David Coffaro Vineyard and Winery Winemaker's Diary

Week 40
October 3, 1999 to October 9, 1999 

October 3, 1999

Low today 52

We received so far today our Front Zin on the wire. I was wishing for 2+ tons but received only 1.5. Carignan is being picked now and I am finally resolved to expect a low crop from that section also. It appears that we may have to cut back our Futures program for now. 

Monday, October 4, 1999

High yesterday 78; low this morning 48; high today 74

The fog came in for the second day in a row and Brendan and I stemmed the Carignan and some Zinfandel from the wire. Again, the tonnage was considerably lower than I was expecting. I haven't finished my calculations, but it appears we could be as much as 50 percent below normal. As some of you may have noticed, we have terminated our '99 futures offering at this time. We have still not received our Petite Sirah or our Cabernet, and I have recalculated what I expect from those two varietals and must receive the crop before deciding whether to sell '99 futures again. One thing is very clear to me though, and that is we will not be able to sell any more Aca Modot for 1999. The production of this wine is totally dependent on the grapes on the specific Aca Modot village site, and the yield in that area was also not what I had hoped for. 

I spent most of the afternoon on the computer deciding on the potential varietals to make up each one of the wines which have already been presold as '99 futures. We will most likely  have to drop our estate classification for the Zinfandel and possibly the Petite Sirah. As always, anyone who is unhappy with these changes can get a refund or switch to another wine just by letting us know. 

Tuesday, October 5, 1999

Low this morning 42; high today 74

11 PM---Pat is in bed so I must make this short. Some of you have already commented on my statement on dropping my Estate classification on my Zin----I only have one thing to say about that at this time!! Rafanelli does not make an Estate Zin and I think they produce a pretty good wine!! 

Our sugar samples were down a little on our PS and Cab. We probably won't harvest Estate grapes again until next week. we did receive our Lane Neighbors' Zin today well below our estimates in tonnage. The quality looked fantastic. I really feel it will blend well with our Zin this year. We will keep it separate until January, so I hope you will come by to give your valued opinion. Tomorrow the Sauv blanc will be transferred into barrels after over two weeks of fermentation and 4 days of cold stabilization. The Russian River Pinot will be delivered and a new experiment will start. Also on Thurs we will receive the Jones Cab Franc. In between all this Brendan and I must prepare and actually press most of the Zin. I will try to explain more about that tomorrow. 

Wednesday, October 6, 1999

We've had a slight sprinkle and it is still overcast this morning. Nothing to stop us. We are now preparing to fill the Sauvignon Blanc barrels and we also already have received the Pinot Noir grapes from Russian River. Again, that crop level was below what we were hoping for. We received a little under one ton which should yield only about 60 cases. Since we've only sold 20 cases so far, that wine is still available but will most likely sell out immediately. 

We've received several email messages suggesting that I cut back the allocation of some of the estate wines already purchased for the '99 vintage. Any of you who have purchased our futures, own those wines and will not be cut back unless you request it. We will still be producing around 2800 cases this year and since we have sold 1700 cases in futures and allocated another 400 cases for distribution, that will still leave us between 600 and 700 additional cases to sell. As I have said, anyone is more than welcome to request a refund or a trade for one of the other wines now or after we have blended in January. There are so many different varietals kept separately in so many different barrels that the wines we can produce from these variables are endless. It will be fascinating for me to undertake this challenge and I am sure that the quality will be excellent. 

One of the reasons I'm looking forward to making up a new blend for my Zinfandel is that I have never been completely satisfied with the Zinfandel that I have made. I thought the '94 was just average. I thought the '95 had too much alcohol. I thought the '96 was my best effort, but not in an exceptional year. Also, even though I've had so many great comments on my '97, I think it is somewhat out of balance and again too much alcohol for my taste. The '98 of course is still too young to completely evaluate, but at this stage I would say it doesn't have enough weight or mouth feel to be completely satisfying to my tastes. Every year so far I have preferred the Estate Cuvee. It's just more balanced and more spicy. I really feel that 1999 will be my best Zinfandel for my palate. I'm hoping most of you will agree. I did not go into detail last night but what I tried to imply about the Rafanelli Zin was that even though there may sometimes be too much oak for my palate, he does have more potential for making a good Zin year after year since he can blend from different vineyards. 

Thursday, October 7, 1999

Low yesterday morning 42; high  78 ; Low this morning 48

Brendan and I have been putting in 13 hr physical working days and so I will make this short. (I'm still on the computer at 10:30 PM "16 hrs" but is that physical work?). We received our Cab Franc today, but did not have time to stem it, because we had to free up space. We have no room!! We have no fermenters free!! We spent most of the day filling barrels up with water to make sure there were no leaks. And we then emptied them and started pressing the zin to free up containers. We will stem the cab franc tomorrow and press some more zin 

Friday, October 8, 1999

High yesterday 92; low this morning 47; high today 100!

Another small heat spell, but they're talking about lower temperatures tomorrow. Of course, like all weather forecasters, they're usually wrong. They were predicting a high of 85 for yesterday and for today 90, so tomorrow could be 80 or it could be 100. As we all know, weather temperatures in the fall and spring are very hard to predict. 

Brendan surprised me today. We were on such a roll. Even though we didn't accomplish what we wanted yesterday, all of a sudden today we accomplished more than I thought. Sometimes I don't know what goes on in my mind, but obviously I get obsessed and I don't necessarily take in what other people are experiencing. During the harvest, I really work as hard as I have to and even though I might complain about how I feel, I don't stop until it's over. As I have told several people, if I had to harvest all year long I don't think I would live more than five years. Thankfully, the actual harvest time is usually less than two months. So that should give me at least 30 more years! 

At about 4:00 p.m. today, I asked Brendan what we had to finish up tomorrow. I'm trying to give him more responsibility this year, and he's taken it to heart. He actually tried to tell me what to do a couple of times today. He didn't get very far though. His answer to my question about tomorrow was that he had to punch down, do sugar tests, clean out the press and stack some barrels. Three days ago Brendan informed me that he would like to leave at noon on Saturday. I took this to heart-- I love schedules. So I pushed myself to accomplish all the work we had to get done before noon on Saturday. I really don't have enough time right now to tell you what we have done and what still reamins to be done. Suffice it to say, Brendan has worked two 13-hour days--Wednesday and Thursday-- and today he arrived at 8:00 a.m. and left at 4:30 (no Lunch), which I might add was less than 30 minutes after we had been discussing all that remained to be finished up before noon tomorrow. His abrupt departure was totally unexpected by me. But sometimes I don't take into consideration that Brendan is only 24 years old. He may have some other pleasures beyond winemaking. In fact, when I stop and think about it, I guess I have a few too. 

Saturday, October 9, 1999

Low this morning 50; high today 99

Brendan worked 3 Hrs today. I spent most of the morning topping off barrels and stacking them. Each stack consists of two barrels per rack on three racks, or 6 barrels of wine. Brendan helped me push each of those 3000 lb. stacks into position on the right side of our movie screen. I took a digital picture and hope to post it soon. I now want to post a note I wrote last year about topping off barrels: 

"Sunday, October 25, 1998      (47 low; 75 high) 

As some of you have grasped:--most of what we do in the wine industry is very mundane. In Microsoft Word thesaurus, Mundane can be described with two adj.: normal (ordinary-everyday) or earthly (terrestrial-worldly). In winemaking, most of what we do is very boring or rudimentary UNLESS you enjoy or have a passion for it. 

Most of my time spent within two days after filling barrels is consumed with a topping ritual. Brendan and I have decided to do something that most wineries do not :- go straight into barrels after pressing. Most wineries do not (I am suspecting) because it creates a lot of Mundane work. I have used this method since I was an amateur, because I didn't want to use stainless steel tanks (they are expensive and I don't like them as storage vessels--another subject). After the wine is moved from one medium to another, I want as little oxidation (Air) on it as possible. As I have gotten bigger (now 2800 cases) this method has become very Mundane or time consuming. To preserve the fruit in my wines (little oxidation/Air) I like to press just before the wines go dry. That leaves between .5% and 2% sugar left in the barrels. At bottling I would like virtually no sugar left in the wine-- less than .1% (only the natural fruit and of course alcohol). After going into the barrels we must top off.  (By storing in barrels, there is a slow oxidation --evaporation) that occurs -- about one-half bottle per barrel per week.) The more often we top off, the more fruit (less air), I believe we will have. One of the problems with going directly into the barrel is that the wine is still fermenting. Some of the wine in the barrels will expand or overflow as the sugar goes from 2 or .5% to virtually zero. I must continually go out to the winery and tend to these little overflows and, as the fermentation calms down, top off.  Half of today was spent on retopping, with 20 gals, our 49 barrels already filled. We filled 9 new barrels Saturday and will fill 26 tomorrow. We will have 85 red wine barrels filled tomorrow or 2100 cases. But with evaporation and blending over the next 9 months until bottling, we will lose approximately 10%"



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