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.
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
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.
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.
DESTINATION & NAVIGATiON
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.
THE GOLDEN BROOM & DUSTPAN
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.
As a multi-generation winegrowing family in the Napa Valley, we've assembled a robust library of all of our wines over the last fifty years. Saving wine for many years is not easy ... it takes restraint and thoughtfulness, and requires a safe, cool space for the wines to age. Some of our older vintages have been sequestered away, unmoved, for decades in our warehouse. The bottles have collected that satisfyingly clean and pure dust, that is only accomplished with undisturbed time. While the exterior of these bottles can provide a prologue as to how the wine was stored, it is the wine itself that shares the intricate and intimate details of its journey through time.
In days past, a manuscript scrolled inside a bottle would travel thousands of miles across the seas, sharing a story of a distant place and perhaps a distant time. What a unique pleasure for the person finding the bottle to uncork it, and to read a story from a far away land! Likely it would have been in a different language, and from a different culture. Who knows how long it might take for that bottle to cross the seas, floating at the current's mercy. Perhaps much time would pass before the bottle made landfall, the message might be Nonetheless, it would have been enlightening for the discoverer.
As these bottles drift across the seas, their manuscripts inside would soften and yellow in the sun. As salt air inevitably ingressed through the cork, the paper would soften and the ink would run towards the ends. Under this physical softening, the underlying message would remain the same. It would have been a uniquely satisfying experience for the discoverer to come across one of these timeless messages in a bottle.
When we produce wines that we expect to age for decades, we are sending a message in a bottle. We bottle wines that are full of young ripe fruit, full midpalates and robust tannins. As these wines drift through the seas of time, they develop and mature. The ripe fruit develops with time, and takes on tertiary characteristics that can only be borne of time. As the air slowly ingresses through the cork, the midpalate rounds out, the finish lengthens, and the tannins soften to velvet.
Examples of these ageworthy wines are our CORLEY 'Single Vineyard' Cabernet Sauvignon. We produce five single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from Tietjen Vineyard 'Rutherford', Yewell Vineyard in St, Helena, Monticello Vineyard and Knollwood Vineyard in Oak Knoll District, and the historic State Lane Vineyard in Yountville. Our CORLEY 'Reserve' Cabernet Sauvignon is an ageworthy blend from all of these classic vineyards.
We produced our first CORLEY 'Reserve' Cabernet Sauvignon in 1982. From that first vintage, this wine was designed to age for decades. Each year this wine is blended from our five vineyards across Napa Valley, and each year it represents our highest expression of winemaking in each given vintage.
To celebrate this New Year transition into 2020, we enjoyed a bottle of CORLEY 'Reserve' 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon with dinner. As this wine has drifted through the seas of time over the last 20 years, this wine remains lively and showing strong signs of life still to go. On the nose, the wine shares subtle dark berry fruits, and a nice undercurrent of olive and herbs. The midpalate has rounded wonderfully, the wine is seamless across the transitions fromt he front of the palate to the finish. The once robust tannins are now like velvet on the palate. I remember this wine well from its youth. I recognize it now, like an old friend whose eyes you never forget.
If you're interested in finding some of our 'messages in a bottle', please follow the link to our library page at www.corleyfamilynapavalley.com/wine-shop/library-wines