Posted By : Chris Corley
Every now and then, natural circumstances conspire to remind us of our place in the order of things. This year, Mother Nature has collaborated with Jack Frost to inflict upon us one of the harshest frost seasons in perhaps the last 30 years. Certainly the coldest I can recall, although our Dad will have 'fond' memories of farming challenges all the way back to 1970.
Frost season can be exhausting for the guys in the field who have to monitor the cold temperatures closely in order to protect the fragile young shoots. Our vineyard manager, Angel Avina, who has been with us better than 20 years has spent many a cold lonely night this season in the vineyard watching the mercury drop and determining just the right time to either fire up the wind machines or crank up the pumps in the pumphouse for the sprinklers.
In general, the sprinklers are a more effective method of combating the cold, as there is a constant supply of fresh water applied to the vines, which keeps the vines at a cool 32F or so as the water continually rotates through freeze/thaw cycles. Wind machines work by moving the air throughout the vineyard and pulling down the warmer air layer to keep the green shoots from freezing.
Thanks to Angel's valiant efforts, we've experienced little to no damage in our vineyards under sprinkler. We did suffer a little frost damage on the perimeters of our wind-machine protected vineyards. While this won't impact the quality of the fruit we bring in (we'll isolate any affected vines), it will decrease our crop a bit.
At the end of the day, another reminder of whose ultimately calling the shots and also that as winegrowers, we're essentially glorified farmers whose primary responsibility is to navigate the growing season and guide our crop into the barn as safely as we can ...
Posted by : Chris Corley
My wife, Julianna, and I recently finished watching the 7 part series "John Adams", an original HBO film. The movie was based on the Pulitzer-prize winning biography written by David McCullough. It was a fascinating and seemingly authentic portrayal of one of the great leaders of The American Revolution.
What really struck me throughout the film was how the men leading the birth of our country were portrayed as real human beings. These guys were fighting for the independence of an entire country, and almost every step they took was uncharted territory. I found the relationship between John Adams and his wife, Abigail, incredibly fascinating. She was a major source of inspiration for him, both intellectually and emotionally.
The relationship between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson was only slightly less compelling. The dialogues and debates between the two were fascinating to see on screen, and there is something a little eerie to the fact that they both died on the same day - July 4, 1826 - exactly 50 years after the signing of The Declaration of Independence.
David McCullough has also written a more recent book "1776" which both my dad, Jay, and my brother, Stephen, have read and highly recommended. It's on my bookshelf, and I'm going to tackle it as soon as I finish my current book.
Did anyone else see the film "John Adams" ?
Continuing our tastings through all of the 2007 lots in barrel, we recently tasted through our Pinot Noir. We have two blocks of Pinot Noir planted with 4 individual 'Dijon' clones - 113, 115, 667 & 777. Clones are an additional level of distinction within a varietal family of grapes.
Over the years we've found enjoyable differences in aromas, flavors and the texture of the wines made from these different clones. We've broken out our Pinot Noir into as many as 13 different lots in the past in order to isolate the different flavors and aromas of each clone and section in the vineyard. in 2007, we made 8 different lots that have been belnded down to 6 at this stage.
All of the Pinot Noir from 2007 is showing very nicely at this stage - the wines have medium intensity tannins, nice berry and spice aromatics, and long finishes.
Some highlights from the recent tasting of each clone :
Clone 113 - Spicy aromatics, lighter tannins relative to the others. Nice redberry flavors and a little smokiness on the finish.
Clone 115 - Dark berry aromatics, dark cherries, blueberries. Medium to full tannins. Nice long finish with smoky sweet tannins on the end.
Clone 667 - Spicy and floral, showing cola, redberry and some ginger notes. Medium weight with sweet tannins on the finish.
Clone 777 - Cherry and strawberry aromas which follow through on the palate. Medium to full weight. Tannins are a little more firm than other lots but finishes long.
Typically, we don't distinguish our bottlings by clone on the label, but have toyed with the idea of doing a specialty bottling of individual clones in very small amounts.
We recently tasted through all of our Chardonnay lots from 2007. Following is a very brief summary of our 2007 Chardonnay program and some of the highlights of the tasting.
We started the vintage with about 9 separate lots of Chard, but these have been blended down to 6 distinct lots. Reasons for keeping lots separate include separation of vineyard blocks, clones, fermentation techniques, and winemaker's tastes. We have 4 different clones of Chardonnay planted in 3 different blocks on the vineyard. This gives us a great variety of flavors, aromas and textures with the wines. To further complicate my own matters, I like to utilize different yeast strains and malolactic regimes for different lots, usually based on how they taste and our historical understanding of what we can expect from the grapes in each block.
Our Clones 76 & 96 display rich fruit aromatics and flavors of pear, melon and fig. These wines are nicely balanced and maintain a good level of acidity. They do well with moderate levels of new oak and respond nicely to a moderate level of malolactic fermentation. Moderate for me is in a range of 20-30%. We do have an exceptional section of 8 rows of Clone 96 that display such great fruit complexity that the wine is able to gracefully shoulder a higher percentage of new oak and malolactic. This lot is typically considered for our Corley Reserve program each year.
Our Clone 95 is generally a little more citrus oriented, although does display subtle characteristics of richer fruits such as ripe macintosh apples and figs as well. This wine naturally tends towards a slightly crisper, brighter style of Chardonnay which works exceptionally well in our blends.
Our Heirloom Clone is really a very special experience. The aromas and texture of the wine are amazing. This year, I separated this lot into three sublots - Wild Yeast, Inoculated Yeast, and Malolactic Fermentation. The Wild Yeast lot really has some dazzling aromas and flavors of melon and tangerine. The Inoculated Yeast lot is a little less aromatic but has a bright beam of fruit and balanced acidity that shines on right through the long finish. The MLF lot adds an extra layer of rich texture and hints of pie crust and butterscotch in the background.
These Chardonnays celebrate one of the most enjoyable aspects of winemaking - diversity. And its so satisfying to find all of that diversity right here in one place.
My brothers - Kevin and Stephen - and I just wrapped a two-day team tasting of every lot that we produced in 2007. Across the board, these wines are tasting great! In addition to being a lot of fun, these team tastings are beneficial for all three of us, as we all gain valuable insight for each of our tasks at the winery.
While I personally typically set aside an hour each day for tasting, we try to taste together as a group every two weeks so we can have a discussion about the wines and gain each other's insights. And our tastings are not just limited to our own wines. We include production tastings, vertical tastings of past vintages and sometimes comparative tastings of peer wineries in Napa and other regions of the world.
As the winemaker, it's important for me to taste through our wines frequently in order to ensure their quality throughout the entire winemaking process, and admittedly it is one of my favorite aspects of my job. For Kevin, as the winegrower, it is valuable for him to taste through the wines to determine what viticultural practices are lending themselves to the highest quality winegrape we can grow. For Stephen, who directs our sales and marketing efforts, it's very beneficial for him to taste through the production lots so he's clear on what's going on behind the cellar door and is able to convey that mesage effectively.
Most importantly, though, our tastings give the three of us a chance to get together in the wine library tasting room, tune out the buzz and tune into the wines. And when you get down to it, that's really what it's all about ...
Posted By : Chris Corley
We're excited to launch our family's winery blog and happy that you are here to join us ! The timing is great as we're just about a month into the growing season, so we'll be able to follow the progress of the vines this year from not too long after budbreak through harvest. We'll also be posting about the wines that we're tending to in the cellar and anything else that comes up related to our activities at the family winery.
In addition to all the Corleys at the winery, we consider everyone here part of our extended family, so we'll have plenty of topics to discuss and stories to share throughout the year. Welcome to the Corley Family's Winery Blog !