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 www.corleyfamilynapavalley.com/wines, 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!
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 blend directly on our website at : Monticello Blend Coffee
You can learn more about Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Company at : www.napavalleycoffee.com
As we celebrate Earth Day this week, we’ve had a lot of good reminders and food for thought about what it means to be sustainable. All across the world, everyone has made some kind of adjustment to their lives. Many have been sheltered in place and have not been out at all, others have been continuing to do their work, if deemed ‘essential’. These last few months have been a globally experienced event, even if our individual experiences have differed. In terms of the impact on the planet as a result of the decreased activity, there have been some positive stories that have emerged. We’ve heard of air and smog clearing in typically polluted areas. With supplies not as readily available, and our access to stores reduced, we’ve all been reminded to think through how we can make things last, and how each of us can get by with less.
Our family has been growing grapes in Napa Valley for 50 years over three generations, an accomplishment we’re collectively very proud of. Our dad and founder, Jay Corley, had an old-school mentality which still pervades our thinking.
Procure quality equipment, take good care of it, and make things last. I think of this as ‘Old Green’. This way of thinking has been applied to our business since day one. We built the winery with good quality equipment, the best that was available in 1981. Good quality stainless steel tanks with thick steel stands. Permanent barrel storage racks that withstand anything that comes at them, including the 2014 Napa Earthquake. Quality John Deere tractors that still work our fields. A Healdsburg Machine Company crusher/destemmer that still works as well today as it did in 1981 when it was bolted into our crush pit. Rather than install an overhead hoist, we bought a 1950 Hyster forklift to dump the old 2 ton valley bins. It was 31 years old when our dad bought it. Now it’s 70 years old. It still runs, and we still use it. These are all examples of ‘Old Green’. Procure quality equipment, maintain it, and make it last.
That said, we also subscribe to ‘New Green’. We converted the Monticello Estate over to solar power in 2017, and currently generate >90% of our own electricity from the sun. We’ve replaced all of the sodium-vapor lights in the cellar with low energy fluorescence. We’ve insulated all of our tanks, and put air curtains on all of the warehouse doors to conserve the refrigeration inside the cellar. We replaced our original refrigeration system with a new efficient, four-compressor system that cycles on depending on the refrigeration demand. As the refrigeration demand increases, additional compressors will cycle on. As the demand decreases, the compressors will cycle off to save energy.
In the vineyards, we’re very thoughtful with the products we use and spray. Two of our vineyards are certified organic, and one of those is certified with Napa Green. We continue to work towards organic certification on our other properties.
Like all, our motivations are complex. We care about the environment, and want to be good stewards of the land we own and tend to. We care about our business, and want to make our equipment and investments last and thrive. We care about our family and extended family (staff), and want their work environment to be safe. We care about future generations, including our own future generations that will hopefully be looking back on the decisions we’re making now.
In almost every aspect of our business and in our family philosophy, we have one foot firmly planted in tradition, and another foot stepping forward seeking progress. Our approach to sustainability is much the same … Old Green, New Green.
This week, our wine club members are going to be receiving two very special single vineyard wines. In this post, we're going to focus on the CORLEY Chardonnay 'Monticello Vineyard, Block 3, Clone 95' 2018. This is a special single vineyard, single block, single clone Chardonnay that is grown on our estate vineyard here in Oak Knoll District. The selection of Clone 95 is grown in just 14 rows, and produces a limited amount of grapes. In 2018, we employed two different pressing techniques. With half of the batch, we whole cluster pressed the grapes, resulting in lighter and fresher, more fruit forward aromas, and a softer texture on the palate. With the other half of the batch, we soaked the grapes on their skins for 12 hours before pressing, to extract deeper, richer aroma compounds and richer, more viscous texture on the palate. The two lots were both fermented with the native yeasts that came in from the vineyards.
The juice was fermented in a medley of French Oak and Acacia barrels, Concrete Egg, and Stainless Steel. Each of these fermentation vessels imparts a different character on the resulting wine. The fermentation from the French Oak barrel has wonderful and rich oak characteristics on the nose, and also on the palate, and had excellent length on the finish. The fermentation in the Acacia barrel resulted in a complex balance of bright, blond wood aromas and slightly more lean texture on the palate than the oak. The fermentation from the Concrete Egg displayed a fantastic richness on the midpalate, more fat on the midpalate from the movement of the lees during fermentation due to the egg shaped tank, and an excellent mineral, stony tone on the finish from the interactio withthe concrete. The fermentation in Stainless Steel yielded a wine that was fresh, with more citrus notes and a brighter, leaner tone on the palate.
How, one might ask, can all of these differences be accomplished with a single batch of grapes? That is one of the beautiful aspect of Chardonnay. It is quite a malleable grape variety, and can lend itself to any number of fermentation techniques. As long as these techniques are used in balance, we find Chardonnay to be one of the most enjoyable grapes to push in different directions each year.
Our final blend of CORLEY 2018 Chardonnay 'Block 3, Clone 95' is a melange of each of these individual fermentation lots, and I find the finished wine to exhibit a little bit of each of the characteristics I've described here. I hope our wine club members enjoy tasting this unique wine, and can have some fun looking for some of the traits mentioned above in this exciting new wine!
If you are not yet a wine club member, please visit our Wine Club page at www.corleyfamilynapavalley.com/Wine-Club , where you can find lots of information about signing up and gaining access to some of these special wines! Or if you prefer, you can call us at (707) 253-2802 and we will be pleased to assist you!
For those of you that were around in the late 1900s, you probably remember navigating the Dewey Decimal System in your library. Maybe some still do. With so many books online now, I'm guessing a lot of folks are downloading their favorite titles these days. I've nejoyed my Kindle over the years, and have ordered plenty of hardcovers online over the years, also enjoyed my share of e-books.
Until someone figures out how to make that USB wine spigot that we've all seen online a reality, you'll still need to reach into your cellar for an older wine though. Or, if you really want to go back through the vintages, you'll need to peruse our library shelves at the winery!
Our family is excited to be celebrating fifty years of winegrowing in Napa Valley! It's been a great opportunity to look both forwards and backwards. The fun part of looking forwards is the planning, growth, dreaming and optimism. The fun part of looking backwards is tasting through (drinking) all of our older wines!
We've been very good over the decades about stowing away select wines in our library, and now we are excited about tasting through a lot of them, and sharing them with our fans and friends. We've got wines going all the way back to 1980 (we were growers for 10 years before making our first family wine). With such a robust selection of vintages, there is a very good chance we have a special reserve, single vineyard, or estate grown wine from a year that is special to you.
Wine is such an integral part of all of our lives, we tend to remember the special places and events that we were experiencing when we had a special wine. In turn, it's also a lot of fun to enjoy a wine that shares the same year as a special event. Personally, I've been blessed that my marriage year (2001), and the birth years of my kids (2004, 2005) are all good vintages. That said, even when the wine from a personally memorable year wasn't also a great vintage, the wine is still very rewarding. That's because when you drink a 'memory wine', it's not just aromas, flavors and textures ... you're imbibing memories and evoking emotions.
1989 wasn't one of the great vintages in Napa history, although we remain proud of the wines we made that year. It was a cool season with some rain at harvest. Although, as I pull the cork from a bottle of our Corley 'Reserve' 1989 Cabernet Sauvignon, it's like an ether of wonderful memories for me ... graduating from high school, long hair on my head instead of my chin, and summertime (cue the George Gershwin or Sublime). Drinking the wine from that vintage takes us back to that time, and I loved that year. 1989 vintage is good for me, because the 1989 wine is firing more synapses for me than just my taste buds.
Hopefully, you have some special years that hold wonderful memories for you. Odds are we have a bottle of wine just for you. If nothing memorable has happened in your life in the last 40 years, come on by anyway. We've got wine for that situation too, and we can talk about it over a glass!
In the meantime, please visit us at www.corleyfamilynapavalley.com/Wine-Shop/Library-Wines , or call us at the winery and we can help you find your special year in our library!
Our family has been in the winegrowing business in Napa Valley for 50 years. As you might imagine, we've assembled a pretty thorough wine library over the last five decades. One of the great pleasures of wine is to be able to go back through the years and taste the wines, reliving the vintage and experiencing it through fresh eyes and current palates.
A current tasting that we're offering in our tasting room provides this unique opportunity for everyone. We've held back some of our best estate grown library wines, and are sharing these wonderful wines with you!
CORLEY 'PROPRIETARY' RED WINE
Our Corley 'Proprietary' Red Wine is a wine that we first produced in 1999. in the mid 1990s, we planted a fairly wide range of Cabernet Franc clones on our properties in the Oak Knoll District. We planted and are currently growing 4 distinct Clones ... Clones 312, 332, 327 and Clone X. Each of these clones has a distinct flavor, aroma and texture profile that we utilize differently in the cellar. For example, Clone X tends towards darker fruit and bolder textures. Clone 332 has brighter fruit and is more round in body on the palate. Clone 327 tends to be more aromatic than the others, and fills in a nice elegance and suppleness when used in a blend. Cabernet Franc is a varietal we love, and it has been an influential and primary blending varietal in our Corley 'Proprietary' Red Wines for the last 20 years. While the blends vary for each vintage, in the early vintages, Cabernet Franc was typically a driving varietal in the blends.
We're featuring four vintages of Corley 'Proprietary' Red Wine from our library with this current tasting. Going back about 15 years, this flight is in a wonderful place. The wines are still showing great fruit, both aromatically and on the palate, and are also taking on some beautiful tertiary characteristics that only time and patience can provide ...
VINTAGE 2004. Cabernet Franc 61%, Merlot 21%, Cabernet Sauvignon 12%, Syrah 6%. This wine was one of the first vintages that included the non-traditional Syrah in the blend. A short, hot vintage, the wine reflects the ripe ebullience of the growing season, yet remains balanced and refined. Its vim and vigor is a testament as to why cooler regions like Oak Knoll District can shine in warmer vintages. The wine retains a nice acidity and balance.
VINTAGE 2005. Cabernet Franc 56%, Merlot 28%, Syrah 10%, Cabernet Sauvignon 6%. This wine hails from a longer, cooler growing season. The varietal percentages are fairly similar between Vintage 2004 and 2005. The growing seasons were very different though. The fun contrast here is in tasting the vintage differences side by side, and seeing how the contrasting seasons affect the wines over time. I find that in the generally cooler Oak Knoll District region of Napa Valley, this southern appellation is more flexible in reacting to the varying growing seasons. The wines from these two very different seasons are no as different as you might imagine, another testament to the consistency of our winegrowing, and the flexibility of this region.
VINTAGE 2006. Cabernet Franc 39%, Merlot 34%, Cabernet Sauvignon 18%, Syrah 9%. 2006 was a longer growing season, similar to 2005, although not quite as cool. This vintage blend expresses less Cabernet Franc and less Cabernet Sauvignon. The fun part about tasting through verticals, especially from the library, is that you can see the trends of the artistry behind the blend. As winemakers, like all artists, we evolve and transition. This is most easily understood when enjoying a body of work as a whole.
VINTAGE 2007. Cabernet Franc 54%, Merlot 35%, Syrah 11%. 2007 was another wonderful vintage in Napa Valley. I've been loving the 2007s over the last couple of years. Bottled in 2009, they are at about 10-11 years in the bottle and are in a beautifully balanced sweet spot. This 'Proprietary' is no exception. Wonderfully balanced, and the only wine in this flight that does not have any Cabernet Sauvignon included. It is interesting to taste the 2006 and 2007 side by side here, and see the impact that the Cabernet Sauvignon imparts on the final blend.
I hope that you can join us at the winery to enjoy this special tasting with us. Please call our hospitality team at (707) 253-2802 to make an appointment. You can also peruse our selection of library wines, including these, at www.corleyfamilynapavalley.com/Wine-Shop/Library-Wines
Jay Corley, a Napa Valley standard-bearer for nearly 50 years and founder of Monticello Vineyards, passed away on January 11, 2016 in Napa, surrounded by family. The causes were complications from cancer. He was 84 years old.
Jay was born on July 30, 1931 in Chicago, to John and Helen Corley. After graduating from Cranbrook high school in Detroit, Jay moved west to attend Arizona State and Stanford University. He later attended Pepperdine, where he received his MBA. His thesis was based on how to start a vineyard and winery business in the Napa Valley. Jay's interest in culture and languages also led him to serve as an Italian linguist with the NSA.
An entrepreneur at his core, Jay founded and managed a number of successful business ventures in Southern California in the 1960s. His family's long history of farming was always on his mind, and he felt himself drawn towards the reemerging wine regions in Northern California. When the post-prohibition reincarnation of Napa Valley's winegrowing industry began to germinate in the 1960s, Jay was quick to recognize the region's potential for growing world-class wine, and he made the decision to move north and follow his dream.
He established his vineyard in 1969 in the cooler southern end of the Napa Valley, now known as the Oak Knoll District. When he first surveyed his land, he stood in a tired and gnarly prune orchard peppered with black walnut trees, but what he saw was a world-class vineyard with the potential to make classic wines. In 1981, after more than a decade of growing and selling his grapes to other wineries, he built the winery at Monticello Vineyards and began to produce his own estate-grown wines. Jay took great pride that the winery he founded has entered into its second generation, with its third generation showing early interest in the family wine business.
Jay nurtured a strong sense of civic duty, and served on several boards and foundations, including Queen of the Valley Hospital and Napa Valley Planning Commission. He served twice as Chairman of the Napa Valley Wine Auction, served on the Napa Valley Grand Jury, and was longtime and active member of Napa Rotary. He enjoyed his affiliations with the Chevalier du Tastevin, and with his fellow GONADS (The Gastronomical Order for Nonsensical and Dissipatory Society), a group of fun-loving yet dedicated friends and fellow Napa Valley wine industry pioneers.
Jay was a life-long and devoted Chicago Cubs fan, rooting for his beloved Cubbies since he was a kid at Wrigley Field in the 1930s. Jay also cheered for the Stanford Cardinal, and loved to spend weekends tailgating at the eucalyptus grove at Stanford stadium, and cheering on his alma mater from the old wooden benches.
He had a wonderful sense of humor, and would light up a room with his smile and wit. His love of swing music lifted the spirits, and was frequently playing in the background. He was a well-traveled man, familiar with international cultures, yet was most comfortable at home with family.