David Coffaro Vineyard and Winery Winemaker's Diary

Week 15
April 11, 1999 to April 17, 1999 

April 11, 1999

I haven't made a posting in over a week. As I've said before, Pat types almost all of my postings and within the last week, she has been introducing a trivia challenge, so this has given me time to complete my taxes and also think about what I have to do in the next few weeks. Of course, the most important event in my life is always my birthday, which is May 3rd. It seems that we will be going out to three restaurants, possibly four, within two weeks of that date. I am thinking about another Coffaro diet for the next two weeks leading up to it. 

I've also made a decision to rack and blend our barrels again on the 19th and 20th. That gives me a week to organize which barrels go into our seven wines. This excludes our late harvest Sauvignon Blanc and dry S.B. which we bottled two weeks ago and also the Pinot experiment, which I am contemplating bottling as soon as the bottling line arrives in May. I use several different types of barrels and also many different ages of barrels. As many of you have heard, wineries talk about the percentages of oak they use. This usually refers to how much new oak they use. I'm aiming for 20 percent new oak, and I feel that in both l997 and 1998 I've gotten to the point of using more new oak than I really want. As a new winery in 1994, I bought four new barrels out of the 18 I had for my total production that year. The other 14 barrels were older barrels that I'd bought from Doug Nalle of Nalle Winery. These barrels were five years old and thus imparted virtually no oak flavor to the wine. My perception is that a new barrel, of course, is considered 100 percent new oak for that year. A one-year-old barrel should be considered as imparting some oak to the wine. I've learned when wineries talk about their percentage of oak - say 20 to 40 percent new oak - they are talking only about the oak they bought that year. Since my experience is that I think a one-year-old barrel would still impart 50 percent oak flavor to a wine, and let's say a two-year-old barrel would impart 20-25 percent oak flavor to a wine, this should be taken into consideration when deciding on how much oak to use. I have heard from winemakers that they can still still taste the oak from 4 and 5 year old barrels. I have finally formed an opinion after my five years of commercial winemaking and since I have bought more new oak barrels every year (up to 28 last year), I have many one, two, three, and four year old barrels. So since I started with 20 percent new oak in 1994, I feel if my older barrels are still imparting oak flavor, they should be considered into the percent of oak formula that I use. In the future, then, when I talk about 20 percent new oak, I am going to mean exactly 20 percent new oak barrels that year, but in actuality, that will be closer to 25 percent new oak flavor into the wine itself. This year I am planning on buying 25 to 28 new oak barrels, which will amount to about 18 percent actual new oak at pressing. 

April 12, 1999

Yikes, only 12 more days to Passport! 

The answer to April 10th's question is......ta da.......Mazzocco Vineyards. Always a fun place to visit, Mazzocco usually has a great band for the Passport event and almost always a great theme - last year it was Elvis Presley, the year before "the Land of Oz", and this year it appears they are doing a holiday theme (Easter, Christmas, etc.). Phyllis Zouzounis is the winemaker for Mazzocco and has had her own private wine label for many years, as well - Deux Amis. As a matter of fact, Phyllis and her Deux Amis partner bought Sauvignon Blanc grapes from us one year long ago when we had an abundant year. 

Since we didn't receive any correct answers to this question (but some really good guesses were Fritz and Quivira), we'll ease up a little with today's challenge:  Which winery was the first new winery after Prohibition to be established in 1972 in Dry Creek Valley and made a reputation for producing Sauvignon Blanc, calling it Fume Blanc?

One other quick note I must make is that.....YES, we finally finished labeling all of the 1997 wine! Thanks to Brendan's perseverance and availability recently, he was able to roll the very last label on the very last bottle this past Sunday, just in time for labeling of the late harvest and dry Sauvignon Blanc, both of which were just bottled a couple of weeks ago. Once we get labels for those wines, we'll be back in the labeling business again. But it sure feels good not having any labeling hanging over us for even a few days!

April 13, 1999

It's not written in stone. We've had heated discussions about it. But we have tentatively decided on which wines we will pour at Passport.  We are almost sold out of all our 1998 estate wines. Since we are not going to bottle until July, this means that we will have none of these wines to sell or pour after that time. We would obviously like to showcase our estate wines at Passport every year. We did get a lot of criticism two years ago when we served our estate wines but could not sell them.This is most likely the case again this year. We do have about 30 cases of 1998 Estate Cuvee left for sale at this time and we have made the decision to serve this wine at Passport. We have 60 cases left of our recently bottled 1998 estate Sauvignon Blanc and we are planning to pour that wine as well. We also have our 1998 Neighbors' Zinfandel and our Neighbors' Cuvee to pour. These wines were produced from many of the best vineyards around here and are showing well right now. I would also like to introduce some of our Passport attendees to our new estate wine. We only have ten cases left for sale, but I feel it is a special wine and would like to serve it for this great event. The wine is the 1998 Aca Modot. This is the documented name of the Indian Village that used to exist here on our site over 100 years ago. The soil on this Indian site is black from all the campfires and is so loose that it is extremely well drained. As a matter of fact, there is no way to keep enough water on this site to overcrop the vines. Unless I water it at least once a week, the grapes would turn to raisins. I did experiment last year by cutting off the water for two weeks before harvest, and I feel this may have increased the intensity of the wine. This year, the blend is about 75 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and does have a good percentage of Cabernet Franc and Malbec in it. In future vintages, the percentage of Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and even Petite Verdot will increase from our recent new plantings on this site. I am encouraged by this new blend which will be more traditionally Bordeaux.

P.S. Quick Answer to yesterday's question - Dry Creek Vineyard, of course, established by Dave Stare in 1972. At that time there were only 3 other operating wineries in the valley, about 1000 acres of grapes (in 1995 there were almost 4000 acres and now probably hundreds more), and about 5000 acres of prune and pear orchards. Now, who knows the answer to this one: Which current Dry Creek Valley winery was one of the three operating at the time Dry Creek Vineyard was established?

April 15, 1999

Tax preparation is over and the tax returns have been mailed!!

The winery I was looking for in answer to the April 13th question was J. Pedroncelli Winery, although Frei Bros. (now owned and operated by Gallo) would have also been an acceptable answer.  According to the material provided us by the Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley:  “When Prohibition was repealed in 1933, the wine industry in Dry Creek Valley was a shadow of its former glory. Only two wineries remained in business:  J. Pedroncelli Winery (the former Canata Winery) and Frei Bros. Winery (formerly Charles Dunz’ cellar). The Depression and frequent oversupply made earning a living growing grapes difficult. Vineyards endured, but orchard crops such as prunes and pears became the valley’s mainstay.”  The third winery that existed in 1972 when Dave Stare came to the valley was Chris Fredson Winery, which no longer exists, but the buildings are now owned by the Wilson Winery (keep an eye out for their first release within the next few months), and is also the home of Deux Amis and McCrae Ridge (Stan Simpson’s label - I think that’s the name of his winery - anyone who knows for sure, please let me know).

Now on to today’s question:  Which Dry Creek Valley winery principal was the vineyard manager for Lambert Bridge Winery until he took over the operation of his own family’s winery in 1987, which winery prior to that time was noted for producing Napa Gamay and Zinfandel and which now, among other things, is well known for its abundant and mouthwatering food buffet at the Passport event each year? 

It also recently occurred to me that many of you may not know exactly which Dry Creek Valley wineries participate in Passport each year, so I’m listing this year’s participants:  Alderbrook, Armida, David Coffaro, Dry Creek Vineyard, Everett Ridge, Ferrari-Carano, Forchini, Frick, J. Fritz, Lake Sonoma, Lambert Bridge, Mazzocco, Meeker, Michel-Schlumberger, Mill Creek, J. Pedroncelli, Peterson, Pezzi King, Preston, Quivira, A. Rafanelli, Seghesio, F. Teldeschi, Unti and Yoakim Bridge. -- Pat

April 16, 1999

We either have a lot of Dry Creek trivia buffs out there or the questions are just too easy because we had 4 correct answers today. But I’m having fun with this “contest” and hope everyone is at least finding it entertaining.

 When we first came to the valley, we met Dave Rafanelli when he was working as the vineyard manager for Lambert Bridge, as well as working his own family vineyard. But when his father Americo passed away in 1987, Dave took on the winemaking for the family winery and has been running the winery ever since. Of course, Rafanelli is always a favorite stop for wine tasters and has become even more popular at Passport time because of the fabulous Italian buffet they always put out in addition to their fantastic wines. Getting a parking space anywhere near their winery around lunch time both days of Passport is harder than finding a teetotaler at a winery!

Proceeding to the Passport trivia question for today - Which Dry Creek Valley winery, well known for its exotic foods and raucous entertainment at Passport each year, is owned by former Los Angeles residents reportedly involved in some aspect of the film industry?  


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