David Coffaro Vineyard and Winery Winemaker's Diary

Weeks 36 - 37
September 14, 2003 to September 27, 2003 

  Monday September 15, 2003

Harvest is here! We started taking in Zinfandel today. The quality looks good and the juice has a great deal of flavor. We will know more in a little over a week when we press off to our first barrels. Brendan did a sugar test Saturday and all his zin samples were over 25 Brix. Our first load this morning from our least ripe area, came in with a sugar reading of 23.9 Brix and our second load, from a riper area, came in at 25.3 brix. Each of those batches will likely soak up to a higher sugar by tomorrow morning. Remember, zinfandel bunches contain many raisins which swell up, with contact from the crushed juice, and contribute additional sugar. The acid readings from these zinfandel fermenters has been great, even higher than last year. I believe the best wine has been from vintages that have produced higher than normal acids. We plan on picking all our old vine zinfandel in the next two days. 

This morning, I also had 400 lbs of syrah picked, to add to our peloursin blend. We now have enough in our fermenter to fill a barrel. The blend will consist of 55% peloursin, 40% Syrah and 5% from all our sugar samples (including Sauv Blanc) from the last 10 days. The alcohol will be well under 14%. 

Tuesday September 16, 2003

Our Zinfandel harvest continued today with 4.1 tons of our old vine fruit. Yesterday we crushed 4.4 tons from the same areas. The sugars from yesterdays juice swelled up to about 26 brix. We are aiming for 25 brix so, I did adjust to that sugar today. I also added yeast to help the fermentation along to dryness. We don't add SO2 to kill off the wild yeasts, which are natural from the the vineyard. We feel these wild yeasts add complexity to the wine. Tomorrow we will receive the remaining old vine zin and will pick some Sauv Blanc. I will go into more detail tomorrow. I must say that I am extremely happy with the color and flavor of the zin from yesterday. I really believe the flavor at this time could be up to the quality of last year. More tomorrow. Right now I am very tired, but happy. 

Wednesday September 17, 2003

5:30 Am: This will be an interesting day. We will receive the last of our old vine zinfandel and one ton of Sauv Blanc. Brendan is also going to receive his Syrah from a grower situated at the cooler end of Dry Creek Valley near Healdsburg. I am most interested in the Sauv Blanc. 

7:45 Am:  I just received 1.04 tons of sauv blanc from an area which has the most leaves. The character should be a little grassier than usual and less ripe than the rest of the fruit. I am so excited with what we will be doing with the fruit. For the first few days, I plan on crushing and fermenting this sauv blanc like a red wine. 

8:00 Am: Brendan just received the first of his syrah grapes. Depending on how this wine turns out, he hopes to add some cabernet sauv and either petite sirah or carignan to the blend. 

9:00 Am: We just crushed the one ton of sauv blanc and got about 23.5 Brix. That is exactly what I was hoping for. The ph came in at 3.08 which is still too low. That means the acid is high again. BUT, this section will be the lowest sugar and thus the highest acid AND, we will be fermenting it on the skins to 90 degrees. This is exactly what we do with our red wines. That is, we add yeast to crushed berries and all the skins and juice. By the next day, the must (mass of fermenting grapes) starts to rise in the fermenter from the action of the yeast. By the third day the cap on the must rises to the highest point and reaches about 90 degrees. By then almost all the color from the skins is absorbed into the juice. The fermentation continues in the reds for another 4 to 6 days, finally reaching zero sugar and highest alcohol. We will press the sauv blanc after reaching 90 degrees and then press into a tank to finish fermentation at 65 degrees. With this sauv blanc, we will receive more flavor and color than ever before BUT will the resultant wine be too astringent. I am guessing NOT. Our red wines from this hot fermentation seem to be less harsh than most wineries and I suspect the sauv blanc will be just fine. NO ONE I know of is fermenting white wines on the skins. Also, I know of no one who is even giving white wines any skin contact at all. I do know of some wineries in the late 60's and 70's that tried some skin contact with chardonnay SO we may be the first one since. The question is WHY was skin contact not continued with white wine. I am hoping that the reason was that wineries wanted to make wines that were smoother and more drinkable early. I am hoping to make a wine that has more character and will age better. 

11:00 Am: Brendan's syrah has just been crushed and the sugar may be a little less than he was expecting. I'll have a further report later. 

1:30 Pm: Catarino has just come in with over 2 and one half tons of zin. The weather temperature has risen to near 90 degrees and the workers are getting tired. He is guessing that their may be another ton of zin, so we may have to pick the rest tomorrow. Also he says that there may be less sauv blanc than I thought. 

2:00 Pm: I took a walk out into the vineyard to check out the zin and SB situation. I found out that Caterino has decided to finish the old vine zin today. That will free them up tomorrow to finish the sauv blanc and start on the Block 4. Oh yes, I forgot to report that this morning Brendan and I went out to do a sugar sample on the Block 4. I showed him what to sample because there are so many varieties in the block. This block is probably our oldest section, over 100 years since it was planted. We picked some petite sirah, peloursin, valdiguie, syrah and carignan. I purposely did not take any zinfandel (50% of the block) since we know it is very ripe. The sample came in at 24.5 brix SO with the addition of the zinfandel, our fermenters will be full with above 25 % sugar. I hope to finish picking the Block 4 by Saturday. Friday we have to deliver Lambert Bridge their section of zinfandel from our first block. 

I did a count on the sauv blanc left for tomorrow and came up with more vines than Catarino knew about. This year I am picking all the odd white vines that are in the third and fourth block. Block 1 and 2 have none of these whites. They range from Palomino, Riesling and maybe a few muscat and one gewurtz vine. Maybe there may be 300 lbs total. Also I will have them pick the 25 vines of chardonnay and all the Late Harvest section. I am sorry for those of you who have ordered Late Harvest Sauv Blanc, but we have plenty of 2002 late harvest left to sell. You never know, we may still make enough late harvest to fulfill those few orders. 

2:30 Pm: Brendan and Steve have started to crush the zinfandel. Now I have to concentrate on adding yeast to yesterday's zinfandel. But first, I will check the sugar again. 

3:30 Pm: I just finished adding the yeast and Brendan and Steve finished the crushing. There is still cleanup to do and Steve will be going over to Doug Rafanelli's vineyard to check his Cabernet. Doug thinks the sugar is very high and he will have time to pick it for us Friday. 

Tomorrow we will be experimenting with Sauv Blanc again. I think I have about 900 lbs of nice green fruit left and the rest, maybe 1 ton, will consist of chardonnay, the old vine whites, semillon and the rest of the Sauv blanc. The clean fruit will be used for a carbonic maceration experiment. Brendan had this bright idea to use the same method that we used in 1998 with some Pinot Noir grapes. I plan on adding some fermenting sauv blanc to the bottom of a half ton bin and dump about 900 lbs (enough to make a barrel) of sauv blanc whole bunches on top. I will then add some dry ice to keep the bunches fresh until the fermentation starts, about 2 days later. Each berry will have a different fermentation and will be at a different sugar when we press. I plan on pressing into a barrel at about 10% sugar. The whole fermentation should stay at about 70 degrees creating a very fruity wine. The final ton or so of sauv blanc will be pressed immediately after picking (whole bunches) and then put into a tank to ferment at 65 degrees. 

Fun, fun, fun. 

3:30 pm +

Just about this time, Dave was about to upload the last diary entry you see above.  However at that moment a generator in the network operations center that runs our (and several hundred thousand other) websites decided to start smoking. The fire department responded and ordered that all power to the building be shut down.  So much for multiple redundancies!  You might not have noticed, but during the East Coast Blackout a few weeks back, our servers were not affected (even though they were located in the middle of the blackout); that's because of the generator backups and the rest.  Not much use, though, when all power is shut down. 

Actually, I've dealt with a number of webhosts and I like the one we use because the gentleman who sells us the service always responds to me when I write.  Well, almost always; last night he didn't as HE couldn't get the email running through the servers that were shut down.  He did, however, talk to me on the phone when I called.  Where else these days does one get such service?!  In any event, he provides, at reasonable cost, a lot of "extras" which, in turn, let us bring you things like the new database for your purchases; we hope these things are useful to you.  So in case you tried to view the site last night and couldn't, that's the reason! 


Thursday September 18, 2003 

10:30 Pm: Thanks Brad for all the great work. You are a treasure. 

I am exhausted! It has been a long day!! I'll go into more detail tomorrow. In brief, with a great deal of hard work and rescheduling, everything I mentioned yesterday did occur. With the Rafanelli Cab and our Block 4 to be harvested by Sunday, we will have all of our 30 fermenters perking away in the winery. I hope to have pictures up by Monday. 

Friday September 19, 2003 

6:00 Am: Susie got me up early today, because she wanted to go to Safeway to buy balloons. We arrived at the market by 6:40 and had a lady fill 20 balloons with gas. We did have fun stuffing all those balloons into our small Civic, but we made it to school on time for her to present the balloons to her Drama teacher who had a birthday today. 

7:00 Am: Brendan, Steve and I started packing up 50 cases to ship out to our "Futures" customers. This Futures thing is a lot of work. The guys are out picking grapes for Lambert Bridge. 

10:30 Am: Brendan is now setting up to do some analysis on our fermenting wine. I need to do alcohols on four of the first zins. I suspect I may have to rehydrate the must by adding water. If the potential alcohol is over 15% I will adjust the lots. 

Soon Doug Rafanelli, Dave Rafanelli's brother will begin picking our Cabernet from his vineyard. Until our newly planted Cabernet and Petite Sirah comes on in a few years, I will be purchasing Cabernet and Petite Sirah from Doug. The sample of Cabernet grapes that he brought in looks great. 

2:00 Pm: I just found out that Doug has not started picking yet. This is not good!! We have no idea when he will finish and the fruit will certainty be way too warm. The outside temperature is 95 degrees right now which is too hot to crush. Julia over at Lambert Bridge may sell me a container of dry ice which I can add to cool down the grapes. 

I finished my analysis, and as I figured, the potential alcohols were all over 15%. I had Brendan adjust down to 14.7%. I'll check again tomorrow. 

5:30 PM: Well, Doug's crew never showed up and Steve is not available for delivery tomorrow (He is hauling grapes to Mayo and Armida Wineries) So if Doug's crew comes tomorrow, he will have to find a way to get the fruit here himself. He did pick a bin by himself with help from two children. We  received 906 lbs at about 27 sugar and a ph of 3.30, It looks great! 

Saturday September 20, 2003 

6:30 Am: I could have slept in because Brendan is not due in until 8 Am, but I have to pay bills today. I forgot to pay last week so I hope my credit card payments are not late. 

8:00 Am: Brendan just showed up and says he is spending the night. We have a guest house for just this reason. He presented me with a sweetbreads/lasagne recipe which includes prosciutto, mushrooms and chicken livers. I have everything, but the mushrooms and livers. We will definitely prepare and consume this dish tonight. I am sure there will be a few bottles of wine open. There is a boxing match on this evening so Pat has invited a friend for dinner. We will see if the two ladies are interested in what we have planned for dinner. If Cheryl is willing, maybe she can pick up the missing ingredients. 

10:30 Am: My analysis is over and adjustments had to be made on 3 out of 4 of the fermenters. Brendan has been setting to crush our Block 4 

12:30 Pm: Catarino and his 3 helpers just finished for the day. They picked 3.6 tons of Block 4 for us. Brendan is now crushing the Block 4. 

2:30 Pm: We have had taster's here so I have been busy. Doug Rafanelli called and said the pickers did not show up again. He has two people helping so he will have 3 bins, a little over one ton. Tomorrow, he hopes to pick the rest, about 5 tons. 

4:30 Pm: Brendan has started crushing the Raf cab. It is real thick so he is having trouble pumping the skins and juice. With over 7 tons of Raf cab and Block 4 combined to process tomorrow, we will have another long day. 

Sunday September 21, 2003 

8:00 Am: I did sleep in a little today, but Brendan and I were up until 12:30 Am watching a movie. To day we hope to process over 7 tons, our highest total yet. I am fortunate that the Raiders don't play football until tomorrow night. Brendan is already punching down our 20 fermenters. He will have 30 tomorrow. 

10:00 Am: Caterino came in with the last of our Block 4 fruit. Tomorrow or Tuesday Brendan will new sugar tests on the younger zin, carignan, cab malbec and petite sirah. The Bernier zin will be coming in toward the end of the week and maybe some Doug Rafanelli petite sirah. 

11:00 Am: Doug just came in with the last of his cabernet. He was telling me that he might have 6 tons or more, but the total was only 4.6 tons. The acid is great and the fruit looks fabulous. We are paying $2700 a ton for his cab which is more than anyone else. I don't suspect to achieve a good yield from these stressed fruit so it may cost me close to $4 a bottle for just the grapes. 

2:00 Pm: Brendan is just finishing the crushing for the day. Only 4 tons were processed today. Next he will press our sauv blanc experiment. These white grapes spent 4 days on the skins. The temperature has now reached 85 degrees. It will be interesting to see what character the wine has. We may have 3 barrels to taste. Today Brendan will press this wine into a chilled tank. We will add some dry ice to the fruit and ferment the wine at 60 degrees until all the sugar has dissipated. 

8:00 Pm: Our chiller was not working for a few hours today. The chiller is needed to keep our sauv blanc cool. I came out to see how Brendan was doing with our pressing of the experiment and check out the tank that was being prepared for the wine. I found out that the chiller showed 84 degrees and should have been showing 62 degrees. I played with it for several minutes and found a reset switch that turned the chiller on again. Our sauv blanc that had been fermenting for a few days, (The one we pressed straight into the tank) was still about 70 degrees (I figured the chiller had been off for only an hour or so), but the other tank that was being prepared for the sauv blanc experiment was not being cooled at all. After an hour, I finally figured that the chiller might have been effected by the sun shining on it. Our outside temperature was 107 degrees. Finally after constantly resetting the switch, the chiller stayed on and went back down to 60 degrees. In the mean time, Brendan (and then I after Brendan went home), shoveled dry ice into the juice from the pressed sauv blanc experiment to keep it cool. It has been a long day I need to end now. 

Monday September 22, 2003 

10:30 Am: Brendan and I have been wandering around here for over two hrs. We just got numbers on our weekly sugar samples from the vineyard. After having high temperatures of 105 and 107 the last two days, I was not surprised to see that we will be harvesting again starting tomorrow or Wednesday. Almost everything on the Aca Modot site is ready, including the cab, cab franc and malbec. Also the carignan is ready. Our young zin. mourvedre, peloursin and petite sirah needs another week. We will probably start pressing some zin tomorrow in order to free up fermenters. 

3:00 Pm: Brendan just left to go to UPS. We have some valves to replace. I also sent him off with the mail. I had to pay my bills. Brendan had a lot of clean up to do and all the sugars had to be done. That process involves punching down the cap on the fermenters and taking a sample of the juice. The whole process (26 fermenters right now) takes well over an hour. All the fermentations are progressing fine. Wednesday we will press the first zin into barrels. Catarino will be here tomorrow to pick some more fruit. Until Wednesday when we press, we only have 4 fermenters to use. By the end of the week, we will need about 15. If the high temperatures hold above 80, we could be finished picking in less than three weeks. Right now it is 107 again. The forecasters are predicting lower temperatures, starting tomorrow. 

4:30 Pm: Pat and I have decided to raise our prices on the 2003 Futures. All the wines will go up by 50 cents a bottle. These prices will still be reasonable and any of you, now, will be able to taste the product. Our 2002 wines must go up in price also. Our 2002 Sauv blanc, petite sirah, Pinots, and zinfandels are being tasted by judges at the Harvest Fair this week. We will find out this Saturday night if they win any awards. I feel I may not win many awards, because the wines are tasting real young. The 2002 red wines have a suggested retail of $22 so we will have to raise prices a little. After the Harvest Fair and before we place them at retailers, we will raise prices by one dollar a bottle on October 1st. Any of who wish to add to your order, may want to do it before the end of the month. I was reluctant to recommend our 2003 wines until harvest, but I can now say they will be great wines. 

10:30 Pm: I am so happy I do not have Raider season tickets anymore. Don't get me wrong! I am still one of the biggest Raider fans. I saw every play tonight during there loss to Denver. The score was 31 to 10. Kate my daughter is a big fan also. She dragged me to the games starting when she was 11 and finally when she was 15 years old, I bought season tickets. We traveled together, mostly on Sundays, 90 miles to Oakland. I bought Club seats a privilege to see many of the past Raiders mingling with us. But I am happy I did not renew my tickets. It was a long trip, especially during Harvest and these two Club seats cost me over $4,200 for the season. I have been predicting, to any one who listens, the Raiders will have a poor season. I hope I am wrong and I am so happy that Kate 18 years old is off to Cal Poly to escape, somewhat, from this season. 

Tuesday September 23, 2003 

12:30 Pm: I may have more decisions to make than the Raiders. I don't think they have the answers, but I do for my operation. At least the Raiders had a great three seasons while Kate and I had season tickets. I believe they had the best record in football during that time. 

Today has been the most complicated day for me. I wish I had time to document all that has happened. Caterino is back with his three helpers. Brendan and I have 4 fermenters left to work with. Three are plastic which will hold 1700 to 1800 lbs each and one stainless which will hold a ton (2000 lbs). I had them pick the malbec and young cab franc first. This amounted to 1300 lbs, too little for the plastic fermenter. So now I have to get them to pick some Cabernet in two separate sections. One section is new and may have 200 lbs and the other section is 23 yrs and may have 400-500 lbs. I'd love to pick both to fit into a plastic, but it looks like I have too much. Actually I could ferment in picking bins that hold about 1200 lbs. I'll have to see what is picked. I already have about one ton of Carignan picked to go into the one ton stainless. 

Earlier to day, Catarino picked 874 lbs of syrah for our Terre Melange. Now he is out picking 800-900 lbs of Peloursin to ferment together in a plastic. 

1:00 Pm: Catarino came in with the carignan and peloursin. Both weighed way too much. Complications!! The syrah/peloursin combination totals 1964 lbs, more than we can ferment in a plastic. AND the carignan weighs 1.088 tons more than I should ferment in a stainless. We have had this much in a stainless, but carignan tends to foam up violently and could overflow. Catarino is now out picking the cabernet and then some young zin. I know I will solve this puzzle after all the grapes are in. 

9:50 Pm: Brendan and I just finished working on wine, but of course I want to write this diary. This was the most involved and difficult day of the Harvest. Difficult is good since Brendan and I love what we are doing. 

The puzzle was solved soon after I wrote my entry at 1:00 Pm. I figured that Catarino would come in with enough Cab to top off the Malbec and Cab franc into a plastic fermenter. I figured correctly that he would come in with about 800 lbs of zin from one of our new sections near the Aca Modot site. I decided to mix the extra syrah/peloursin mix (150 lbs) and the extra carignan (also about 150 lbs) and add to the zin. This blend went into a picking bin which holds 1100 to 1200 lbs. 

See Brendan with the 31 Fermenters.

The rest of the day was a blur, too hard to explain. Maybe I can explain more tomorrow. There were many customers by and we did sell some wine. My analysis took many hours to complete and then we had all this fruit to crush and of course more analysis. I did cook some chicken in-between and we had some wine. In all it was a great day, but we are tired. 

Thursday September 25, 2003 

10:30 Am: We were so busy yesterday that I had no time to document what happened. I really can't remember everything anyway. We received 4.2 tons of Doug Rafanelli petite sirah and some of the fruit from our Aca Modot site. Brendan worked until 7:30 Pm and then took a break for dinner. We both went out later to test the sugar on the Raf PS and was shocked to see that the brix was 19.7 to 20. That will make a wine of only 11.5 alcohol. I will probably make a light petite sirah from most of the fruit. I am still thinking about what to do with the rest. 

11:30 Am: Catarino just showed up to pick. He and his three helpers have been picking a ton of  cabernet from a customer on Bradford Mountain. We will use this Dry Creek fruit for "My Zin". If it comes in at high sugar we will blend in some of the 20 brix petite sirah. After taking a walk, I decided to have Catarino pick some of our new zin in block one. If he avoids some of the unripe bunches, we may achieve high enough sugar to blend with the petite sirah. At first I will blend some of this pet with the zin blend from Tuesday. I put that mixture into a half ton bin and now I can transfer that into a one ton fermenter. 

12:30 Pm: The Heavens have answered my problem!! Paul Bernier was just by and we went to check out his leased vineyard which is owned by the Sibary's. He has about 8 tons of fruit for us. It is planted as a "Field Blend" of 75% Zinfandel, 10% Carignan, 10% Petite Sirah, and 5% Mourvedre. After climbing around the hill and taking samples, we proclaimed the vineyard ready to pick. We even had samples of one section show a brix of 29.2. He will pick it tomorrow or Saturday. AND I am sure you know what I am going to do! Yes, blend some of it with the under ripe Petite Sirah from Doug. Now wasn't that easy!! 

2:30 pm: It has been hectic. The Cab from Bradford Mtn just arrived, but I haven't had time to take a look at it. Brendan is now pressing some Block 4 which was fermenting slowly. We are re-inoculating it with some very vigorous yeast and then we are going to add it all to the rest of the Block 4 fermenters which are fermenting ok. Next we will press 4 tons of zin and fill about 14 barrels. Yesterday we pressed our first zin of the year and filled 13 barrels. It is the darkest zin I have ever produced from this vineyard. That is 25 years, including my 15 amateur years. 

4:30 Pm: All the fruit has been picked for the day, we can't crush until we load the press with zinfandel. Paul bernier called and said we were on for Saturday. 

10:30 Pm: Brendan had to go home. He left at 8:00 Pm. He has been here since Tuesday morning. He is missing the necessities of life, including clothes and his girl friend. What we went through today would take hours to write. Briefly I have a lot of decision making to do tomorrow. I gave Catarino the next three days off while Brendan and I get organized. I am disappointed that the zin from our new block came in at about 23 brix which, then, can not be used with the Rafanelli PS. I will still have the Bernier field blend to consider in the blend. I have made a decision on some of the this low sugar petite sirah. I want to keep some of this wine separate and make a Light Petite Sirah. The rest will be blended with some higher sugar fruit. 

Friday September 26, 2003 

7:00 Am: Some of you have asked why the Doug Rafanelli petite Sirah came in so low in sugar. You would have to ask Doug. I really don't know. He has said many different things which make little sense. I have delivered grapes to wineries for 25 years and never delivered grapes under 21.5 brix (21.8 once and 22 once-both times I was penalized dearly). No one else would have accepted grapes that low. I will deal with it, but I am not happy. 

Brendan will be here soon and we have another long day. 

8:30 Am: I can't believe this, but my life became more complicated! E.J., our customer who sold syrah to Brendan, has more to sell. Surprise, surprise!! It seems the winery he was to sell to is too full with grapes. Well, guess what? We are full also. BUT this may work for the Rafanelli petite sirah! I hear from E.J. that the sugar is 27 to 28 brix. Yes, I know I've heard that before! IF it is we could mix it with the Raf PS and then make a SYRAH/SIRAH instead of a Light Petite Sirah. 

9:00 Am: Now we have another problem! It seems that AOL is blocking our messages from our server. So, if you have an AOL account you may have not received a message from us. We have tried to correct the problem, so let's hope it works. 

1:30 Pm: I have been working on M/L additions for a few hours. There is so much going on that I have little time to relate. Brendan is pressing now and then we will fill barrels and crush the syrah from E.J. 

Saturday September 27, 2003 

7:00 Am: Yesterday was the longest day. I finished filling barrels at 10:00 Pm. I outlasted Brendan, who had just got on the phone with Anita to tell her he was spending the night. The first test on the E.J. syrah was about 24 Brix. Growers, they exaggerate at times. SO I still haven't found a place for the Raf P.S. Today we are receiving the Bernier Zin. More later!


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