David Coffaro Vineyard and Winery Winemaker's Diary

arrow September 25 - October 1, 2011

Tuesday September 27, 2011

This is the second day of picking Block 4. The batch yesterday came in perfect at over 25 brix. We also harvested our Sauv Blanc which came in at 23.5, probably resulting in a final alcohol of 13.5%. The acids have not fallen off in the Zinfandel but we need to bring in the fruit because with raisins in the Zinfandel, which is normal, the sugar is swelling up by over 2 percent after soaking up one day later. That brings the potential alcohol to over 16.5% so we have to rehydrate to bring the alcohol down to 15%.

The quality of the Block 4 looks fantastic so I am sure it will be another great year. We will finish the fruit from the Block 4 sections tomorrow. We will probably take a day off and pick the Barbera and Block 6 Zinfandel on Friday.

As I have said before in this diary, my anniversary falls on September 29, not a good time to celebrate since we are always Harvesting. This year Pat is down in San Francisco attending the last few games of the San Francisco Giants. My Mother is still in the hospital after fracturing her pelvic bone so I have decided to take a day off and visit her and pick up Pat. We will drive back and go out to dinner at The Dry Creek Kitchen, one of my favorite restaurants around here. I wanted to go to a nice restaurant in San Francisco, but I thought it would be better if I was here early Friday morning to organize our Harvest that day.

There are indications that we could receive some rain next week. If it is light there will be no problem, especially since we have all our Zinfandel and Sauv Blanc in which are the most vulnerable to rot.

8:00Pm: Can you!! I am talking about you or I being the President of The United States?? I would love the challenge but it takes a special person to do the job. I have disagreed with many presidents on their decisions but I have always had respect for all our Presidents. I am in the middle and still think I understand both sides. All Presidents are Special..........

I know this is a winemaker's diary so you expect me to talk about wine. This is more about me and what I think.

I just cried for the first time about my Mother's situation. She fell down again today. Her spirits are dropping a little. Lynda and I have to get her home. Gone With The Wind is by far my favorite Movie!!!! I know of a few special people who refuse to see it. My Mother is like Scarlett, strong and determined to get what she wants and to get home to Tara. Our mother knows her house. We all love our House! We live there most of our life within a year! Lynda and I will not have to be a president, so it will be easy, hopefully. Our Mother wants to be home, but she wants no one to help her. It will be easy for Lynda and I to convince her to have someone help her in Her House. At 89 years old she gets what she wants.   

Have you ever walked outside your house without shoes on? I do every night. As some of you know I do wear sandals most of the day, but in the evening I rarely walk anywhere with something on my feet.

I have never seen the stock market more unpredictable. I think it is all about the indecision in Washington. I know I am not a minority. Somebody has to step up in politics and take over in the news.

Wednesday September 28, 2011

My mother taught me to always wear shoes. She said it was dangerous to walk around, especially outside without shoes. So when I talked last night about not wearing shoes, I always think about my Mother.

The first time I walked outside without shoes was in San Francisco in 1967. I was with Elsie Rink, a vibrant individual. Where is Elsie now? We had just had a whiskey sour and decided to see a movie. She said let's leave our shoes behind. We went off and I followed Elsie. She took me on an adventure. Those days in the early evening it was easy to hop a cable car. Wow, I will never forget all the people looking at us anywhere we traversed. Of course they were looking at our bare feet, unheard of those days.

Around here at the winery is much more hazardous in bare feet then going out in San Francisco in 1967. We are out in the country and especially we are harvesting which creates all kinds of obstacles on the ground. I have to be light footed and be careful, but I love the challenge because my feet get strong.

9:00Pm: I just got back from filling our last barrel of the day. Matt is the organizer during the day so I don't know exactly how many barrels we filled, but I know there were over 20. We start early but by the time the last barrel is ready to fill, Matt leaves that to me. I love this time at night when I have had a few glasses of wine and can take my time to splurge wine into a barrel. It is an adventure. If you do not get swashed in the face at least one time in your learning curve you are not doing a good job filling barrels. I take chances so I fill rapidly. Think of a barrel: If on it's side on a rack, it is narrow at the bottom, wide at the middle and small again at the top. If you are doing a good job, you should fill a barrel in three minutes, that is one gallon, every three seconds. That time period is fine at the bottom and for sure in the middle, but when it gets narrow at the top, one gallon can hit you in the face in one second.

Tonight was easy. Matt told me I would have too much wine to fill the barrel he left and provided me with a 15.5 gallon keg on the side. I was cautious but realized after two minutes I may not have enough to fill the barrel so I had no worry, no fun, no challenge.

We finished our Block 4 sections today. The heat we are having is finally reducing our yields. It looks like we are going to be down on production of all our old vine wines, including 2011 Zinfandel, 2011 My Zin, 2011 Estate Cuvee and 2011 Block 4. I am still hopeful our young vines, that will soon be harvested will bring in a bigger yield.

The quality looks great!! We will take a day off tomorrow and harvest Barbera and Zinfandel from our 6th block on Friday.  

Thursday September 29, 2011

This is our anniversary, 38 years. I decided to stress myself out and drive down to the Bay Area, over 100 miles away to pick up Pat and visit my Mother, Vivien. I left at 8:00am and returned at 3:45. I had to pick up a few things for my Mother to have in place when she comes home tomorrow so I only had time to visit with her for one hour. She appreciated it greatly.

In the evening Pat and I went to the Dry Creek Kitchen and had a fabulous dinner. I highly recommend it when any of you are in town.

Saturday October 1, 2011

What follows is an account of September 30, 2011 a day in the life of a winemaker. I am sure there were many similar stories in Sonoma County.

7:00Am: There is rain coming. We have to get in the grapes that are ready or even near ready.

I was stressed out today. I hate it when I annoy people and that happened all day except with Matt. We were focused. I really upset Pat even though this was her first day back after a week, maybe that was the problem. I knew I was in trouble when a few hours into the day, Catarino asked me what was wrong and then he told me he wanted to die before me and then he said I was his best friend. I was silent because I had big decisions to make today.

I rely on Catarino and Matt to do most of the hard labor and tests in the winery and vineyard. I could not do what I do without them.

If you have read this diary in the last week you know I had planned to harvest Barbera on Monday, September 26. I was told by Catarino the fruit was ready. The tests he brought in gave the same impression. What I did not know was the crop was way lower than I thought. Catarino all year said the crop was sparse. He has a computer in his head. I was expecting a decent crop two tons especially after last year when we only received one ton. I revised it to 1.50 tons a week ago and today we have 0.75 tons, a mere 1500 pounds.

It gets way too complicated, I have to go back when the day began:  6:30Am........

I expected the market would go down! It opened down over 100 points and started to rally a little.

My Mother was going home and needed a full time live in....not her desire, but I had to arrange it.

7:00Am: Catarino came in and told me he only saw 1000 pounds of Barbera out there. He said I looked depressed.

8:00Am: Pat came down and we went over e-mails that came in while she was gone. She said I was grouchy!!

Wow, I can't believe how many phone calls transpired....long story.........

I figured we had sold out of our Rose wine so I called Brad mid-day to remove it from our online order form.....

9:00Am: Catarino comes in with 900 pounds of Barbera. I look up what we have sold on "Futures" and found 50 cases already sold. I called Brad to have him take it off our online sales form, I did not tell him that we only had enough fruit to produce 25 cases.

10:00Am: Decision time! Catarino brought in a sample of the Barbera second crop and it was only 21 Brix. I knew the Petite Sirah was 23+. I had him go out and collect a small bucket off the top of the 900 pounds of First crop Barbera and he came back with 26+ as expected.

I relay the bad news to Matt and Pat. The stock market is down 100+ points. My stocks,QQQ, AMZN and GOOG are not down enough to make a move, that was good, no decision to be made.

11:00Am: Pat and I were doing OK but she did not want to deal with customers who would come in after 11am. Cindi is on the East Coast so she can not help in the tasting room. I was not up to dealing in small talk with important customers.

Catarino moves out to pick the young Zinfandel in the 6th Block. This is the stuff all of us are impressed with in the first two vintages. Matt wanted to pick all the crop which is usually a bad idea with young vines. Catarino and I insisted on leaving the red bunches and go back at another time when they were ready. Catarino also says the new section of Zinfandel, the same clone, looks ready so we decide to pick it.

12:00Pm: Catarino comes in with two thirds of a ton from the new section and 1.3 tons of Zinfandel from the 6th Block. He says he picked all the grapes and did not leave the red bunches. I was concerned!!!  

I instruct Catarino to go out and pick the 2nd crop Barbera and top off a bin with Petite Sirah. He says there is only about 300 pounds of 2nd crop. I am not concerned because our order form has indicated we would blend in some Petite Sirah.

1:30:Pm: The stock market closes down 240 points. My stocks are still not down enough to make a move.

Pat is stressed when someone comes in to taste wine. Fortunately it is one of Pat's and my friends and a nice customer. I was gruff but he knows me so I think it went Ok.

2:30Pm:  My Mother calls and she is home with my sister. I arranged for someone to take care of her on Sunday after Lynda leaves.

3:00Pm: Catarino comes in with a mixed bin, a little over 900 pounds. He said there was more 2nd crop Barbera than he thought so we only have about 300 pounds of Petite Sirah in the almost one ton of grapes for Barbera. This ton will be enough to provide the wine for the 50 cases already sold.

3:00Pm: We start de-stemming!! I check the sugar many times!! It looks like the first crop Barbera is about 26%, the second crop at 22 and the Petite Sirah at 23%. There may be a little swell up so the alcohol may come in about 14%. I also have the option to blend in another 10% of very ripe Petite Sirah to be harvested in two weeks.

The new section of Zinfandel, the same clone as the 6th block, comes in higher than I expected, about 24 brix. BUT the 6th Block Zin with the red bunches shows very inconsistent readings, as low as 20% and some 23-24%. There are a lot of raisins so I know we will get higher readings tomorrow.

The Master Blender was in action again. It was fun, but stressful on everyone around me!!

8:00Pm: I check the sugar on the top of the fermenters. The Barbera top mostly the 2nd crop is at 22%. Matt and I will mix it up and get a good reading tomorrow.

The top of the two Zinfandel fermenters showed a sugar of over 24%, just fine.

Back to Saturday 10:00Am, October 1: I just checked the weather forecast for next week. They may be backing off on the amount of rain next Monday and Wednesday. At first I heard there was a possibility of as much as 3 inches which would be not good. This morning there was some light sprinkles but it is clearing up. If we have less than an inch in the next several days we will be fine. We still have more than half the crop hanging on the vines.


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