David Coffaro Vineyard and Winery Winemaker's Diary

Week 18
May 2, 1999 to May 8, 1999 
May 3, 1999

Everyone is asleep, but I had to make a short entry. Today is my birthday and I love to celebrate. I'm 56. It seems like only yesterday that I was 35 and working this vineyard. I am so busy now that I don't get out there enough. I had a great day which started off early this morning. I dusted the vineyard with sulfur for the first time this year. Sulfur is necessary inorder to preserve the quality of the grapes(more tomorrow). It was a perfect time to sulfur and I enjoyed it immensely. I did notice as I was driving by the zinfandel that it appeared to be light. At this early date I can only say that we could have less zinfandel than last year. I say this tonight, because we are overwhelmed with the orders for '99 futures and Pat and I must go over the orders tomorrow to determine if we should cut off this unrestricted offer soon. I sure don't want to sell wine I cannot make and I would like to have some to sell to new people after harvest. We did not expect this response and we are concerned that we have not sent the offer out to some of our customers who are not connected to the internet. Yes! We have only targeted people with emails and of course those of you who read this diary or pull up the form off our site. More tomorrow--It's 11:30--time to get some rest.

May 5, 1999

In the last two days, Pat and I actually have had a lot of quality time processing orders and determining how much '99 futures have been sold so far. As close as we can determine at this point, we have sold 650 cases of '99 futures. As some of you might have calculated, we are planning on producing 3500. I would like to sell as much of my wine as possible at reasonable prices. As I've said before, most wineries sell wine to a distributor at 50 percent of retail. As I mentioned before, Ravenswood even states in their prospectus in their recent offering that they sell all their wine at an average of $8 or $9 a bottle so that by the time that it gets to the retail market, the wine will be sold at an average of $20 a bottle. I am offering my 1999 wines at $11.40 a bottle by check, and in the retail market, these wines will sell for $24 a bottle. Obviously, what I have to remember is that I cannot sell wine that I cannot make.

That leads me into what I said two days ago. I stated that the crop looked "light." What I meant was that we may not be able to produce as much estate wine as we would like. Of course, I could buy more grapes from neighbors' vineyards, but I've made a decision to hold my production at around 3500 cases. Since we've already sold 650 cases of '99 futures, Pat and I feel that it is our obligation to send the initial offer out to customers that are not connected to the Internet. As most of you understand, we are fortunate to be at the forefront of a great revolution and we must be considerate of those who will be connected in the future. Therefore, tomorrow we are going to send our offer out to another 450 people, and we are willing to sell as much as 1200 cases at these prices, but if we reach that point we might have to end this offer before May 31st. 

As I mentioned, I sulfured our vineyard on my birthday two days ago. Sulfur dust is necessary to preserve the quality of the grapes that I harvest for our wines. A tractor is used to drive a machine that agitates the sulfur to push it out into the air in a fine mist. Sulfur dust is like any other fine dust. You shake it out into the air and it disappears. Grape farmers must apply this sulfur dust either early in the morning or late at night when the air is calm. This procedure is one of the most beautiful sites I've ever seen in my life. On a very calm morning, the dust will just cling in a very small spot over the vineyard as the tractor is driving through. As the wind comes up, the sulfur will dissipate into the air and not cling to the vines. On May 3rd, it was a calm morning but there was a rain just before I went out into the vineyard. To me, that is the best time to dust but also the most unpredictable. The rain could very well come in again and wash off all the sulfur, but if it did not rain (as happened the other day), the sulfur will cling to the wet leaves. With my experience in the last 20 years, this time of the year does bring a lot of wind here to the valley. Therefore, if you do not sulfur one day when it is calm, it may be too windy the next. Today, the temperature reached 85 degrees and tomorrow it could get even higher. Sulfur dust can burn the leaves at between 90 to 100 degrees, or even higher. I'll get more into this potential problem later in the year. Without sulfur dust, a powdery mildew will form on the leaves and grape clusters. I call it a dry form of mildew, a kind of black dust that will grow on the grapes. In small amounts, as a winemaker, I have found that it can even add character to the wine. But it also can completely destroy a crop if left unattended. From the limited courses I took at Santa Rosa J.C., I remember that this powdery mildew forms at between 75 and 90 degrees. Actually, at over 100 degrees, the mildew can be killed, but of course at that temperature, the quality of your grapes may be deteriorating as well. As the year goes on, I'd like to report more about how important it is to apply the sulfur at the right time. As a grower and a winemaker, I feel it is *essential* to be living on the property where the grapes are being grown to assure that this dust is applied at the right time.

As some of you know, we have two young children. Susie is 11 and Kate is 13. Kate has a role in a school production of the play Aladdin. My mother and Pat, Susie and I are looking forward to attending the two performances of this play on Thursday and Friday evenings, and we are hoping to have time to post in the next two days.

May 7, 1999

Ok, finally the answer ~ Lake Sonoma Winery.  According to one of our readers, a person in the know, "Lake Sonoma was sold on a handshake and 'my word is my promise' to Bill Cosby. Unfortunately his handshake wasn't worth much." 

Dave and I have decided that the prize should be a bottle of wine for each correct answer. Only two catches. You have to rely on my count on the correct answers (no disputes considered) and the bottles of wine are
'99 futures and cannot be claimed until the fall of the year 2000. Also, the winners must contact me by 
email in order to qualify. Here's my official list ~ Tom Flack(7), Fred Berry(6), Everett Bandman(5), Mike Daly(2), Phil Adcock(1), Brad Brown(1), Bob Sisak(1), David Perlmutter(1), Les Ferroggiaro(1), Pete Morse(1), and Ed Lott(1). Many thanks to all of you who played along and to the many more who read and sent comments. 
By the way, now that Passport is a couple of weeks behind us, we can say that it was another great event
and that we can't wait to do it again next year :-)   -- Pat



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