David Coffaro Vineyard and Winery Winemaker's Diary

Weeks 37 - 39
September 18, 2005 to October 8, 2005 

Monday September 19, 2005

The high temperature hit 95 degrees today. The brix readings are moving up fast. We will be harvesting Block 4 tomorrow and we should be harvesting many more varietals into the weekend. I will do more sugar tests to decide the order of picking. The Syrah; Peloursin and Barbera will be first, and our Cab Franc, Merlot may be close behind. Also we will be harvesting some zinfandel from the Ponzo vineyard on Thursday. 

Tuesday September 20, 2005

Sometimes things don't work out the way you think. I am sure all of you agree. Today was one of those times for me. Don't get me wrong the Harvest has become more interesting. There is nothing normal about Harvest, but change. 

Today we had way too many customers and I was in charge, because Steve and Brendan were crushing our Block 4. I could have taken one of there jobs, but I thought I would talk to customers (30 in total for the day). That kept me busy and nervous, and out of the testing for sugar until tonight. The next surprise or CHANGE is my thinking of what I will do with the Block 4. The preliminary sugar on our first fermenters is lower than I thought. It looks like we have about 24 brix at first reading. That would give us about 14.2 alcohol. In the last two years, Block 4 has been over 15%. I expect the sugar reading to be up tomorrow morning and then when the fermentation start, I will have to add water to rehydrate the berries, just to keep the alcohol under control;  we will see.

John Hart called today and he thought we would be harvesting the Ponzo vineyard together Thursday. This is a new vineyard for us over by Limerick Lane. Ridge has taken the grapes for years, but has decided to use more of their estate vines(?). I chose a younger section of the vineyard, because I thought it was not over cropped. John chose the older vines ( he has first choice); I liked what I saw in the younger vines. John got back to me later and said he would not need my help after all since he thought his section was not ready. I know my section is very ripe. We will be picking it Thursday. 

The other change today is we will not be picking into this weekend. None of our syrah or peloursin is ready. I will check the Barbera tomorrow. 

The major change is that the South Wind is up again meaning that it will cool down. That will help no one around here. We need heat to ripen our fruit.

This Harvest has already extended beyond last year. Except for second crop our Harvest last year was over on September 16, 2004. The earliest on record. This year could be the longest on record. 

Monday September 26, 2005

Last Wednesday we finished picking the Block 4. We had a big crop and we will be able to make about 640 cases. That should give us some bottled wine to sell next year. Block 4 has sold out before bottling each year. On Thursday we received 1.1 tons of Chardonnay from Bennett Valley. This clone of Chard has a muscat flavor to the juice so I decided to ferment this batch very cold (60 degrees) and use neutral barrels to save all the varietal character. We should be getting another 2 tons and that lot will be fermented hot.

Then last Thursday and Friday over 6 tons of Ponzo zinfandel was delivered. Mich is custom crushing at least 2 tons of this fruit and I will take what he does not want. I was only expecting a ton or two, but the quality looks so great that I decided to make a deal with Barbara and Phil for the remaining grapes in the section. I had to scrounge around for some used barrels. It took me three days to find 40 good quality ones. I also had to buy 20 barrel racks. We will be making at least 6000 cases this year. 

On Friday we received 2.75 tons of Cabernet from a vineyard near Asti. This cab looks great and may be blended with the Rafanelli.

Today we picked our Barbera. The sugar is high enough so that the style will be more like the 2003 Barbera then the 2004. All the grapes we have received this year have been at perfect sugar levels and good acids thus we should make some great wine.

On Wednesday we will pick some Peloursin and then all the fruit that goes into the Aca Modot. That includes the Cabernet, Cab Franc, Petit Verdot and Merlot. Also this week the Sangiovese will be delivered.

9:30 pm Sometimes I wonder whether I have repeated myself too many times in this diary. The diary is mostly for me and my family when I go. BUT also it is for those of you who read about my experiences. There are always new people who may be here for the first time. 

The weather forecast tonight indicates that temperatures will rise. I grew up in San Francisco and I used to wait for these times when the fog would disappear. San Francisco has the record for the coldest recorded high temperatures in Summer for a major city. Normally we have a high temperature in Summer of less than 70 degrees. Now that it is Fall, there are occasions in September and especially October when San Francisco can have temperatures that are one of the highest of the day. I have been in San Francisco when I have experienced highs in September and October of 100 degrees. The National weather service has never predicted once the start of these high temperature occurrences. We always anticipated them at any time. They would last for about 4 days and we loved them.

This week could be one of those times. There are predictions of highs in the low 90s here (It could be over 80 in San Francisco). If it is warm here this late in the season, it can be almost as warm in San Francisco. In San Francisco it almost always reaches 80 in September. In Geyserville we always get a spell of over 100 degrees in September and normally in October. We have not received 100 degrees in September yet this year!! What do you think will happen? 

Wednesday September 28, 2005

9:00 Am: Things are becoming a blur. Many loose ends have to be connected if this Harvest is to be completed successfully. Sugar readings yesterday confirmed that the Carignan is now ready. Unfortunately we have lost two pickers to other wineries. This happens a lot this time of year since pickers want to make as much money everyday as possible. We are small and now that temperatures have warmed, there is more action in other vineyards. I was paying the two people in question $12 an hour just to come here and do a little vineyard work, even though there was no fruit to pick. On Harvest days they are paid $14 with a promise of more if they stay to the end. These two pickers are fast and can make more money somewhere else where they are paid by the tub. We have only three pickers now which includes Catarino. We can still easily harvest 3 tons and possibly 4 tons a day. That will be fine. They were to pick the Sangiovese in Alexander Valley, but now it will be harvested by a different crew tomorrow. We are harvesting Peloursin today and some Cab Franc. Tomorrow we will finish the Aca Modot section and begin the Carignan Friday. We should be finished with Carignan on Saturday.

Today we are pressing all our Block 4. We will check again this morning, but we believe there are a few sluggish fermenters. We will probably have to add more yeast to them before the wine goes into the barrel. Some of the Block 4 fermenters are doing just fine and they will probably be pressed with the sluggish fermenters to help them along. I have had similar problems with Block 4 in the past two years so I am not too concerned.

1:00 Pm: The temperature outside just reached 98 degrees. It should get to 80 degrees in San Francisco, just as I predicted two days ago. We may reach 100 here. 

We did have to add more yeast to the Block 4 barrels. At least three fermenters were working slowly. We should have close to 29 full barrels. We are filling them two thirds full at first and then topping off the barrels with a mixture of the wine from the sluggish fermenters and new yeast. It is a time consuming process and we hope to be through with it by 5:00 pm.

4:00 Pm: The high temperature in our weather box in the vineyard hit 101 today at about 3:30 Pm. Our weather station tracks a little lower and registered 99.7. 

We just checked out Price Vineyard in Lytton Springs and it is ready to pick. That should be harvested Saturday. I assume if Muriel Price's zin is ready, our new vines of zin should be ready also. That will be picked right after the Carignan. The Peloursin down by the creek and our Syrah should follow.

Thursday September 29, 2005

Today our temperature reached 99 and the low this morning was 43, which means we had a 46 degree range. All our Aca fruit has been harvested with high sugar and we even got 1.5 tons of Petite Sirah from Doug Rafanelli. The Sangiovese is being picked this evening and we will crush it tomorrow morning. Tomorrow we start on the Carignan. 

Friday September 30, 2005

7:30 Am: I just totaled the fruit for our 2005 Aca Modot and we will only be able to produce 200 cases. The wine should at least be 14.5 alcohol and may reach 15% after fermentation. It will be a very intense wine. We only harvested 1.25 tons of Cabernet on three quarters of an acre. This will be the last year that we use the fruit on the knoll since we will be replanting that section. That section now contains half the Cab Franc and all the Cabernet that is blended into Aca. Next year we will start using our new Cabernet from a section close by. I could see if I can purchase some Cab Franc from my neighbor, but probably not, since I hope to go back to producing wine from only Estate fruit. That means the blend next year will be mostly Cabernet depending on the new crop of Cabernet. I have little idea on how many cases can be produced, but I assume it will be small. On Monday we are forced to raise our price for the 2005 Aca Modot to $22 a bottle (Vintage Circle $20), because we have only 50 cases left to sell. Those of you who want to add Aca Modot to your 2005 Futures should do it in the next few days. 

10:00 Pm: I am confused. In the last few minutes the North Wind is up. That usually means the fog will be gone in the Bay Area and temperatures will go up tomorrow, but there is a STRONG prediction by weather.com  that we will be going down in temperature. Only in the winter do I see cooling temperatures after a North Wind is up. That would mean we would have rain by Monday. Don't worry, the rain could be minor and just wash off the vines, a great help for ripening.

Everyday is stressful during Harvest, today was one of them even more so. I had to make many decisions. I hope I made the right ones. None of them will change my mind. This looks like a great vintage again. I am getting exactly what I want for Sugar. The flavors are great.

More tomorrow! 

Saturday October 1, 2005

It's hard to remember most of what happened yesterday. The most important decision I made was to reschedule picking the Price Zinfandel in Lytton Springs. The fruit looks ripe, but it needs another week. We had expected it today or tomorrow. I believe it is over cropped and that is why it is not ready. Yesterday we stemmed 5.6 tons of Sangiovese way more than I expected. That will produce about 375 cases. Our Carignan was finished today and we will pick our Syrah tomorrow. Tuesday we will get some more Chardonnay to ferment hot. Either tomorrow or Monday we will harvest the rest of out Peloursin and then we will pick our young Zinfandel. Next Thursday we will get our Tannat and Alvarelhao from the Lodi area. 

The weather has turned overcast, but there is little chance of rain.

Tuesday October 4, 2005

The weather forecast calls for warmer weather in the next few days. That should give us a chance to bring in most of our remaining fruit. Our Petite Sirah in our front section is within a week while Petite Sirah from the Ponzo vineyard is still two weeks or more from harvest. Otherwise our front section of Zinfandel will be picked tomorrow and the zinfandel from the Price vineyard will be here by Sunday. Today we are picking our bottom Cabernet for the Estate Cuvee. Yesterday the last of the Peloursin was picked and we received 1700 pounds from our new Petite Sirah near the creek. The last of the Rafanelli Petite Sirah may be ready by the end of this week also. We are busy!! Look at the winery web cam to see all our fermenters.

Wednesday October 5, 2005

We have no more room! We cannot take more grapes since all, but two of our fermenters are full of wine. We were going to harvest our new vine Zinfandel today, but I had to call it off until tomorrow since we would need three fermenters. Late this morning we did decide to press the Rafanelli Petite Sirah which will release two plastic fermenters. Tomorrow we will press the Aca Modot fruit and Friday we will do the Sangiovese. We will need the fermenters, because we have 5 tons of fruit from Lodi to come in tomorrow and more Rafanelli PS due later this week. On Sunday we will harvest the Price Zinfandel from Lytton Springs; I am afraid there may be more than the 6 tons I am expecting, so I've had to order more barrels!! My head is in a swirl. 

10:00 Pm: I needed an escape this evening as usual. I like tasting some wine and escaping to my Movie Room. Most of you know about our great Audio/Video setup in our winery, but most of you don't know that I have a mini version in my residence, next to the winery. At about 9:00Pm I usually escape to the Movie Room, some times with Pat if a movie is on or Sports that she is interested in.

Tonight is very disappointing. I can't go in there, so I am writing a diary. When I have time, I don't mind coming down here and saying what I think. It is an honor that some of you like these digressions. 

Susie is watching "Lost" in HDTV, so I am spending my time down here. This is a kid at 17 years old, who found out she missed HDTV after she found out that our Congressmen had taken the HD Eastern Feed away from us. It was wonderful before when we could see a program when it first was prod cast. Now Susie is jazzed by HDTV. She found out she could still get a standard sub par broadcast on the Eastern Feed, but not in HD. Why would THEY!!?? who ever they are, allow us to look at a poor quality video at 6:00Pm, but would make us wait until 9::00Pm to see it in HD. Do you think they are trying to get you to watch the local station at 9:00Pm? Yes, but they don't get it!! Why would they take the Eastern Feed away and give us HD at 9:00PM in Los Angeles. I am not watching the local channel, because we can't get it in HDTV. We only can receive satellite and DirecTV is not giving us our local tv in HD. SO Susie is watching the Western Feed now in HDTV out of Los Angeles. We are in the San Francisco Bay Area. We would not be interested in local ads in Los Angeles or any where on the East Coast so why take the Eastern Feed away from us. Thank you very much.

Oh I see it is 10:05; I am going up to the Movie Room, I think "Lost" is over. 

Thursday October 6, 2005

10:30 Pm: I had an escape tonight. It was Mich's birthday tonight so we went to John Ash restaurant. The food was excellent and the company was wonderful.

I was away with Mich and Jeannine, so at 9:30 tonight I was anxious to see what the sugar readings were. Yes we received our fruit from Lodi and brought in our new Zinfandel. Pat and I left at 6:00 Pm and the destemming had just started. I also checked Rafanelli's Petite Sirah and the Price's Zinfandel for future harvesting. Price's Zin is ready, but we have no one to pick it until Sunday. It will be even better! I checked one section today and got some incredible numbers. I got 25 brix with a 3.25 Ph. I hope the rest of the sections are this good.

Rafanelli's Petite is a week or two off. The color is incredible. The Alvarelhao destemmed this evening had 24 brix, but low in acid, just what I expected. It will be a great blender. Our new Zin came in fine. I know it will be so different from our old vines, maybe with just as much character. The biggest surprise this evening was the Tannat. This will be my first attempt to make wine with this relatively unknown varietal. The brix came in at an initial 27.2 with a decent Ph for that sugar. Tannat will be intense. This is going to be a fun year for blending, starting tomorrow.

` Dave 

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