All of our enthusiastic fans and supporters of our MONTICELLO and CORLEY wines intuitively understand the single most important thing about tasting and enjoying wine.
They know what they like, and what they don't like. Everything beyond that first intuitive questions is just a variation of 'Why?'
Most everyone can quickly and intuitively determine whether or not they like music when they hear it. Many of those same people don't have a deep understanding of musical theory, or whether the song is composed in 4/4 or 7/8 time, or if the primary chords are minor or major, or if it's being played in the key of E, A or C. They just feel, they know if they like it or not.
In an instant, you'll know whether the music of bagpipes is inspiring to you and makes you want to don a kilt, paint your face and charge down a mountainside into battle ... or its a wail that makes you want to run and hide in a highland cave. The first question is answered intuitively ... Do I like it or not? How does it make me feel? ... You don't need to understand how the bagpipes work, when or why they were invented or how they are used in battle or ceremony.
You'll know intuitively whether or not the sounds of distorted heavy metal guitar, conga drums, mandolins or pan flutes appeal to you without understanding anything about the instruments or how they are played. You'll know whether you prefer the rhythm of Metallica or Mozart, without needing to understand the technical complexities of the compositions.
It's the same with wine. You'll know intuitively whether or not you like a wine when you first taste it. You don't need to understand the dynamics of yeast fermentation, the soil composition of a vineyard block, or whether the wine was aged in French oak for 22 months or 28 months to determine if you like the wine. That information answers the questions 'why?'.
Do I like it? How does it make me feel? This is intuitive, primary, tangible and visceral. Deeper levels of understanding can generate deeper levels of enjoyment ... enhanced, enlightened and intellectual ... they come from all of the secondary and teritary 'whys?'.
On a primary level, every one of us is qualified to answer the visceral questions ... Do I like it? How does it make me feel?
We hope that you enjoy our MONTICELLO and CORLEY wines, and that we'll have opportunities to help you answer the 'Whys?'
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 …