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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!


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