Monticello and Corley Family Wines
Thomas Jefferson was a wine lover extraordinaire. He collected French wines and tried to grow grapes and make wine at his Monticello home in Virginia. The Corley Family, with ancestral ties to Virginia, have taken the Jefferson love of wines to the Napa Valley. They have their own Monticello and excellent wines that I believe Thomas Jefferson would highly praise. We had a great visit with Kevin Corley. Kevin is the “Jack of all Trades” at Monticello Vineyards, more specifically President and Vineyard Manager. When we met him at the winery, he had just been out to the vineyards where harvest was in full gear at his nearby vineyard in the Oak Knoll AVA. The Cabernet Sauvignon grapes provided us with a full set of Crush activities at the Monticello winery on that day.
The winery was founded by Kevin’s father, Jay Corley, in 1970. Jay Corley was not only a wine enthusiast but a big fan of Thomas Jefferson. In 1984, Jay completed the Jefferson House, a one-third-sized replica of Jefferson’s Monticello. Jay Corley is still active in the winery but, at age 85, lets his sons run the winery. Kevin’s brother Chris is the winemaker and brother Stephen is Director of Wine Sales. We love visiting a true family winery. There are family wineries, and then there are family wineries. We recently visited two so-called family wineries where the owners were absent, one living in Virginia and the other in New York. At Corley, the family members are present and active with the winery. It is a whole different feel and I believe it reflects in the quality of the wines.
Visitors to Monticello can pop in at any time to the tasting room and taste four wines for $25. The Jefferson House has a wonderful downstairs area where wine was once made. Wine tasting is set up in this downstairs area or on the porch for guests who call ahead and book a tasting. See options. On a beautiful, partly cloudy day, we sat out on the terrace of the Jefferson House and sipped several of the Corley Family wines. It was a delight to be able to do some side-by-side tasting of three red wines, two single-vineyard Cabs and a Meritage-style wine that was mostly Cab. The two Cabernet wines were both 2011 vintage. It was so interesting to compare the Yewell Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from St.Helena to the Tietjen Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from Rutherford. So different, but each a fantastic wine. We were very appreciative of the time and attention Kevin Corley gave us on this busy day at the winery.
Monticello Vineyards is on Big Ranch Road. It is hidden from the two main roads in the Napa Valley, Highway 29 and the Silverado Trail. Take Oak Knoll Avenue from either one of these main roads and turn south when you get to Big Ranch Road. Look for Corley on the left.