David Coffaro Vineyard and Winery Winemaker's Diary

Weeks 36 - 37
September 2, 2007 - September 22, 2007 

Monday September 3, 2007

I gave everyone a few days off since we will be picking everyday starting tomorrow. I know all our 12-15 tons of Zinfandel is ready and after that we will probably start on the 5-7 tons of Block 4. Since the Block 4 is a combination of many varietals it takes several days longer to ripen. After that I suspect the Peloursin, Grenache and Syrah will be ready. The Petite Sirah is already over 22 brix so it may be right behind. I have not checked the Cabernet yet. Sometimes it is ready before Petite Sirah. Then there is Carignan to consider. We could be through with almost everything by the end of September if we can figure out how to find enough fermenters.

Talking about fermenters: we now have 15 fermenters racing ahead. These fermenters of Goat Trek Zin were harvested last Tuesday and Wednesday in the afternoon heat. Some of the fruit came in at 100 degrees so we waited until the next day to de-stem. The sugars were as high as 30 brix by Thursday morning. On average we added 25 gallons of water to bring the sugars down to 25 brix and also cool the must down to 90 degrees. I had to fight the warm up after adding yeast. By adding the yeast the sugar started to convert to alcohol and warm up the fermenters. I had to turn on the air conditioner and the night air fan to cool the fermenters down. We are fortunate to have cold nights down to 50 degrees here so by the morning the building was down to 60 degrees. That kept the fermentations down a little to 95 degrees. We like to ferment to low 90's but this was pushing my luck. The yeast can be killed off if the fermentations get up close to 100 degrees. We added a whole lot of nutrients to help the yeast stay viable.

This morning the fermenters were still showing 90 degrees and on average the sugar remaining was 5%. We now want to keep the fermentations over 80 degrees, because a fermentation slowing to 70 degrees could leave sugar remaining and we would have to restart the fermentations, a tricky job. The color of this wine is great. We actually picked 1.3 tons of our Estate Zin and I kept 3 tons of the Goat Trek Zin to blend into My Zin this year so 5 of the 15 fermenters are ours.

Tuesday September 4, 2007

Today we crushed the Price Family Zinfandel for Bruce, the Wine Guerrilla 4.5 tons total. The tonnage was way down from last year's 7.5 tons. We also started picking our Estate Zinfandel today and we are down from last year about 20%. Last year was a big yield year. In the last few years we are watering more and have controlled our mite problem. (Mites can suck out the green in zinfandel leaves and slows down the ripening.) Thus, our yield per acre has gone up. This year will be down, but at a level which would be average several years ago. I'll have sugar levels tomorrow and we will keep picking zinfandel and probably start on the Block 4 Thursday.

Friday September 7, 2007

All our Estate Zinfandel is in and boy does it look good. The acid is great at about 3.35 Ph and the sugars are coming out very high. On average we got about 29 brix. The acid will go down after malo-lactic but for it to be so high with that much sugar is unusual. This could be the best Zinfandel ever. The color in incredibly dark. We started on our Block 4 today and will finish it up on Monday. Again the Block 4 could be the best ever also. With this much sugar we have had to add a great deal of nutrients and water to help finish the fermentations. In the last two days we pressed off the Goat Trek Zin and the mixture of Goat Trek and our Zin to be used for My Zin. The quality looks great. It is a lot of work, but it looks like I can control the alcohols to about 15%.

Today we took sugar samples for our Tannat, Syrah, Cabernet, Peloursin and Petite Sirah. They are all ready with brix readings from 25 to 26.7. The Ph's again are about 3.4 so we have time to wait until next week. After all we only have so many fermenters and so much room in the winery to ferment. The grapes will only get better. As you can tell I am real excited about this year.

Tuesday September 11, 2007

All our Block 4 is now in. The sugars are perfect and so are the acids. We will start pressing our Estate Zinfandel tomorrow. Today we are picking our Syrah, Peloursin and Grenache for the Terre Melange. We will do our Cabernet tomorrow.

Today we dropped off  the wine to be tasted at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair. I have not entered wine for years. In the past I have won silver medals by entering wines right after we bottled. This year we are entering 5 wines that we bottled last year so they will have been in the bottle for 15 months when judged. Maybe I will win a gold for a change. The wines we are entering are the 2005 Estate Zinfandel, the 2005 Price Family Zin and the 2005 My Zin. Also we are entering the 2005 Petite Sirah and 2005 Sangiovese. The results will be presented on September 29th.

Monday September 17, 2007

I have been way too busy to write. We have all our Petite Sirah in at good sugars. We are checking sugars now on the Carignan and Cabernet. Our own Cabernet Franc, Merlot have been harvested along with a small amount of Tannat that we fermented with them. Again the quality looks great. We also received 5 tons of Cabernet from Doug Rafanelli that looks incredible. 

Last Thursday we received about 8.8 tons of Zinfandel from the Ponzo Vineyard. This was to be a custom crush for Bruce, the Wine Guerrilla. When the fruit came in I was out in the vineyard with a group of journalists, otherwise I would not have accepted the grapes. When I got back at first glance I saw many very unripe bunches sitting on top of the bins. I called up Phil Ponzo and informed him we had a big problem. I asked him if he had supervised the picking and he said no! Now, he must have seen these unripe very green berries (Some of the bunches did not have a red berry in them; they were all sour green). He claimed Bruce was responsible for the picking and it was in their contract. I informed him that Bruce knows nothing about supervising the quality of grapes. That is always the growers responsibility. What was strange is that Phil Ponzo had informed me he thought they only had 6 to 7 tons. Do I think he just was trying to pick more than was warranted? You see, his Russian River vineyard sets a great deal of second crop that should not be picked for many weeks after the first crop. The pickers picked every bunch on the vines. I do not blame the pickers. They are just trying to make some money. I blame Phil and Barbara Ponzo for an extremely unprofessional job.

After getting little sleep Thursday night, Friday morning we set up Catarino, Salvador and Esteban. They sorted through three bins and came up with some OK fruit, not great. We dumped the fruit out on a large sheet of stainless and tried to pull out the unripe fruit. It was hard to get out all the bad bunches so we ended up getting only about 23% sugar. I decided to stop the action and then rethought everything for several hours over the weekend. We even thought of going back to the vineyard and picking more grapes that would be ripper. But seriously, I do not want to deal with Barbara and Phil Ponzo again. I have never seen anything like this in my 28 seasons here.

I finally decided to start sorting again, so this morning instead of picking out the bad stuff, we dumped the whole bin over and picked out the good stuff. We ended up recovering less (about 4.5 tons) this way, but I think the quality will be better. I plan on keeping one ton for us as payment for our efforts. We have lost two days of production. Barbara and Phil Ponzo will be paid for 3.5 tons. No other winery would have accepted this fruit!! 


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