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Chris Corley
January 1, 2020 | Chris Corley

Message In a Bottle | The Best Wines are a Dialogue in Time

As a multi-generation winegrowing family in the Napa Valley, we've assembled a robust library of all of our wines over the last fifty years. Saving wine for many years is not easy ... it takes restraint and thoughtfulness, and requires a safe, cool space for the wines to age. Some of our older vintages have been sequestered away, unmoved, for decades in our warehouse. The bottles have collected that satisfyingly clean and pure dust, that is only accomplished with undisturbed time. While the exterior of these bottles can provide a prologue as to how the wine was stored, it is the wine itself that shares the intricate and intimate details of its journey through time.

In days past, a manuscript scrolled inside a bottle would travel thousands of miles across the seas, sharing a story of a distant place and perhaps a distant time. What a unique pleasure for the person finding the bottle to uncork it, and to read a story from a far away land! Likely it would have been in a different language, and from a different culture. Who knows how long it might take for that bottle to cross the seas, floating at the current's mercy. Perhaps much time would pass before the bottle made landfall, the message might be Nonetheless, it would have been enlightening for the discoverer.

As these bottles drift across the seas, their manuscripts inside would soften and yellow in the sun. As salt air inevitably ingressed through the cork, the paper would soften and the ink would run towards the ends. Under this physical softening, the underlying message would remain the same. It would have been a uniquely satisfying experience for the discoverer to come across one of these timeless messages in a bottle.

When we produce wines that we expect to age for decades, we are sending a message in a bottle. We bottle wines that are full of young ripe fruit, full midpalates and robust tannins. As these wines drift through the seas of time, they develop and mature. The ripe fruit develops with time, and takes on tertiary characteristics that can only be borne of time. As the air slowly ingresses through the cork, the midpalate rounds out, the finish lengthens, and the tannins soften to velvet.

Examples of these ageworthy wines are our CORLEY 'Single Vineyard' Cabernet Sauvignon. We produce five single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from Tietjen Vineyard 'Rutherford', Yewell Vineyard in St, Helena, Monticello Vineyard and Knollwood Vineyard in Oak Knoll District, and the historic State Lane Vineyard in Yountville. Our CORLEY 'Reserve' Cabernet Sauvignon is an ageworthy blend from all of these classic vineyards.

We produced our first CORLEY 'Reserve' Cabernet Sauvignon in 1982. From that first vintage, this wine was designed to age for decades. Each year this wine is blended from our five vineyards across Napa Valley, and each year it represents our highest expression of winemaking in each given vintage.

To celebrate this New Year transition into 2020, we enjoyed a bottle of CORLEY 'Reserve' 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon with dinner. As this wine has drifted through the seas of time over the last 20 years, this wine remains lively and showing strong signs of life still to go. On the nose, the wine shares subtle dark berry fruits, and a nice undercurrent of olive and herbs. The midpalate has rounded wonderfully, the wine is seamless across the transitions fromt he front of the palate to the finish. The once robust tannins are now like velvet on the palate. I remember this wine well from its youth. I recognize it now, like an old friend whose eyes you never forget.

If you're interested in finding some of our 'messages in a bottle', please follow the link to our library page at


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