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Chris Corley
April 22, 2024 | Chris Corley

S55 E4 | Monticello & Earth Day 'Since 1970'

MONTICELLO | Napa Valley
S55 E4 | Earth Day 2024
MONTICELLO has been intertwined with EARTH DAY for 55 years, since 1970, the year both were founded.
🌎 Earth Day theme for 2024 is 'Planet vs Plastics'. We're doing our part with investments into our winery and vineyards, and ultimately the planet ...
β˜€οΈ SOLAR POWER. In 2017, we installed a large solar panel array in the back of the property which fully powers our main vineyard estate, the winery and two private residences on the property. In the hotter summer days, when our weeds are no longer in the field, the solar panel arrays provide shade and shelter for our small flock of St. Croix Sheep.
πŸ‘©‍🌾 CERTIFIED ORGANIC. We're certified organic on two of our vineyards, and working towards certification of a third! We're proud to be certified through CCOF. Our wines from these vineyards are 'made from organically grown grapes'. 
πŸ‘ SHEEP. In 2020, we introduced a small herd of St. Croix sheep on to the property. These sheep originate from the US Virgin Islands, and are wonderful and effective natural weedeaters in the dormant season. St. Croix sheep are a heritage breed, and are 'hair sheep'. This unique attribute means that they grow hair, not wool, which means we don't need to shear them! In the summer when they shed their hair (dreadlocks, actually!), they bring a very distinct island vibe to our vineyard!
🍾 BOTTLES. For some of our wines, we've shifted to lighter weight bottles, cutting down on shipping weights and emissions. We continue to drive down the produtcion and shipping impact of our wines, but utilizing lighter weight bottles with certain wines.
πŸ“¦ PULP. We shifted from styrofoam to pulp packaging, to do our part in reducing the amount of this going into landfills. Pulp is a much more environmentally friendly packing material than stryofoam. Also, pulp doesn't make that annoying squeaky noise in your car when you're driving your wine home!
πŸ’§WATER. We're careful with our water usage, doing our best to reduce usage at every step in the vineyard and cellar. We utilize drip irrigation for our vines, and only irrigate if necessary. Each vine receives a very specific drip from an emitter located just inches away from the base of the vine. We typically irrigate at night to further reduce evaporative loss.
MONTICELLO | Napa Valley
Earth Day Official Site
California Certified Organic Farmers
Time Posted: Apr 22, 2024 at 10:02 AM Permalink to S55 E4 | Monticello & Earth Day 'Since 1970' Permalink
Chris Corley
April 20, 2024 | Chris Corley

S55 E4 | OG 'Origins & Genealogoy'

The Corlea Trackway is an Iron Age trackway, near the village of Keenagh, in Ireland. It was constructed from oak planks in 148–147 BC. 
The exact purpose of the Corlea Trackway remains unclear. It's possible that large constructions like the Corlea Trackway were intended for entering the bog, potentially for ritual purposes, rather than merely for crossing it. 
Regardless of its intended use, the roadway was only functional for a few years. Over time, it was gradually engulfed by the rising bog and sank under its own weight, becoming buried within a decade or possibly even less. It remained preserved under the bog for two thousand years.
Corlea Trackway takes its name from 'Bóthar Chorr Liath' or 'The Danes Road'. 
Our own similar surname of Corley has some primary origins in nearby Mayo County, Ireland, specifically Ballintubber, near Galway, on the west coast of Ireland. 
In 2018, we took a family trip to visit paternal Irish 'Corley' origins in Galway, and maternal Scottish 'Crawford' origins in Falkirk. What a fun, family, historical trip to share with our kids! Slainthe!
Many years ago, our dad Jay Corley had traced a genealogical path back to Richard Corley, a settler in Virginia in the 17th century, who was given a land patent in the state 1675-1676. 
For our dad, this sparked an interest and link to a historical and familial farming connection to Virginia, which ultimately manifested itself 300 years later as MONTICELLO | Napa Valley. 
Time Posted: Apr 20, 2024 at 8:34 AM Permalink to S55 E4 | OG 'Origins & Genealogoy' Permalink
Chris Corley
October 1, 2023 | Chris Corley

MONTICELLO | S54 E10 | Sampling!

MONTICELLO | Napa Valley
S54 E10 | Sampling
I was thrilled to be accompanied in the vineyards today by my son Jackson Corley, daughter Ruby Corley, and her boyfriend Nikos Kelperis! My heart is full being able to spend the day with this team! Happy, positive, enthusiastic, eager to learn ... such a great recharge for this seasoned graybeard!
We avoided the rain (it came down hard for a little bit there!) ... we visited all three of our upvalley vineyards for a walk through the rows, tasting and evaluating the fruit, talking about the vineyards, and pulling some samples!
Yewell Vineyard | St. Helena
Looks great! Nice green canopy, fruit is medium-exposed. Plump, juicy berries with no dimpling or shriveling. Flavors are great. This fruit can hang for another 3+ weeks.
Tietjen Vineyard | Rutherford
This block tends to be a little ahead of the other two each year, even in a late year like this. Some senescence (yellowing of leaves), clusters are more exposed, the fruit tastes terrific. Maybe 2 more weeks. 
State Lane Vineyard | Yountville
This vineyard produces the most dense, robust wine of the three upvalley vineyards. The canopy is typically a little lighter, resulting in more fruit exposure. Today the fruit tastes great, nice cropload. Maybe 3 more weeks.
Time Posted: Oct 1, 2023 at 6:00 AM Permalink to MONTICELLO | S54 E10 | Sampling! Permalink
Chris Corley
September 29, 2023 | Chris Corley

Dueling Pianos at Monticello!

MONTICELLO | Napa Valley
S54 E9 | Dueling Pianos! 
Friday, October 6 | 6:00pm
We still have some tickets left for this Friday's show at MONTICELLO! This the third and final show of the season!
Are you looking for an extraordinary night of entertainment that combines music, laughter, and the magic of Napa Valley? Look no further than CellarPass' Dueling Pianos at Monticello Napa Valley! We still have some tickets available for this one-of-a-kind event, which promises an unforgettable experience that will leave you with cherished memories for a lifetime!
The Dueling Pianos Experience!
Dueling pianos are not your ordinary concert. They create a lively and interactive atmosphere, inviting the audience to become part of the show. Talented pianists engage in a friendly musical battle, taking song requests from the crowd, playing everything from classic hits to modern favorites. With spontaneous sing-alongs and a high level of audience participation, you'll feel like you're a part of something truly special.
The Scenic Monticello Napa Valley Venue!
The setting for this spectacular event couldn't be more perfect- surrounded by vineyards and under the stars! Nestled in the heart of Napa Valley, Monticello Vineyards is renowned for its breathtaking beauty and award-winning wines. Imagine enjoying the stunning views of the vineyards, the picturesque landscape, and the enchanting sunset while tapping your feet to the rhythm of the pianos. This unique combination of delightful music and stunning scenery creates an ambiance that is simply unparalleled.
Unforgettable Memories with Friends and Loved Ones!
Attending CellarPass' Dueling Pianos at Monticello Napa Valley is an ideal way to create beautiful memories with your friends, family, or loved ones. The joy of singing along to favorite tunes, dancing to the beat, and laughing together as the pianists entertain is a bonding experience like no other. Whether it's a special celebration or just a night out with loved ones, this event will undoubtedly leave a lasting impact on all who attend.
CellarPass' Dueling Pianos at Monticello!
Napa Valley promises an evening of music, fun, wine, and camaraderie in a setting that is second to none. From the magical atmosphere of dueling pianos to the breathtaking beauty of Monticello Vineyards, this event is truly one for the books. Don't miss out on this chance to create lasting memories with your loved ones while supporting a worthwhile cause. Purchase your tickets now and get ready for an evening that will be etched in your heart forever!
Time Posted: Sep 29, 2023 at 5:51 AM Permalink to Dueling Pianos at Monticello! Permalink
Chris Corley
September 25, 2023 | Chris Corley

Winemaker Journal | Chardonnay

MONTICELLO | Napa Valley
S54 E9 | Chardonnay
Today we picked all of our Chardonnay from the MONTICELLO Vineyard in Oak Knoll District!
The fruit tastes great, and we had a nice balanced cropload. We're thrilled!
We have two primary sections of Estate Grown Chardonnay ... Block 1, Clone 96 & Block 3, Clone 95. Each section has a distinct personality that we'll nuance and celebrate through different fermentation and aging methods.
We whole cluster press about 2/3 of our Chardonnay, meaning we just take the grape clusters straight off the vine, and throw them into the press to squeeze the juice out.
Whole Cluster Pressed Juice tends to be cleaner, with less solids and more purity of fruit character.
I also like crushing about 1/3 of our Chardonnay so I can soak the juice on the skins for 5-6 hours before pressing. This is a throwback to how I first learned to make Chardonnay in the early 1990s when we still had the 'old school' conical dejuicing tanks that were state of the art at the time.
Crushed & Soaked Juice tends to have more suspended solids, but also deeper texture, more weight on the palate, and deeper aromatic complexity.
In the end, I usually blend them, but I love creating and expressing the layers of complexity with this varietal! 
Time Posted: Sep 25, 2023 at 4:59 PM Permalink to Winemaker Journal | Chardonnay Permalink
Chris Corley
September 22, 2023 | Chris Corley

Winemaker Journal | D54 E9 | The Blend

The Art of the Blend. There are many 'best' moments in a life of winemaking. I started working in our family's winery cellar in 1987 as a teenager, and was so stricken with the winemaking bug at such a young age, I've had the unbelievable honor and immense pleasure of spending the last 36 years working intimately with our estate grown grapes and wines in this same cellar. Over these 36 vintages, I've experienced so many joys of winemaking, it's hard to say which is my favorite, but blending is certainly towards the top of my list.


The Relationship. My relationship with our estate grown wines at the blending table really begins in the vineyard, when the vines are planted. We nurture them, we develop them, we guide them to grow to their best potential. The growing season is a dialogue between the winemaker and the vines, a silent and thoughtful communication from budbreak to harvest. We celebrate together, and work through issues together. We work through the rigors of fermentation together, and enjoy the bliss of aging together. It's a dynamic relationship like no other. By the time the wines are on the blending table, I know them intimately. We've spent years together already. Working with the wines to help them find their best expressions of themselves, and of our vineyards and terroir is wonderfully enjoyable.

Synesthesia. The magic of blending is when we can distort the laws of mathematics, and make 1 + 1 = 3. This is satisfying on a tangible level, when I can taste the beautiful textural dance on the palate between the tannins, mouthfeel, and acidity ... or the ethereal interplay of flavors and aromas swirling in the  blend. It's also intellectually compelling, as numbers like TA, pH, Oak %, and Tannin whirl around in my mind's palate. The emotional interaction with the wine is most intriguing to me, when I close my eyes, and I can hear the wine like music in my mind ... with subtle pianissimo notes on the front of the palate, building crescendos and a fortissimo finale!

The Wine. One of the best represenatations of 'The Art of the Blend' at MONTICELLO is our 'Corley' Proprietary Red Wine. We made the first vintage of this wine with the 1999 vintage, and over the last 24 vintages the wine has been an absolute joy for me to blend. I love the freedom of working with the different varietals, and the ability to create a wine that has a distinct and diverse personality of its own, that doesn't really fit into a specific varietal characteristic. Our current vintage is 2018, it's an expressive blend of Estate Grown grapes from our southern Oak Knoll District vineyards. 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Franc. It's displays a wonderful juxtaposition of dark berry aromas and lighter fragrant spice tones on the nose. On the palate, the wine has spicy attack from the Cabernet Franc, a round midpalate mouthfeel from the Merlot, and a long, robust finish from the Cabernet Sauvignon. I hope you have an opportunity to enjoy this wine as much as I enjoyed making it!

LINK >>    MONTICELLO 'Corley' Proprietary Red Wine | Vintage 2018

Chris Corley | Monticello
Winemaker 2000-        
Assistant Winemaker 1997-1999
Cellar Master 1994-1996
Cellar Journeyman 1992-1993
Cellar Apprentice 1990-1991
Cellar Rat 1987-1989

Time Posted: Sep 22, 2023 at 7:43 AM Permalink to Winemaker Journal | D54 E9 | The Blend Permalink
Chris Corley
September 10, 2023 | Chris Corley

Winemakers Journal | S54 E9 | Harvest 2023


S54 E9 | Harvest 2023

We're very excited for Harvest 2023! We can feel the energy in the air! Most of our grapes are through veraison ... when the grapes begin to soften, change colors and make the transition from berry growth to berry ripening. We typically begin our field-sampling of the grapesonce veraison is complete. 

The first of our still wine grapes to come in is almost always Pinot Noir, and it looks like 2023 will not be an exception. Our Pinot Noir is currently sampling around 23 brix ... even more importantly, the grapes are still plump with softening skins, nice fresh bright berry flavors, and are displaying a great balance of acidity and sweetness when I'm chewing on them. The seeds are all brown, and we've got nicely liginified canes. These are all tangible indicators of ripeness which I pay close attention to. 

In the last few years, we've been intentionally leaving a little more fruit on the vines in order to delay the sugar accumulation, and allow for more time for ripening. When it comes to managing sugar accumulation and ripening on a grapevine, you can imagine the leaves as the gas pedal and the grape clusters as brakes. More leaves, less grapes can result in faster sugar accumulation, and less time for true ripening. Increasing the crop load on the vine, makes more work and can slow down the sugar acuumulation in the grape, allowing more time for ripening, and hopefully picking more fully ripened grapes at a lower brix, which will in turn result in lower alcohol. Winegrape ripening is an extraordinarily complex process, and this description greatly oversimplifies it, but I hope it helps to provide a glimpse of some of the considerations that I think through leading up to harvest. The 2023 winemaking program started with the first pruning cut back in March, and we're very excited to start making the transition from the field to the winery with these first upcoming picks of Pinot Noir!

Stay Tuned!

Time Posted: Sep 10, 2023 at 5:12 PM Permalink to Winemakers Journal | S54 E9 | Harvest 2023 Permalink
Chris Corley
June 4, 2023 | Chris Corley


Recently, I was honored to be invited on a trip to Portugal by Cork Supply one of our cork suppliers. We traveled to the cork forests in the south of Portugal to see the harvest, then up to Porto to visit the cork processing facilities,and then over to the Rioja region in Spain to visit their tin capsule processing facilities. Along the way, we were able to visit some terrific wineries and restaurants in the Douro Valley, Portugal and in Rioja, Spain. We were a group of about 8 winemakers, and it was a lot of fun, very educational, and a terrific way for us to meet the growers, processors, people and families behind some of our most critical packaging supply elements ... our closures. Natural Cork & Tin Capsules.
I'm excited to share my trip in a series of blog posts that I'll roll out over the next week or so. So stay tuned! Today, we'll talk about the cork forests, the trees and the harvest process!
The all-natural cork we use at MONTICELLO is grown mainly in the Iberian Peninsula, in the southern half of Portugal, and some in Spain. While the cork forests cover large swaths of land in southern Portugal, the team in charge of selection is extremely knowledgable about each forest and grower and has a thorough understanding of the soils and any other activities on the property.
For example, Director of Raw Materials Frederico Lima Mayer tends away from forests that have livestock, since the animals will rub up against the trees and can affect the quality of the resulting cork bark.
The cork oak tree is unique in its ability to grow very thick bark, which is actually how the cork is harvested from the tree. A cork oak tree must be 25 years old before it can be harvested for the first time. After that, the bark can only be harvested every 9 years. 
The trees are grown from acorns, whcih are carefully selected, and the forests are laid out very naturally. The trees are not linear, or lined up like we do with vineyards, they're just naturally laid out through the forest, with lots of open space. It is quite an idyllic environment, and I'm glad our corks grow in such a happy place before they seal up our bottles of wine!
Given the incredibly long time frames involved, growing cork is a multi-generational activity, and typically trees are planted with the next generations in mind. This really resonated with me, coming from a multi-generational, family-owned wine business. The grower we visited was fourth generation on their property, each generation contributing to the next. Wonderful!
As a closure for wine, natural cork is extremely environmentally friendly. The trees can live for 200+ years, since only the cork bark is stripped from the lower 1/2 of the tree to provide the raw material for wine cork production. The cork bark is stripped from the tree by men with axes, known as 'strippers'. Typically they work in pairs, and they can strip down a good size tree in a matter of minutes. Then that tree will reside peacefully and undisturbed for nine years before being harvested again. 
For such a critical element in preserving the quality of our best wines, the growing and harvesting process is incredibly low-tech, very natural, and entirely manual. What really showed in our visit to the cork forest was the thoughtfulness and utter dedication to quality from everyone on the team ... from the growers, to the Frederico and his team of quality controllers, all the way to the guys loading the trucks to take the raw bark to the facility near Lisbon. Wonderful!
*A big thank you to the entire team at Cork Supply, for making this trip possible, and for dedicating such effort to the quality of their natural corks.
NEXT POST : Stay tuned for the next blogpost featuring the next steps of cork quality sorting, aging, and preparations for the next phase of processing!
Time Posted: Jun 4, 2023 at 1:48 PM Permalink to Corks! Permalink
Chris Corley
February 20, 2023 | Chris Corley

Ambassador Club | Spring Release 'Pickup Party'

The drought in California over the last few years was not just limited to water, we felt it socially as well. With the rains this winter, and our resuming of group events, it sure feels nice to be getting together again! We've had a wonderful Presidents' Day Weekend at MONTICELLO. A highlight was our Ambassador Club Spring Release Pickup Party on Sunday!

Our local Ambassadors joined us for the afternoon, to taste new and inaugural releases, and specially bottled club exclusive wines. Many of our club members have been loyal fans of MONTICELLO for years, and we were pleased to welcome them back to the winery!


We also enjoyed inviting potential new club members into the cellar for a taste of the new wines, and were pleased to have these new members join the club on Sunday as our newest MONTICELLO Ambassadors!


We enjoyed wonderful live music from Megan Schoenboem, whose beautiful singing and gentle guitar playing filled the winery cellar with cheer. We also enjoyed Brazilian-inspired chocolate truffles courtesy of Fabi Hayes and her Brigachero trailer. Both Megan and Fabi enhanced our afternoon, we we'll be sure to have them both back again!


This was a unique Ambassador Club event, with three new releases ...
MONTICELLO Corley Reserve Chardonnay 'Block 1, Clone 96' 2021
MONTICELLO Il Corvo Nero Pinot Noir 2020
MONTICELLO E Pluribus Unum Red Wine Multi-Vintage
All of the wines resonated deeply with our club members, as much for the uniqueness of the wine, but also for what the wines represent.
Il Corvo Nero is a Single-Vineyard, Single-Block, Single-Clone, Single-Barrel Pinot Noir. Bottled from a single puncheon, this wine was made in honor of our Dear Ol' Dad, crafted in the classic style that he loved so much. The label was designed in the simple, clean style that he favored. The wine itself displays exuberantly fresh strawberry, red cherry, cola, and cinnamon aromas. It is medium bodied with very light oak, fresh fruit and a lingering finish. 
E Pluribus Unum has been a fascinating journey of blending time. This wine inspired many lengthy conversations during our pickup event, as it was the first time any of our members had experienced a true and thoughtful blending of time. E Pluribus Unum translates from Latin as 'Out of Many, One'. As a winemaker, I represented this in terms of blending many vintages into one wine. This was an inspired exploration of working my way through our wine library and cellar, blending together previously bottled wines with wines from barrel. This wine is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon with some Cabernet Franc and Merlot. It encompasses wines from as far back as 2000, and as recent as 2021. It is a wonderfully juxtaposed medley of youth and maturity, vibrancy and subtely, richness and refined tannins. 
Both Il Corvo Nero and E Pluribus Unum are Ambassador Club Exclusive wines, so are only available to our members. If you're interested in purchasing either, or joining our Ambassador Club, please call our club line at (707) 253-2802 x32 or email us at
Time Posted: Feb 20, 2023 at 10:10 PM Permalink to Ambassador Club | Spring Release 'Pickup Party' Permalink
Chris Corley
January 29, 2023 | Chris Corley

TEAM | Together Everyone Achieves More

MONTICELLO | Napa Valley
S54 E1 | TEAM
Together Everyone Achieves More
When I first started working at our family winery as a teenager in the late 1900s, our dad had implemented an initiative called TEAM, an acronym for 'Together Everyone Achieves More'.
As a young kid rolling barrels around the cellar, it resonated with me, because it made me understand that I was part of making a difference ... and as I've grown older and evolved through every position from Cellar Rat to Winemaker & Vice President over the last 35 years ... it resonates with me even more.
A company is a team. 
It's not a group of disparate individuals, because that simply doesn't work and has the potential for too many unintended outcomes, and lacks the collective synergy for the whole to succeed.
It's not a family, as the psychology of a family structure in the workplace can burden employees with unnecessary, inappropriate and counter productive emotional baggage at work.
A company is a team. A group of people with different skills and tasks, where everyone works together, with symbiotic function and mutual support, to achieve a common goal.
I've been rooting for the 49ers ever since I could, going to countless games at Candlestick Park with our dad as a little kid, then with my friends, then with my own son, sitting in the same season seats from 1971-2014, ... Lower East, Section 31, Row 23, Seats 9-10. And we continued going to games at Levi's, (although I still miss Candlestick)!
As the 49ers go into the NFC Championship game this afternoon with their previously third-string quarterback, Brock Purdy, we're seeing the true embodiment of TEAM culture. In what immediately seemed like a crisis at a leadership position, the entire organization rallied around a young QB, previously known as 'Mr. Irrelevant' by being selected the last player in the 2022 NFL Draft. With the entire team supporting him, this young man has helped spark the team and they are playing in the NFC Championship game today, coming in on a 10 game winning streak.
I'm rooting loudly for the 49ers today. Whatever the result is, Brock Purdy has risen to the occasion over the last 7 weeks and can walk very proudly away from this season. More importantly however, is the concept of TEAM that the entire 49ers organization, from the head office down to the field, has shown this season.
Let's Go Niners!
Dear Ol' Dad had it right so many years ago ... 
TEAM | Together Everyone Achieves More
#togethereveryoneachievesmore #team #teambuilding #teamappreciation #teameffort #teamculture #leadership #work #people #culture #together #winebusiness #wineindustry
Time Posted: Jan 29, 2023 at 2:34 PM Permalink to TEAM | Together Everyone Achieves More Permalink

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