Around this time of year, we always get a little more excited about Rose. The sun is starting to shine, the weather is warming up, the afternoon breezes turn warm and comforting. The grass is green, mountains brown, the vines are starting to flower, and roses in bloom. The new Rose has been in bottle for a few months and is shining brightly, ready for the summer season. It’s a beautiful time of year!
We love drinking Rose. It’s refreshing, crisp, vibrant and full of life. It goes down easy on a warm summer day, and the lower alcohol doesn’t bog you down in the heat. Wonderful, alive! The fresh fruit aromas are easy to understand, and the wine invigorates the palate without much premeditation or afterthought.
It’s easy to enjoy a glass of rose, to just viscerally love the wine that you’re drinking … to put away a whole bottle at sunset before you even realize it, because the wine was so good, and the laughter so loud. It’s easy to enjoy a wonderful rose without too much thought.
And yet, even with all that thoughtless pleasure, we likely will still think about different roses. We might compare and contrast different producers, different styles, we might ask which is the best rose? I’ll posit that there is no such thing. No such thing as the best rose. There are many best roses. My best, your best, his best, her best? Best is suggestive. My best might be your better, and someone else’s good. It’s okay. There are so many aspects that contribute to your interest in a wine. Your relationship with the winery, with people at the winery, perhaps you had a wonderful memory associated with that wine that triggers happiness every time you drink it. Or maybe it just tastes good at the right time.
One thing that I believe is common to all the best roses would be that they are a blend of thoughtfulness and intention, regardless of varietal. Very generally, rose can be made in a couple of different ways …
SAIGNEE : A common method is to do ‘saignee’ with the ripe grapes. The term saignee means ‘to bleed’, and that’s basically what the winemaker does to the freshly crushed red grapes. As soon as the red grapes are crushed, the winemaker quickly ‘bleeds’ (or drains) out a portion of the juice. This juice generally has a light pink color from the short contact time with the skins. Because the grapes were likely picked at full ripeness, these types of rose are generally higher in alcohol, and have lower acidity. Simply put, they generally are not as fresh and vibrant as we prefer at Monticello.
EARLY WHOLE CLUSTER PRESS : Another technique is to pick early, while the sugars are still low, the natural acidity is high, the aromas and flavors are fresh, light and vibrant. These grapes can be crushed and bled, or whole cluster pressed, but the defining feature is the timing of the pick and the resulting vibrancy of the rose.
At Monticello, we employ both of these techniques. We dedicate a certain quantity of our Pinot Noir blocks for rose and thoughtfully and intentionally produce Estate Grown, Single Vineyard Rose of Pinot Noir ...
In early August, we pick some Pinot Noir around 19 brix from our estate vineyard. We whole cluster press these grapes, and the resulting juice has a faint salmon color, wonderfully vibrant acidity, and the precursors for all sorts of wonderful strawberry, raspberry, citrus and even slightly peppery aromas and flavors. This juice is fermented in neutral oak barrels, and the 20 brix (roughly 20% sugar) produces a light, crisp wine of about 11.5% alcohol.
In early September, we pick more Pinot Noir for Rose. This time around 24 brix, when the grapes have darker skins, deeper texture, more sugar, lower acid and riper tannins. These grapes are sorted, crushed, then bled (saignee). This juice is a little darker in color, and has darker berry aromas, purple fruits, hints of cola, and more texture on the palate. It is rounder and more full.
My preference is in the middle of these two, which is how we arrived at this dual picking technique for our rose. This is an example of 1 + 1 = 3, which is always the goal when blending, or combining lots. You might ask, why not just split the difference, and pick once in mid-September, rather than go through twice? Simply put, it’s not a game of averages. I’m looking for aromas and flavors that are specific to those two points in time. Those specific aromas and flavors don’t exist in the middle. By picking the grapes at those two points in time, then blending them together, we capture those essences that don’t exist in the middle.
I’ve been so happy with the results, we’ve extended trials of the dual picking technique to some of our other still wines in 2018, namely Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. So far, I’m very pleased with the results.
Enjoying rose without thinking about it too much is fun. Making rose thoughtfully and intentionally is fun too. Again, we avoid the middle. This is our best rose. We hope it can be yours too.
If you’re interested to taste our Monticello Vineyards ‘Estate Grown’ 2018 Rose of Pinot Noir, or any of our other wonderful summer sipping wines … please come visit us at the winery, or visit us at /product/2017-Ros--of-Pinot-Noir-Copy. You can also call us at (707) 253-2802.
Chris Corley, Winemaker
Each month, I hold a Winemaker's Workshop with our Hospitality Team. These tasting and discussion sessions are valuable for everyone involved. It's a monthly opportunity for us to share information about our wines and the purpose and stories behind each wine. I've found that I learn by teaching, and because we promote these sessions as open dialogues, we tend towards transparent discussions of our winegrowing and winemaking activities. Sharing the stories behind the wines is important, because it gives the hospitality team deeper and broader insight into the wines, which they can then share with our guests.
Last month, our Winemaker's Workshop focus was on our Estate Grown Pinot Noir. Whenever we talk about our Estate Grown Pinot Noirs, an early question is ‘Why are you growing Pinot Noir in Napa Valley? Isn’t that Cabernet Sauvignon country?’ This is a good question … Napa Valley has grown to be synonymous with Cabernet Sauvignon. While that’s easy to see in 2019, our dad came here almost 50 years ago, and what lured him to Napa Valley was the desire to grow world class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Pinot Noir will always be dear to us. It’s the varietal that brought us to Napa Valley 50 years ago, and as a family, we are fiercely loyal, even with our grapes!
By definition, all of our Pinot Noir offerings are single vineyard wines, meaning all of the grapes in the blend were grown on a single vineyard. Of our five vineyards spanning the length of Napa Valley, we grow our Pinot Noir on the Monticello Vineyard, located in the cooler, southern end of the valley, in the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley. The daily breezes that come in from San Pablo Bay are critical for us to maintain the necessary acidity to make a world class Pinot Noir. (More on our Oak Knoll District weather patterns in an upcoming post!). On the Monticello Vineyard, we grow three different clones of Pinot Noir in two separate blocks. Each of these clones has subtle differences in aroma, flavor, and texture which we take into consideration in making and blending these wines. The two different blocks have soil and slight slope differences which ultimately impact the nuances of the final wines.
In our recent Winemaker’s Workshop, we tasted through about 8 different barrel samples of 2018 Pinot Noir which represented different combinations of blocks and clones. For example, the ‘Block 2, Clone 777’ tends towards a fuller-bodied style, with notes of strawberry, blackberry and cola. The ‘Block 3, Clone 113’ is a little more elegant in style, with notes of raspberry and blueberry. These nuances are fascinating to explore, and make the barrel selection and blending process so enjoyable. The 2018 Pinot Noir samples are so vibrant right now, so full of life, vim and vigor! The color of the wines is electric, and they have an energy that is just bursting from the glass. The wines are like genies released from the barrels. I’m very excited about Vintage 2018 Pinot Noir, and I anticipate that these wines will age gracefully for 10-12 years after bottling.
‘Wait! Did he just say that their Napa Valley Pinot Noir will age gracefully for 10-12 years?’ Absolutely! It has a lot do with our location, and being able to maintain the acidity in the grapes. We also tend towards a little more extraction with our Pinot Noir, so the wines have a slightly fuller character in their youth, but with this comes the substance to age long enough to develop those wonderful tertiary characteristics that only be created with time.
After our Winemaker’s Workshop, we opened a bottle of our Monticello Vineyards ‘Estate Grown’ 2009 Pinot Noir. This single vineyard wine is a blend of two blocks and four clones. (In 2009, we were growing four clones … 777, 667, 113, 115). The color of the wine was excellent, with hues of light purple, magenta, just lightly fading on the edges, but still fresh and robust. The wine had primary notes of slightly fresh, slightly dried berries, strawberries, raspberry. Secondary notes of clove, cola, nutmeg, cinnamon. As the wine opened up in the glass with some airtime, we found underlying tertiary notes of mushroom and earth. On the palate the wine is smooth as silk, and still has several years of life left.
If you’re interested to taste our Monticello Vineyards ‘Estate Grown’ 2009 Pinot Noir, or any of our extensive collection of library wines … please come visit us at the winery, or visit us at www.CorleyFamilyNapaValley.com/Wine-Shop/Library-Wines. You can also call us at (707) 253-2802.
Chris Corley, Winemaker
Joining a winery's wine club can sometimes take some thought. Other times, not so much. You might want to evaluate the different options the winery has provided to you. If the winery makes a lot of different wines, they might be able to provide you a lot of different club options. Depending on your perspective, lots of options will either strike you as thrilling or overwhelming.
Here are four top reasons you can keep in mind when deciding if you want to join a winery's wine club ...
This seems so obvious, but it has to be at the top of the list Of course, you must like the winery's wines because you're going to be drinking a fair bit of them. You should consider whether the winery provides a wide range of styles that will keep you engaged over time. Do they make both reds and whites? Multiple varietals? Do they have big, ageworthy reds, but also more moderate fruit-forward offerings? Perhaps they make a crisp rose that you can enjoy in the summertime? Sparkling wine for the holidays? Full Disclosure : Monticello makes all these types of wines.
Many wineries encourage their club members to come to the winery, to enjoy everything that the winery has to offer, in addition to the wines. This means you might be spending time with many of the hospitality staff, production staff, or perhaps the family. If you're first visit was to the winery, you likely knew right away how the people made you feel. If you're considering signing up from a distance, you might want to spend some time on their website, or call in and have a conversation with a hospitality team member to get a feel for the tone of the winery. Full Disclosure : Monticello's got a great team with many years of collective experience and warm smiles.
Joining a wine club can also give you access to great library and small-production wines that the general public doesn't even know about. These wines are usually very high quality, and because of their small production size, can sometimes give unique insights into the winemaking, farming and history of the winery. Estate-grown, single-block, or single-clone bottlings of different varietals would be an example of these types of limited access wines. Full Disclosure : Monticello enthusiastically produces small-batch wines like this for club members.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of being part of the wine club, is actually being part of a club! Typically this means having a special place, or room, at the winery that you and your guests can access. Or being able to attend the club events, which are generally lots of fun. These could include lobster boils, paella, themed dinners, croquet tournaments, etc ... You'll want to determine if the club events appeal to you. Full Disclosure : Monticello loves throwing a Spring and Harvest event for our members each year!
Hopefully you find wine clubs that appeal to you. For more information about our Monticello Wine Clubs, please visit our website at www.corleyfamilynapavalley.com/wine-club
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?'