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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


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