I have heard that Napa valley is home to 200 wineries, 300 wineries, and 400 wineries. I have never been able to get an exact number and I imagine there are more winery producers than there are those with actual facilities. With that in mind, having driven up and down the valley several hundred times, it was a wrong turn down a side road that proved the most exciting — a winery I had never seen before, Monticello!
The reason I had never seen Monticello before is because it is located on a little-known side road that runs in between the Silverado Trail and Highway 29 known as Big Ranch Road. It is mostly a giant quilt-work of planted vineyards with a farmhouse here and a Victorian replica there. But then there is this Jeffersonian replica belonging to the Corley family.
Jay Corley began as a grape grower in 1970 and built the stately facilities, opening his winery in the late 1980s. I was charmed by the staff and their warmth and interested in a number of wines that were not available to taste; a sparkling as well as a botrytis-affected Semillon. They refer to these wines as "secrets" and while I enjoyed the wines I did taste, I was most intrigued by the others.
2004 Monticello Vineyards Estate Grown Chardonnay – A classically designed California Chardonnay with a light aroma of green apple and kiwi. Crisp, defined mouth entry shows well-integrated oak with a touch of creaminess. Balanced and textured. $26.00
2003 Monticello Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir – Fabulously rich nose of ripe raspberry and strawberry. Complex with red fruit and earth, the soft tannins showed excellent heightened acidity and a long, supple finish. $34.00
2003 Monticello Vineyards Estate Merlot – Spicy fruit and dark, toasty oak bouquet with secondary aromas of green terroir. Tight mouth entry is constricted, but expands with swirling and aeration. Full bodied, muted flavors of dark fruit are moderated with supple tannins. A young wine that I would love to try in five or ten years. $30.00
2001 Monticello Vineyards, Jefferson Cuvée Cabernet Sauvignon – Black fruit and green bell pepper with dark, dusty twigs and dried flowers in the nose. Young, flavors of cedar and cocoa dominates black fruit. $34.00
Monticello Vineyards/Corley Family Napa Valley ~ 4242 Big Ranch Road ~ Napa ~ CA ~ 94558 ~ 707-253-2802