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Wine Educator
April 30, 2020 | Wine Educator

Traveling with Beets & CORLEY Chardonnay

As we all spend more time at home, we are having fun experimenting with food and wine pairings. The famous British wine writer Hugh Johnson once said that "wine carries geography with it, so wine drinking can be a great way to travel, especially when one has to stay home".

By: Pawel Cetlinski, Wine Educator at Monticello Vineyards for 2+ years

Beets and wine? Sounds odd or even contradictory. In the USA, we have come to see beets featured more and more in restaurants, often served with salads or cheese. Now is an opportune time to serve them with wine! This food and wine pairing I hope provides inspiration to put the wholesome veggie back on your plate. It’s a scrumptious mesalliance! 

Where I come from, which is Poland, beets are one of the staples of our cuisine - like in many Eastern European countries. Any Polish grandma would roll her eyes when seeing beets sold in organic aisles as some kind of superfood. While Poland is definitely not a wine country, there are some German-influenced wineries of the southwest. I have experimented with paring Polish white wines and foods, including beets in the past. Nothing compares to the CORLEY Chardonnay and this beet recipe. 

My wife, a native of California who lived in Poland for 10 years and also a long time friend of the Corley family, invented this simple recipe that combines a mix of European veggies, and it is a perfect match for the gorgeous 2018 CORLEY Chardonnay from the tiny Block III behind Monticello’s Jefferson house. (Come visit us and I’ll be happy to show you the actual block!) The acidity of food and wine pairing is the key. Beets provide sweet and acidic flavors which, combined with salt, are a perfect match for a balanced fruity wine. The meticulously measured  “butteriness” of Corley Chardonnay works like honey in the dish!

Wine Beets or "Scrumptious Mesalliance" Recipe

Get ready for a journey of flavors throughout Europe. We begin our food travels in rural Poland with sweetness and a hint of sourness - grab some beets. Next, we fly to the capital of Belgium and add brussels sprouts, (Yes, the name comes from the fact that they were cultivated in Brussels.) The burssels sprouts add a touch of bitterness - just like hops in Belgian beer - as well as the crunchiness of Belgian fries. Fly to Ireland to add the potatoes, the core of the dish. However, potatoes were brought to Poland by an Italian Queen Bona Sforza, so for the final touch we have to sprinkle a healthy amount of grated Parmesan cheese on top. From the shores of Europe, we fly to California’s Monticello Vineyards (that's a long flight) for the wine pairing. Our superb fruity Chardonnay boasts flavors of apple, pear, citrus, and a touch of vanilla. It’s like adding butter to finish your dish. 


  • Bottle of 2018 CORLEY Chardonnay, Block III | Clone 95 (for wine pairing)
  • 3 medium sized beets
  • 1.5 lb of small potatoes (ideally Potato Mini Medley)
  • 1 lb of brussels sprouts
  • Trader Joe’s “Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend”
  • Olive oil
  • Grated parmesan cheese
  • Spices: Pepper, salt
  • Bacon bits (optional but suggested)


Preheat the oven to 385 degrees F.

  • Wash all of your veggies throughly.
  • Slice off the bottom ends of the brussels sprouts and chop them into quarters.
  • Peel and dice the beets. (The smaller size helps them cook thoroughly.)
  • Wash and dice the potatoes. (No need to peel.)
  • Spread veggies onto a large baking sheet (suggested 12’’ x 18’’).
  • Drizzle olive oil over the veggies. Mix carefully on the baking sheet. Be sure olive oil covers all the veggies.
  • Season generously…
  • Bake for 40 min.
  • Before serving, sprinkle with Parmesan Cheese and bacon bits (optional) 

Enjoy! Na zdrowie! 

One of Thomas Jefferson’s great friends was a Polish general Thadeus Kościuszko, whom Jefferson called “The Purest Son of Liberty”. I wonder if Kościuszko and Jefferson had beets and wine together…

Time Posted: Apr 30, 2020 at 10:00 AM Permalink to Traveling with Beets & CORLEY Chardonnay Permalink
Chris Corley
April 26, 2020 | Chris Corley

Earth Week : Wine Down With A Glass from Our Organically Certified Vineyards

We’re winding down Earth Week this weekend. Our family appreciates all of the wonderful messages we’ve received this past week celebrating our 50th anniversary, which we happily share this year with Earth Day!
Over the past week, we’ve shared some of our accomplishments over the last 50 years, and also shared some of the aspects of how we approach sustainability on our vineyards and in the winery. We used to muse with our dad that there really is no finish line when it comes to what we do … farming, making wine, running a multi-generational family business. You carry on, do what’s necessary while it’s your turn, and leave things better for the next generation that comes along. There’s no such thing as ‘being done’. There’s always something that can be done better, some system that can be improved, and in the winery, there’s always something that can be cleaned!
As I mentioned above, this is what we do, not what we’re doing. For myself, several brothers, and now the beginning of the third generation, this is what we do full time. We spend a lot of our time in our vineyards, our cellar, on the crush pad, on the bottling line. Our kids come to the vineyard and winery, we entertain family and friends. Our dogs run through the vineyards. Our dad lived on the property for many years. I mentioned this to try to share our perspective. Monticello Vineyards is not just a place where we run our family business, it’s a place where we live our lives. We’re highly motivated to protect the place where we spend so much of our collective time.
While we practice sustainable and responsible farming on all of our vineyards, two of our vineyards are currently Certified Organic, and one of those is registered in the Napa Green program.
Our State Lane Vineyard in Yountville was the first of our vineyards to be Certified Organic. This vineyard has a storied past, it was an important site in Beringer’s profile for years. We were fortunate to be able to purchase a 15 acre portion of the original vineyard in 198-. This vineyard is currently planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, and is the source for our CORLEY ‘State Lane Vineyard’ Cabernet Sauvignon. Each year this wine is a favorite with our wine club members and fans of the winery. Rich, robust, and ageworthy, and made from organically grown grapes!
Our Knollwood Vineyard in Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley is also organically certified, and has the added distinction of being a Napa Green Vineyard. On the Knollwood Vineyard, we grow the grapes for our MONTICELLO ‘Estate Grown’ Merlot, and our MONTICELLO ‘Estate Grown’ Syrah. Each of these wines are wonderful expressions of these grapes, the Merlot is round and supple, with expressive berry aromatics. Our Syrah is robust and spicy, with medium weight tannins and a long finish.
I’ll note that the wines made from these organically certified vineyards are not ‘organic wine’, but are rather classified as ‘wine made from organically grown grapes’.
I hope that you can enjoy a glass of one of these wines sometime soon, either in the comfort of your own home or someday in the future when we are able to reopen our visitor center.
Chris Corley
For more information on Earth Day, please visit
For more information on California Certified Organic Farmers, please visit :
For more information on the Napa Green program, please visit :
For information on how to sign up for one of our Wine Clubs, please visit
Time Posted: Apr 26, 2020 at 8:44 AM Permalink to Earth Week : Wine Down With A Glass from Our Organically Certified Vineyards Permalink
Chris Corley
April 24, 2020 | Chris Corley

Earth Week : Old Green & New Green

As we celebrate Earth Day this week, we’ve had a lot of good reminders and food for thought about what it means to be sustainable. All across the world, everyone has made some kind of adjustment to their lives. Many have been sheltered in place and have not been out at all, others have been continuing to do their work, if deemed ‘essential’. These last few months have been a globally experienced event, even if our individual experiences have differed. In terms of the impact on the planet as a result of the decreased activity, there have been some positive stories that have emerged. We’ve heard of air and smog clearing in typically polluted areas. With supplies not as readily available, and our access to stores reduced, we’ve all been reminded to think through how we can make things last, and how each of us can get by with less.

Our family has been growing grapes in Napa Valley for 50 years over three generations, an accomplishment we’re collectively very proud of. Our dad and founder, Jay Corley, had an old-school mentality which still pervades our thinking.

Procure quality equipment, take good care of it, and make things last. I think of this as ‘Old Green’. This way of thinking has been applied to our business since day one. We built the winery with good quality equipment, the best that was available in 1981. Good quality stainless steel tanks with thick steel stands. Permanent barrel storage racks that withstand anything that comes at them, including the 2014 Napa Earthquake. Quality John Deere tractors that still work our fields. A Healdsburg Machine Company crusher/destemmer that still works as well today as it did in 1981 when it was bolted into our crush pit. Rather than install an overhead hoist, we bought a 1950 Hyster forklift to dump the old 2 ton valley bins. It was 31 years old when our dad bought it. Now it’s 70 years old.  It still runs, and we still use it. These are all examples of ‘Old Green’. Procure quality equipment, maintain it, and make it last.

That said, we also subscribe to ‘New Green’. We converted the Monticello Estate over to solar power in 2017, and currently generate >90% of our own electricity from the sun. We’ve replaced all of the sodium-vapor lights in the cellar with low energy fluorescence. We’ve insulated all of our tanks, and put air curtains on all of the warehouse doors to conserve the refrigeration inside the cellar. We replaced our original refrigeration system with a new efficient, four-compressor system that cycles on depending on the refrigeration demand. As the refrigeration demand increases, additional compressors will cycle on. As the demand decreases, the compressors will cycle off to save energy.

In the vineyards, we’re very thoughtful with the products we use and spray. Two of our vineyards are certified organic, and one of those is certified with Napa Green. We continue to work towards organic certification on our other properties.

Like all, our motivations are complex. We care about the environment, and want to be good stewards of the land we own and tend to. We care about our business, and want to make our equipment and investments last and thrive. We care about our family and extended family (staff), and want their work environment to be safe. We care about future generations, including our own future generations that will hopefully be looking back on the decisions we’re making now.

In almost every aspect of our business and in our family philosophy, we have one foot firmly planted in tradition, and another foot stepping forward seeking progress. Our approach to sustainability is much the same … Old Green, New Green.

Chris Corley
Time Posted: Apr 24, 2020 at 9:29 AM Permalink to Earth Week : Old Green & New Green Permalink
The Corley Family
April 22, 2020 | The Corley Family

Earth Day and Monticello : Celebrating 50 Years!

Monticello Vineyards, a family-owned and family-operated winery in the Oak Knoll District of the Napa Valley, is excited to announce that Earth Day and Monticello Vineyards share the milestone of turning fifty years old in 2020.

On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans — 10% of the U.S. population at the time — took to the streets, college campuses and hundreds of cities to protest environmental ignorance and demand a new way forward for our planet. The first Earth Day is credited with launching the modern environmental movement, and is now recognized as the planet’s largest civic event.

On April 22, 1970, a 38-year-old Jay Corley surveyed a 120 acre prune orchard along the Napa River in southern Napa Valley and envisioned planting a vineyard with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Within three months the purchase was made and it would forever change the Corley Family.

Little did the first participants of Earth Day know that their first protest would became a global phenomenon. Likewise, even though it would become known as the Golden Age of the modern wine pioneers in Northern California, it wasn’t yet clear in that moment. In fact, from the vantage point of Jay Corley’s wide circle of business associates, the endeavor looked downright peculiar.

The family-owned and family-operated California wineries that started in the 1960s and 1970s, and introduced New World wines to the world, are harder to find now. Those that do remain share a devoted respect for the land and for sustainable practices. We see it in the vineyards and we see it reflected in the wines.

“As a multi-generational winegrowing family in Napa Valley we are very mindful of our environment and community,” remarked Kevin Corley, President and Winegrower. Our State Lane Vineyard and Knollwood Vineyard, where we grow Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah, are certified organic and NAPA GREEN certified. 

The most visually obvious representation of sustainability are the solar panels placed in and around many vineyard estates and winery operations of the Napa Valley. “We use a comprehensive range of practices from organic farming to the installation of solar panels to steward the land for future generations, protect the environment and wildlife, while maintaining the highest quality grape growing and winemaking. The Corley's are also committed to our community and have been active over these past 50 years in volunteering and leading many needed local nonprofit organizations.”

Monticello planted its solar array with 550 Sun Power High Efficiency silver-framed premium modules. These modules, or solar panels, are affixed to six solar arrays whose power generation is converted to DC power with six SMA TriPower Inverters. SolarCraft of Novato, CA, the 100% employee-owned and North Bay’s leading solar provider for 35 years, installed the system in 2017.

The system since its installation has produced approximately 720,000 kWh’s of energy which has reduced the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere by approximately 505 tons. That’s equal to 56,262 gallons of gasoline, or 1.2 million miles driven by an average passenger car, or the burning of 550,931 pounds of coal.

“These last 50 years, our family has pursued a commitment to estate grown wines, to the land we steward, and to passionate winemaking,” says Stephen Corley, Director of Sales and Marketing. “In 2020, the second and third generations of Corleys enter the 2nd half of our first century with the full recognition that we are borrowing the land we steward from future generations of humanity. Our stewardship is not only of the land through sustainable farming and winemaking techniques but also our business practices and our commitment to community.”

Time Posted: Apr 22, 2020 at 5:51 AM Permalink to Earth Day and Monticello : Celebrating 50 Years! Permalink
Chris Corley
April 16, 2020 | Chris Corley

Pinot Noir | Fifty Years in the Making

When our dad, Jay Corley, came to the Napa Valley 50 years ago, Pinot Noir was one of the varietals that drew him to the southern end of the valley, in what is now known as the ‘Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley’.
In 1970, our vineyards were among the most southern vineyards in the Napa Valley. Areas like Carneros and Coombsville were not really under any major development back then. For that matter, many current areas well-regarded today for Pinot Noir were not yet developed. Coastal areas and current regions in Oregon may have been sparsely developed, if at all at those times.
So, in 1970, our dad figured if he was going to grow world class Pinot Noir in California, he was going to plant his grapestakes in the cooler southern end of the Napa Valley. We planted several other varietals, and over the course of 50 years, we’ve expanded our varietal selections widely, but for this post we’re going to focus on Pinot Noir.
Pinot Noir is an alluring grape for growers, winemakers and consumers alike. It’s a delicate, thin-skinned grape which makes it a little more fickle in the vineyard. It is less forgiving in the field than some other varietals, and can require more precision and TLC throughout the growing season. It’s also more sensitive to yields (lbs grapes per vine), so we find ourselves being careful about the yields in the vineyard. It’s not unusual for us to cut fruit off early in the growing season to keep the yields at lower levels. Quality over quantity!
The seeds of the Pinot Noir grapes carry a high potential level of tannins, so during fermentation we take care in not overextracting, so that we can find the right finesse of balance between aromas, flavors, body and structure, and finish. With Pinot Noir, our guiding principle is grace and finesse, and it can be easy to overextract due to the high potential tannins, so we tend to be much more gentle in our management of the Pinot Noir fermentations relative to some of our other red varietals.
With grace and finesse as a driving factor in our Pinot Noir winegrowing, we also tend towards picking these grapes at lower sugar levels. Additionally, we have a different perspective of ripeness with Pinot Noir, preferring to pick at lower sugar levels, with brighter aromas and higher acidity than our other red varietals., which we tend to push towards higher levels of ripeness in the vineyard.
Currently, we’re growing Clones 777, 667, and 113 on our estate vineyards. I find noticeable differences between all three clones. 777 tends to be the most complete single clone, with cherry, strawberry, cola aromas and flavors, and a nice round midpalate. I find Clone 667 to display a little more razzle on the nose, with aromas and flavors like raspberry and hints of blackberry, but with little less fullness on the palate. Clone 113 has generally been a more aromatic clone for me, with lighter strawberry and floral hints of violet and roses.
Our MONTICELLO Pinot Noir is generally a blend of all three clones, while our CORLEY offering is a single vineyard (Monticello Vineyard), single block (Block 2), single clone (777) offering from the estate. Personally, I don’t have a favorite, but I do enjoy the two different wines at different times, and for different reasons.
Our MONTICELLO Pinot Noir displays a nice diversity of all three clones, and shows a wonderful balance, both aromatically and on the palate as a result. Our CORLEY showcases the appealing singularity of the Clone 777 grown in the front of the estate on Block 2. In terms of overall mouthfeel and texture, CORLEY tends to be slightly more full-bodied than the MONTICELLO, a slight ‘bigger’ wine.
We’ll be enjoying a glass of Pinot Noir this Friday night while celebrating with the Napa Vintners ‘Open that Bottle of Napa Valley Pinot Noir’ (April 17).
Chris Corley
For more information on the Napa Vintners virtual tasting programs, please visit
… and open a bottle and follow the event on Facebook ‘Open That Napa Valley Pinot Noir Night – Online Event’!
For information on how to sign up for one of our Wine Clubs, please visit
For information on how to purchase our Monticello Pinot Noir, please visit
For information on how to purchase our Corley Pinot Noir, please visit
Time Posted: Apr 16, 2020 at 11:33 AM Permalink to Pinot Noir | Fifty Years in the Making Permalink
Chris Corley
April 9, 2020 | Chris Corley

Wine Club : Corley 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon 'Yewell Vineyard'

Our Wine Club members have just received their most recent shipment. In my last post, I wrote about one of the wines … our CORLEY 2018 Chardonnay ‘Block 3, Clone 95’, a wonderful single vineyard, single block, single clone Chardonnay from our estate in Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley. This post will focus on the other primary wine in the shipment, our CORLEY 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon ‘Yewell Vineyard’ … another of our single vineyard, single block, single clone offerings.
In 1982, our family started working with a wonderful vineyard on Ehlers Lane. It was owned by Bill and Marcia Manker, a dignified and gracious couple. Bill Manker was an interior designer, and directed the design work when we built The Jefferson House at Monticello Vineyards in 1984. He made several visits to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, to ensure that we got the colors and styling correct. As a result of Mr. Manker’s dedication to detail, all of the rooms in The Jefferson House are consistent with the décor in Jefferson’s Monticello.
The Mankers were a delightful couple and fantastic stewards of the land, but eventually Bill and Marcia passed on, and the time came that the property changed hands, then another wonderful couple came into our lives. Dave and Nancy Yewell purchased the vineyard in the late 1990s, and put some TLC into the property, rebuilding the residence, and replanting the vineyard in 2000. We were thankful to be involved in many of the decisions related to the vineyard replanting. We chose Clone 337, and the row orientation was shifted to East-West, previously it had been North-South. The vineyard is trained on bilateral cordons.
After a few vintages of developing the vines, the vineyard was producing very nice wines by 2003, and 2004. A big decision came for us in determining which vintage we wanted to re-debut this vineyard with. 2004 was a hot, early season, and although the wine was very nice, we didn’t think it was representative of the best that the vineyard could produce. The 2005 was fantastic, but by the time we were ready to make a designation decision, we already had 2006 in barrel, and I felt that was even better. So we remained patient, and re-debuted the vineyard with the 2006 vintage, now known as Yewell Vineyard.
I’m proud of every vintage of Yewell Vineyard we’ve produced since 2006. All of the bottlings of this single vineyard designate have ranged between 5-10 barrels, roughly 125-250 cases. Our recent release of Vintage 2016 is a beautiful wine, and was a special club release for our Wine Clubs this month. In 2016, we produced just 5 barrels of this single vineyard designate. As is typical for this vineyard, the aromas are ripe, dark berry fruit with hints of spice. The wine is aged in French oak barrels for 26 months, roughly 50% new, imparting a moderate flair of oak aroma and flavor and a hint of creaminess. On the palate, the wine is rich but with a nice framework of tannin that will allow this wine to age gracefully for 20+ years.
For information on how to sign up for one of our Wine Clubs, please visit .
For information on how to purchase our CORLEY 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon ‘Yewell Vineyard’, please visit
Chris Corley
Time Posted: Apr 9, 2020 at 3:32 PM Permalink to Wine Club : Corley 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon 'Yewell Vineyard' Permalink

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