David Coffaro Vineyard and Winery Winemaker's Diary

Weeks 16 - 17
April 20, 2008 - May 3, 2008 

Sunday April 20, 2008

It's 6:30 in the morning and the outside temperature is at 30.8 degrees. That low is probably not enough to damage the green growth on our vines. It may kill some of my tomato plants but I can live with that. The wind machines up the valley have been on since 3:30Am. I have not invested in a wind machine so we are vulnerable to frost damage. These very tall machines are set to come on when the temperature outside reaches 37 degrees and are one method of frost protection. They are big enough and strong enough to move the air through out a 40 acre vineyard. By moving the air the machines create a wind that will keep the temperature above 31 degrees. At 31 degrees the potential crop will not be damaged. If the low 20's are seen the green shoots in a whole vineyard can turn black! I saw the effects of a hard frost back in the early 80's when my father in law showed me one of his vineyards in Modesto. That year he lost over 50% of his crop. The vines got a rest that year and the next year they produced a very large crop. The actual vine will not be damaged unless the temperature gets much lower. That is one reason why vines grown East of the Rockies have to be covered in the Winter. 

The other method of protection is by sprinkler. We have only drip irrigation. The sprinkler heads used put out a very fine mist of water and turn around very fast. The idea is that a very fine ice solution is formed around the tender shoots forming a slush at about 31 degrees. This ice covering will help to protect the buds by a few degrees. If the temperature gets down to the mid 20s there is not much that can be done. If the shoots on a vine are damaged another dormant shoot will emerge in the next few days but these shoots (Suckers) will produce less potential grape bunches. Suckers on Zinfandel vines will produce a decent crop while the suckers on Carignan vines will produce no grape bunches.

7:30Am: For over one hour the temperature this morning had stayed at 30.8 degrees. Finally we are back up to 32 degrees. In awhile I will go out to see if any damage has occurred. There can be patches of the vineyard that saw temperatures below 30 degrees but my hope is up that we have no apparent loss.

4:00Pm: I just got back from walking to the creek and checking out our grapevines. There is some bad news!! All the green shoots on our Barbera are whipped out. There will be new shoots to grow this year and hopefully they will be fruitful. At this time we have sold 36 cases of our 2008 Barbera. I need 0.4 tons to make 36 cases. The Barbera has been removed from our order form. In that same area the first three rows of our Cabernet from the bottom is also gone. That is the cab that goes into the Estate Cuvee. It also looks like we lost some Carignan, so we will be making a little less Estate Cuvee and Carignan. All the pinot vines that were cut to two buds last month are whipped out. I believe those vines will produce another shoot. That is all we need to train them to the top of the stake this year. At this time it looks like the Zinfandel, new Cabernet and Petite Sirah have very little damage.

The real BAD NEWS is that there is another frost alert for tomorrow morning. I will be looking at the temperatures later tonight to compare with last night. The wind is up at this time so I have to hope the wind keeps moving through out the night or we could lose more crop.

10:30Pm: I'm going to be up for most of this night so Pat and I needed a diversion. What is better than looking at a great movie. Juno is a great movie. Ellen Page should have won the Academy Award!! 

I am always hopeful. At this time we are one degree above last night at this time. Also the dew point is at 31 degrees. We could get only down that low if the dew point does not get any lower. The wind is down. That is good because the wind was up last night at this time and the temperature was lower but it is not that good because we need the wind to keep the temperature up. I have Hope! Unpredictable at this time!

Monday April 21, 2008

We made it!!! The low temperature hit 34.6 at 5:40Am. Some of the vineyard areas might have gotten lower but I assume none were lower than 32.

We are going to offer a sale on all our bottled wines for a few days later this week. Anyone ordering wine in the last week leading up to the sale will get the lower prices. I will have more details later.

4:00Pm: I just got through recalculating what I think we will make this year. After a trip out in the vineyard today I found out the damage was more than I thought. It now looks like the Merlot that goes into the Aca Modot is mostly gone and the Cab from the bottom that goes into our Estate Cuvee has been hit far more than I thought. It now looks like we will be making about 230 cases of our 2008 Estate Cuvee and only 130 cases of 2008 Aca Modot. By the 25th of April I will have the revised case totals on our order form. Things can change so we will see.

Friday April 25, 2008

I was out sulfuring again today because we had a little rain the other day. Every time I get out in the vineyard I see more damage from the frost last Sunday morning. It now looks like we may have lost 20-30% of our crop. You can find images of the damage here. We have a sale on our bottled wines until the end of the month. You can go to the order form to see the revised case estimates for the 2008 wines. We may be only producing 2900 cases this year.

Tuesday April 29, 2008

We had a temperature of 94 Sunday but it has cooled down a little for today. It does look like Spring is finally here. 

I just took another look at the damaged vines and some are spouting new growth. I see that the Barbera could produce a half crop, so send me an email because I will sell another 10 cases at this time. The bottom cab is another matter. The shoots in the cab don't look too fruitful so at this time I am keeping my estimate for the 2008 Estate Cuvee at only 230 cases. We could sell out of Estate Cuvee by May 31st. I'll have further reports next week. 

I won't know about quality until I make the wine. This is all new to me. I do know small bunches make better wine and a happy vine makes better wine. I have also noticed usually big crops make better wine because the bunches are formed uniformly. These new shoots should make great wine, but if bunches mature on some damaged shoots the quality could be poor. For quality, it is better to have all the bunches on a vine destroyed and have the new growth fruit a small crop. Time will tell. 

Friday May 2, 2008

Tomorrow is my 65th birthday so we are having a few relatives and friends over to watch the Kentucky Derby. We are open for tasting until 4pm. The derby starts at 3pm or so. Join us.


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