David Coffaro Vineyard and Winery Winemaker's Diary

October 10 - October 16, 2010 

Sunday October 10 2010

We have all fermenters full and even have half ton bins perking away. We should do some pressing either Tuesday or Wednesday to free up fermenters and thus harvest more grapes. It has been hot again for two days and now it is predicted that we could see mid to high 90's in the next few days. So on Tuesday or Wednesday we will harvest our Cabernet and then move on to Lagrein, Tannat, Souzao and Alvarelhao. It should be a fun week.

Now Matt thinks I have flipped out. This morning before Matt arrived I added a bunch of yeast to our Zinfandel Raisin experiment. (See last week). At first Matt added the usual yeast the day after harvesting the raisins. It has now been 5 days since we received the fruit. I have observed that the fermentation is going real slowly. While other grapes harvested that day are seeing fermenters with a temperature up in the 80's, the raisin fermenters are only at 70 degrees. The raisins have swollen up but I feel they needed another shot of a very vigorous yeast. So I choose to add 3 pounds per thousand of U43 yeast. This is the yeast we use when we have a slow or stuck fermentation. The raisins are fermenting but as I said too slow for my liking. Now that I have added such a high concentration of yeast we may have to purchase some dry ice to slow it down once the raisins start interacting with the yeast. We will monitor it several times a day. 

Monday October 11 2010

I just received sugar samples from our three sections of cabernet and we are ready to pick tomorrow. It should take two days. On Thursday we will start on the varietals I mentioned yesterday.

Matt picked up some dry ice a few hours ago and already added some to one of the raisin fermenters. The fermenter had reached up to 90 degrees so we want to make sure it doesn't spike up to high 90's, because that could kill the yeast and we would have a stuck fermentation. Matt is about to check the alcohol and sugar to try to estimate if we need to add more water. 

Tuesday October 12 2010

Things change during a harvest. Catarino brought me in a few bunches of Lagrein yesterday afternoon and he said he thought it was drying out. Lagrein is grown on the old Aca Modot Pomo Indian site where the soil is extremely well drained. We had not watered for a few days so I was not surprised when the sugar reading on the few bunches came in at over 30 brix. The Cabernet samples where at 25+ so this morning we turned on the water and are picking the Lagrein first. The acid on the Lagrein is falling off so I also had Catarino and the crew pick the Aglianico near the same area. We only have a few hundred pounds of Aglianico because it really got damaged during the heat spell at the end of August but we may need it if the acid is higher so we can ferment it with the Lagrein. I will have more later. 

3:00Pm: More changes!! We have decided to keep 5 barrels of Lagrein separate and ferment it in one stainless and one pick bin about 1.3 tons in total. In another stainless we will ferment 740 pounds of Aglianico (A little more than I thought) and about 800 pounds of Lagrein. The Aglianico came in about 24.5 Brix and the Lagrein came in at about 26, both will go up in sugar after the raisins swell up. Yes, almost every varietal contains raisins this year. The PH on the Lagrein is about 3.6 and the PH on the Aglianico is about 3.3 PH, a perfect match. 

We have more decisions to make!! Our Estate Zinfandel picked a month ago is still perking away in the barrel. Some barrels have about .5 to 2% sugar in them and are up to 16+ alcohol. In the last two weeks we have been checking the sugar during our pressing before the wine goes into barrels. That way we can decide to add water if the sugar goes up after the raisins are squished hard BUT we did not do that when we pressed our first Zinfandel. WELL we have a solution. We just started picking our Cabernet which will go into our Estate Cuvee blend. That wine always has been between 33% Cabernet and 33% Zinfandel SO we can ferment the two varietals together, 50 50!! We will start this Cabernet clone 341 as a normal fermentation and at 10% sugar we will add 4 pounds per thousand gallons of U43 yeast, a very large amount, to this Cab. In all we need about 1.3 tons of Cabernet for our Estate Cuvee, we are only making about 300 cases this year. I will have Matt check to see how many Zinfandel barrels are slowing down or at high alcohol or stopped fermenting. We will pump out the wine from those barrels into a tank and press an equal amount of the Cabernet into the tank also. We will obtain an estimate of alcohol in the tank and add enough water to the newly fermenting mass to result in a final alcohol of about 15%. We will have a very vigorous fermentation because we will have plenty of yeast to finish the fermentation. I will guess the sugar content will start at about 5% in the newly filled barrels and will finish within a few days to hopefully 15% alcohol and no residual sugar. We will monitor the barrels to achieve that results. It will be a fun time. As some of you know I have performed similar fermentations many times in the last 16 years. I know it will work!!!!


I am excited!!! I just saw the first miner come up from Chile. They have experienced some thing that will never happen again. I am so happy for them and everyone in Chile.

In a different way I am excited about what we can achieve, here at the winery. This could be a great year or who knows. But one thing I know we will produce something that will never be duplicated again. Yes, wine is way down on the pole when compared to most things I here in the news, but I am happy with our challenge.

All varietals harvested today are reading at between 26 and 27+ sugar. We are creating monsters, I hope nice ones. We are picking more Cabernet at 26+ brix. It looks great. 

Wednesday October 13 2010

This has been a day of less decisions since I do not have the pieces to decide the puzzle. I need to know how many Zinfandel barrels are slowing down or at high alcohol or stopped fermenting. Read my last entry. These barrels are off in a corner. If you have seen our winery, we do everything here and when we are fermenting 20 tons as we are now, we have little room to move processed barrels full of wine to another place. Thus I have to wait for a few more days until we press more and I will have a new piece of the puzzle: When to blend. Matt needs to get me the next piece. 

I will have an update on our Raisin experiment tomorrow it has been a monster but I think we have it in control.

Friday October 15 2010

We have finished destemming this week. In all we brought in about 15 tons. About 4.4 was Petite Sirah for the Wine Guerrilla. Today we brought in Grenache. We have been pressing for three days and Matt and Steve are really tired. I am sluggish also. It has been stressful as usual. I am hoping Matt will have time tomorrow to determine how many Zinfandel barrels we have to referment. I should have all the parts to the puzzle by Sunday.

Finally the raisin experimental fermentation has come together. We will press Monday. I can't wait to see how it looks and tastes out of the press. I stuck my finger in the fermentation yesterday and was happy to find it had no cooked flavors or raisin taste, but it was tannic and astringent, just what I was hoping for. In the first days after harvesting on October 5, I saw very little color or activity, very pink and also little juice. After adding the extra yeast I talked about a few days ago and adding more water to soak up the raisins we saw more activity. And yesterday 9 days after harvest we finally saw some extracted color. As I expected the fermentation has been very strange. Everyday until yesterday we were getting a sugar reading of about 13%. We would add more water and the next day it would be back at 13% again and potential alcohols over 17%. Finally yesterday we have gotten some steady readings of about 10% sugar and potential alcohol of about 15.5%. When we press Monday I suspect we could see higher readings again after the raisins are flattened out in the press. We will have to monitor the pressing cycle very carefully.  

Saturday October 16 2010

Matt has checked, for sugar and alcohol, most of the 100% Zinfandel barrels we harvested a month ago. Only a few look like they are stuck but most of them are over 16% alcohol. I need about 12 barrels for my Estate Zinfandel and I want the alcohol to be under 16%. I have a few options but I have decided on one which I will explain in the last section.

An hour ago I went to the sandy soil down by the creek where our Mourvedre is growing. We have had trouble getting the Mourvedre ripe in the last few years so we dropped about half the fruit this year and there is still a large crop and it still is the last to get ripe. Catarino picked a few bunches the other day and it came in at 21 brix. But when I looked at it today it looked riper than that so I picked a bucket of my own. I checked individual bunches and got anywhere from 23 to 25+ brix. There is a forecast of rain next weekend so I have decided to pick the Mourvedre Tuesday. That will be the last day of picking because on Monday we will pick our Merlot and Cab Franc.  

We need about a ton of Mourvedre for our Terre Melange and it looks like there is more like two tons to pick. I have decided to take about one ton and destem the Mourvedre into 4 stainless steel fermenters. I will then add one pound of U43 yeast to each fermenter. The next day we will add the 20-30 barrels of Zinfandel that we harvested a month ago. The Mourvedre will have less acid so it will blend well with our Zinfandel which is a little high in acid now. In all we should have a blend with 10% Mourvedre. Matt thinks we have about 3-4 barrels of 100% Zinfandel which is under 16% alcohol to blend in so our Estate Zin this year will have between 5 and 8% Mourvedre. The rest of the 90% Zin 10% Mourvedre blend will be used for Estate Cuvee and My Zin. Some of the best Old Vine Zinfandel vineyards in Sonoma County have some Mourvedre in them so I believe these wines will be great. I will make sure the final result is about 15.5 alcohol. I am excited!!  


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