For those of you that were around in the late 1900s, you probably remember navigating the Dewey Decimal System in your library. Maybe some still do. With so many books online now, I'm guessing a lot of folks are downloading their favorite titles these days. I've nejoyed my Kindle over the years, and have ordered plenty of hardcovers online over the years, also enjoyed my share of e-books.
Until someone figures out how to make that USB wine spigot that we've all seen online a reality, you'll still need to reach into your cellar for an older wine though. Or, if you really want to go back through the vintages, you'll need to peruse our library shelves at the winery!
Our family is excited to be celebrating fifty years of winegrowing in Napa Valley! It's been a great opportunity to look both forwards and backwards. The fun part of looking forwards is the planning, growth, dreaming and optimism. The fun part of looking backwards is tasting through (drinking) all of our older wines!
We've been very good over the decades about stowing away select wines in our library, and now we are excited about tasting through a lot of them, and sharing them with our fans and friends. We've got wines going all the way back to 1980 (we were growers for 10 years before making our first family wine). With such a robust selection of vintages, there is a very good chance we have a special reserve, single vineyard, or estate grown wine from a year that is special to you.
Wine is such an integral part of all of our lives, we tend to remember the special places and events that we were experiencing when we had a special wine. In turn, it's also a lot of fun to enjoy a wine that shares the same year as a special event. Personally, I've been blessed that my marriage year (2001), and the birth years of my kids (2004, 2005) are all good vintages. That said, even when the wine from a personally memorable year wasn't also a great vintage, the wine is still very rewarding. That's because when you drink a 'memory wine', it's not just aromas, flavors and textures ... you're imbibing memories and evoking emotions.
1989 wasn't one of the great vintages in Napa history, although we remain proud of the wines we made that year. It was a cool season with some rain at harvest. Although, as I pull the cork from a bottle of our Corley 'Reserve' 1989 Cabernet Sauvignon, it's like an ether of wonderful memories for me ... graduating from high school, long hair on my head instead of my chin, and summertime (cue the George Gershwin or Sublime). Drinking the wine from that vintage takes us back to that time, and I loved that year. 1989 vintage is good for me, because the 1989 wine is firing more synapses for me than just my taste buds.
Hopefully, you have some special years that hold wonderful memories for you. Odds are we have a bottle of wine just for you. If nothing memorable has happened in your life in the last 40 years, come on by anyway. We've got wine for that situation too, and we can talk about it over a glass!
In the meantime, please visit us at www.corleyfamilynapavalley.com/Wine-Shop/Library-Wines , or call us at the winery and we can help you find your special year in our library!
Our family has been in the winegrowing business in Napa Valley for 50 years. As you might imagine, we've assembled a pretty thorough wine library over the last five decades. One of the great pleasures of wine is to be able to go back through the years and taste the wines, reliving the vintage and experiencing it through fresh eyes and current palates.
A current tasting that we're offering in our tasting room provides this unique opportunity for everyone. We've held back some of our best estate grown library wines, and are sharing these wonderful wines with you!
CORLEY 'PROPRIETARY' RED WINE
Our Corley 'Proprietary' Red Wine is a wine that we first produced in 1999. in the mid 1990s, we planted a fairly wide range of Cabernet Franc clones on our properties in the Oak Knoll District. We planted and are currently growing 4 distinct Clones ... Clones 312, 332, 327 and Clone X. Each of these clones has a distinct flavor, aroma and texture profile that we utilize differently in the cellar. For example, Clone X tends towards darker fruit and bolder textures. Clone 332 has brighter fruit and is more round in body on the palate. Clone 327 tends to be more aromatic than the others, and fills in a nice elegance and suppleness when used in a blend. Cabernet Franc is a varietal we love, and it has been an influential and primary blending varietal in our Corley 'Proprietary' Red Wines for the last 20 years. While the blends vary for each vintage, in the early vintages, Cabernet Franc was typically a driving varietal in the blends.
We're featuring four vintages of Corley 'Proprietary' Red Wine from our library with this current tasting. Going back about 15 years, this flight is in a wonderful place. The wines are still showing great fruit, both aromatically and on the palate, and are also taking on some beautiful tertiary characteristics that only time and patience can provide ...
VINTAGE 2004. Cabernet Franc 61%, Merlot 21%, Cabernet Sauvignon 12%, Syrah 6%. This wine was one of the first vintages that included the non-traditional Syrah in the blend. A short, hot vintage, the wine reflects the ripe ebullience of the growing season, yet remains balanced and refined. Its vim and vigor is a testament as to why cooler regions like Oak Knoll District can shine in warmer vintages. The wine retains a nice acidity and balance.
VINTAGE 2005. Cabernet Franc 56%, Merlot 28%, Syrah 10%, Cabernet Sauvignon 6%. This wine hails from a longer, cooler growing season. The varietal percentages are fairly similar between Vintage 2004 and 2005. The growing seasons were very different though. The fun contrast here is in tasting the vintage differences side by side, and seeing how the contrasting seasons affect the wines over time. I find that in the generally cooler Oak Knoll District region of Napa Valley, this southern appellation is more flexible in reacting to the varying growing seasons. The wines from these two very different seasons are no as different as you might imagine, another testament to the consistency of our winegrowing, and the flexibility of this region.
VINTAGE 2006. Cabernet Franc 39%, Merlot 34%, Cabernet Sauvignon 18%, Syrah 9%. 2006 was a longer growing season, similar to 2005, although not quite as cool. This vintage blend expresses less Cabernet Franc and less Cabernet Sauvignon. The fun part about tasting through verticals, especially from the library, is that you can see the trends of the artistry behind the blend. As winemakers, like all artists, we evolve and transition. This is most easily understood when enjoying a body of work as a whole.
VINTAGE 2007. Cabernet Franc 54%, Merlot 35%, Syrah 11%. 2007 was another wonderful vintage in Napa Valley. I've been loving the 2007s over the last couple of years. Bottled in 2009, they are at about 10-11 years in the bottle and are in a beautifully balanced sweet spot. This 'Proprietary' is no exception. Wonderfully balanced, and the only wine in this flight that does not have any Cabernet Sauvignon included. It is interesting to taste the 2006 and 2007 side by side here, and see the impact that the Cabernet Sauvignon imparts on the final blend.
I hope that you can join us at the winery to enjoy this special tasting with us. Please call our hospitality team at (707) 253-2802 to make an appointment. You can also peruse our selection of library wines, including these, at www.corleyfamilynapavalley.com/Wine-Shop/Library-Wines
Jay Corley, a Napa Valley standard-bearer for nearly 50 years and founder of Monticello Vineyards, passed away on January 11, 2016 in Napa, surrounded by family. The causes were complications from cancer. He was 84 years old.
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 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.
I've been working at Monticello Vineyards my whole life. I started working for the winery during summers in high school, and with the exception of a brief time at Humboldt State University to pursue studies in Marine Biology, I've been working steadily at the winery since 1989. It's interesting to be able to see your workplace through your own 18 year old eyes, and also those same 48 year old eyes 30 years later.
DESTINATION & NAVIGATiON
Like every endeavour in life, there are usually multiple paths. The important thing is identifying the destination first. Navigation second. Our dad made it clear to me that if I was going to work in the winery, that my work started at the bottom. It wouldn't matter if I had a winemaking degree or not, my first job in the family business would be on the bottom rung. At the wise old age of 18, and with our dad's approval, I decided if I was going to start at the bottom either way, then I wanted to start right away. I chose my destination first ... I wanted to be the winemaker for my family's winery. We charted the navigation second.
A lot of my uncles on my mom's side worked in the trades in Scotland. This was largely an apprentice based learning system ... from Apprentice, to Journeyman, to Master Craftsman. It was appealing to me, and this system was the basis for how I approached learning how to make wine. I started working in the cellar at a young age, and took a lot of winemaking and viticulture classes to support the on-hands learning. To this day, our hierarchy in the cellar adheres to this structure. Including myself, every single member of the production team at Monticello has started at the bottom rung, and worked through every level to their current position.
THE GOLDEN BROOM & DUSTPAN
In my first days working in the cellar, I would observe our dad making his way slowly through the cellar, broom in one hand, dustpan in the other. He would sweep and pick up bits of trash to throw away. A gregarious man, he visited with people along the way. He was the president and founder of the company, generally dressed for business not cleaning, as he came from a generation that presented themselves that way. My young self couldn't understand why the president and founder was sweeping and picking up trash, certainly he had more important things to work on?
I never asked him why he spent his valuable time with a broom and dustpan, but over time it became clear that he wasn't really sweeping and cleaning up the winery. He was communicating ... slowly making his way through the winery, talking with everyone in the cellar, asking them about their work, their families, how they were doing. If they were having problems could he help? If the president and founder asked those questions, many employees would be tight-lipped. But in these exchanges, he was just Jay with a broom in his hand. Our dad was an outgoing, caring man, a really great guy. We've learned many lessons from him, both personal and professional. At a very young age, the lesson I learned from his broom and dustpan, was that our business was built on the shoulders of people.
To this day, our written Values, from our Vision and Mission Statement, carry forward these simple, yet strong values that are symbolized by the broom and the dustpan.
PEOPLE are the foundation of our company. We strive to create an inclusive workplace, one in which mutual respect, collaboration and integrity are the driving principles.
RELATIONSHIPS are the strongest bonds which unite us. We strive to maintain respectful and authentic relationships, amongst ourselves and with our customers.
COMMUNITY is a space, in which we thrive when positively nurtured. We strive to create a positive and interactive workplace, and to engage in a positive manner with the community at large in all of our business functions.
INNOVATION AND QUALITY are motors of our forward progress. We strive to create an inspired workplace, one in which ideas and communication are paramount.
PERSISTENCE AND DETERMINATION are omnipotent in maintaining business momentum, in times of strength and weakness. We strive to create a secure workplace, one in which everyone is motivated to always press on.
Regarding the title of this post ...The Golden Broom and Dustpan'. In his later years, we presented our dad with a (painted) Golden Broom and Dustpan. They are symbols of our stated values. After some time, this broom and dustpan found their way back on to the cellar floor and were being used by staff that didn't realize their significance. I realized this recently and pulled them aside. Now slightly and appropriately tattered, we'll hang the Golden Broom and Dustpan up on the cellar wall as a lasting tribute to our Dear Ol' Dad, and to the values he instilled in us and our family business.
As a multi-generation winegrowing family in the Napa Valley, we've assembled a robust library of all of our wines over the last fifty years. Saving wine for many years is not easy ... it takes restraint and thoughtfulness, and requires a safe, cool space for the wines to age. Some of our older vintages have been sequestered away, unmoved, for decades in our warehouse. The bottles have collected that satisfyingly clean and pure dust, that is only accomplished with undisturbed time. While the exterior of these bottles can provide a prologue as to how the wine was stored, it is the wine itself that shares the intricate and intimate details of its journey through time.
In days past, a manuscript scrolled inside a bottle would travel thousands of miles across the seas, sharing a story of a distant place and perhaps a distant time. What a unique pleasure for the person finding the bottle to uncork it, and to read a story from a far away land! Likely it would have been in a different language, and from a different culture. Who knows how long it might take for that bottle to cross the seas, floating at the current's mercy. Perhaps much time would pass before the bottle made landfall, the message might be Nonetheless, it would have been enlightening for the discoverer.
As these bottles drift across the seas, their manuscripts inside would soften and yellow in the sun. As salt air inevitably ingressed through the cork, the paper would soften and the ink would run towards the ends. Under this physical softening, the underlying message would remain the same. It would have been a uniquely satisfying experience for the discoverer to come across one of these timeless messages in a bottle.
When we produce wines that we expect to age for decades, we are sending a message in a bottle. We bottle wines that are full of young ripe fruit, full midpalates and robust tannins. As these wines drift through the seas of time, they develop and mature. The ripe fruit develops with time, and takes on tertiary characteristics that can only be borne of time. As the air slowly ingresses through the cork, the midpalate rounds out, the finish lengthens, and the tannins soften to velvet.
Examples of these ageworthy wines are our CORLEY 'Single Vineyard' Cabernet Sauvignon. We produce five single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from Tietjen Vineyard 'Rutherford', Yewell Vineyard in St, Helena, Monticello Vineyard and Knollwood Vineyard in Oak Knoll District, and the historic State Lane Vineyard in Yountville. Our CORLEY 'Reserve' Cabernet Sauvignon is an ageworthy blend from all of these classic vineyards.
We produced our first CORLEY 'Reserve' Cabernet Sauvignon in 1982. From that first vintage, this wine was designed to age for decades. Each year this wine is blended from our five vineyards across Napa Valley, and each year it represents our highest expression of winemaking in each given vintage.
To celebrate this New Year transition into 2020, we enjoyed a bottle of CORLEY 'Reserve' 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon with dinner. As this wine has drifted through the seas of time over the last 20 years, this wine remains lively and showing strong signs of life still to go. On the nose, the wine shares subtle dark berry fruits, and a nice undercurrent of olive and herbs. The midpalate has rounded wonderfully, the wine is seamless across the transitions fromt he front of the palate to the finish. The once robust tannins are now like velvet on the palate. I remember this wine well from its youth. I recognize it now, like an old friend whose eyes you never forget.
If you're interested in finding some of our 'messages in a bottle', please follow the link to our library page at www.corleyfamilynapavalley.com/wine-shop/library-wines
As we near the end of 2019, we're reminded of all the great wines we've tasted over the past year. It's fun to taste past vintages at selected time points on the vintage continuum. For example, in 2019, we've been enjoying wines from 2014 (5 years), 2009 (10 years), 2004 (15 years), and 1999 (20 years). Since we have jusr a few days left in this year, I'll write about a couple of these wines, and will plan to share more thoughts on the wines in this 5/10/15/20 cycle as be embark on a new vintage journey in 2020.
This special vineyard is on State Lane in the Yountville appellation. In 1982, we purchased 15 acres of the historic State Lane Vineyard from Beringer. For many years, the wines from this vineyard have been the foundation for our Corley 'Reserve' Cabernet Sauvignon, and also our Monticello 'Jefferson Cuvee' Cabernet Sauvignon. For many of those years, this vineyard as one of our largest blocks of Cabernet Sauvignon, and produced wine of such depth and intensity that it has served us well as a primary building block for our most robust Cabernet Sauvignon offerings.
In 2004, we bottled the first 100% single vineyard offering from State Lane Vineyard. This small bottling was isolated from 6 barrels from this vineyard for that year. We continue to bottle these small single vineyard offerings, and Vintage 2019 will represent our sixteenth consecutive vintage of State Lane Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. The bottlings have grown slightly, but remain very limited. Over 16 vintages, the bottlings have grown from just 6 barrels per vintage to 20 barrels per vintage.
State Lane Vineyard has long been one of my favorite vineyards for building blends. Its intensely dark color, rich tannin structure, and long finish makes it a perfect wine to build upon. The State Lane Vineyard provides the broad shoulders for other lots and varietals to stand upon. When selecting the barrels for a single vineyard offering, the parameters are a little different though. The Single Vineyard wine will be 100% from this vineyard. There is no blending, just barrel selection. We need to be thoughtful in selecting barrels that will provide us the right balance of depth, complexity, and intensity ... but also the right amount of resolve and smoothness on the palate. With the Corley 'State lane Vineyard' Cabernet Sauvignon, I expect these wines to age for 20+ years, so they can tend to be a little firm in their youth. The tannins mellow over time, and I find these wines from this vineyard really are in a magnificent plateau of sweet spot between years 5-15.
Last night, we enjoyed a bottle of the Corley Cabernet Sauvignon 'State Lane Vineyard', Vintage 2009. We paired it with a Filet Mignon and New York Strip. Both cuts were fantastic with the wine. At 10 years, the wine was still displaying much youth, and we cold see the early signs of maturity, particularly on the softening of the tannins in the midpalate and finish. The color reamins inky and dark, and on the nose the wine still has ample youthful aromas of blackberry, currant and hints of spice. On the palate, the wine has a wonderful balance of rich midpalate voluptuousness, framed by modest tannins that have aged very gracefully over the past ten years. The finish is long and lingering. This vineyard tends to shine brightly at ten years, and this bottle of 2009 was no exception.
If you're interested in learning more about our State Lane Vineyard, and our latest release of Vintage 2015, which received 95 points from Decanter magazine ... please visit us at www.corleyfamilynapavalley.com/product/-2015-State-Lane-Vineyard-Cabernet-Sauvignon
I just returned from a trip to Asia. I visited two countries, one of which we currently enjoy a wonderful following for our wines, and another which will be a new market for us in 2020. As is true for all of the markets that we sell in, great relationships really are the key to success. From our own perspective, we make really good wines and sell them at fair prices. I'll concede that, these days, there are a lot of wineries that make really good wines and sell them at fair prices. So what differentiates us from them? There are many factors, but for this post I'm going to focus on great relationships.
We've been selling wine in Taiwan for about 6 years. We enjoy a robust following for our wines, in particular our CORLEY Single Vineyard series Cabernet Sauvignon offerings, and our MONTICELLO Jefferson Cuvee Cabernet Sauvignon. Our customers are very knowledgable about not only our wines, but also many other wines of Napa Valley. I've put a lot of energy into this market over the last 6 years. I visit a couple of times a year, and we present the MONTICELLO and CORLEY wines at wine dinners and tasting events. These events give me valuable facetime with our existing customers and introductions to new customers. Over the years, our customers become increasingly familiar with our various offerings and at this point, we are able to discuss more specific aspects of the wines, for example differences in vintages within our Single Vineyard series, or general underlying characteristics of the different vineyard offerings from sub-appellations, suchs Oak Knoll District, Yountville, Rutherford, and St. Helena.
More importantly than simply building our brand recognition, these dinners and events give us an opportunity to forge, develop and maintain great relationships, even if we are physically separated by 6000 miles of Pacific Ocean. It takes a considerable effort and time to travel this distance, and our customers appreciate that. From my perspective, the effort and time is an investment in the relationships with a high return. We have valuable shared experiences over time. Making great wines and selling them for fair prices is necessary, tablestakes really. Forging, developing and maintaining great relationships is as well.
While I've spent a lot of time in Taiwan over the last 6 years, I've just visited the Philippines for the first time. It was a brief trip to Manila to visit with some potential importers. I'm very excited about the opportunities, and am optimistic that we'll begin to distribute our wines in the Philippines in 2020. While there is a modest supply of Napa Valley wines in the Philippines now, there is currently more focus on European wines.
Our hosts, Chef Philip Golding and Donatella Chua put out a wonderful spread of charcuterie. Chef Philip prepared some fantastic meats on the fly, and guided us through some expert pairings with our wines at their ChefWorks headquarters in Manila. We had a great tasting, delicious pairings, and forged the beginnings of what I believe will be a wonderful and prosperous relationship.
Sharing our wines, and the history of our family winery with customers and friends is a great pleasure of mine. Doing so abroad is very invigorating as well. I love the learning experience, learning about new foods, and the resulting pairings that I was not previously aware of. I've learned that our CORLEY 'Reserve' Cabernet Sauvignon pairs well with the spicy side of the double-sided Taiwanese HotPot, and our MONTICELLO 'Jefferson Cuvee' Cabernet Sauvignon does well with the other side.
Any time we can teach and learn at the same time is a valuable opportunity in life, and these trips to Asia presenting our wines, and forging relationships, certainly provide ample opportunity for both.
MEET CHRIS CORLEY
Growing up in the heart of The Napa Valley, Chris Corley began learning winemaking through his father Jay Corley. Spending his high school summers in the cellar at Monticello Vineyards, he chose to focus on all things winemaking and winery operations and would in time, assume title of head winemaker at Monticello. Through thousands of visitors of the winery, to scoring dozens of 90+ point ratings each year, Monticello has become a breath of fresh air amidst The Napa Valley.
Although the successes are celebratory, Chris always looks to the future, as the winery is celebrating their 50 year anniversary in 2020, he is always strategically thinking about what clones to isolate for the next reserve or where to plant the next plot of Chardonnay. Chris also takes part in classes to increase his wine knowledge skillset and to continue to expand his wine education. Keeping a streamlined and consistent approach to the winemaking process, he maintains the same philosophy his father put forth since the beginning of Monticello - creating great wines they've become known for, and resisting the need to tailor yearly harvests to industry trends.
Visiting the winery, you can find Chris playing one of the two grand pianos on the property (one is tucked away in the bubble lounge and the other is nestled amongst barrels in the production area of the winery) or enjoying a bottle of Corley State Lane in the wine cellar after hours. On the weekends, you can find him snowboarding or scuba diving in Monterey with his wife and two kids.
As you can tell over here at Monticello Vineyards, we have an affinity for our third president.
Thomas Jefferson was not only a founding father but also America’s first great connoisseur. Food and wine were two of Jefferson's passions. Jefferson had a way of entertaining his guests with foods and fine wine unlike anyone in his time. He can be considered the US's first "foodie" and some even call him the Father of Wine. Jefferson regularly imported parmasean cheese from Italy and popularized macaroni and cheese in the States. He was well ahead of his time when he determined that America would need to import vine cuttings from France to make truly world-class wines. His forward thinking nature with fine dining, food and wine can also be displayed through his visions of the future of the United States captured in the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson was just 33 years old when he drafted the Declaration.
Jay Corley admired Jefferson's passions and honored the third President by naming the winery Monticello Vineyards after Jefferson’s mountaintop home in Charlottesville, Virginia. In 1984, Jay built the Jefferson House, a very close replica of Monticello, on the Home Ranch. Lou Gerhardt, architect employed to design the Jefferson House, went to Jefferson’s Monticello five times to get the real feel of the architecture. Paints were mixed together to get specific colors to match the color schemes from the era. The parquet floor in the parlor is Jefferson’s own design, which is still popular today. The furnishings are reproductions from that era. The Italian ceramic light fixtures are like the one’s Jefferson had. The four acres of grounds surrounding the Jefferson House are comprised of the same trees, shrubs and flowers Thomas Jefferson planted at Monticello.
It was on this day in 1984 when the Jefferson House was completed. Founder, Jay Corley created the plaque above to honor Thomas Jefferson on this day.
From everyone at Monticello Vineyards, we raise a glass to our country and Thomas Jefferson on this day!
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