David Coffaro Vineyard and Winery Winemaker's Diary

Weeks 3 - 4
January 16, 2005 to February 12, 2005 

  Friday January 21, 2005

Things have been real slow around here. Except for last weekends WinerWineland, people in the valley have been non existent. With little to do, I have now started tax planning. Even though I have an accountant to prepare my taxes now, I have to go through all my credit cards and categorize all deductibles. With the expense of a new bottling line and a new solar system, I must figure out if my cashflow will cover the expenses. Otherwise I will have to borrow more money. 

Our solar system will control the main building which includes our office with all the computers. More than half our PG&E bill will be supplemented. We are also in the process of installing a generator backup for the same building. This building also includes our residence.

We have finished labeling our new 2004 Late Harvest Sauv Blanc so it is now officially for sale at $18 a half bottle.

Friday February 4, 2005

As I said there is little going on this time of year, so I have to make up things, by being creative. WELL, unless  a scenario is presented to me I am useless. Give me several  possibilities (like multiple choice) I am OK, but give me an essay to write, I am worthless. SOSOO to write something in this diary this time of year is hard for me. 

We all have our problems we'd not want to talk about. Hidden secrets that even our closest friends would be surprised at. Not necessarily with me. I have secrets I would not like to divulge, but I am sure they would be comparable with most of yours. BUT I am starting a new diary which could interest some of you. I am not sure I will publish it, but I will be honest. Hey you know I am pretty outspoken and honest already. So it Is not  necessarily any great thing. If it is released it will be awhile.

OK it is slow, so I have to tell the story about Freeman Toyota of Santa Rosa California. Some of you in Sonoma County know it is a big dealership that includes Lexus. After my dealings with them in the last 13 months, I can see they have become un-caring. To put it a different way, they must have enough money. 

I bought a 2000 Rav 4 for Kate in 2001. She was 16. The dealership was Freeman Toyota of Santa Rosa. It was Kate's choice and I approved, because I test drove it and decided it was a safe car. We had an anti-theft system installed a few months after which failed in 2003. I suspected it was out of warranty, but I hoped it would be covered under a safety item. You see, the back door could not be opened from the anti-theft remote or safety switches inside the car. Kate and I brought the car in for an estimate and was not told we were required to pay the $49.50 fee until six months later. Here is all the correspondence between me and Freeman Toyota. 

From Shelly Campbell Freeman Toyota June 16 2004: On December 19, 2003, you dropped your vehicle at out Service Department for an estimate for repairs. To date we have not received payment for this repair order. I have enclosed a copy for your records. Shelly goes on to demand $49.50, or it would be sent to collections. This was the first time I had been presented with a bill. The date on the estimate invoice was the same date, June 16, that the letter was dated. I thought I had settled the matter a few days later when I visited the dealership. Now 6 months later I received a letter from a collections company demanding $52.37. Here is a copy of the letter I sent to Gene Jones, the Service Manager.

January 21, 2005

On December 19, 2003 I dropped off my 2000 Rav 4 for an inspection of a door that was not working. I was given an estimate for the part needed and made an appointment for a few days later. When I arrived for the appointment I was informed that the part had not arrived. I had taken off work for this appointment so I was disappointed that I had to reschedule. Unfortunately my Daughter had to get back for school at Cal Poly so we could not make another appointment. 

On June 16, 2004 I received a letter from Shelly Campbell demanding payment of $49.50 for one half hour for the estimate made on December 19, 2003. I had not received a bill anytime before that. 

A few days later I walked into your dealership to resolve the error on your part. I talked to a service person and was assured that the matter would be straightened out. 

Today I received a call from a collections agency demanding $53. What is going on? Are you trying to lose me as a customer? 

David Coffaro

For two days, I tried calling Mr. Jones and I was told that he refused to return my calls. Then I received a fax that was very surprising. Here is the whole text of the January 24 fax:

Dear David Coffaro:

You owe Freeman Motors $49.50. We consider people who pay their bill as a CUSTOMER. You walked out without paying your bill. I really don't understand what gives you the right to come into a business and request an inspection of your door that was not working and when we give you the diagnosis you walk out. We don't have a crystal ball and we don't employ people with powers to diagnose over the phone. We do have employees that we pay to set up appointments for our customers and in many cases they will take a best guess at what parts we may need to do the repair. In most cases we do not order the parts until a diagnosis has been done. Its very expensive and time consuming ordering and sending back parts we don't need and in this case I believe your service advisor Geoff Beck was going above and beyond by attempting to order the part you might or might not need. We don't stock every part for every car. Your letter states we informed you that the part had not arrived. This is incorrect. We ordered the part we felt was the most possible cause of your door problem. That was a door latch and it was here and in stock. We had to send it back. I am as busy as you are and I have to take time out of my day when I need to get something repaired but don't stiff the people because of my poor planning. I hope you get the point. We do not have E.S.P. and we do the best we can for our paying customers. If you would like to be a customer of ours then pay your bill. 

Eugene Jones 
Service Manager
Freeman Motors

I was shocked! It spoiled my whole week. Here was a person of authority treating a past customer like a criminal. Most of what he said was completely wrong. After thinking for two days and calling Mr. Jones again with no return calls, I sent a letter to him. BUT this time I sent a copy to the collections agency, the Customer Relations person (who also did not return my calls), the Dealership Manager (who I was told to be part owner), and the President Of Freeman Toyota, Here is a copy of my letter:

January 24, 2005

Dear Mr. Eugene Jones:

I find it hard to believe that you would write a letter that is so scathing. I have bought two autos from your dealership and I have been considering a Lexus. I have recently spent over $1000 in service at your dealership. I am a CUSTOMER. I did not walk out on a bill. This has been a terrible misunderstanding. Believe me, I did not receive anything from you until June of 2004. If you look at the invoice I received in June you will see that is dated June 16th. Why is there no original invoice from December 19. This invoice was created 6 months after my visit.  If you will look on your appointment book, you will see that I made an appointment within a week after December 19 to repair the lock. Kate, my 18 year old, and I had to drive 30 miles in a rain storm in two autos only to be told the part had not arrived in time. Why was I not told before hand that the part had not come in? Why was I not presented with the $49 bill then? Why did I not receive anything from you until 6 months later? 

The fact is I did try to contact you many times in June, but you did not return my calls, as you have not this time. Because you did not answer any of my calls, I found that the only thing I could do was to make a 60 mile round trip to your dealership in June to try to personally straighten things out. A gentleman at the service counter greeted me. He listened to my explanation and then assured me that everything would be taken care of. He was a tall thin man, about 50 years old. If he is still an employee, I could probably point him out. I never received any more contact from Freeman Toyota so I assumed the matter was taken care of. Now, I have received a scathing letter from you and a bill from Sonoma County Credit Services, stating the creditor as Freeman Toyota Rent a Car, demanding $52.37 (I never rented a car). 

We sold the Rav 4 after our visit for service a year ago. As I stated in my past letter, we could not reschedule a new appointment since my Daughter needed her car to drive back to school in San Luis Obispo. 

Why was I presented with an invoice 6 months later? Why are you still pursuing this when the fact is your employee told me it was taken care of? My credit is immaculate. You can check my credit report. Please do so. I always pay my bills on time. Please see my side. Given the circumstances the fact that you have reported this to collections is totally inappropriate.  I am asking that you stop all actions you have initiated against me and take all steps necessary to correct and repair my credit history and notify me when you have done so.

Thank you for your time and understanding. 


David Coffaro

cc: Donald Woodruff
cc: Melissa Miller
cc: President, Freeman Toyota

The next day I received a call from Gene Jones. He was so nice, but he lied many times again. One of the lies was that he told me, Kate had signed the service repair. She has informed me that she did not. The car was not in her name. He told me the part was in stock and I walked out after hearing of the $400 estimate. I can go on, but I won't. Pat said I was so calm on the phone. I agree. He finally said he wanted to forget the whole matter and would take care of the bill. I dropped a bottle of wine off to him. I don't hold grudges. I do have power in wine. I just called Sonoma County Credit Service and I was informed that the action has been canceled. But I will receive nothing in writing. I hope it is over. 

Monday February 7, 2005

I have been in contact with Brendan's restaurant and a friend regarding the possibility in selling them wine. Actually our friend who I will call "P" Has obtained a permit in order to sell wine. I believe he wants to sell a great deal out of State. In total it could amount to 500 cases. I have ten extra barrels (250 Potential Cases) of a blend that we decided not to sell at this time. It consists mostly of Doug Rafanelli Cabernet with Sangiovese and Touriga Nacional. Brendan has played around with adding 6 barrels of 2004 Bernier's Zinfandel. The zinfandel fruit has definitely improved the potential blend. So most likely I will be adding the Bernier and then we would be sold out of the wine. For now I have removed the 2004 Bernier's Zinfandel from our order form. Brendan's restaurant would have us bottle some wine under their label. "P" wants some of this blend and also wants a Zinfandel to sell. Most likely, if this arrangement works out, I will sell "P" some of our 2004 "My Zin" under his label. I was planing to produce 416 cases of "My Zin" and at this time we have sold 155 cases. I believe it is one of our best wines this year, but if "P" wants 150 cases we would still have about 75 cases left after my library take. Both Brendan and "P" must give me a commitment before Barrel tasting weekend March 4 thru 6. 

I have finished revising all the statistics for our 2004 wines. Check out the .pdf. Besides the blending I mentioned in the previous paragraph, I have made a decision regarding our Aca Modot. This 2005 vintage will be the last for that wine as we know it. In the Fall we will be removing all the Cabernet and most of the Cab Franc. The vines are dying and we will be replanting the site to Cab Franc and Zinfandel. I have plenty of newly planted Cabernet and Petit Verdot which should be producing fruit next year. I will use that fruit to continue our Aca Modot program. Until the new cab franc comes on, the blend will consist mostly of Cabernet with some Merlot and a little cab franc and petit verdot. Later this Month we will be removing all our 100 vines of  Malbec. Last year those vines only produced 280 pounds, enough to contribute only 9 cases to the Aca Modot blend. This Spring we will plant more Barbera in that area. 

This year I have decided to add a barrel of the Doug Rafanelli Cabernet to the Aca Modot. This will bring the percent of cabernet up to 50% which is about what we have used in the past. This 2004 wine will no longer be Estate, but I will have an extra 25 cases to sell. We have not been selling the 2004 Aca Modot for months, but now I have put it back up on our Futures Form. I also have calculated that we have about 20 cases of Barbera to sell, so that 2004 wine is back on the form also.

I know some of you like to hear what I think of the 2004 barrel samples so I will say a few words now. The wines that are the most interesting to me are as follows: Carignan, Sangiovese, Block 4, My Zin, Estate Cuvee and Escuro. After 5 months in the barrel I can safely say this vintage is as good as the 2003. The Estate Zin, Petite Sirah and Cabernet are really coming on so I may change my mind. I like the 2003 petite sirah and Cabernet so much that is hard to believe that the 2004 versions will be as good, but time will tell. I do know that both those 2004 wines will be more balanced than the 2003s and thus be more to your liking. The wines I have not mentioned are the Aca Modot, barbera, terre melange and Bernier zin, mainly because I have not tasted them much. I am not particularly a Barbera fan nor am I a Rhone fan so the Terre Melange and Barbera probably won't be my favorites, although many of the customers who were in this weekend loved both those wines. I did taste the Aca Modot last night and thought it had great potential. 

Besides the 2003 Petite Sirah and Cabernet, my favorite 2003s are the Block 4, My Zin and Estate Cuvee. Depending on my mood any of these wines could be my favorite on any given night. Last night we opened the Petite Sirah, Cabernet and Block 4 and I preferred the Petite. Of course this was after drinking a few glasses of champagne. I'll probably open a My Zin tonight with my left over stew. One thing about all the 2003 wines is that they hold up well. Most of them are just as enjoyable the second and third night. They do lose fruit, but they become softer and even more complex. 


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