David Coffaro Vineyard and Winery Winemaker's Diary

Week 37
September 10 to September 16, 2000 

Sunday September 10,   The last few days have seen High 90s and low 40s

We are still trying to recover from a very long day Friday. We accomplished all we had to including filling 7 barrels of zin. I planned to make a posting yesterday, but got involved in more winemaking tasks with Brendan having the day off.  Then in the afternoon we had a number of customers drop by. 

Our tonnage of zin came in even lower than I thought. Right now we have only 8.1 tons of zin harvested. We will harvest a little more zin from our 4th Block and thus could steal a little away for our zin program---of course that would mean making less Block 4 and Est Cuvee. We will hopefully harvest 2.5 tons from our newer zin on the wire. We also have harvested 1.9 tons of Lane zin and .4 tons of Lane Petite Sirah. The Lane fruit this year looks great and hopefully will make great wine. I have liked what it has contributed to my 1998 Neighbors' Zin and my 1999 Zin. Unless I decide to make only 700 cases of 2000 zin I will have to consider blending in some Lane fruit again this year. Frankly to my tastes I think my 1999 zin is the best I have made. 

Of course I am now concerned about how much petite sirah, cab and carignan comes in. We have already sold 530 cases of 2000 zin, 460 est cuvee, 275 P.S., 175 carignan and 186 cases of cab franc. My main concern is that we have sold 246 cases of Aca Modot. Last year I had to blend in a little intense cab franc from the Jones vineyard. It worked out fine, but I'd rather not do it this year. 

Monday September 11   42 Low,   90 High

For me every day involves a great deal of decisions. I had hoped that Brendan would be taking more charge these days, but he has a girlfriend (Anita) and as should be (he's 25 years old) is also interested in pleasing her. Today I went back in forth on what to harvest tomorrow. We are going to harvest Lambert Bridge's zin, but with Caterino and his crew here tomorrow, I could also harvest some of our stuff. The question every day is what to harvest next. 

In 1983 I planted 28 vines (about 300 to 600 lbs a year) of Merlot in some of our best soil. I am not a fan of merlot except for blending. It adds a great middle to our wines. These 28 vines produce some of the most intense merlot I have ever had, but these vines would only produce between 10 and 20 cases of wine. I choose to blend it in to our Aca Modot. Consistently this section has come in right after our zin. With such a small amount of wine (one barrel is 25 cases) it has been a problem as to what to do with it. In 1994 I planted another 30 vines in our Aca Modot area (the site of the Pomo Indian village). These vines now are producing enough consistency to be ready about the same time. Tomorrow we will harvest this Merlot fruit from both areas. If we have enough crop we could produce one barrel. 

Our Malbec sample today came in at over 23%, as did the zin on our wire. After agonizing, I have decided to hold off a few more days to obtain a little more flavor. (neither tasted completely there) Block 4 is getting close also as is the cab and petite verdot on the Aca site. If the weather holds, we could be harvesting more fruit next week. 

Brendan dropped off our three entries in the Sonoma County Harvest Fair (1999 zin, cab franc and zp2c). It is so nice to have some wine to enter (remember we dropped our distributor; so that gave us an opportunity to enter the wine we were to sell to him.) Of course that means we will have less wine to sell to the retail market. I love the competition of the Harvest Fair, but realize that these wines even though are good will be very young to judge. 

Another decision I have been agonizing about is whether to make two zins this year as I did in 1998 or to make one as I did in 1999. Much of the Lane zin had to be blended into some of our estate zin so either I make a small amount of estate zin or make a blend. 

Tuesday September 12   42 Low,   99 High

I am starting to write this at 4:15 PM so I won't have to write as much later. So far it has been one of those fascinating days that make this living extremely interesting and more unpredictable than the stock market. 

At 5 am I was awakened by Susie taking out her dog Koovy. With my worrying of course I never got back to sleep. By 7 am the picking of our first block started for Lambert Bridge Winery. We only harvested 1.7 tons in the one acre. Very disappointing for Julia, but at least this time it wasn't for our winery. 

At 8:30 I got the bad news from Brendan: 5 of our zin fermentations were slowing down. After agonizing for hours I made a decision to take a sample over to Vinquiry to check the sugar and alcohol. I then will be able to estimate with reasonable accuracy what the final alcohol will be. That will help me to decide if the fermentation will stick. We also decided to add a bunch more yeast to help along the activity. 

At 9:00 am while Caterino and his crew were out picking our Merlot I walked over to our zin wire sample which had been sitting overnight on the skins. The reading came up to 25.5%, a big swell up from yesterday's reading at 23.5. I ultimately made the decision to pick all our zin wire and also the second crop to possibly blend in (remember the first crop was picked in the last two weeks). 

At 9:30 I decided to check the sugar on the barbera since some will be added to Aca Modot and could be blended into the merlot today. My reading came in at 23%, so I had Caterino pick 860 lbs. 

At 10:00 the merlot was finished and we ended up with .57 tons. That will sure help out our Aca Modot program. The sugar reading was good at 24.6%. We plan on adding a small amount of Barbera to it to bring the sugar down to 24%. 

2:00 PM After several hours of picking second crop zin, Caterino's crew finished up with the zin wire. 

There was one ton of second crop--a little more than I was expecting, but the zin wire came up to only 2.34 tons in 1.2 acres. After sorting the second crop sugar is coming in at 22.5 while the zin wire will not be accurate until tomorrow--after swell up. 

Brendan and I have crushing and winemaking decisions to make before we are done about 7:30 Pm. I must decide now which of these 10 bins (4.4 tons) will be combined into 5 fermenters. We find that our fermenters will hold between 1700 and 1800 lbs. 

8:30 PM I just finished dinner complimented with our wine of course, but suddenly find myself very tired. I will try to labor on. 

Bendan left about an hour ago with a few bins still to be crushed tomorrow. We felt very satisfied since we figured out the jigsaw puzzle of fermenters. 

  1. 1141 lbs of Merlot 24.6 and 550 lbs of barbera about 23. 
  2. 850 lbs of second crop zin sorted to 22.5 sugar (from our 3rd and 4th block) and 850 lbs of  zin knoll 25+ sugar (on our Aca Modot site, used partially in 1998 in our Aca Modot Blend) 
  3. 2/3 rd full: Zin Wire from our front section (extremely well drained) about 24 sugar 
  4. Zin Knoll 1000 lbs 25+ sugar, 150 lbs low sugar sorted second crop (sorted out of #2), 500 lbs second crop not sorted. Not crushed yet: We have about 300 lbs of barbera at 23% sugar, 1800 lbs of zin wire front at 23+ sugar (could swell up to 25), and about 500 lbs of second crop zin at 21 to 22 %. 

  5. Tomorrow: 
  6. Mostly zin wire front with a little barbera and second crop to lower the potential sugar down to 24%.  The rest will go into #3. or a little into the other low fills. 
10:00 PM  My remaining problem is our sluggish zin fermenters mentioned earlier in the day 13.5 hrs ago. This evening I received a fax from Vinquiry (they work late also) with the results of our samples: 
We already have alcohol of 12% with residual sugar still at 6%. That means our final alcohol readings will be about 15.5% on these zinfandel lots. I am aiming for a final blend for my zin at 14.5% so I must consider blending in something lower in sugar. Of course we are allowed to add yeast hulls or even more yeast and nutrients which must be diluted with water so I may be able to lower the sugar to under 15% to finish fermentation without them getting stuck. If it does get stuck as our zin did in 1996, I am not too concerned: to my tastes that is still my favorite zin from our winery. I had to resort to all kinds of methods in order to finish fermentation to zero % sugar, which I feel is a necessity. I just went out in the winery to prepare some yeast hulls to be added tomorrow morning. 

10:30 PM I decided to add the yeast hulls tonight. 

Wednesday September 13   65 Low,   95 High

The overnight low was very warm for a change. There is a tropical storm off the coast making our weather more like the midwest in the summer. There may be a few thunderstorms, but none yet. 

This has been more of a transition day for us. The thing most on my mind is when will we harvest again and what will it be. With this continued warm weather I've decided to harvest our Block 4 tomorrow or Friday. This is the only section in the vineyard that still has some zinfandel (the zin is starting to dehydrate). The Malbec, Aca Cab, cab franc and petite verdot should be next Tuesday. The carignan, petite sirah and cab for our Estate Cuvee are still a couple of weeks off. It looks like next Wednesday for the Pinot Noir and the syrah from Simpson and cab franc from Jones somewhere in the next two weeks. 

I forgot to mention that I sent Brendan out to check our sauv blanc still on the vine. The sugar came in at 27%. There is no rot yet so we had thought about harvesting the grapes for dry wine rather than late harvest. But now with the sugar so high we are trying to induce rot. Earlier in the year I had Caterino install some extra drip lines right up in the vines near the hanging grapes. Today I had Brendan install shut off valves to turn the water off in the petite sirah near the S.B and then he turned on the water. We hope to turn on the drip every day now in the hopes that the environment for the grapes will finally start forming noble rot. We will keep you Late harvest fans in touch. 

Thursday September 14   61 Low,   97 High

The Longest Day!!

A surprising day--not really, but I did say to Pat yesterday that I was getting a little too organized or need I say bored. I had paid all my bills ( I have been known to forget them during harvest), I had balanced my check book ( I have been known to neglect my balancing for up to 4 months). So Pat and I decided to go off to Costco together and even go to lunch. 

6:30 Am  I got up to see how my new investment of three months in Microsoft was doing. The New York Stock Exchange opens at 9:30 on the East Coast ( Such Wimps), but at 6:30 on the West Coast. I had received my copy of Windows ME yesterday by Airborne so I figured the stock would be up because of Microsoft's great promotional savvy. I was surprised that after a short time the stock was hitting new lows for the last few months. Then this afternoon I heard that Microsoft bought up the remaining 1000 tickets to the Raider game with Denver this weekend. That  creates a sellout in Oakland for the first time in several years. Now maybe Microsoft management are Raider fans or maybe they are planning this big advertising scheme for Windows ME. Kate and I don't care, because we will be in Oakland to cheer on the home team. 

8:15 Am Brendan arrived and gave me the bad news that our sluggish zin fermentations were virtually stuck. I had to think quickly since of course top priority was to go to Costco and even lunch with my wife. 

9:15 I had figured up a plan to keep Brendan busy for 4 hours while Pat and I had fun: This is a long story, but I will try to keep this short since it is 11:00 Pm and Brendan is still working. We have 8 fermenters that were stuck We have 4 fermenters that have just started fermenting. I planned to press out the 8 stuck fermenters into a tank creating just juice without skins at 5% sugar. We divided the 4 vibrant new zinfandel bins into 10 empty ones. In the afternoon we will add back the stuck wine. 

9:45 Am  Pat and I headed off to Costco and to a great Thai restaurant (fabulous food) We ordered 5 dishes and a Bottle of Dry Creek Sauv  Blanc. We saved half the food and none of the wine for Brendan (He ate the food in the afternoon for energy). 

1:15 PM  We arrived home. I was greeted by Dennis (he is constructing our new storage building). He informed me that they were bringing in 50 yards of concrete for the foundation on Tuesday. I had to talk to him regarding plumbing and propane. I went out to see how Brendan was progressing and found out that he was still getting organized regarding how to put grapes (skins and juice), 4 bins full, into 10 when these 4 were already full. He told me it entailed a lot of bailing of buckets. 

2:00  Caterino arrived to negotiate the picking of Block 4. He wanted a great deal of money (we settled on $480), because there were so few grapes and so many weeds. Two hrs. later he was done harvesting 2.21 tons on 1.2 acres. 

2:30 Brendan started pressing with my help 4 fermenters of our stuck zin into our stainless steel tank. We wanted to press the stuck wine to easily manage it, but also since it had enough skin contact to obtain the color we need and to eliminate some of the toxicity that has formed on the skins. 

3:15  I took samples to Vinquiry of our stuck fermentation and our new fermentation. 

4 Pm Brendan and I have finished pressing and transferring wine into the 10 bins. We have 72 gals of the new zin at about 20% sugar in each of 10 bins. We have about 650 gals of our stuck zin in the tank. I prepared a great deal of yeast and nutients and added it to the new zin. 

5 Pm We add all this yeast to the 10 bins and wait to see when the temperature starts rising. 

5:45 I start dinner and open our 1998 P.S., Est Cuvee and Carignan. Brendan does not drink, but I do. Brendan decides to start crushing our Block 4 and chart the progress of our newly fermenting 10 bins. 

8: Pm  Brendan has crushed one bin of Block 4 and I am happy to see by my check that the sugar is about 24%. I could say that this is right where we want if, but after what we have seen with these stuck fermentations, I will be cautious the rest of the year. 

9:30 We finished dinner and started adding the stuck wine back to the new wine. 

10:30 Brendan finished crushing the Block 4. 

11:05  Brendan decides to go home to his bed. 

11:45  I check and am happy to see that the temperature of our new fermentations is staying up at over 80 degrees. That means that there is still activity and we will be able to add more of the stuck wine tomorrow. 

12:30 After finishing this diary entry I retire for rest and hopefully sleep. 

Friday, September 15   49 Low,   89 High

I had a lot of trouble sleeping, but did finally get about 5.5 hrs. I kept waking up worrying about the fermentations. We added about 72 gals of the stuck zin wine to the freshly fermenting new zin and if they were going to stick again it would be sometime in the middle of the night. Brendan came about 8 am and promptly checked the sugars and temperatures in the 10 bins. All were in the mid 80s (great) and about 6% sugar, a little lower than I had hoped. If I was really dedicated I would have got up again about 4 am and added the last 72 gals when the bins were about 9%. We did add that wine this afternoon and the fermenters are staying warm. That means we should see sugars about 1 or 2 % tomorrow. I sent another 3 samples off to Vinquiry today and picked up another two white barrels from Lambert Bridge (we plan on transferring our sauv blanc from the tank tomorrow into barrels). The preliminary tests yesterday show that we may be under 15% alc potential now. That will help to finish the fermentations. Remember the high alcohol contributed to the cause of the stuck wines. I am still waiting for today's results. 

Brendan gave me some more bad news this morning: the Lane zins have slowed down also so I sent them off for tests also. I hope the Block 4 has little trouble. We don't know why we are having so much trouble this year, but I am hearing I am not the only one having trouble with fermentations this year. Of course that gives me some solace. 

On August 29 we added some 2000 Harvest photos you might want to look at.


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