David Coffaro Vineyard and Winery Winemaker's Diary

Weeks 38 - 39
September 28, 2003 to October 11, 2003 

  Tuesday September 30, 2003

I have been so busy the last few days, that I have not been able to sit down at my desk. Saturday we received 10 tons of Bernier Zin, most of it at very high sugar. We still have many tests to do in order to balance the wine. We do know that the grapes came in at low acid so we have added some tartaric acid at the start of fermentation. 

Saturday night Steve and I had to drive down to Santa Rosa to pour at the Harvest Fair. We actually worked until 5:30, took a quick shower and headed off to the fairgrounds. I won 5 medals with our young 2002 wines, so I am pleased. A Bronze was awarded to t to see he 2002 Sonoma County Pinot and the Late Harvest Sauv Blanc. I won silver medals for the two 2002 zinfandels and the petite sirah. 

Sunday I was so busy that I missed the Raider game. This is the first time I have missed a game in many years. I could have driven up to Cloverdale to Mich's house to see it, but I had no time. I did hear most of the game on the radio. 

Sunday we had to do many tests on 15 fermenters and make decisions on blending. We had 5 fermenters of under ripe Rafanelli petite sirah and 10 fermenters of mostly over ripe Bernier zin. We decided to keep 6 fermenters of Bernier zin separate and use the few over ripe fermenters to blend with the Rafanelli P.S. We also added some Bernier to our new zinfandel. This is very complicated, but I know it will all work out. 

Yesterday we received the rest of our peloursin and some carignan. Today we will receive the rest of the carignan. The initial tests on the P.S./ zin blends, we made up Sunday, showed potential alcohols all over 13%. We kept three barrels of Rafanelli petite sirah separate. It looks like the alcohol will be about 11%. We will either bottle it separate or blend it later. 

Friday October 3, 2003 

7:00 Am: Yesterday was a little less hectic. We received no grapes. It is hard to explain what goes into our minds during  harvest. The best way I can explain it is that there are so many decisions to be made that I am in a fog. It's like I could not see the end of the tunnel and there is something coming up behind me. Yesterday, I could see some light. 

The weather has cooled off and we are now waiting for the next heat spell. In October, we usually have one more spin into the 100's. Right now, we are waiting for our Estate fruit, including Cab, mourvedre, new petite sirah, new carignan, barbera and some more peloursin. We are still hoping for some petite sirah from Doug Rafanelli. Remember, we received petite sirah from Doug last week, but it was only 20% sugar. We took a test of the rest of the PS and was surprised to still get 20 Brix. He will need many hot days to achieve 24 Brix which I need. Also we may receive some new cabernet from another source, but the sugar there is only 21 Brix. All our Estate stuff is over 22 brix so we just need some hot weather. 

Our fermentations this year have been going along fine. In past years we have had stuck fermentations. That is, fermentations where the sugar stays the same for two days in a row. This year we have even had fermentations that have completed in less than a week. We have already pressed off all the Bernier zin that we received last Saturday that was blended with the Raf PS, and we are pressing the E.J syrah today. That syrah may help us in a blend since the sugar was perfect on average at 24.7 brix. We have so much Bernier zin blended with the under ripe Rafanelli petite sirah, over 500 cases, that we make another wine. There are so many possibilities and I know it will work. I made such a wine before and called it Neighbors' Cuvee. I have Neighbors' syrah, cabernet, zinfandel and petite sirah. We even made a mistake and blended some Aca Modot cab franc and merlot into some Raf petite sirah. One good thing, about the the under ripe petite sirah, is that it is very dark in color, maybe the darkest we have. I did keep three barrels separate and ended up with 11.5 alcohol. It has great color and tannins, but no fruit. I was hoping to bottle some separate, but that will not work out. 

8:00 Am: Last week we did received a little less than a ton of cabernet from our customer on Bradford Mountain. It was perfect sugar, but a little low in acid. We are going to keep it separate for now. Today we will press this wine and the syrah from E.J. Right now, Catarino and his friends are reducing the crop in our Barbera. We do have 22.5 brix now, but there are many bunches that have mildew on them and these bunches will not get ripe. The Barbera is in a sandy loam, just below the Aca Modot Indian site. This area has a tendency to produce too much crop. We will need to manage it better next year. 

Our sauv blanc is all in barrels. All of the wine has finished fermentation. There are three styles: the cold fermentation, the skin fermentation, and the carbonic. All this was explained in past diary entries. On first taste, the resultant wines are very interesting. By far the most intense is the hot skin fermentation. Ed, a friend and customer, has advised me that recently in France there has been chardonnay produced as red wine, just as we have done. The wine is called Paradoxe Blanc. Here is a link to an article with more information. Unfortunately, there is no information about how it tastes. 

11:00 Am: As I mentioned we have pressed the Rafanelli Cabernet. These grapes came in at very high sugar and at first did seem to have good acid. That was short lived. After fermentation started, we did find that the acid was very low. This usually happens when grapes are brought in at high brix. The yield after pressing was low also. Strangely, even the Raf PS at low sugar was not high in acid. AND the Bernier zin which came in somewhat over ripe was low in acid. All these fermentations had to be adjusted with tartaric acid, which has not been necessary in the past with our Estate fruit. It will be easier when we go back to all Estate fruit. That brings me to a new problem: 

We may have Pierces Disease in our newly planted first block!! This is the new area which is planted to mourvedre, zinfandel, petite sirah, peloursin and syrah. We have many damaged vines in the petite sirah and mourvedre which are very near our rather large pond up near Dry Creek Rd, 1200 feet away from Dry Creek (A large creek, now that Warm Springs Dam went into action 20 years ago). Creeks are big harbingers of blue green sharpshooters which carry the Pierces Disease bacteria. These sharpshooters should not be confused with the large ones (glassy winged) that threaten to destroy all of a vineyard. The small blue green sharpshooters, that we have, can only fly 200 feet. I did not realize that they may be living near my pond. We have an expert stopping by this afternoon to take a look. I hope we can control them, otherwise other actions will be necessary. 

5:00 Pm: It has been confirmed that we have Pierces disease in our mourvedre and probably some in the other varietals in our first block. Maybe as much as 30% of the mourvedre vines have died. We will have to kill the grasses and willow trees that they live in.

Monday October 6, 2003

9:00 Am: I've been in the office, near my computer for two hours, trying to figure out where this winery stands for this season and the next two. There have been a lot of things running through my head. This harvest has been fast and furious, but they all are. It will be a challenge to blend all the barrels into great wines, but I know I can. So far, the Block 4 and all the Estate Zinfandel has been the best I have seen in the 25 years that I have been here. Only a little of our Aca Modot Cabernet is in, but the Cab Franc and Merlot from the site look great. We have not harvested our Cab from the sandy loam, which goes into the Estate Cuvee nor have we harvested the Carignan, mourvedre and peloursin that will go into the Terre Melange. And we have not harvested our Estate Petite Sirah. That is the problem so far. We have no petite sirah to make wine. I'll have to continue tomorrow about that problem. 

11:00 Am: I've been having fun with a few alcohol and ph tests. I have also tasted many wines. I have checked out two old vine zins, the block 4, our new zin and the two new cabs from Levois and Rafanelli. All the wines were wonderful. This year will produce very big wines!! The two zins I tasted were over 15% alcohol and the other wines were all over 14%. The acids on our Estate wines are very good, and with the addition of some tartaric, the wines from the purchased grapes are now balanced. It looks like the cabs will be outstanding and with the addition of the tannic light Rafanelli petite sirah, the my zin and Neighbors cuvee will be great also. All these wines have more structure than in the past, but don't worry, I'll produce enough different wines to satisfy my past customers who are used to past vintages. Most of my Estate grapes which produce wines of high fruit character have not been harvested yet. I know this is confusing, but I'll go into more detail in the future.

Wednesday October 8, 2003

We have a new development. We have been looking for some petite sirah grapes in Dry Creek Valley to substitute for the Rafanelli petite sirah that came in at 20 brix. Until today, we could not find any. But we just got a call from Ken Wilson of Wilson Winery who has a ton of petite sirah to sell. It seems these grapes are from some young vines and he does not need the fruit for his winery. We are hoping to receive the grapes with high sugar and I have told him I will pay high prices for 25 brix. 

Today Brendan cut most of the fruit off the mourvedre vines. We now suspect we have lost more than half the vines. Also I guess there is some damage in the new zinfandel and syrah vines. We won't know for sure how much damage until next spring when the vines bud out. Actually it will take several weeks until the symptoms show up. We will have some information when Catarino starts pruning, because these infected vines will be dryer than the healthy vines.

The high temperatures during the days have risen recently and Friday we will now harvest our Aca Modot cabernet. The young petite sirah in our first block should come in early next week. The rest of our Estate grapes will be ready in the next two weeks. tonight as I type at 10:00Pm, I see a temperature outside of 65 degrees. That is very warm for this time of the year so we could have a high tomorrow near 90.

I just saw Diane Wilson and talked to her about the grapes delivered to me today. Susie my youngest at almost 16 years old and Tori, Diane's daughter are close friends. I traveled tonight to Healdsburg to pick the two daughters up after they were finished preparing for a high school play. Diane is a wonderful person and Ken her husband has been a friend of mine for 5 years. I was happy today when I could receive 1.41 tons of petite sirah from their new vineyard. I learned from Diane, the winemaker for Wilson Winery, that she received for her winery 3 tons of this same petite sirah today. She made a wine last year from this young vineyard and is very happy with the results. You may look to see if they release this 2002 wine in the future. I told Diane that I was very happy with what I received today. The preliminary figures, which she confirmed, shows a brix of over 24.5 and ph of 3.40, perfect! There was only 1.25 tons per acre produced from this new vineyard. We conversed for a short time, opposite open windows sitting in our cars on the side of the rode, and talked about why we thought petite sirah was so hard to get ripe. I told her that next year I will try to limit our crop to 1.5 tons in our 500 vine section. That should equate to 2 tons per acre in our 6 year old planting. 

10:30 Pm: I just checked the sugar on this new petite sirah from Wilson and saw a sugar reading of over 25 Brix. I am happy! We now have another component for the makings of our 2003 petite sirah. I have agreed to pay $2800 a ton for these grapes which is the most I have paid for petite sirah before (About $3.60 per bottle, just for the grapes), but I believe this fruit is worth it.

Saturday October 11, 2003

Yesterday was a very busy day. Many things were flying through my head; some thoughts stayed in. Kate arrived home from Cal Poly for a visit, mainly to see Susie's high school play. Tonight we will go to Santi restaurant for dinner and then enjoy the play. After seeing the Raider game with me Sunday, she will travel the 5+ hours drive back to college.

We harvested our Aca Modot Cabernet yesterday. The quality looks great, but the bad news is that the yield was far less than in the past, only one ton. That means we will only be able to produce 200 cases. After saving 20 for the winery, we have only 25 cases left to sell. If any of you are interested on buying this 2003 future, you will have until the end of October, when we will have to stop selling the wine.

I talked to Roberto yesterday. Roberto works for a vineyard management company and has sold me grapes in past years. Last year we purchased some Cabernet through him. This year he has some Alexander Valley Cabernet that we have committed to buy. He says I have committed to 5 tons, but I had thought it was 3. This will be the first crop off these vines, but the fruit looks great. Oh, well more wine to make! We will probably take in this fruit tomorrow. I have mentioned the possibility of a 2003 Neighbors' Cuvee and now have made the decision to produce this 2003 wine. It will be a blend of Roberto cabernet, the blend of the low sugar Rafanelli petite sirah and high sugar Bernier zin (Great tasting wine, ready to taste in the barrel now), E.J syrah and more. I will make up the final blend in January, but the components can be tasted now. 

Another item that took up a place in my brain, was the negotiation regarding my purchase of a new driving machine. Yes, I am receiving a new BMW 530I next Friday. It will be the first time I have owned the ultimate driving machine. I must pick it up in Berkeley, 70 miles away. It will be a fun drive home. One of my customers, who is a fleet sales man arranged for me to be one of the first people in the California to be cruising around in a new 2004 BMW 530I. I have waited a long time for one of these vehicles and feel it is finally time.


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