When we were kids growing up in St. Helena in the 80s, there was an old blue cinder block building on the corner of Oak and Adams, across the street from the Carnegie Building. It was an old laundry business, and just a few blocks from the street I grew up on. I skateboarded by that old laundry building almost daily on my way into to town to meet friends. It was kind of a faded blue-gray color, paint peeling in some areas. I remember some dried weeds growing around the edges of the building, so landscaping seemingly was not a priority at that time. I don’t even remember if it was a functioning business or a remnant, I guess teenagers on skateboards don’t always remember those kind of details. I never had the need to launder any of my garments in there, so probably didn’t pay much attention to that. I do remember the building though, and even as a kid back then in a sleepy town, the building always had an aura of a past time.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, one of my lifelong friend’s dads, Leon Sange, started up a coffee business, The Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Company. His first location was in a beautiful Victorian building in downtown Napa. His second location was in renovated old laundry building in St. Helena. For those of us who remember that old laundry building, it remains a vibrant transition. Leon was a great guy, one of the good guys, one of the best. He smiled widely, laughed boisterously, and lived fully. He radiated good energy. His Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Company became and remains primary watering holes at both ends of the Napa Valley, in St. Helena and in Napa. My lifelong friend, Ben Sange (Leon’s son) owns and operates the coffee company now. He does the roasting himself, he’s not just an owner, he’s a maker too. Ben’s brother Charlie, another good friend, has also invested a lot of his time and energy into the business over the years. They are a small town, multi-generational family coffee roasting company. Their two coffee houses are places where people of all ages congregate, and they’ve expanded their offerings over time from their wonderful home-roasted coffees to all sorts of snacks, small bites and other drinks.
Some years ago, we were very happy to be able to work with them to develop our own special Monticello Blend. This is a coffee that we have enjoyed for many years, and served at countless dinners and events in our Jefferson House on the Monticello Estate. Our blend is 40% Guatemalan (light roast), 20% Colombian (lighter roast), 20% Natural Ethiopian (medium roast), 20% French (dark roast). The French is made up of Washed Ethiopian, Mexican and Sumatra. It is a complex blend, and full of interesting aromas and flavors. I find nutty and cocoa aromas, hazelnut very nicely integrated with spicy aromas of clove and cinnamon. I find dark sweet aromas and flavors of brown sugar, dark chocolate and molasses. In the background, I find some dark berry tones of blackberry and blueberry. The roast is wonderful, and on the palate the coffee has a mellow richness that is perfect for the early morning or after dinner.
In our May 2020 Wine Club shipment, we included a small bag of our Monticello Blend for all of our wine club members. It is a small gesture of gratitude for us to share a few cups of coffee with you. Supporting our friends and local businesses during this time is very important to us as well. We hope you enjoy our Monticello Blend from the Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Company.
You can purchase our Monticello Blend Coffee directly on our website at : Monticello Blend Coffee
For more information about Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Company, please visit : Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Company
As we all spend more time at home, we are having fun experimenting with food and wine pairings. The famous British wine writer Hugh Johnson once said that "wine carries geography with it, so wine drinking can be a great way to travel, especially when one has to stay home".
By: Pawel Cetlinski, Wine Educator at Monticello Vineyards for 2+ years
Beets and wine? Sounds odd or even contradictory. In the USA, we have come to see beets featured more and more in restaurants, often served with salads or cheese. Now is an opportune time to serve them with wine! This food and wine pairing I hope provides inspiration to put the wholesome veggie back on your plate. It’s a scrumptious mesalliance!
Where I come from, which is Poland, beets are one of the staples of our cuisine - like in many Eastern European countries. Any Polish grandma would roll her eyes when seeing beets sold in organic aisles as some kind of superfood. While Poland is definitely not a wine country, there are some German-influenced wineries of the southwest. I have experimented with paring Polish white wines and foods, including beets in the past. Nothing compares to the CORLEY Chardonnay and this beet recipe.
My wife, a native of California who lived in Poland for 10 years and also a long time friend of the Corley family, invented this simple recipe that combines a mix of European veggies, and it is a perfect match for the gorgeous 2018 CORLEY Chardonnay from the tiny Block III behind Monticello’s Jefferson house. (Come visit us and I’ll be happy to show you the actual block!) The acidity of food and wine pairing is the key. Beets provide sweet and acidic flavors which, combined with salt, are a perfect match for a balanced fruity wine. The meticulously measured “butteriness” of Corley Chardonnay works like honey in the dish!
Wine Beets or "Scrumptious Mesalliance" Recipe
Get ready for a journey of flavors throughout Europe. We begin our food travels in rural Poland with sweetness and a hint of sourness - grab some beets. Next, we fly to the capital of Belgium and add brussels sprouts, (Yes, the name comes from the fact that they were cultivated in Brussels.) The burssels sprouts add a touch of bitterness - just like hops in Belgian beer - as well as the crunchiness of Belgian fries. Fly to Ireland to add the potatoes, the core of the dish. However, potatoes were brought to Poland by an Italian Queen Bona Sforza, so for the final touch we have to sprinkle a healthy amount of grated Parmesan cheese on top. From the shores of Europe, we fly to California’s Monticello Vineyards (that's a long flight) for the wine pairing. Our superb fruity Chardonnay boasts flavors of apple, pear, citrus, and a touch of vanilla. It’s like adding butter to finish your dish.
Preheat the oven to 385 degrees F.
Enjoy! Na zdrowie!
One of Thomas Jefferson’s great friends was a Polish general Thadeus Kościuszko, whom Jefferson called “The Purest Son of Liberty”. I wonder if Kościuszko and Jefferson had beets and wine together…
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.
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.”
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 www.corleyfamilynapavalley.com/Wine-Club , 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!
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 www.corleyfamilynapavalley.com/Wine-Shop/Library-Wines , or call us at the winery and we can help you find your special year in our library!
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!
CORLEY 'PROPRIETARY' RED WINE
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 www.corleyfamilynapavalley.com/Wine-Shop/Library-Wines