to go from here?" 
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to", said the Cat.
"I don't care much where -", said Alice.
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go", said the Cat.

Like every endeavour in life, there are usually multiple paths. The important thing is identifying the destination first. Navigation second. Our dad made it clear to me that if I was going to work in the winery, that my work started at the bottom. It wouldn't matter if I had a winemaking degree or not, my first job in the family business would be on the bottom rung. At the wise old age of 18, and with our dad's approval, I decided if I was going to start at the bottom either way, then I wanted to start right away. I chose my destination first ... I wanted to be the winemaker for my family's winery. We charted the navigation second.

A lot of my uncles on my mom's side worked in the trades in Scotland. This was largely an apprentice based learning system ... from Apprentice, to Journeyman, to Master Craftsman. It was appealing to me, and this system was the basis for how I approached learning how to make wine. I started working in the cellar at a young age, and took a lot of winemaking and viticulture classes to support the on-hands learning. To this day, our hierarchy in the cellar adheres to this structure. Including myself, every single member of the production team at Monticello has started at the bottom rung, and worked through every level to their current position.


In my first days working in the cellar, I would observe our dad making his way slowly through the cellar, broom in one hand, dustpan in the other. He would sweep and pick up bits of trash to throw away. A gregarious man, he visited with people along the way. He was the president and founder of the company, generally dressed for business not cleaning, as he came from a generation that presented themselves that way. My young self couldn't understand why the president and founder was sweeping and picking up trash, certainly he had more important things to work on? 

I never asked him why he spent his valuable time with a broom and dustpan, but over time it became clear that he wasn't really sweeping and cleaning up the winery. He was communicating ... slowly making his way through the winery, talking with everyone in the cellar, asking them about their work, their families, how they were doing. If they were having problems could he help? If the president and founder asked those questions, many employees would be tight-lipped. But in these exchanges, he was just Jay with a broom in his hand. Our dad was an outgoing, caring man, a really great guy. We've learned many lessons from him, both personal and professional. At a very young age, the lesson I learned from his broom and dustpan, was that our business was built on the shoulders of people. 


To this day, our written Values, from our Vision and Mission Statement, carry forward these simple, yet strong values that are symbolized by the broom and the dustpan.

PEOPLE are the foundation of our company. We strive to create an inclusive workplace, one in which mutual respect, collaboration and integrity are the driving principles.

RELATIONSHIPS are the strongest bonds which unite us. We strive to maintain respectful and authentic relationships, amongst ourselves and with our customers.

COMMUNITY is a space, in which we thrive when positively nurtured. We strive to create a positive and interactive workplace, and to engage in a positive manner with the community at large in all of our business functions.

INNOVATION AND QUALITY are motors of our forward progress. We strive to create an inspired workplace, one in which ideas and communication are paramount.

PERSISTENCE AND DETERMINATION are omnipotent in maintaining business momentum, in times of strength and weakness. We strive to create a secure workplace, one in which everyone is motivated to always press on.

Regarding the title of this post ...The Golden Broom and Dustpan'. In his later years, we presented our dad with a (painted) Golden Broom and Dustpan. They are symbols of our stated values. After some time, this broom and dustpan found their way back on to the cellar floor and were being used by staff that didn't realize their significance. I realized this recently and pulled them aside. Now slightly and appropriately tattered, we'll hang the Golden Broom and Dustpan up on the cellar wall as a lasting tribute to our Dear Ol' Dad, and to the values he instilled in us and our family business.

Time Posted: Jan 6, 2020 at 7:55 AM Permalink to The Golden Broom and Dustpan Permalink Comments for The Golden Broom and Dustpan Comments (161)
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