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Corley Family Napa Valley

Chris Corley
January 28, 2023 | Chris Corley

Winemaker on the Loose | Kansas City

Time Posted: Jan 28, 2023 at 10:00 PM Permalink to Winemaker on the Loose | Kansas City Permalink
Chris Corley
January 22, 2023 | Chris Corley

S54 E1 | Library Sessions

Many of us in the wine industry entered the business due to some level of intrigue with wine or grapes. It generally starts as a curiosity, although when nurtured properly, this curiosity typically grows into full-fledged fascination. How else can you can explain a room full of grown men that have each been in the business for between 20-40 years that are still wowed, and floored, and fascinated by opening six (very special) bottles of wine?
I recently hosted one of our top national retail accounts at MONTICELLO, and we enjoyed a simple but wonderfully thought provoking and entertaining tasting of our library wines. It's so much fun to taste with a knowledgable and curious group, and we worked our way backwards through forty years of MONTICELLO history, in five year increments. 
Here are some highlights from the evening ...
2013   MONTICELLO   'Corley' | Cabernet Sauvignon | Yewell Vineyard | St. Helena
We've been making wine from the Yewell Vineyard on Ehlers Lane in St. Helena for a little over forty years. 2013 was one of my favorite vintages in the last decade, producing wines of exceptional depth and structure. When we opened this wine, everyone remarked on the deep, vibrant color of the wine. The dark red and black berry, cassis aromas filled the glass, with a light beam of mocha and vanillin oak on the nose. On the palate the wine was youthful, vibrant, with dark fruit, and it was very clear that this is a wine that is going to age gracefully for another 30 years.
Drink Now Through 2053.
2008   MONTICELLO   'Corley' | Cabernet Sauvignon | Tietjen Vineyard | Rutherford
Hugh Tietjen and Pat MacDonald, owners of Tietjen Vineyard have been family friends and active participants at MONTICELLO since the founding of the winery. Their vineyard consistently produces some of my favorite wines each vintage. Even though this wine was 5 years older than the first, everyone remarked on the deep purple color of the wine, and the rich, youthful fruit aromas. At 15 years, this wine is exhibiting a lot of dark primary fruit, but is also just starting to show some wonderful tertiary character on the nose. On the palate, this wine is like velvet, so smooth. This wine will continue to develop for another 15-20 years.
Drink Now Through 2043.
2003   MONTICELLO   'Corley' | Cabernet Sauvignon | Reserve | Napa Valley
Our 'Reserve' bottling is the flagship bottling of any given vintage. Working our way backwards, this was the first blended appellation wine of the evening, and also when we pulled out the decanter and the ah-so. This wine had a wonderful melange of light to medium spicy red berry on the nose, with hints of mocha and coffee. On the palate, this wine was as smooth as silk, with tannins that were wonderfully resolved, and just melted on the back of the palate. Delicious, and still alive.
Drink Now Through 2033.
1998   MONTICELLO   'Estate' | Cabernet Sauvignon | Jefferson Cuvee | Napa Valley
Our MONTICELLO 'Jefferson Cuvee' has always been blended with Merlot and Cabernet Franc, and since its first vintage has been produced in a serious, yet easy-drinking style intended to be a little more approachable in its youth. Given that intent, we were all very pleased to see how robust and vibrant this wine is tasting at 25 years old. This wine had plenty of primary berry fruit on the nose, and just a hint of spice and oak, since we're a little lighter with the new oak in this wine. Wonderfully balanced with some years still to go!
Drink Now Through 2028.
1993   MONTICELLO   'Estate' | Merlot | Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley
When I pulled out a 30 year old Merlot, everyone was certain that our run of stellar bottles might hit a snag. This was the first cork to give us any pushback, but it came out in two clean pieces with our ah-so. As the wine was pouring into the decanter, we were all impressed with the vibramcy of the color, no fading at all. With a little bit of breathing, this wine opened up to the most beautiful fruit aromas, with light berries and floral tones. On the palate, the wine showed a wonderful brightness, a hallmark of our Oak Knoll District wines grown in this cooler southern end of the Napa Valley. A good reminder to all winemakers and wine lovers how important balanced acidity is in wine, especially when aging for the long run.
Drink Now Through 2028.
1988   HOSPICES DE BEAUNE | Pinot Noir | Volnay-Santenots
This was an amazing wine, the only wine not produced by MONTICELLO, but with a compelling backstory anyway. Jay Corley, our dad and Founder of MONTICELLO, purchased this wine about 30 years ago at the famed Hospices de Beaune auction in Burgundy, France. It was specially bottled for MONTICELLO, and actually references our winery on the label. This was a stunning example of the ageability of well-grown and well-made Pinot Noir. Still showing light berry fruit on the nose, with hints of clove, cinnamon, spice, this wine glided across the palate with just the slightest beam of acidity to remind us it was still singing! Beautiful!
Drink Now Through 2028.
1983   MONTICELLO   'Corley' | Cabernet Sauvignon | Reserve | Napa Valley
We finished our historic walk down Memory Lane with our Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Just the third vintage produced at the young MONTICELLO winery, this wine displayed the full potential of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Spicy tones, red berry and dried floral tones on the nose led into a wonderfully balanced texture on the palate from front to finish.
Drink Now Through 2028.
Time Posted: Jan 22, 2023 at 8:12 PM Permalink to S54 E1 | Library Sessions Permalink
Chris Corley
January 11, 2023 | Chris Corley

In Memoriam : Jay Corley, 1931-2016

MONTICELLO Founder and our Dear Ol' Dad, Jay Corley, passed away peacefully on January 11, 2016. We miss him, and remember him with admiration and love. We choose to celebrate his life rather than remain sad. He loved the wines of Burgundy, and that passion led him to the southern end of Napa Valley, where he founded MONTICELLO with original plantings of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. In 2023, we'll be honoring our Founder and Dear Ol' Dad with very special limited-edition bottlings of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The following piece is from Jay's memorial, and helps share a little about our Dear Ol' Dad.

















Jay was born on July 30, 1931 in Chicago, to John and Helen Corley. After graduating from Cranbrook high school in Detroit, Jay moved west to attend Arizona State and Stanford University. He later attended Pepperdine, where he received his MBA. His thesis was based on how to start a vineyard and winery business in the Napa Valley. Jay's interest in culture and languages also led him to serve as an Italian linguist with the NSA.

An entrepreneur at his core, Jay founded and managed a number of successful business ventures in Southern California in the 1960s. His family's long history of farming was always on his mind, and he felt himself drawn towards the reemerging wine regions in Northern California. When the post-prohibition reincarnation of Napa Valley's winegrowing industry began to germinate in the 1960s, Jay was quick to recognize the region's potential for growing world-class wine, and he made the decision to move north and follow his dream.

He established his vineyard in 1969 in the cooler southern end of the Napa Valley, now known as the Oak Knoll District. When he first surveyed his land, he stood in a tired and gnarly prune orchard peppered with black walnut trees, but what he saw was a world-class vineyard with the potential to make classic wines. In 1981, after more than a decade of growing and selling his grapes to other wineries, he built the winery at Monticello Vineyards and began to produce his own estate-grown wines. Jay took great pride that the winery he founded has entered into its second generation, with its third generation showing early interest in the family wine business.

Jay with daughter Carolyn Corley on her wedding day.

Jay nurtured a strong sense of civic duty, and served on several boards and foundations, including Queen of the Valley Hospital and Napa Valley Planning Commission. He served twice as Chairman of the Napa Valley Wine Auction, served on the Napa Valley Grand Jury, and was longtime and active member of Napa Rotary. He enjoyed his affiliations with the Chevalier du Tastevin, and with his fellow GONADS (The Gastronomical Order for Nonsensical and Dissipatory Society), a group of fun-loving yet dedicated friends and fellow Napa Valley wine industry pioneers.

Jay was a life-long and devoted Chicago Cubs fan, rooting for his beloved Cubbies since he was a kid at Wrigley Field in the 1930s. Jay also cheered for the Stanford Cardinal, and loved to spend weekends tailgating at the eucalyptus grove at Stanford stadium, and cheering on his alma mater from the old wooden benches.

He had a wonderful sense of humor, and would light up a room with his smile and wit. His love of swing music lifted the spirits, and was frequently playing in the background. He was a well-traveled man, familiar with international cultures, yet was most comfortable at home with family.


Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

- Calvin Coolidge

Time Posted: Jan 11, 2023 at 5:10 AM Permalink to In Memoriam : Jay Corley, 1931-2016 Permalink
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