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Corley Family Napa Valley

September 16, 2014 |

'30 for 30' Harvest Party 2014

We're celebrating 30 years of Excellence at the Jefferson House this year! 

The Corley Family and Hospitality Team went off ESPN's '30 for 30' theme for our 2014 Harvest Party. In 2014, we celebrate 30 years of our Jefferson House in addition to 30+ years with our loyal team members: Linde McGee, Brian Crawford, Angel Avina and Refugio Cuevas-Ramirez.

To kick off the event, we greeted guests with a premiere tasting of the 2011 BIG REDS. 

Winemaker, Chris Corley, toasted the start to an amazing evening with a welcome speech and brief description of the new fall releases.

Following the toast, everyone cozied their way onto the picnic benches for a family style BBQ catered by Red Rock Cafe. Laughs and tears of joy were shared throughout the meal, which included a touching speech by Linde McGee about her memorable experience working with the Corley Family since 1984.

Founder, Jay Corley, closed out the event while reminiscing over the 30 years of the Jefferson House.

Happy Birthday to the Jefferson House and Congrats to our loyal team members!

Looking forward to celebrating many more years!

Time Posted: Sep 16, 2014 at 2:15 PM
April 24, 2014 |

Arts in April 2014

We had an exciting month at Monticello Vineyards in celebration of Napa Valley Arts in April!


Red Line and red wine

Motionsports Artist, Bill Patterson, featured his paintings during the entire month of April in the Jefferson House Cellar and even made an appearance with a live painting demonstration during our Red Line and Red Wine event on April 5. 

In addition to the racing theme, Bill’s friend Kevin Chong added a nice bonus to the Cellar with his glass blown art display.

For more information on Bill Patterson, click here


Artists Meet and Greet Reception, April 5, 2014, 3 pm – 5 pm

To kick off the event, we hosted a reception to learn the art of painting red line and the art of making red wine! Guests were greeted in the courtyard by the talented local musician, Michael Belair, along with a glass of Montreaux Brut sparkling wine. Bill Patterson and our Winemaker Chris Corley mingled with racing fans and wine enthusiasts during an afternoon of sipping Monticello wine and enjoying small bites catered by Fume Bistro. For those who missed out, you still have another week to view the art on display!



April 19, 2014, 6 pm – 8:30 pm

This past weekend, Monticello Vineyards partnered with Sweetpea Catering and Private Chef Services at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone for the 3rd Annual food and wine pairing competition. Thirty-three wineries from Appellation St. Helena (ASH) paired up with either a restaurant/caterer/chef or a CIA student for a delicious taste-off.


The 2010 Corley ‘Yewell Vineyard’ Cabernet Sauvignon paired with Jeanna DeMarco’s “Monticello Braised Shortrib with Black Pepper Cream Sauce and Pumpkin Seed Pesto” won First Place in the restaurant/caterer/chef category.

Thank you for all of our cheering supporters and coin droppers!


Time Posted: Apr 24, 2014 at 2:00 PM
Stephen Corley
April 2, 2014 | Stephen Corley



The year was 1969. Neil Armstrong took his first steps on the moon; the New York Mets were on their way to their first National League pennant; “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” was topping the year’s box office sales. And an intrepid young Midwesterner, yearning to answer the call of his ancestors, was scouring Napa Valley for the perfect piece of land on which to plant the family flag.

Now, Jay Corley looks back at his 40+ years in the Napa Valley and looks forward to the next generations taking the reins of the Corley Family’s Monticello Vineyards.

A Dream Takes Root

In 1969, the Stanford-educated Corley was running a successful publicly traded company in Los Angeles, but wanted to trade his three-piece suit for overalls. After all, farming was in his blood. “Every generation of my family for 400 years has been farmers. As a boy, I loved spending time on my grandfather’s farm in southern Illinois. I just always wanted to get back to farming.”

At the time, Corley’s friend, a wine shop owner in Los Angeles, was developing a piece of property in Yountville. He invited Corley to come for a visit, and Corley was hooked. “I would come up nearly every weekend for nine months to see what was going on here.  I would just roam around, get to know people, ask questions. There weren’t many people around, but the ones who were,” as Corley lists the names of contemporary Napa Valley pioneers and icons, “were very helpful.”

A self-described “Burgundy guy” with a taste for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Corley was looking for a place where those varieties would thrive. He found it in an 80-acre prune orchard at the southern end of Napa Valley.

He liked the property’s proximity to the cooling breezes of the San Pablo Bay and the fact that it sat next to the Napa River. “I didn’t think of being on Highway 29 to capture visitors; I wanted to be on the river because I knew access to water would be essential.”

Once the property was cleaned up, Corley didn’t cut corners planting the vineyard. “We used all of the new technology coming out of Davis. We tested the soil everywhere, and we drilled holes in the ground to see how the water was flowing. Then we planted the vines closer together than most people were doing in those days to stress them.”

The Next Generation

Things went well enough those first years to make Corley think, “We can do this.” Soon the successful winegrower wanted to build a winery. As a graduate student years earlier, Corley had written a thesis on starting up a winery. He opened his desk drawer, dusted off the old thesis, and got started.

All seven of Corley’s children helped out at the winery during their high school years. But Corley encouraged them to go off, experience the world outside of the winery where they had grown up, and then come back if they wanted.

Kevin Corley, now Winegrower and President, became a successful banker in Los Angeles. Stephen Corley, now the winery’s Director of Sales and Marketing, was a CPA who worked at the accounting firm KPMG before he came back to the winery in 1997. Chris Corley, the youngest of the three, has worked at the winery the longest. Initially aiming to be a marine biologist, Chris eventually decided he would “rather drown in wine than sea water.” He worked in the cellar under other winemakers for 13 years before he earned enough stripes to become Head Winemaker in 2002. Now the three brothers form a harmonious management team. “Three of them is better than one of me,” says the senior Corley.

The Jefferson Connection

Jay Corley was a great admirer of Thomas Jefferson, who was not only a founding father but also America’s first great connoisseur.  He honored the third President by naming the winery Monticello Vineyards - after Jefferson’s mountaintop home in Charlottesville, Virginia. In 1984, the Corleys built the Jefferson House, a very close replica of Monticello, on the Home Ranch that is now used as office space and to entertain guests. The four acres of grounds surrounding the Jefferson House are comprised of the same trees, shrubs and flowers Thomas Jefferson planted at Monticello.

Savor the Taste, Experience the Hospitality

In the quaint, rustic tasting room, the staff pours a little bit of everything the Corleys produce from 80 acres of vines on the Home Ranch in the Oak Knoll District as well as four other estate vineyards in Napa Valley. With 30 vintages under their belts, the Corleys like to show off their library wines in reserve tastings in the Jefferson House. Slip into the comfortable black leather chairs and enjoy a flight of our wines, “People come for one or two wines,” Stephen Corley says, “but they usually leave with it all!”

Time Posted: Apr 2, 2014 at 9:15 AM
July 11, 2013 |

2nd Annual Wine & Cupcake Pairing

"We just hosted our 2nd Annual Wine & Cupcake Pairing. Thank you to everyone who stopped by to taste and cast their votes. It was a competitive day of tasting, brain power and decision making over the favorite cupcake flavor in addition to the best wine and cupcake pairing. May the best cupcake win...

To give you a little background, Kevin Corley's daughter, Isabella, introduced three amazing flavors to pair alongside our Monticello wines. At the start of the day, she and her brother, Hayden, teamed up in the Jefferson House kitchen to ice up the cupcakes and to add special toppings such as crispy bacon and sugared pearls.

Guests joined in on the fun throughout the day and voted on which of the three flavors best suited their palates.  Creative minds and adventurous wine tasters helped us decide on the best.

Here are the final results of the cupcake and wine pairing competition. Now you can try them at home after making your next trip to Monticello Vineyards:

Lemon Buttercream Cupcake (1st Runner Up)
Suggested Pairing
2011 Monticello Vineyards Estate Grown Chardonnay

Maple Bacon Cupcake (Winner!)
Suggested Pairing
2009 Monticello Vineyards Estate Grown Merlot

Red Velvet Cupcake (2nd Runner Up)
Suggested Pairing
2010 Monticello Vineyards Jefferson Cuvee Cabernet Sauvignon

Although it was a close call, Maple Bacon won for the second year in a row by a single vote!

It all came down to our cupcake tie breakers!

Time Posted: Jul 11, 2013 at 2:54 PM
June 18, 2013 |

Mustang Day at Monticello Vineyards

The Corley Family with Stephen Corley ('90) and Kevin Corley, Father of Hayden Corley ('17), hosted Southern Methodist University's 4th Annual San Francisco Alumni Chapter Wine Tasting at Monticello Vineyards this past weekend. It was a beautiful sunny day with a nice breeze to keep it cool yet comfortable for an outdoor party in the Napa Valley.

The event took place on the East Lawn and included activities for the whole family. Everything was decorated in red and blue to honor the SMU Mustangs including a giant SMU banner to welcome the guests at the registration table where they were greeted by Kurt Pottkotter, SMU Executive Director, National Major Giving Programs.

The wine tasting and entertainment lasted from 1pm to 4pm with the live band New Copasetics on the terrace, a face painter and balloon artist to entertain children and Gerard’s Paella hauling their huge pan of ingredients to create their famous mixed paella.

Click here for a Sneak Peek!

Monticello poured the 2011 Estate Chardonnay, 2010 Estate Pinot Noir and 2010 Jefferson Cuvee Cabernet Sauvignon while guests mingled with Stephen and Kevin Corley throughout the day.

It was a real treat for me to be a part of, as well, being a graduate of the class of 2009. We look forward to future events with the SMU Mustangs.  Pony up!

Time Posted: Jun 18, 2013 at 3:49 PM
Chris Corley
June 14, 2013 | Chris Corley

A Grape Liaison of Promiscuous and Forbidden Fruits

"Posted By : Chris Corley

Can we be enlightened on interpersonal relationships and social mores by a promiscuous 17th century grape? I propose that we can. Some time ago, perhaps in the late 1600s, probably in the southwest of France, and maybe under the light veil of a moonlit night, a dark-skinned grape called Cabernet Franc had an intimate liaison with a fair-skinned grape by the name of Sauvignon Blanc.


A relationship of this nature likely would be frowned upon at that time by many, so this was a daring rendezvous for these two grapes. Cabernet Franc was bold, masculine and well-endowed with a spicy demeanor. Sauvignon Blanc was alluring, feminine and tantalizingly fragrant. How could they resist one another? They couldn't. The offspring of that romantic intermingling was called Cabernet Sauvignon, certainly a personality that we are all familiar with here in the Napa Valley.


Today, I am enjoying a glass of our newly released 2010 Estate Grown Cabernet Franc, and as I revel in its dark, spicy fruit, bold texture and long finish, I am thinking to myself ... Has Cabernet Franc tamed his libidinous ways? Should I be worried about our own Cabernet Franc that is planted right next to our Chardonnay in Block 4? What romantic adventures are going on in our vineyard when the afternoon breeze picks up, the sun begins to fade into the Mayacamas, and the shoots and tendrils begin to intertwine? Ahh, too much to think about ... I'll have another glass of Monticello 2010 Estate Grown Cabernet Franc!  "

Time Posted: Jun 14, 2013 at 11:37 AM
Chris Corley
June 12, 2013 | Chris Corley

A Virginian in France ...

"Posted By : Chris Corley

Considering that our family winery and vineyard is named Monticello and that our father built a beautiful representation of Jefferson's Charlottesville home at the winery, one might correctly presume that we have an affinity for Thomas Jefferson.

Thomas Jefferson's many accomplishments and brilliant mind have been well documented over the last 300 years, and we'll leave the details of many of those for future discussions. Today, I'm thinking about his time spent from 1784-1789 as Ambassador to France. He accomplished a great deal for our country during those years, and he also developed and refined his love of architecture, gardening and his appreciation for wine while there.

He was well ahead of his time when he determined that America would need to import vine cuttings from France to make truly world-class wines. Unfortunately, they did not have the knowledge of the phyloxerra root louse that we now have, so it took some time for his foresite to ring true. Today, much of Napa Valley is planted to cuttings originated in France. His efforts in growing French winegrapes at Monticello in Charlottesville were met with difficulty, largely due to phyloxerra, but his conceptual forward thinking was brilliant. The years this well-educated man from the forests of Virginia spent in France were very impressionable on him in many ways.


As I write this,  I'm enjoying a glass of our newly released 2010 Estate Grown Syrah. Interestingly, this is a wine made from French cuttings Syrah 470 & Syrah 174 , a portion of which was aged in Virginian oak barrels. The wine is dark, rich, brooding and has a finish as long as the Appalachians. The years this well-balanced wine from the fields of Napa spent in a Virginian barrel were very impressionable on it in many ways.

I'm enjoying this new release today, not just hedonistically, but also with a subtle nod to history and a good man. Here's to TJ and to our new release of Monticello Vineyards 2010 Estate Grown Syrah!"

Time Posted: Jun 12, 2013 at 5:06 PM
May 29, 2013 |

New Releases Bring Friendly Faces

"With only a few days remaining before the official release of the 2010 Estate Grown Syrah and the 2010 Estate Grown Cabernet Franc, several wine club members spent an afternoon at Monticello Vineyards sampling their newest wine club shipments before their arrival in the tasting room this Friday.

Guests started the afternoon with a taste of the NV Montreaux Brut on the lovely Terrace of the Jefferson House. Jay Corley, himself, briefly joined the wine club members with smiles and memorable stories of the family and winery. It was a beautiful day to relax surrounded by friends, a garden of roses and delicious sparkling wine.

After savoring a last sip of bubbly, the party passed through a room of barrels and candlelight on their way to the Reserve Tasting Room. Chris Corley guided everyone through a tasting of four Monticello Vineyard wines while sharing his wealth of knowledge and passion for the art of making wine for his family's estate.

Following the tasting, the group headed to the Jefferson House dining room for appetizers and the opportunity to revisit wines from the tasting.  Each guest had a unique story to share about their connection with the Corley family and their estate wines and walked away with an experience beyond expectation.

Both the 2010 Estate Grown Syrah and 2010 Estate Grown Cabernet Franc already show great potential with intense aromas and layers of flavor that you don't want to miss! For more information, check out the tasting notes for each.

See you in the tasting room at the official release of these fantastic new vintages on Friday, May 31, 2013 just before Auction Napa Valley!"

Time Posted: May 29, 2013 at 2:17 PM
Chris Corley
March 30, 2013 | Chris Corley

Reflections ...

Posted By : Chris Corley

The Napa wine industry is a pretty charitable group. Most of the industry people we are familiar with are generous with their time and resources, and are eager to help those who may be in need of help. There are all sorts of ways that wineries and wine professionals donate their time, services, resources and wine to help a multitude of worthy and important causes throughout our valley, and even beyond.

Winning Bidder Andrew Drilling Down On His Personal Blend

Today we spent a wonderful morning with a group that had the winning bid on one of our charitable auction lots. Their winning bid entitled them to a winemaker-led blending seminar in our Reserve Room, and a beautiful white tablecloth lunch in our Jefferson House Dining Room, prepared by one of our favorite local restaurants, Hurley's. In addition, the winning bidder will take home four cases of the blend they came up with this morning.

Events like this make everyone feel good. The winning bidder is excited to spend a wonderful day at Monticello with his family and friends, and will have 48 bottles of wonderful wine to enjoy that they have created themselves from our barrel lots. The auction is excited to have created a winning platform which brings together bidders and wineries in uniques ways such as todays session. We are excited as a winery to have our guests enjoy our facilities, and get a taste of what happens behind the scenes in putting together a winning wine. Everybody involoved is deeply satisfied knowing that all of our efforts have resulted in a good sum of money being raised for local health services.

We at Monticello would like to wish everyone a Happy Easter and hopefully we can all take a moment this weekend to reflect on what truly matters to all of us. For me, the health and love of family is the core. Everything else emanates from that center. Happy Easter!

Time Posted: Mar 30, 2013 at 1:18 PM
Chris Corley
December 28, 2012 | Chris Corley

In Memoriam : Mark Heinemann

"Posted By : Chris Corley

Recently we lost a good man, friend and member of our industry, Mark Heinemann. His smile and good cheer will be sorely missed by all those that knew him.

Mark was a little older than me, but I can remember Mark all the way back to our elementary school fifth grade camp trip to Occidental. Mark was a counselor the year that we went.

In recent years, I would enjoy talking with Mark about new barrels for the year or joining him and the team at Demptos for one of their events. The vibe was always warm and welcome.

Mark was a good man, whose life was cut short far too soon. We'll keep Mark and his family in our thoughts and send them all the positive energy we can to help them through this difficult time."

Time Posted: Dec 28, 2012 at 7:52 AM
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