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Corley Family Napa Valley

Chris Corley
January 11, 2021 | Chris Corley

In Memoriam : Jay Corley, 1931-2016

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.


Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

- Calvin Coolidge

Time Posted: Jan 11, 2021 at 8:57 AM
Chris Corley
July 4, 2020 | Chris Corley

In(ter)dependence Day

In past years, I've posted the full text of The Declaration of Independence on July 4, 2020. For broader perspective, this year I'd like to also include an excerpt from freed slave Frederick Douglass' address to Congress on July 5, 1852. For context, Douglass' speech was given 26 years after the death of Thomas Jefferson (1826), and 9 years beofre the start of the American Civil War.

Declaration of Independence - Thomas Jefferson. 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.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

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.

What to the Slave is the Fourth of July? (An Excerpt) - Freed Slave Frederick Douglass' Speech to The President and Congress. July 5, 1852.

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.

Time Posted: Jul 4, 2020 at 9:05 AM
Chris Corley
May 30, 2020 | Chris Corley

Check Out our Library Wines! Corley 'Proprietary' Red Wine 2005-2007

A few weeks before we picked our first grapes of the 2005 vintage, our daughter Ruby was born. That day, Ruby joined her 15 month old brother Jackson in making our hearts whole, and our house a very happy place. In terms of birth year wines, both of my kids are fortunate, since 2004 and 2005 were both good vintages, albeit for contrasting reasons. In the vineyards, 2004 was a hot, fast growing season, while 2005 was a long, cool growing season. Ironically, my kids temperaments are somewhat opposite to their birth-year viticultural growing seasons, but they will both be happy that I’ve tucked away some nice large format bottles for them to enjoy when the time is right.
Wine vintages correspond with specific times in our lives. Growing seasons correspond with life seasons. Sometimes the characteristics of each synchronize, at other times they contrast. Regardless, it is one of the primary joys of opening up older wines. The vintages remind of us of a specific time in our past, for better or for worse, hopefully for the better.
When we open older wines, we hope to enjoy the full rush of aromas, flavors and textures that only time and patience can deliver. These are the tertiary characteristics that winegrowers and winemakers can not make, but rather we set the stage for them to develop.
Primary characteristics in wine come from the grapes themselves. These are the fruit aromas, the fruit flavors, the natural characteristics from the grapes. For the most part, these primary characteristics are primarily found in the skins.
Secondary characteristics in wine come from the winemakers hand. Examples of these are tannin levels, determined by fermentation techniques. Oak influence, determined by the amount of new barrels the winemaker uses. For Chardonnay, malolactic fermentation (butteriness) is a secondary characteristic driven by the winemaker.
Tertiary characteristics in wine develop with time. We don’t grow or make them, but rather we set the stage for them.
As an example, when we make a robust Cabernet Sauvignon, we evaluate the tannin levels alongside the aromas and flavors. We need to determine if the aromas and flavors are robust enough to last 20+ years. Then we need to determine if the tannin strength and age-ability is in sync with the robustness of the flavors and aromas and other textural components, so that they all age gracefully at the same rate, allowing the tannins to soften and the flavors and aromas to develop into tertiary characteristics. This analysis is all done with some of the most sophisticated enological tools currently available … noses, palates, experience, and imagination.
With the tasting room closed for the last couple of months, we’ve had an opportunity to dig into the library and dust off some older bottles that have been resting back in the far reaches of the cellar.
We’ve selected a mini vertical of three vintages of our Corley ‘Proprietary’ Red Wine, 2005-2007, to share with you.
These three vintages are all wonderful, yet individually distinct in their own rights. Here are some notes from Wine Enthusiast from when the wines were originally released. In our next blog post, I’ll share some personal notes from each vintage, and some update notes of how the wines are tasting now!
2005  Proprietary Red Wine – 91 Points (Wine Enthusiast)
"This Bordeaux-style blend, which this year contains a bit of Syrah, seems to vary vintage to vintage. The '05 is based on Cabernet Franc. It shows a fine structure. The oak-infused black cherry, black currant, violet and anise flavors are impressive."
2006 Proprietary Red Wine – 90 Points (Wine Enthusiast)
"[An] elegant wine. Shows blackberry, black currant, anise and cedar flavors that taste sweet and rich..."
2007 Proprietary Red Wine  – 90 Points (Wine Enthusiast)
"Makes for nice drinking right now, because of the abundance of forward, jammy blackberry and cherry fruit."
For more information on our current library offer please visit : CORLEY Proprietary Red Wine 2005-2007.
Time Posted: May 30, 2020 at 12:33 PM
Chris Corley
May 25, 2020 | Chris Corley

Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day. Today is also National Wine Day. 

Normally, we would be happy to celebrate National Wine Day. However this year, with the two days coinciding, we choose to honor the men and women of the armed services who have given everything defending our liberties and our values.

We salute you, honor you, and thank you.

Today, we would like to share with you the Memorial Day address given by Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the United States, on May 30, 1914

Woodrow Wilson
Memorial Day Address
May 30, 1914
Ladies and Gentlemen:

I have not come here to-day with a prepared address. The committee in charge of the exercises of the day have graciously excused me on the grounds of public obligations from preparing such an address, but I will not deny myself the privilege of joining with you in an expression of gratitude and admiration for the men who perished for the sake of the Union. They do not need our praise. They do not need that our admiration should sustain them. There is no immortality that is safer than theirs. We come not for their sakes but for our own, in order that we may drink at the same springs of inspiration from which they themselves selves drank.

A peculiar privilege came to the men who fought for the Union. There is no other civil war in history, ladies and gentlemen, the stings of which were removed before the men who did the fighting passed from the stage of life. So that we owe these men something more than a legal reëstablishment of the Union. We owe them the spiritual reëstablishment of the Union as well; for they not only reunited States, they reunited the spirits of men. That is their unique achievement, unexampled anywhere else in the annals of mankind, that the very men whom they overcame in battle join in praise and gratitude that the Union was saved. There is something peculiarly beautiful and peculiarly touching about that. Whenever a man who is still trying to devote himself to the service of the Nation comes into a presence like this, or into a place like this, his spirit must be peculiarly moved. A mandate is laid upon him which seems to speak from the very graves themselves. Those who serve this Nation, whether in peace or in war, should serve it without thought of themselves. I can never speak in praise of war, ladies and gentlemen; you would not desire me to do so. But there is this peculiar distinction belonging to the soldier, that he goes into an enterprise out of which he himself cannot get anything at all. He is giving everything that he hath, even his life, in order that others may live, not in order that he himself may obtain gain and prosperity. And just so soon as the tasks of peace are performed in the same spirit of self-sacrifice and devotion, peace societies will not be necessary. The very organization and spirit of society will be a guaranty of peace.

Therefore this peculiar thing comes about, that we can stand here and praise the memory of these soldiers in the interest of peace. They set us the example of self-sacrifice, which if followed in peace will make it unnecessary that men should follow war any more.

We are reputed to be somewhat careless in our discrimination between words in the use of the English language, and yet it is interesting to note that there are some words about which we are very careful. We bestow the adjective "great" somewhat indiscriminately. A man who has made conquest of his fellow-men for his own gain may display such genius in war, such uncommon qualities of organization and leadership that we may call him "great," but there is a word which we reserve for men of another kind and about which we are very careful; that is the word "noble." We never call a man "noble" who serves only himself; and if you will look about through all the nations of the world upon the statues that men have erected—upon the inscribed tablets where they have wished to keep alive the memory of the citizens whom they desire most to honor—you will find that almost without exception they have erected the statue to those who had a splendid surplus of energy and devotion to spend upon their fellow-men. Nobility exists in America without patent. We have no House of Lords, but we have a house of fame to which we elevate those who are the noble men of our race, who, forgetful of themselves, study and serve the public interest, who have the courage to face any number and any kind of adversary, to speak what in their hearts they believe to be the truth.

We admire physical courage, but we admire above all things else moral courage. I believe that soldiers will bear me out in saying that both come in time of battle. I take it that the moral courage comes in going into the battle, and the physical courage in staying in. There are battles which are just as hard to go into and just as hard to stay in as the battles of arms, and if the man will but stay and think never of himself there will come a time of grateful recollection when men will speak of him not only with admiration but with that which goes deeper, with affection and with reverence.

So that this flag calls upon us daily for service, and the more quiet and self-denying the service the greater the glory of the flag. We are dedicated to freedom, and that freedom means the freedom of the human spirit. All free spirits ought to congregate on an occasion like this to do homage to the greatness of America as illustrated by the greatness of her sons.

It has been a privilege, ladies and gentlemen, to come and say these simple words, which I am sure are merely putting your thought into language. I thank you for the opportunity to lay this little wreath of mine upon these consecrated graves.

Time Posted: May 25, 2020 at 10:14 AM
Chris Corley
May 21, 2020 | Chris Corley

National Chardonnay Day | A Celebration of Two Chardonnays from our Napa Valley Estate

Today, we collectively celebrate National Chardonnay Day! One of the most enjoyable winemaking aspects of Chardonnay is its malleability as a winegrape. It is quite an adaptable grape variety, and can thrive in a number of varied fermentation and aging techniques. As long as these techniques are used in balance, we find Chardonnay to be one of the most enjoyable grapes to work with each vintage, and certainly one of our favorites to enjoy throughout the year.

In this post, we're going to focus on our two primary Chardonnay offerings from the Monticello Estate …

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 interaction with the concrete. The fermentation in Stainless Steel yielded a wine that was fresh, with more citrus notes and a brighter, leaner tone on the palate.

Our CORLEY Chardonnay 'Single Block, Single Clone' offerings tend to be full bodied expressions of individual sections and plantings on our Estate. They are full in texture and finish, and typically have a higher percentage of new oak and increased malolactic fermentation, giving the wine more richness on the midpalate and more full finish.

MONTICELLO Chardonnay ‘Estate Grown, Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley' 2017

This wine is a blend of blocks and clones, all grown within the Monticello Estate. Our current Chardonnay blocks include Block 3 / Clone 95, and Block 1 / Clone 96. We also have additional blocks under development. With the MONTICELLO Chardonnay offering, my aim is to express the whole of our Chardonnay on the estate. Similar to the CORLEY offering, we employ multiple pressing techniques to create different expressions of each of the two blocks and clones.

The MONTICELLO Estate Chardonnay is fermented and aged in French Oak Barrels and Stainless Steel as well, at a ratio of roughly ½ French Oak Barrels,1/2 Stainless Steel. This ratio, in combination with a lower level of malolactic fermentation results in a wine that has a little more citrus influence on the nose and also on the palate, but still maintains some wonderful, riper tropical fruit tones. The oak is not as pronounced in this wine, and is rather a background characteristic, intended to frame the natural fruit. The fermentation in the stainless steel tanks is cool, slow and long, resulting in a wonderfully aromatic and somewhat fresh style of Chardonnay, ideal for blending with the components from the barrels.

Our MONTICELLO Chardonnay ‘Estate Grown’ offerings tend to be medium-bodied expressions of the collective plantings on our Estate. They are more moderate in texture, and typically have a more modest percentage of new oak (25%-30%) and modest levels of malolactic fermentation (25%-30%), giving the wine a slightly brighter, yet balanced, aspect.

If you are interested in either of our Chardonnays, please visit our Wines page at, where you can find more information about these special wines! Or if you prefer, you can call us at (707) 253-2802 and we will be pleased to assist you!

Time Posted: May 21, 2020 at 8:04 AM
Chris Corley
May 19, 2020 | Chris Corley

A Deep Cup | Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Company's Monticello Blend

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

Time Posted: May 19, 2020 at 6:37 AM
Chris Corley
April 26, 2020 | Chris Corley

Earth Week : Wine Down With A Glass from Our Organically Certified Vineyards

We’re winding down Earth Week this weekend. Our family appreciates all of the wonderful messages we’ve received this past week celebrating our 50th anniversary, which we happily share this year with Earth Day!
Over the past week, we’ve shared some of our accomplishments over the last 50 years, and also shared some of the aspects of how we approach sustainability on our vineyards and in the winery. We used to muse with our dad that there really is no finish line when it comes to what we do … farming, making wine, running a multi-generational family business. You carry on, do what’s necessary while it’s your turn, and leave things better for the next generation that comes along. There’s no such thing as ‘being done’. There’s always something that can be done better, some system that can be improved, and in the winery, there’s always something that can be cleaned!
As I mentioned above, this is what we do, not what we’re doing. For myself, several brothers, and now the beginning of the third generation, this is what we do full time. We spend a lot of our time in our vineyards, our cellar, on the crush pad, on the bottling line. Our kids come to the vineyard and winery, we entertain family and friends. Our dogs run through the vineyards. Our dad lived on the property for many years. I mentioned this to try to share our perspective. Monticello Vineyards is not just a place where we run our family business, it’s a place where we live our lives. We’re highly motivated to protect the place where we spend so much of our collective time.
While we practice sustainable and responsible farming on all of our vineyards, two of our vineyards are currently Certified Organic, and one of those is registered in the Napa Green program.
Our State Lane Vineyard in Yountville was the first of our vineyards to be Certified Organic. This vineyard has a storied past, it was an important site in Beringer’s profile for years. We were fortunate to be able to purchase a 15 acre portion of the original vineyard in 198-. This vineyard is currently planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, and is the source for our CORLEY ‘State Lane Vineyard’ Cabernet Sauvignon. Each year this wine is a favorite with our wine club members and fans of the winery. Rich, robust, and ageworthy, and made from organically grown grapes!
Our Knollwood Vineyard in Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley is also organically certified, and has the added distinction of being a Napa Green Vineyard. On the Knollwood Vineyard, we grow the grapes for our MONTICELLO ‘Estate Grown’ Merlot, and our MONTICELLO ‘Estate Grown’ Syrah. Each of these wines are wonderful expressions of these grapes, the Merlot is round and supple, with expressive berry aromatics. Our Syrah is robust and spicy, with medium weight tannins and a long finish.
I’ll note that the wines made from these organically certified vineyards are not ‘organic wine’, but are rather classified as ‘wine made from organically grown grapes’.
I hope that you can enjoy a glass of one of these wines sometime soon, either in the comfort of your own home or someday in the future when we are able to reopen our visitor center.
Chris Corley
For more information on Earth Day, please visit
For more information on California Certified Organic Farmers, please visit :
For more information on the Napa Green program, please visit :
For information on how to sign up for one of our Wine Clubs, please visit
Time Posted: Apr 26, 2020 at 8:44 AM
Chris Corley
April 24, 2020 | Chris Corley

Earth Week : Old Green & New Green

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.

Chris Corley
Time Posted: Apr 24, 2020 at 9:29 AM
Chris Corley
April 16, 2020 | Chris Corley

Pinot Noir | Fifty Years in the Making

When our dad, Jay Corley, came to the Napa Valley 50 years ago, Pinot Noir was one of the varietals that drew him to the southern end of the valley, in what is now known as the ‘Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley’.
In 1970, our vineyards were among the most southern vineyards in the Napa Valley. Areas like Carneros and Coombsville were not really under any major development back then. For that matter, many current areas well-regarded today for Pinot Noir were not yet developed. Coastal areas and current regions in Oregon may have been sparsely developed, if at all at those times.
So, in 1970, our dad figured if he was going to grow world class Pinot Noir in California, he was going to plant his grapestakes in the cooler southern end of the Napa Valley. We planted several other varietals, and over the course of 50 years, we’ve expanded our varietal selections widely, but for this post we’re going to focus on Pinot Noir.
Pinot Noir is an alluring grape for growers, winemakers and consumers alike. It’s a delicate, thin-skinned grape which makes it a little more fickle in the vineyard. It is less forgiving in the field than some other varietals, and can require more precision and TLC throughout the growing season. It’s also more sensitive to yields (lbs grapes per vine), so we find ourselves being careful about the yields in the vineyard. It’s not unusual for us to cut fruit off early in the growing season to keep the yields at lower levels. Quality over quantity!
The seeds of the Pinot Noir grapes carry a high potential level of tannins, so during fermentation we take care in not overextracting, so that we can find the right finesse of balance between aromas, flavors, body and structure, and finish. With Pinot Noir, our guiding principle is grace and finesse, and it can be easy to overextract due to the high potential tannins, so we tend to be much more gentle in our management of the Pinot Noir fermentations relative to some of our other red varietals.
With grace and finesse as a driving factor in our Pinot Noir winegrowing, we also tend towards picking these grapes at lower sugar levels. Additionally, we have a different perspective of ripeness with Pinot Noir, preferring to pick at lower sugar levels, with brighter aromas and higher acidity than our other red varietals., which we tend to push towards higher levels of ripeness in the vineyard.
Currently, we’re growing Clones 777, 667, and 113 on our estate vineyards. I find noticeable differences between all three clones. 777 tends to be the most complete single clone, with cherry, strawberry, cola aromas and flavors, and a nice round midpalate. I find Clone 667 to display a little more razzle on the nose, with aromas and flavors like raspberry and hints of blackberry, but with little less fullness on the palate. Clone 113 has generally been a more aromatic clone for me, with lighter strawberry and floral hints of violet and roses.
Our MONTICELLO Pinot Noir is generally a blend of all three clones, while our CORLEY offering is a single vineyard (Monticello Vineyard), single block (Block 2), single clone (777) offering from the estate. Personally, I don’t have a favorite, but I do enjoy the two different wines at different times, and for different reasons.
Our MONTICELLO Pinot Noir displays a nice diversity of all three clones, and shows a wonderful balance, both aromatically and on the palate as a result. Our CORLEY showcases the appealing singularity of the Clone 777 grown in the front of the estate on Block 2. In terms of overall mouthfeel and texture, CORLEY tends to be slightly more full-bodied than the MONTICELLO, a slight ‘bigger’ wine.
We’ll be enjoying a glass of Pinot Noir this Friday night while celebrating with the Napa Vintners ‘Open that Bottle of Napa Valley Pinot Noir’ (April 17).
Chris Corley
For more information on the Napa Vintners virtual tasting programs, please visit
… and open a bottle and follow the event on Facebook ‘Open That Napa Valley Pinot Noir Night – Online Event’!
For information on how to sign up for one of our Wine Clubs, please visit
For information on how to purchase our Monticello Pinot Noir, please visit
For information on how to purchase our Corley Pinot Noir, please visit
Time Posted: Apr 16, 2020 at 11:33 AM
Chris Corley
April 9, 2020 | Chris Corley

Wine Club : Corley 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon 'Yewell Vineyard'

Our Wine Club members have just received their most recent shipment. In my last post, I wrote about one of the wines … our CORLEY 2018 Chardonnay ‘Block 3, Clone 95’, a wonderful single vineyard, single block, single clone Chardonnay from our estate in Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley. This post will focus on the other primary wine in the shipment, our CORLEY 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon ‘Yewell Vineyard’ … another of our single vineyard, single block, single clone offerings.
In 1982, our family started working with a wonderful vineyard on Ehlers Lane. It was owned by Bill and Marcia Manker, a dignified and gracious couple. Bill Manker was an interior designer, and directed the design work when we built The Jefferson House at Monticello Vineyards in 1984. He made several visits to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, to ensure that we got the colors and styling correct. As a result of Mr. Manker’s dedication to detail, all of the rooms in The Jefferson House are consistent with the décor in Jefferson’s Monticello.
The Mankers were a delightful couple and fantastic stewards of the land, but eventually Bill and Marcia passed on, and the time came that the property changed hands, then another wonderful couple came into our lives. Dave and Nancy Yewell purchased the vineyard in the late 1990s, and put some TLC into the property, rebuilding the residence, and replanting the vineyard in 2000. We were thankful to be involved in many of the decisions related to the vineyard replanting. We chose Clone 337, and the row orientation was shifted to East-West, previously it had been North-South. The vineyard is trained on bilateral cordons.
After a few vintages of developing the vines, the vineyard was producing very nice wines by 2003, and 2004. A big decision came for us in determining which vintage we wanted to re-debut this vineyard with. 2004 was a hot, early season, and although the wine was very nice, we didn’t think it was representative of the best that the vineyard could produce. The 2005 was fantastic, but by the time we were ready to make a designation decision, we already had 2006 in barrel, and I felt that was even better. So we remained patient, and re-debuted the vineyard with the 2006 vintage, now known as Yewell Vineyard.
I’m proud of every vintage of Yewell Vineyard we’ve produced since 2006. All of the bottlings of this single vineyard designate have ranged between 5-10 barrels, roughly 125-250 cases. Our recent release of Vintage 2016 is a beautiful wine, and was a special club release for our Wine Clubs this month. In 2016, we produced just 5 barrels of this single vineyard designate. As is typical for this vineyard, the aromas are ripe, dark berry fruit with hints of spice. The wine is aged in French oak barrels for 26 months, roughly 50% new, imparting a moderate flair of oak aroma and flavor and a hint of creaminess. On the palate, the wine is rich but with a nice framework of tannin that will allow this wine to age gracefully for 20+ years.
For information on how to sign up for one of our Wine Clubs, please visit .
For information on how to purchase our CORLEY 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon ‘Yewell Vineyard’, please visit
Chris Corley
Time Posted: Apr 9, 2020 at 3:32 PM
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