David Coffaro Vineyard and Winery Winemaker's Diary

Week 3
January 13, 2002 to January 19, 2002 

  Tuesday, January 15, 2002

This has been a vary eventful day as usual. But this day differs in that Pat and I ventured 100 miles over to Oakland to view Granite. This was quite an eye opening day as I expected. Pat was concerned about being exposed to too much. That never bothers me. The more I am exposed to, especially something new, the more I like it. BUT I was very happy that Pat took all in just fine. We tentatively decided on a granite called Verde Tropical for our 6.5 ft by 9.5 ft Island. We found one piece that was actually that size.  Now we have to decide whether we want to mix Corian on our counter tops with this granite slab on our enormous island (or we call it a continent). 

We are starting to live with the inadequacies of our Alcolizer. Yes I know we spent $13,000 on this instrument, but the one instrument that is debatably more accurate (Gas Chromatography) is much more expensive. Brendan and I will test the Alcolizer again Friday to make sure it is worth the price. Remember if we amortized this cost for only one year, it would amount to only $3 per case. 

Yesterday, Brendan, Julia (from Lambert Bridge) and I tasted our 2001 zinfandel out of 10 different new 2001 barrels. Brendan and Julia take this too seriously by spitting out all there wine. I like to get involved by tasting a small amount of each sample. I do pay for it with a slight buzz, because I can't handle wine in the middle of the day. All the wines were good, but we did feel that the Oregon Oak was too assertive and we will probably not order next year. We all liked a new barrel Intermedio that was a combination of Eastern European Oak. So we will order more of these barrels. 

Thursday, January 17, 2002

Pat and I went out shopping for granite again today, but only traveled 25 miles down to Santa Rosa. We obtained more options, which thrilled me, but was too much for Pat. I must make this a little more clear. As I said Tuesday has more trouble taking things in at first, but I have found the next day she may make better decisions than I do. While Pat was off at a tile place, I made my two week run to Costco and spent my usual $500. 

Brendan is due back tomorrow and he will start breaking down barrels for our blending that will start Tuesday. I am making good progress on deciding the barrels to use in each wine. I just have to make minor barrel adjustment according to Oak amounts. 

I had to do some Alcolizer tests on my own yesterday. I liked the way it performed so I will keep it. It looks like our Carignan, Estate Cuvee and Petite sirah will all be 13.9% alcohol. In those three wines the Federal tax fee will be $0.17 per gal. or about $650. Our Zinfandel will come in about 14.1% which will mean that we will be charged $0.67 per gal or $670 just for that wine. Of course that only amounts to 3.4 cents per bottle on the first three wines and 13.4 cents per bottle on our zinfandel. The feds charge 50 cents more if we produce wine at over 14% alcohol. Our Pinot and Terre Melange (D.C. Cuvee) and Sauv Blanc will be over 14% while our Block 4  will be 13.7%. I won't know the final alcohols until next week when we blend. 

Friday, January 18, 2002

I am sure some of you are wondering why I have to pay a higher rate to the BATF for wine that is over 14% alcohol. I'll try to explain how this excise tax is derived. There are adjustments that I must explain first. The basic tax for wine starts off at $1.57 per gallon for over 14% alcohol and a rate of $1.07 for alcohols under 14%. I have heard that the 14% break-off has been in effect for maybe 80 years. At least before I was born. I also hear that the reason for the higher tax back in those olden days was that "still" wines or wines that are not fortified were all under 14% alcohol. Fortified wine was very popular back then. These wines were considered dessert wines and were fortified with additional alcohol and thus were not derived naturally by fermentation. I am sure some of you know more than I do about this subject, because almost all of my information here has been told to me by people I respect in the wine business. 

Anyway, I'll go on. At that time all European dry wines (which probably consisted of over 90% of the production in the world) were under 14% alcohol and still are. Since in California, where most of the dry wines in our nation are produced, we have higher temperatures than Europe and thus can produce sugars over 24% which will convert to wines over 14% alcohol. Years ago New York wines which were sweet were very popular and California wines were rare and used mostly for drinking with dinner. As far as I know they were all under 14%. 

Within the last 30 years there has been a big change in the way wine is produced in California. Some wines now, especially Zinfandel are hard to keep under 14%. The reason is that most bunches of zinfandel contain raisins which contain a lot of sugar which can convert to high alcohols. The bottom line is that we are now being penalized for our creativeness by a law that dates back to early in the last century. 

Now I should get back to how the excise tax fees are derived. There is a credit of 90 cents a gallon for small producers of wine. Thus if you take the fee of $1.57 per gallon for wines that are over 14% alcohol and deduct 90 cents, you come up with $0.67. And then if you take the fee of $1.07 and deduct 90 cents you come up with $.017 per gallon for wines under 14% alcohol. I hope this helps to explain our excise taxing logic.

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