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Corley Family Winery - Oak Knoll District, Napa Va


94 Points, Editor’s Choice - Wine Enthusiast magazine

The Corley Family has been at home in the Napa Valley for nearly 37 years. Since 1970 Jay Corley has had the pleasure of making fine wines in the cellars of the Monticello Vineyards and over the years, Jay (and now his sons) have produced some spectacular award-winning wines. While keeping quality-over-quantity of paramount importance, they’ve carved out a special place for a new designation: Corley and Corley Reserve Wines. The Corley designation is set aside for very small, specialty wines and represents less than 10% of the Winery’s totals production.

In comparison to other wineries, Monticello Vineyards is a small, family owned and operated winery that has very capably managed to carve out a highly respectable niche in the ever-crowded Napa Valley wine scene. They have a near cult following for their big, rich, age-worthy Cabernet Sauvignons and their lush and elegant Chardonnays. They also produce a superb limited production sparkling wine under the Domaine Montreaux label.

Founder, Jay Corley, comes from a long line of ancestors involved in agriculture. The Corley’s have traced their ancestry back to the mid 1600s in Virginia, where the family owned a plantation. In the mid-1700s a popular, young statesman named, Thomas Jefferson established a neighboring plantation. As you may know, Jefferson was an avid wine enthusiast and culinary expert. Throughout his life and even during his Presidency he experimented in growing dozens of varieties of domestic and imported grapes. The agrarian way of life continued for the Corley’s from generation to generation. Jay Corley brought the family heritage to Napa Valley in 1970 and now his sons carry on their heritage that started so many years before. Jay recalls, “My goal at the time was to create an estate-type setting and implement the newest agricultural and winemaking innovations possible.”

“The 90-acre property he bought consisted mostly of prune trees that he quickly cleared. He first planted Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and at the suggestion of André Tchelistcheff, also planted Gewurztraminer. “I had lots of help starting out,” Jay remembers. “Napa back then was basically a farming community, very fraternal and very eager to help the neighbors. The first harvest from the property was in 1975. For years he sold 100% of his crop to wineries such as Mondavi, Christian Brothers, Domaine Chandon and Schramsberg. In 1980 Jay made his first wines under the Monticello label–Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Until his own winery was built in 1982, he used the facilities of Rutherford Hill to make his wines. The Jefferson/Monticello theme tie-in was completed with the construction, two years later, of a 6,000 square foot administration building closely resembling the Thomas Jefferson estate.

Over the next decade, the Monticello Vineyards increased in size by the acquisition of several nearby parcels. With the financial help of friends and acquaintances eager take part in this promising venture, today Monticello farms over 200 acres of vineyards. Although a small portion of grapes are purchased from other Napa growers, most of the Monticello wines are made from estate grown fruit. In the early 1980s, Jay began to see how well the famous sparkling wine producers, like Domain Chandon and Schramsberg, were doing with the Monticello estate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir fruit he had sold to them. As a result, he and his sons started experimenting with their own sparkling wine that resulted in the Domaine Montreaux label.

Today, the Corley family continues the tradition that Jay Corley started nearly 37 years ago. Jay’s very capable sons, Kevin, Chris and Stephen, now run the winery. Kevin is the Winegrower and President, Chris is the Winemaker and Stephen is the Director of Wine Sales and Marketing. Together the three brothers faithfully respect their fathers’ grape growing philosophy of “sunshine to wine”; a philosophy that embraces the importance of selecting the varieties, clone, vineyard spacing and trellis systems that match the soil and microclimate of their vineyards. The Corley’s pride themselves in managing and cultivating their vineyards for low yields that equate to a superior fruit. Today, they proudly nurture five small vineyard sites that produce their lush, limited-edition wines designated Monticello Vineyards, Corley and Corley Reserve.



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