There are fourteen rows of grapevines on the southernmost side of Block 3 in The Monticello Vineyard. Originally planted about 20 years ago, these Pinot Noir vines were a primary component in our Monticello ‘Estate Grown’ Pinot Noir bottlings for many years. Specifically, they were a sub-designation of Pinot Noir known as Clone 115. Over the years, we always enjoyed the slightly darker berry aromas and flavors and fuller body that the wines displayed from these grapes.
As these things tend to do over decades, our vineyard blocks have evolved. With additional Pinot Noir planted in another block, we set our eyes on the aforementioned fourteen rows as a nice location for a wonderful new source of Chardonnay. Rather than tear out our beloved Pinot Noir vines for replanting, we chose to keep them in service. We cut the trunks and grafted the new Chardonnay Clone 95 onto the Pinot Noir trunks.
Grafting is a fairly straightforward viticultural technique, employed when the grower is interested in a varietal shift with minimal downtime. It requires a skilled grafter, and good seasonal timing. When done properly there is a high percentage of success.
Perhaps straightforward, and with a high rate of success, it is nonetheless really amazing. I walk through these fourteen rows regularly. I spend enough time in these vines, I should be jaded to this kind of stuff, but I’m not. I still find it incredible.
In these fourteen rows, we have vines that are themselves a mélange of plant material. The rootstocks in the ground are of American origin, so that they can resist the natural soil pests. The trunks are French, Pinot Noir Clone 115. The top of the vine, bearing the fruit, is now Chardonnay Clone 95.
Over time, these three plants have coalesced, they are now one. It takes a seasoned eye to see the graft unions. While the graft unions may be difficult to see, the quality of the wine is easy to understand.
Chardonnay Clone 95 has long been one of our favorites. We grew this clone in Block 6 towards the back of the property for years. It was an easy choice for these fourteen rows in Block 3. We love the rich texture that is counterbalanced with fresh acidity. We love the tropical fruit character that is framed with nuances of citrus tones.
This month, we’re excited to be releasing our CORLEY 2017 Chardonnay ‘Block 3, Clone 95’. This wine is made entirely from these fourteen rows of vines. From this batch, we selected six specific barrels for the final bottling that we felt best represented this special section. The grapes were crushed and soaked on the skins for eight hours prior to pressing into barrels for fermentation. The skin soak is an old-school nod to our winemaking techniques that were in place in 1990 when I started working in the cellar. Soaking the skins helps us to extract more aromas, flavors and textures prior to pressing the juice for fermentation. Fermented and aged in barrels for 10 months prior to bottling, we’re very excited to be releasing and sharing this wine with you.
This wine has wonderful and expressive aromas of tropical fruits like mango, melon and fig. These are balanced with light citrus tones. There is a light creaminess and a hint of butterscotch from the French oak barrels and partial malolactic fermentation. On the palate the wine is rich, with a light beam of fesh acidity.
Chris Corley, Proprietor | Winemaker
Every February, we look forward to attending the Premiere Napa Valley wine auction. PNV is a trade-only wine auction that celebrates the uniqueness of small lot, hand crafted Napa Valley wines. Each winery creates a truly unique blend between 5-20 cases. The lots produced for PNV are one of a kind. They won't be availabel anywhere else. We enjoy tasting through other vintner's lots as much as we enjoy sharing our own with the attendees.
This year we are offering our State Lane Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, aging in a custom designed hybrid barrel, which has alternating staves of French and Virginian oak. This deep, rich and well extracted wine celebrates the travels and experiences of Thomas Jefferson between his native Virginia and France
PNV is always a lively event, always well-attended, with plenty of top quality, unique wines to be tasted. The event is a primary fundraiser for the Napa Valley Vintners, which works hard to promote the Napa Valley appellation. Here is an excerpt from the Napa Valley Vintners website : Proceeds from Premiere Napa Valley support the Napa Valley Vintner's mission to promote, protect and enhance the Napa Valley appellation. Learn more at www.napavintners.com.
In the days leading up to the Premiere Napa Valley auction, there are a number of appellation tastings, which provide winery members an opportunity to showcase the differences of the sub-appellations of Napa Valley to the trade that has come to Napa Valley for this auction weekend. Our family makes wine from four sub-appellations within Napa Valley ...
From south to north ...
OAK KNOLL DISTRICT : In the Oak Knoll District, we have our Monticello Estate Vineyard and Knollwood Vineyard. The winery and Jefferson House are located on the Monticello Estate Vineyard. On these vineyards we grow Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Syrah. We will be pouring a selection of our Oak Knoll District wines at Southbridge in St. Helena on Friday, February 20 from 1:00-4:00. www.oakknolldistrictofnapavalley.com
YOUNTVILLE : In the Yountville appellation, we grow Cabernet Sauvignon on our certified organic State Lane Vineyard. We will be pouring our State Lane Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon at First Taste of Yountville at The Barrel Room at Vintage 1870 on Thursday, February 19, from 11:00-2:00. www.yountvillewines.com
RUTHERFORD : In Rutherford, we source Cabernet Sauvignon from the Tietjen Vineyard on Niebaum Lane. We will be pouring our Tietjen Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon at the Rutherford Dust Society Tasting at Peju Winery, Rutherford on Friday, February 20 from 10:00-2:00. www.rutherforddust.org
ST. HELENA : From our most northern appellation, we source Cabernet Sauvignon from the Yewell Vineyard on Ehlers Lane. We will be pouring our Yewell Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon at the Appellation St. Helena Tasting at The Crystal Room at Raymond Winery, St. Helena on Thursday, February 19, from 2:00-5:00. www.appellationsthelena.com
Maybe we'll see you at one or more of these tastings!
"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! "
"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!"
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!
"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."
"Posted By : Chris Corley
There are lots of ways for a winery to measure its success. High ratings and positive reviews provide feedback on wine quality. Sales of individual wines and customer comments also create a dialogue between the producer and the consumer. Gross revenue, profit margins, case sales by geographical region and percentage of sales direct from winery are some of the many metrics that we track to measure how we are doing.
Some other important measures that we keep track of may be somewhat unique to a winery of our small size. Employee retention, for instance, is very important to us. We have a few staff members that have been with Monticello for over 30 years, several for over 20 years, and a large number of staff that has been with us longer than 10 years. Our newest member on the production staff has been with us for 7 vintages. These are important numbers to us. Employee retention extends our family at the winery. Along that line, family involvement is another measure. We currently have five family members working full time at the winery, covering the four main areas of grapegrowing, winemaking, sales and administration. This is also very important to us as a family-owned estate winery.
All that said, we sometimes can condense our goals into somewhat more simple terms. We strive to make great wine and sell it at a fair price.
Recently, we were happy to see our efforts recognized in Steve Heimoff's recent blogpost naming Monticello as one of Napa Valleys 'Super Seconds', a reference to our winery being an elite producer of great wines selling for a fair price. Please follow the link to read Steve's full post at his blog ...
Posted By : Chris Corley
When I was a kid (well at least when I was a younger one than the one I am now), I used to like going to the vineyard with my dad. We lived in St. Helena and the vineyards are just north of Napa, so there was always a little bit of drive to get there. Back then, the drive from St. Helena to Napa kind of seemed like a big deal and the eucalyptus trees along Highway 29 just south of Yountville were always a marker for me for some reason that would only make sense to a kid riding along with his dad.
Back then the vines seemed huge to me, and indeed they were. Grown in the old school California sprawl, the shoots were incredibly vigorous and created a tangle of huge leaves and tendrils that would stretch across the wide rows and intertwine with each other. The strength of those tendriled bonds was undeniable, and it could be a challenge for a kid to work his way through a tangled row.
Most vineyards don’t look like that anymore. They’re much neater, more manicured and tended to with perhaps more precision and the increased knowledge that comes with each additional footprint in the field. I’ve got to say though that I personally have a nostalgic nod towards those old school fields. We grew up around and in them as kids, at least until we got our drivers licenses and our range increased dramatically. Its sort of like looking back at your old pictures and enjoying all the fond memories of the long hair and goofy clothes you used to wear … even though the memories are great, you don’t necessarily want to do it again.
This year, we’re replanting two of our best sites at the front of the property, Blocks I and II. Block I has produced some fantastic Chardonnays over the years. Planted to a clone we refer to as our ‘Heirloom Clone’, which we believe traces its lineage back to the old Wente Borthers selections, the wines had a wonderful balance of ripe fruit, vibrant acidity and a unique musque characteristic that was appealing. As wonderful as the wines were, the block eventually succumbed to a couple of maladies, and replanting became the primary option. We’ll be replanting this block with Dijon Clone 96, a selection that we have had great success with as well on other parts of the property, and we look forward to many years ahead of wonderful Chardonnays again out of Block I.
We are also replanting a portion of Block II, on the northwest corner of the property. In recent years we have been growing Cabernet Franc in this block with great results. We’ve been very happy with the full dark berry flavors, slight nod of pepper and rich firm tannins that we’ve extracted from these grapes. We’re looking forward to the addition of Cabernet Sauvignon in this block. This will be the first Cabernet Sauvignon we’ve grown on the property in decades. When our dad was first transitioning these fields from the previous owners old prune orchard into vineyard land, he had planted some Cabernet Sauvignon in this very block. Convinced by others that it would be too cool to grow great Cab Sauv there, he moved our Cabernet production to the warmer regions upvalley. With the planting of this new block of Cabernet Sauvignon in the same block he had chosen some 30 years ago, he feels somewhat vindicated in that early instinct, and we couldn’t be more excited about what we’re anticipating coming out this block. We’ve chosen Clone 4 Cabernet Sauvignon for this section and are confident that within the next 4-5 years, we’ll be producing a vineyard designated Home Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon to join our three other vineyard designated Cabs from Yountville, Rutherford and St. Helena.
Ironically, I still trudge through the vineyard just like I did when I was a kid. Although then the vines were a tangled jungle taller than me. Now they are a manicured wall of organized shoots. Then the clusters jumbled and hung wherever they wanted (I think this is where the word ‘clusterfuck’ originated!). Now they are neatly positioned along the fruiting wire. Then, like now, we grew grapes and made wine the best way we knew how. Then, like now, we were in awe of this wonderful process. Then we had long hair and the vines were wild-maned. Now we’re trimmed up a bit, and the vines are more manicured. Inside though, its still the same. I still feel like that little kid in the vineyard …
"Posted By : Chris Corley
We've been lucky to have the opportunity to drive across ourÂ wonderful country this summer. In the spirit of Thomas Jeffersons great explorers, Lewis and Clark, we have set out on the great Corley Family Expedition of 2012. Granted, we're going in the opposite direction and have had full hookups at most of our campsites along the way. We also have roadmaps and a GPS, but don't give me a hard time, its still a lot of fun!
Our road trip them has been the 'All-American Road Trip' and we're aiming to see as much of the country as we can and share with our kids what makes our freedoms special, unique and not to be taken for granted.
We've taked a route through the northeast California, The Great Sandy Desert of Oregon, along the Snake River across Idaho, over the Teton Pass where we spent a wonderful few days in the Tetons floating in the Snake and riding horseback. We continued through Cody, Wyoming where we visited the gravesites of Jeremiah 'Liver Eating' Johnson and the reassembled cabins and saloons frequented by Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. We dropped down into the Black Hills of South Dakota and ran across a stone-face group of guys at Mount Rushmore. We rolled through the cornfields of South Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin and felt like we coul see the corn growing as we move east and the weather warmed and the ground greened.
We're in Green Bay visiting relatives for the Fourth of July today. We visited Lambeau Field, arguably a birthplace of American Football. Even though I'm a 49ers fan and would have liked to have melted on the cheeseheads in the Pro Shop, there is a lot of football history on that site. From here, we'll work our way over to Canton, OH to visit the NFL Hall of Fame, then through Gettysburg, PA and on to Washington DC to visit the Capitol, Memorials and the Smithsonian. Ultimately, we will visit Geroge Washingtons and Thomas Jeffersons homes at Mount Vernon and Monticello. Along the way, we're encouraging our kids to understand what it all means while still having a lot of fun.
I can remember going on some pretty fun RV road trips with my family when I was young. These are some great memories of my youth. Theres a freedom being on the open road that is so liberating, so exciting. As I've been driving along on this trip, I've been thinking about what it takes for us to be able to enjoy that freedom. A lot of people have worked hard, suffered, risked family and fortune, even died for us to be able to pursue our individual happiness.
I'd like to post the original text of the Declaration of Independence today and ask that you take a little time to read and reflect today. Then lets all enjoy a hamburger, cold beer and some fireworks while remembering what today is really about.
Transcript of Declaration of Independence (1776)IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:
This is a guest blog post by Vintage Wine Taster and good friend Ray Conti. Ray and his wife recently took a trip to the Monticello winery on Big Ranch Road in the Napa Valley. They escorted two friends who own a dairy near Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Their two Santa Fe friends, Ed & Michael Lobaugh, own The Old Windmill Dairy® just outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico. They make a wonderful variety of artisan goat and cow cheeses. At a Wine & Cheese festival in Carlsbad, Monticello Vineyard's Stephen Corley approached them and indicated the winery might be interested in combining the Monticello wines with their Gouda cheeses. Monticello sent a case of their wines containing three varietals: Estate grown Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
About Monticello Winery
Monticello is a small winery by Napa standards (15,000 cases), but their quality makes up for the small quantity. Jay Corley founded the winery in 1970 and today sons Kevin, Stephen and Chris Corey are operating the winery. Kevin oversees the operation, Stephen is in charge of sales, and Chris is the winemaker. The winery lies just above the town of Napa. It is on Big Ranch Road that can be accessed from Oak Knoll Road. They have three lines of wine: Corley Reserve, Corley Family wines, and Monticello Reserve wines. Their specialties are Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Chardonnay. The friendly tasting room is opposite a 1/3 scale replica of Jefferson's Monticello; a tribute to America's first serious wine collector. This is a fun place to start a wine tour of the Napa Valley
About the Cheese Project
This is the process used to infuse the Monticello wines into the Gouda cheese. After the initial stages to develop the curd from the cow's milk, the mixture is pressed into wheels. After 12 hours the cheese hardens sufficiently it is removed from wheels and is transferred to a vat brine mixture of wine, salt and purified softened water. After several days the cheese is then removed and dried on a rack at room temperature. All these steps are done by hand and the length of time is determined by how the cheese feels to the touch and how it tastes and smells. Once the cheese develops an oily dark surface, it is hand waxed with a clear wax and than a dark red wax. After the wax is dry, the cheese is transferred to an underground cellar and aged at a temperature of 54 degrees Fahrenheit. The Monticello cheeses were aged for 60 days. The flavor results in a moister, creamier yet mild flavored Gouda. When aged for approximately 5 months, the cheese will develop a more robust flavor. Each of the Monticello wines will create a very different flavor in the Gouda cheese.
This is an ongoing project with much experimentation to get the perfect wine-flavored Gouda cheese. Ed & Michael Lobaugh are eagerly waiting to see what the Corley family thinks of this young batch of Gouda. The hope is that the project will result in cheeses the Corely family will want to feature in their tasting room and possibly sell to Napa Valley restaurants. We will be sure to get back to you when the results are in and indeed if this Gouda is available for sale.