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Chris Corley
May 4, 2019 | Chris Corley

The Single Most Important Thing About Tasting Wine

All of our enthusiastic fans and supporters of our MONTICELLO and CORLEY wines intuitively understand the single most important thing about tasting and enjoying wine.

They know what they like, and what they don't like. Everything beyond that first intuitive questions is just a variation of 'Why?'

Most everyone can quickly and intuitively determine whether or not they like music when they hear it. Many of those same people don't have a deep understanding of musical theory, or whether the song is composed in 4/4 or 7/8 time, or if the primary chords are minor or major, or if it's being played in the key of E, A or C. They just feel, they know if they like it or not.

In an instant, you'll know whether the music of bagpipes is inspiring to you and makes you want to don a kilt, paint your face and charge down a mountainside into battle ... or its a wail that makes you want to run and hide in a highland cave. The first question is answered intuitively ... Do I like it or not? How does it make me feel? ... You don't need to understand how the bagpipes work, when or why they were invented or how they are used in battle or ceremony.

You'll know intuitively whether or not the sounds of distorted heavy metal guitar, conga drums, mandolins or pan flutes appeal to you without understanding anything about the instruments or how they are played. You'll know whether you prefer the rhythm of Metallica or Mozart, without needing to understand the technical complexities of the compositions.

It's the same with wine. You'll know intuitively whether or not you like a wine when you first taste it. You don't need to understand the dynamics of yeast fermentation, the soil composition of a vineyard block, or whether the wine was aged in French oak for 22 months or 28 months to determine if you like the wine. That information answers the questions 'why?'.

Do I like it? How does it make me feel? This is intuitive, primary, tangible and visceral. Deeper levels of understanding can generate deeper levels of enjoyment ... enhanced, enlightened and intellectual ... they come from all of the secondary and teritary 'whys?'.

On a primary level, every one of us is qualified to answer the visceral questions ... Do I like it? How does it make me feel?

We hope that you enjoy our MONTICELLO and CORLEY wines, and that we'll have opportunities to help you answer the 'Whys?'

Time Posted: May 4, 2019 at 9:19 AM Permalink to The Single Most Important Thing About Tasting Wine Permalink Comments for The Single Most Important Thing About Tasting Wine Comments (5362)
Chris Corley
April 14, 2009 | Chris Corley

A Comment from a Fan of Monticello Vineyards

"I was born in Napa. My Dad was one of the original believers of Napa Valley wine superiority. Tonight we were out to dinner celebrating our 36th wedding anniversary. We were at Esin in Danville and I picked your wine - 2006 Cabernet. It was wonderful. I just got home and read of your family's venture in the valley. Great story. We commend you and your spirit. And, I picked the right wine for a very special occasion. My father was born on Big Ranch Road. Keep going.

Kathie Hart"

Time Posted: Apr 14, 2009 at 9:57 PM Permalink to A Comment from a Fan of Monticello Vineyards Permalink Comments for A Comment from a Fan of Monticello Vineyards Comments (4095)
Chris Corley
September 15, 2008 | Chris Corley

A Question from Leslie Burma : 1999 Corley Reserve Pinot Noir

"What was so special about 1999 that you created a 1999 CORLEY RESERVE Pinot Noir (totally awesome btw). You had a CORLEY Pinot Noir in 2006, but not a CORLEY RESERVE. Do you see a Pinot in the near future that is worthy of the CORLEY RESERVE title ?"

Leslie Burma - Napa, CA
(Leslie is a member of our Monticello Retail Staff)

Thanks for the question Leslie. As long as we've known Leslie, she's always had a soft spot for Pinot Noir ...

1999 was the last vintage we produced a CORLEY RESERVE Pinot Noir. It is a wine that we are very proud of, as it displays our required balance of fruit and longevity. Shortly after that vintage was bottled, our Pinot Noir plantings were entering a state of transition. Our Pinot Noir at Knollwood Vineyard was beginning to decline, and was in need of replanting. Our blocks in Monticello were showing incredible promise, but were still young, and we required a few years of consistency from them first. We made a conscious decision to forego CORLEY RESERVE bottlings of Pinot Noir so we could refocus our efforts for a while on the MONTICELLO Estate bottlings.

In 2002, we made another step forward by bottling our MONTICELLO Estate Pinot Noir entirely from the 'new' plantings in Blocks 2 & 3 on our Home Ranch. After four vintages (2002-2005) of bottlings from the Home Ranch (and copious amounts of quality control on our parts, mind you) we felt comfortable in 2006 to produce a special Pinot Noir that carried the family designation.

Meanwhile ... the success of our CORLEY bottlings of Proprietary Red Wine, and Heirloom and Dijon Clone Chardonnays got us thinking. The CORLEY designation presented itself as an outlet for the smaller, family designated wines that we love to produce, but for wines that don't necessarily have the history of the CORLEY RESERVE moniker going back to the early 1980s, such as our CORLEY RESERVE Cabernet Sauvignon and CORLEY RESERVE Chardonnay.

You will have already begun to see some exciting new wines being released under the CORLEY banner - CORLEY State Lane Cabernet Sauvignon (first vintage 2004), CORLEY Yewell Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (first vintage 2006), CORLEY Pinot Noir (first vintage 2006).

Specifically as it relates to the Pinot Noir - we'll likely continue to bottle specialty Pinot Noirs in given years under the CORLEY label for the foreseeable future, as it gives us a little more flexibility to produce clonal bottlings, individual blocks, barrel designates, etc.

In a small way as well, it is also a show of respect to the CORLEY RESERVE Cabernet Sauvignon and the CORLEY RESERVE Chardonnay, which have histories going back to the early 1980s, and have earned their prime space on the mantle ...

Time Posted: Sep 15, 2008 at 10:56 PM Permalink to A Question from Leslie Burma : 1999 Corley Reserve Pinot Noir Permalink Comments for A Question from Leslie Burma : 1999 Corley Reserve Pinot Noir Comments (1793)
Chris Corley
September 13, 2008 | Chris Corley

A Question from Stephen Townsend : 1999 Tietjen Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

"I have one case of Tietjen Cabernet 1999 vintage. What can you tell me about this wine ? Did it get any rating and how much longer can I hold on to it. Is it 100% cab ? Should I drink it now ?

Stephen Townsend - Saygatuck, Michigan

Thanks for the question Stephen. You're sitting on a great box of wine. Tietjen Vineyard is located on Niebaum Lane in Rutherford. We've been producing excellent (IMHO) single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons from this site for many years. With no exceptions that I can think of in the last decade or so, our Tietjen Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is always 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from that vineyard. We also use the grapes from this vineyard in our CORLEY RESERVE Cabernet Sauvignon and our CORLEY Proprietary Red Wine.

The 1999 vintage produced some excellent Cabernets in Napa Valley ... most wines are displaying plush ripe fruit and the tannins had a nice chewy firmness at bottling that has mellowed out beautifully now.

If you haven't opened any of the bottles, I'd like to commend you on your patience and trust that it will be rewarded soon. I'd recommend that you open a bottle tonight. You should decant it gently and let it sit for an hour or so, and I think you'll be a happy man. If you plan to drink all of the case, consider opening  a bottle every six months or so for the next 6 years. This can be a fun way to drink a wine, as you can taste its evolution over the long run !

Coincidentally, I was just up at the TIETJEN vineyard yesterday to sample the 2008 grapes and walk the vineyard. With the cool weather we're having, I'm excited about the opportunity to let the grapes hang for another couple of weeks. The plants are healthy, and the grapes look good. Now it's our time a sproducers to exert patience ...

Cheers ...

Time Posted: Sep 13, 2008 at 1:52 PM Permalink to A Question from Stephen Townsend : 1999 Tietjen Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Permalink Comments for A Question from Stephen Townsend : 1999 Tietjen Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Comments (344)
Chris Corley
August 17, 2008 | Chris Corley

A Question from Ed Buckingham : 1997, 1998, 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon

"I have a few bottles of your 1997 Corley Reserve Cab, and 1998 and 1999 Jefferson Cuvee. How long is too long to cellar these? I opened a 1998 the other night. Pretty darn good!

 Ed Buckingham - Austin, TX

Thanks for the question Ed, and also the nice comments on the 1998 Jefferson Cuvee. You've touched on one of the most pleasurable aspects of enjoying finished wines - assessing ageability !

1997-1999 were all good years, although there are distinct differences across the years. I'll talk a little about each vintage, specifically as it relates to our Cabernet Sauvignon.

1997 was a very memorable vintage for us, and for most everyone in Napa, as the quality was superb and we had a large crop. I can recall that at one point during the thick of harvest, we were basically out of tanks to put grapes into! The grapes ripened very evenly and the combination of ripe luscious fruit and rich but not aggressive tannins made this vintage one of the favorites of the 90s. The 1997 Corley Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is drinking great right now, especially with an hour or so in the decanter, and I think this wine will be drinking nicely for another 7-8 years.

1998 was a smaller crop than the year before, as was expected after such a big year in 1997. The Cabs from 1998 showed very nice fruit early on, although the tannins were softer than in either 1997 or 1999. For me, the 1998 Jefferson has always been a slightly softer style than either 97 or 99. I would anticipate that the 1998 Jefferson Cuvee should drink well for another 2-3 years.

1999 was another excellent vintage, with a long moderate growing season. The wines were dark and intense, and I remember the tannins being pretty firm early on with the 99s. After about 7 years in the bottle, the 1999 Jeff Cab is tasting great, and I think this wine should be drinking nicely for another 4-5 years.

I recommend decanting all of these wines for 30-60 minutes prior to enjoying. You'll likely get a feel for your 'sweet spot' by stealing a few sips at regular intervals ...

Time Posted: Aug 17, 2008 at 8:43 PM Permalink to A Question from Ed Buckingham : 1997, 1998, 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon Permalink Comments for A Question from Ed Buckingham : 1997, 1998, 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon Comments (126)
Chris Corley
August 9, 2008 | Chris Corley

A Question from Don Sritong : 2004 Jefferson Cuvee

"What is the barrel regime on the 2004 Jefferson Cuvee Cab? Any additional methods such as punchdowns, extended maceration, etc used?"

Don Sritong - Chicago, IL

Don, thanks for the question. We've been really excited about the 2004 Jefferson Cuvee. I think a lot of people have as we sold through it a pretty fast clip.

As for the winemaking, the 2004 vintage was unique in relation to recent years. It was a hot growing season, particularly towards the end when we had some really hot days towards the end of August and in early September. As a result, most of our red wines from the 2004 vintage are showing very exuberant fruit and ripe rich tannins.

The 2004 Jefferson Cuvee Cabernet Sauvignon (JCCS) is a blend of 81% Cabernet Sauvignon and 19% Cabernet Franc. This also is a unique blend for our JCCS, which typically has a fair bit of Merlot blended in. In 2004, our Merlot crop was down considerably due to a larger percentage of shatter than usual. Shatter is when the flowers don't set properly and the grape doesn't develop. It's an issue growers deal with some years with Merlot.

The Cabernet Sauvignon lots that we picked for our JCCS were harvested during the second week of September. All of the lots were fermented in stainless tanks and pumped over twice a day. I did not employ cold soaks or extended macerations in 2004. The wines were pressed at dryness and were aged in barrel for 22 months prior to bottling. Approximately 20% of the barrels were new, French oak.

I've been enjoying the 2004 JCCS over the last year and a half and think it should be drinking nicely through 2013-2014. We've recently released our 2005 JCCS and just bottled our 2006 JCCS last month. Stay tuned in the next month for tasting notes from a vertical of JCCS ...

Time Posted: Aug 9, 2008 at 8:08 AM Permalink to A Question from Don Sritong : 2004 Jefferson Cuvee Permalink Comments for A Question from Don Sritong : 2004 Jefferson Cuvee Comments (1085)
Chris Corley
July 31, 2008 | Chris Corley

A Question from Curtis Ingraham

"Where can I buy your Brut champagne ? I just sampled it at AVA restaurant in Ross and was bowled over. Terrific."

Curtis Ingraham - Kentfield, CA


Thanks for the question. We're going to ship you a bottle (on us, of course) for being the first to submit a question to our blog! You can e-mail your shipping info to our retail room at <a href=""></a>. I'll start chilling it for you !

For Domaine Montreaux, I'd encourage you to visit us at the winery. As it is, we'll likely be harvesting the 2008 in 2-3 weeks ... you may get a kick out that if the timing worked out.

Although we've been producing Domaine Montreaux Sparkling Wine since 1983, we don't make a whole lot of it each year. It's a very labor intensive project going from sunshine to bottle with the bubbly.

The cuvee shifts every year or so as a new vintage of vibrant young bubbles is produced. In addition we adjust our vintage blend based on tastes, and draw heavily from our inventory of bottle-aged vintage wine still aging "Sur Latte". Our current offering of Domaine Montreaux (DMX in our cellar shorthand) is a very intriguing mix of our 1990 and 2007.

The 1990 has been in the bottle aging on the lees for an incredible 17 years and has developed a very rich nutty, yeasty, caramel like aroma profile.

The 2007, conversely, spent only about 3 months in bottle prior to being used in the blend. The 2007 is full of fresh green apples, very lively acidity and a crispness that I find very appealing.

The wines work quite well together, enhancing each others positive attributes and strengthening each others weaknesses ...



Time Posted: Jul 31, 2008 at 4:30 PM Permalink to A Question from Curtis Ingraham Permalink Comments for A Question from Curtis Ingraham Comments (115)

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