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Chris Corley
May 24, 2019 | Chris Corley

Napa Valley Pinot Noir that Ages Well? Absolutely!

Each month, I hold a Winemaker's Workshop with our Hospitality Team. These tasting and discussion sessions are valuable for everyone involved. It's a monthly opportunity for us to share information about our wines and the purpose and stories behind each wine. I've found that I learn by teaching, and because we promote these sessions as open dialogues, we tend towards transparent discussions of our winegrowing and winemaking activities. Sharing the stories behind the wines is important, because it gives the hospitality team deeper and broader insight into the wines, which they can then share with our guests.

Last month, our Winemaker's Workshop focus was on our Estate Grown Pinot Noir. Whenever we talk about our Estate Grown Pinot Noirs, an early question is ‘Why are you growing Pinot Noir in Napa Valley? Isn’t that Cabernet Sauvignon country?’ This is a good question … Napa Valley has grown to be synonymous with Cabernet Sauvignon. While that’s easy to see in 2019, our dad came here almost 50 years ago, and what lured him to Napa Valley was the desire to grow world class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Pinot Noir will always be dear to us. It’s the varietal that brought us to Napa Valley 50 years ago, and as a family, we are fiercely loyal, even with our grapes!

By definition, all of our Pinot Noir offerings are single vineyard wines, meaning all of the grapes in the blend were grown on a single vineyard. Of our five vineyards spanning the length of Napa Valley, we grow our Pinot Noir on the Monticello Vineyard, located in the cooler, southern end of the valley, in the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley. The daily breezes that come in from San Pablo Bay are critical for us to maintain the necessary acidity to make a world class Pinot Noir. (More on our Oak Knoll District weather patterns in an upcoming post!). On the Monticello Vineyard, we grow three different clones of Pinot Noir in two separate blocks. Each of these clones has subtle differences in aroma, flavor, and texture which we take into consideration in making and blending these wines. The two different blocks have soil and slight slope differences which ultimately impact the nuances of the final wines.

In our recent Winemaker’s Workshop, we tasted through about 8 different barrel samples of 2018 Pinot Noir which represented different combinations of blocks and clones. For example, the ‘Block 2, Clone 777’ tends towards a fuller-bodied style, with notes of strawberry, blackberry and cola. The ‘Block 3, Clone 113’ is a little more elegant in style, with notes of raspberry and blueberry. These nuances are fascinating to explore, and make the barrel selection and blending process so enjoyable. The 2018 Pinot Noir samples are so vibrant right now, so full of life, vim and vigor! The color of the wines is electric, and they have an energy that is just bursting from the glass. The wines are like genies released from the barrels. I’m very excited about Vintage 2018 Pinot Noir, and I anticipate that these wines will age gracefully for 10-12 years after bottling.

‘Wait! Did he just say that their Napa Valley Pinot Noir will age gracefully for 10-12 years?’ Absolutely! It has a lot do with our location, and being able to maintain the acidity in the grapes. We also tend towards a little more extraction with our Pinot Noir, so the wines have a slightly fuller character in their youth, but with this comes the substance to age long enough to develop those wonderful tertiary characteristics that only be created with time.

After our Winemaker’s Workshop, we opened a bottle of our Monticello Vineyards ‘Estate Grown’ 2009 Pinot Noir. This single vineyard wine is a blend of two blocks and four clones. (In 2009, we were growing four clones … 777, 667, 113, 115). The color of the wine was excellent, with hues of light purple, magenta, just lightly fading on the edges, but still fresh and robust. The wine had primary notes of slightly fresh, slightly dried berries, strawberries, raspberry. Secondary notes of clove, cola, nutmeg, cinnamon. As the wine opened up in the glass with some airtime, we found underlying tertiary notes of mushroom and earth. On the palate the wine is smooth as silk, and still has several years of life left.

If you’re interested to taste our Monticello Vineyards ‘Estate Grown’ 2009 Pinot Noir, or any of our extensive collection of library wines … please come visit us at the winery, or visit us at You can also call us at (707) 253-2802.

Thank you,

Chris Corley, Winemaker


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